BORN OF THE WORD AND SPIRIT, #15
"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (JOH 3:5)
Notice the importance that Jesus places upon what He has said here. "Except a man be born of water he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." "Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." They are co-essential, the reason being that one cannot operate without the other effectually. I want you also to notice He says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee." What Hes saying with such emphasis is that He wants your attention: He wants you to hear and understand the necessity of being born again: being born of water and of the Spirit.
In verse 3 He says, "Except a man be born again " but here Hes saying, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit ." Being born of water and of the Spirit is what constitutes the new birth. It is so very important that we understand what these symbols are and what they stand for. There are those who teach that the water is a symbol of baptism and therefore unless you are baptized, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. That is absolutely wrong. That is not the meaning of this verse. The chapter before us again reveals the blindness and the emptiness of Judaism, and the ushering in of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ. Notice the blindness that we see in the Sanhedrin, which is the highest ecclesiastical court of Israel.
Here we have a man out of the Sanhedrin: Nicodemus. He is a true representative of the unrepentant natural man. He is a true representative of those who by nature are outside of the new birth, who do not understand the new birth. Hes a man of the Jews, hes one of the leaders, and he is a member of the Sanhedrin, a member of Israels highest ecclesiastical court. Yet he did not understand the essential element of salvation.
The Heidelberg Catechism starts out by saying, "what three things are necessary for thee to know to live and die happily"; then it says how great our sins and miseries are. Thats not what the Lord Jesus said. What the Lord Jesus said is, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom." Thats whats needful. He doesnt say what is needful to know but what is needful to experience.
We must be possessors of that new birth. See in JOH 3:1. "There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews." He was a member of the highest body, or ecclesiastical court. Nicodemus was clearly one of Christs chosen flock.
The beginning of grace works upon the heart, works upon the attitude, draws one hungering and thirsting after the true knowledge of salvation even though one does not understand it. Nicodemus did not understand where this came from. He did not understand what brought him to Jesus that night. He did not fully understand the wind that was blowing, nor did he know where it came from. He was indeed one of the members of Christs chosen flock. At first he acted very timidly. He was coming to Jesus by night. He didnt dare to come out and let the members of the Sanhedrin know that he was inquiring after Jesus. He came by night, but later it is obvious he became very willing to defend His Master. He wasnt so timid as he grew in grace.
See JOH 7:51, where Nicodemus, among the members of the Sanhedrin, said, "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" We see that these people who had been sent to take Jesus had come back. "Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" (JOH 7:45-51)
Theyre passing judgment. They sound like that if they dont follow the law the Pharisees said they were cursed, but Nicodemus is now becoming more outspoken. Nicodemus is now come to where he has heard, because it says here, "Never man spake like this man." The power of the wind has been taking effect. Now Nicodemus, who was one of them (Verse 50) becomes more outspoken and vocal. He asks the Pharisees if they judge any man before knowing what hes doing. When all of Jesus disciples had fled and forsaken Jesus, Nicodemus became much bolder and much more dedicated to his Saviour. He came to assist Joseph of Arimathaea in giving Jesus an honorable burial. In both of the following instances to which Im bringing your attention, it refers to how timid Nicodemus was at first. In JOH 7:50 it says, "Nicodemus saith unto them (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them.)"
In JOH 19:39-40 it says, "And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they [Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea gave Jesus an honorable burial, and they buried Him among the rich.] the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." Nicodemus used myrrh to show his honor and respect for his Saviour. He was very bold. Even at that time when Jesus own disciples had fled and forsook Him, Nicodemus came forward to give Him an honorable burial.
Jesus disciples believed upon Jesus through the manifestation of His glory at the beginning of miracles. It was at the beginning of miracles when Nicodemus was allured. He came to Jesus. Also, I just pointed out to you in JOH 19 how the men came back after they had heard what Jesus had said, though they had been sent to take Him. "Nicodemus (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them)." (JOH 7:50) What this is teaching us is that he was one of them, but came back saying, "Never man spake like this man." He was one of them that had been sent to take him, but he came back and said that we dont judge a man until we have seen what hes doing.
