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January 11, 2021 7:00 pm
Dr. Eric Newton of the BJU Seminary continues a doctrinal series on soteriology entitled “Our Great Salvation.” The scripture is from John 3.
Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. The school was founded in 1927 by the evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Senior.
His intent was to make a school where Christ would be the center of everything, so he established daily chapel services today. That tradition continues with fervent biblical preaching from the University Chapel platform today on The Daily Platform were continuing a study series entitled our great salvation which is a study of the doctrine of salvation or so to reality today speaker is seminary professor, Dr. Eric Newton preaching on the new birth from John chapter 3, we are continuing our series as you can see on the screen are great salvation and it is our prayer that this would not simply be a series of informative lectures on salvation, but that it would stir us to worship the Lord and it would give us a sense that there is no greater theme that we could ever share with anyone that there is a Savior who died for them who died for us because in some some scheduling issues we are actually inverting the topics and so my topic is coming today and that is regeneration.
What is it mean to be born again.
It's a term many of us have heard all of our lives. It's a common term in the media, particularly during election seasons, as we recently experienced. Wikipedia defines born again. This way, the phrase used by many Protestants to describe the phenomenon of gaining faith in Jesus Christ. It's an experience when everything they have been taught as Christians becomes real and they develop a direct and personal relationship with God. Now that is a sociological observation definition. But what does it mean to be born again. There's no better person to ask than Jesus Christ himself.
So if you turn with me to John chapter 3 will hear the words of Jesus about regeneration this morning, you're familiar with this passage and I began reading in verse one there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews we find out later. It's confirmed that he's part of the Sanhedrin. The same came to Jesus by night and said in the hymn rabbi. We know that thou art a teacher come from God for no man can do these miracles that thou do list except God be with him.
Jesus answered and said ended him, verily, verily, I say into the except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus comes when it's night. That probably has a double meaning it's it's literal it was nighttime when he came. Maybe the cover of darkness and help to veil his questions that he wasn't so sure he wanted other people to know about.
We don't know that were but it probably has a figurative meaning in the Gospel of John as well that Nicodemus was in the dark. He was in the dark a lot more than he realized.
As we all are before Christ rescues us and we see from the beginning of this passage here in verse three that the new birth is integrally connected to the authority of Jesus Christ in order to understand new birth. We have to listen to Jesus, he says, verily, verily I say unto you, this is the truth.
It's a trustworthy statement and and I am saying this based on the authority of of my father.
He repeats that same phraseology or similar phraseology in verses five and seven and 11 and so were not look at four aspects of this new birth this morning. The first one is this the new birth is absolutely essential.
The new birth is absolutely necessary. He says, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Now Nicodemus would've understand what understood the language of the kingdom of God, or at least he thought he did but this idea of being born again and that being in relationship to coming into God's kingdom. He was a Jew. He was a great Jew, what's this business about being born again we learn from this passage and others just what kind of state were in why would we need a completely new life. While this is what Scripture says about us. Look at this list. This is our state, apart from regeneration. We cannot see or enter God's kingdom, we cannot be saved. John three tells us later in the same chapter we see we cannot but we cannot come into the light were were living in spiritual darkness. We see from Romans 311 that we neither understand nor seek after God from Romans six that were enslaved to sin hopelessly from Ephesians 2 that we are dead in trespasses and sins that were children of our age that were children of wrath by nature and back in the Old Testament, it puts it very bluntly. We cannot change ourselves.
This is as hopeless as it gets. We are dead we must be born again if we were to take a poll this morning. Perhaps someone is doing this actually about what we need most desperately in America, you will hear a variety of answers, some spoken with a lot of vehemence. I assume for Jesus Christ and there is no debate about this. It's a matter of life and death. What we need most is for God to intervene. The new birth is absolutely essential but read on with me in verse four Nicodemus Seth in the hymn. In response, how can a man be born when he is old, can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born. That's pretty preposterous. Jesus answered, verily, verily, I say into the except a man be born in any clarifies of water in the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
You see, Nicodemus is searching here for answers to his own questions, but Christ very direct way challenges his core assumptions about what it means to be a child of God to be part of God's people, he says, except a man be born of the water and of the spirit. Now there a lot of different interpretations about that and it's not our intention is wanted to go into those but I think this passage tips us off to know what the correct interpretation is because if you'll notice in verse seven he says Marvel not that I said unto the he's talking to them as if he should have known the answer to this question. And in verse 10 he says art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things.
In other words, if you truly understood your Bible which were Nicodemus would've been the Old Testament, you would know the answer to these questions. It's a gracious but very direct rebuke. So what is this talking about.
While this combination of water and the spirit seems to be pointing back to a couple of passages in the Old Testament, to put one up in front of you.
It's from Ezekiel 36 follow along with me. This is God speaking, then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you notice that language, clean water, clean from your filthiness from idols that gives a little bit of a clear picture of what he's talking about. I will cleanse you and this is not just some really good spring cleaning like RI a kinda dirty, I know I do some bad stuff.
I'm going to go get that washed up and go confess that when I go to a religious service and feel better about my life and I'll be okay. No, look what it says, going on a new heart also will I give you and the new spirit will I put within you and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I'll give you an heart of flesh is a complete transplant going on here and I will put my spirit, my very own spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them. You see what God is doing is she's actually taking our heart of stone that is impenetrable that we can do anything about, and he's removing it and putting a very new heart, his own spirit into our soul, and by doing that he cleanses us the stain of our guilt or sin.
The New Testament talks about this as well and Titus 35 not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, you see that connection. Washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. So the new birth is not only essential, it's spiritual it's internal and it happens by God's spirit is it's qualitatively different from physical birth notice verse six. Again, that which is born of the flesh is flesh, that makes sense right and you can you can follow that.
But what's the point. One other words, it can't just be more of the same like I can't just start over like I can't just have some new New Year's resolutions. I can't just cut off some people and try to get some new friends.
I can't just have a wardrobe transformation.
You can't just have more of the same because anything born of the flesh is going to end up is what flesh it's like if you're if you're making something in the kitchen and it calls for water pure water in any put salt water in there from the ocean, and that then you taste it. You see there's a little bit of an issue here. How do you fix that you go get your new bag of salt and dump that in. Is that going to fix the problem know you got something completely different. That's Jesus's point so he does this in our souls. How does he do this well.
It's clear from a couple of other references in the New Testament that being born again has everything to do with God's word. Look at these verses. First Peter 123 being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which live with, and abide forever and James 118 of his own will begat he asked with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Now this is mysterious but it's clear by the word of God, whether it's preached like in these moments today in chapel, whether it's red. Somehow God by his spirit uses those words to breathe life into a soul and to make a completely new person. So my question here is we pause for a moment is. Have you ever come to the place where you've recognized that you need something that you cannot produce yourself, you can't pray well enough to get it. You can't obey consistently enough to get it.
You can't rub shoulders with the right people enough to get it. You need something that you cannot produce.
My heart is dirty. My heart is is corrupt and less God breathes new life and replaces it with his very own spirit. Just a few weeks ago my wife was talking about this with our two youngest daughters and Allie. The three-year-old when my wife said do you know Allie that your hearts dirty. She got paused and she looked around and then she lifted up her shirt she would like my wife and she said my horse, not dirty mommy now.
I don't think she quite understood the spiritual metaphor. There, but I think her reaction is a natural reaction. My heart truly not dirty. I mean yeah I do some bad things yeah I made some mistakes but a corrupt heart, stony heart Rosario Butterfield in her very excellent book openness unhindered says this we all make choices along the path of our life journeys.
But if sin is only about bad choice making. We don't need a Savior sin is bigger and deeper and longer than bad choice making, and she's absolutely right. So the new birth is essential. It's spiritual and moving on to verse seven, the new birth is supernatural read with me verses seven and eight Marvel not that I said under the you must be born again. The wind blow with where it listed the now hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whether it goeth so is everyone that is born of the spirit. The new birth is supernatural. It's divine. There have been some some bad historical misinterpretations of regeneration.
Pelagius going way back in the early centuries of the church said it was just personal moral reformation.
Augustine said that the baptismal font was the saving labor of regeneration that water baptism effects what it signifies. Charles Finney in the early 1800s and regeneration consists in the center changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference, or in changing from selfishness to love our benevolence will talk about this. There certainly is change but regeneration is not my changing myself because I can no regeneration is an act of God. Look again at this passage in Ezekiel 36 notice.
I will read it again but notice the bolded words if this those stick out well enough, then will I sprinkle clean water will I cleanse you will I give you will I put within you will I take away the stony heart. I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you guys going to do this.
This is a promise and he always keeps his promises.
Regeneration is an act of God. We see in verse eight.
This metaphor of the wind blowing it blows where it wants to, you can't see it right you can't control it alarmingly harness it I understand but the winds going to do what it's going to do the wind breeze life into things is is wonderful picture in Ezekiel 37. The very next chapter in this vision God says to Ezekiel, do you think I can take this valley of dry bones and bring them to life in Ezekiel is puzzled by it. And then what happens is through his preaching in this vision, these bones are brought together and in the sin news graft on top of one each other of each other and they come to life and he breathes life into this this body. November 14, 1978 was a pretty important day for me.
I was born on a day I hear it was a joyful occasion. I don't really remember that I was late to the party.