Nicodemus had seen the manifestation of His glory. He had seen the revelation of the Holy Spirit through the authority of the Word. Nicodemus had learned to see the authority with which He spoke. Nicodemus "came to Jesus by night," as we see from JOH 3:2, "and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God [Nicodemus saw the distinction between Jesus teaching and that of the Sanhedrin.]: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." (JOH 3:2)
Nicodemus began to realize that Jesus was doing a miracle, and that there was a miracle taking place in his own heart that he did not understand. He could see that something was taking place in his attitude, in his whole understanding, and he didnt understand what it was. He saw the authority in the Word that Christ was speaking. This manifestation of Christs glory is in the power of His word. At the beginning of miracles in JOH 2:11, it says, "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory." How does our Lord manifest His glory to you and me if it isnt in the power of His Word? This is what the disciples saw at the beginning of miracles. They saw that in merely telling the people to fill the pots with water, carry them out, and bear the liquid unto the governor, that the water was transformed into wine. They saw the power of His word.
This is what Nicodemus was seeing. He was seeing that no man could do these things "that thou doest, except God be with him." He saw the glory, the manifestation of Christs glory, in the power of His Word. Jesus revealed the need of something more than the letter of the law. In the Sanhedrin, all Nicodemus understood was the letter of the law, but the power of the Word of God was getting him to start to understand the need of the spirit of the law the change of mind, the change of attitude, which is repentance. Hes starting to see that repentance is an essential element, and he doesnt understand what its all about. All he sees is that there is a miracle taking place in the preaching of Jesus, and he doesnt understand what it is. He said that "no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." (JOH 3:2)
This manifestation of Christs glory in the power of His Word revealed the need of something more than the letter of the law to Nicodemus, and it brought him to Jesus seeking to be taught. This is one of the best evidences that the Spirit of God has begun working grace in our hearts: we have a desire to understand what the will of God is. We have a desire to know what it is that the Lord has to say to us. Youll see the rebellion that there is in todays religion, how they want to put away the authority of Gods Word, and how even mainline churches are starting to worship female gods. I saw a piece in the Washington Times, and it said how the Greek concept of wisdom, "Sophia", is bringing such a terrible storm in the churches because its being viewed as a female god. The mainline churches the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, the Methodists, and many of the Protestant groups - are starting to worship Sophia, calling her their creator! This isnt being done in some dark age; this is being done today, and the mainline churches are doing it. Theyre beginning to worship female gods. Whos doing it? Twenty-five hundred female preachers came together to have this festival for Sophia.
Do you see what Nicodemus began to understand? It is a desire to know the truth, a desire to understand the spirit of the law, that the heart might be drawn out to the Lord. Its becoming a heart religion, not a letter-of-the-law religion; not a legalistic religion, but a desire to know and do the will of God. Here we see that Nicodemus is brought to Jesus, seeking to be taught. Then we see in JOH 3:3 that the Lord Jesus begins to teach him. What the Lord Jesus is doing now is opening his understanding to what this is thats within him that he cannot understand. That new understanding is now being enlightened. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The Lord Jesus is telling him where the center of the matter lies: the need for a new birth, the need for a new attitude, the need for repentance, the need for a work of regeneration, the need for the power of the Word being applied to the heart. This word see comes from the Greek word eidon, which means to know or become acquainted with. When He says that you cannot see the kingdom of God, he says that you cannot know it, or you cannot become acquainted with it, unless you are born again. You cannot know what the kingdom of God is. You cannot understand what it is to serve the Lord unless you have the new birth. You cannot become acquainted with it, and you cannot become a part of it unless you have been born again.
Nicodemus said, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mothers womb, and be born?" (JOH 3:4) Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was telling him. Throughout the book of John, Jesus spoke in parables for this purpose, "that seeing they might see and hearing they might hear and not understand." Hes speaking in symbolical language. What He said did not come through to Nicodemus because he was thinking literally. Do you mean literally born again? No. He said, "Can he enter the second time into his mothers womb, and be born?" So then Jesus goes on to qualify it. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit " in other words, except you be born from above.