I was most reborn Halloween two weeks earlier. It was it was unconscious. It was instantaneous.
It was unrepeatable, never, never done that again in my life as far as I know this is what God does. We do not clean ourselves up to come to God. We cannot create for ourselves some new and improved identity, complete with slick advertisements and endorsements.
We are dead outside of Christ, the Holy Spirit has to create in this new life that leads us to the fourth aspect, and that is the new birth is essential, spiritual and supernatural, and fruitful. The new birth does bring forth fruit. There is evidence we see in verse eight, you can't always tell where the wind has come from or where it's going.
You can't see it but you see its effects.
You hear it you know it's been there when God acts to give new life to a sinful soul. There is a change.
There is fruit.
We cannot see the spirit create a new heart that we can see the life that he creates what is is talking about what God speaks repeatedly, especially the Old Testament of the necessity of having his laws inscribed on our hearts.
The problem is, even though you would think that with a heart of stone that would be a good medium to have something inscribed on it right. The problem is it doesn't work that way. Spiritually so we can externally obey week we can conform to some degree, but we cannot truly please God. So by regeneration. God puts his laws into our hearts and minds. It's one of the certain blessings of the new covenant look at this passage from Jeremiah 31 this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel and we know from Hebrews 8 and 10 that we been brought into that covenant as we trust the Lord after those days, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write in their hearts will be their God and they shall be my people, what is it mean to have the law on our hearts. It means that we have desire and we have power to follow Christ in the way of God's commandments we have desire and we have power to do so will do so perfectly. We want to and we pursue it, you know trees by their fruit. I am about the furthest thing from a botanist that you could imagine right but there's a tree out front of my house and there I don't know how many thousands of pecans that fell in the fall. I'm pretty sure I know what the Trias you know trees by the fruit and the fruit of the spirit is something real, something we work up something God is in us as we trust. I think I think Calvin gets it right.
And in this quote he says the natural man is pricked and goaded by his conscience so that he does not completely slumber in his sins. Daisies bothered by his sins. The natural man, the unsaved man. Nevertheless, he is disposed with all his heart to enjoy them to revel in them and to give them free reign, fearing nothing except the penalty which she knows awaits all sinners. If I can get away with it. I'm going to do it. Does that sound familiar in our culture. If I can get away with that I'm gonna do it.
The regenerate man on the other hand, clings with the chief part of his heart to the righteousness of the law the testing and loathing the sin which he commits through his weakness. He's gonna commit sin, he is weak. You and I are weak, but he is going to repent.
He's going to get back up by God's grace.
There's a story told of of Augustine but some good theology is not good.
So good theology that some one of the prostitutes that he used a consort with. He was a moral man, for he was saved saw him in Milan where he lived and called out to him and said Augustine it is. I Augustine's I and he responded, turning away from her. Yes, but it is not.
I was a new man got it changed him. Sodomy responded this. Do we just sit back and hope that the new birth happens to us or to someone else.
If it's God's act, then I must be on the sidelines. How we respond will look at John three again verse 15 actually verse 14 and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believe it in him should not perish but have eternal life. New birth is related to the faith by which we have eternal life, and what is our assurance or assurance comes in the next verse, verse 16 that you know so well because God loved the world. In this way, he gave his only son is is one unique son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. This is why the Son of Man had to be lifted up on the cross, he was lifted up so that we might not perish. So how do we respond well. We look away from ourselves. We don't look inside ourselves. We look away to Christ. The message of regeneration is to look to Christ because we are spiritually dirty and dead unless the Holy Spirit mercifully creates within us by his living word a clean new heart that loves God. God doesn't call us to wonder introspectively whether we bought been born again. This was a philosophical discussion he was having with Nicodemus.
He was late leaving Nicodemus to faith and Nicodemus did put his faith in Jesus Christ.
We know that from John 19 because he help Joseph and Mary, Jesus, he that hath the son hath life. First John 512 so the first responses is to believe, do you believe this does your fat friend who is struggling was a professing Christian does she believe this. If she does, she will have eternal life, and finally will end this where we began, we need to respond with worship. Our world asserts that if we have enough education and money and technology, and freedom will be successful. Jesus says were dead. So with Nicodemus and disciples, we probably should ask who the landlord can be saved and then revel in his response to the disciples with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. You can't do this but you can trust in the God who does God save his sinners with worship and for that which you pray with me oh Lord, when we survey what you have done by giving your very own son to die for us were in law. We pray that you keep us there and we pray if there is any soul in this room today who has not experienced the new birth that today would be the day of his or her salvation of spirit come. We pray in Jesus name, amen. You've been listening to a sermon from the study series, our great salvation preached by Dr. Eric Newton seminary professor at Bob Jones University.
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