It is obvious that Nicodemus, though he was a ruler in Israel, had not become acquainted with the need for the kingdom of Christ to be established upon the throne of his heart. This is what the Lord Jesus was telling him. He said that you cannot enter the kingdom, you cannot see the kingdom, you cannot become acquainted with it, you will never understand the kingdom of God unless youre born again, unless you have a new attitude, a new spirit: unless you know that repentance is a change of attitude. Youll never understand what it is to have the kingdom of Christ established upon the throne of your heart and to serve under His kingship until the power of His Word touches you.
Our Saviours blessed ministry began by preaching the gospel. Do you know what the word gospel means? It means good news. He began by preaching the gospel, or the good news, of the kingdom of God. The good news is that the kingdom of Christ should be established upon the throne of your heart. Thats how the blessed ministry of our Saviour began. He came by preaching the kingdom of heaven saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (MAR 1:15b) "Repent ye": in other words, a change of attitude, a change of heart, a change of mind: "believe the gospel." The word believe means to come in subjection, to come under the authority of the kingdom of Christ. "The kingdom of God is at hand." This is the good news.
Now that Nicodemus had heard the good news of the kingdom of Christ and had seen the authority in His Word, he came by night to inquire of its meaning. In JOH 3:5 we read, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." "Except [you] be born of water and of the Spirit ." The one is co-essential with the other. The central truth about the Spirits work of grace is found in our Saviours teaching about the principle of the new birth. We must understand what that really is. There are so many people that have so many different formulas for what constitutes a new birth. What does Jesus call the new birth?
First, Jesus reveals the supreme importance of the new birth (in verse 3).
Second, the instrument used to effect the new birth is "water" (in verse 5).
Third is who produces the new birth (in verse 5), which is "the Spirit."
Fourth, is the new character found in the new birth: a new nature or "spirit," a new mental disposition (as we see in verse 6).
Fifth, what the process of the new birth is.
The Lord willing, today I want to touch on those first four points, and the Lord willing next week I want to touch on the fifth one, and that is the process of the new birth. I want to speak about the importance of it, the instrument used, which is water, and who it is that produces the new birth, which is the Spirit, and the new character found in the new birth.
First, Jesus emphasizes the supreme importance of the new birth saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (JOH 3:3) Without the formula that Christ gives, there is no way that you and I can enter into the kingdom of God. What constitutes the new birth? Unless we understand what the Lord Jesus Christ is telling us about the new birth, we might be deceiving ourselves as to whether or not we have received the new birth. It is so important. It says, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see ." He cannot be made alive. He cannot see the kingdom of God.
So how ought we to live? You talk to many people, and they say that theyve been born again because theyve changed their attitudes, theyve changed their lives. Yet how we live was not our Saviours first teaching of the new birth, but rather how men are made alive. It is how we are made alive that the Lord Jesus is teaching in the new birth. A man cannot live until he is made alive. I want to qualify that: how we live was the Pharisees total religion. They had so many dos and donts and so many amplifications of the law that they were just literally law-sick and totally destitute. It was to a Pharisee that the Lord Jesus said that except you be born again, you cannot enter the kingdom.
So we think we know how to live, yet the Pharisees didnt realize that their hearts were cages of unclean birds. They didnt realize that their hearts were filled with hypocrisy and with all types of malice, bitterness and hatred; they thought they had the kingdom of God. They were the chief rulers of the church, and they were devoid of the new birth. It was to a Pharisee that the Lord Jesus said that except you be born again you cannot enter. So the first thing that Jesus was pointing out was not how we live, but how men are made alive. A man cannot live under the kingship of Christ until he has been born again. A man cannot have a right attitude, a right spirit, and cannot live under the spirit of the law until hes been quickened by grace. In EPH 2:1 we read, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins."
Our Saviour began by saying, "Verily, verily," which means of a truth, of a truth. He emphasizes the importance of this truth. Our Saviour emphasizes the importance of the new birth saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (JOH 3:3) So many people think the new birth pertains to only one thing, and that is to get out of hell and go to heaven. How many people realize that what the new birth is entering into the kingdom, into the service of their Lord? Thats what the new birth is about: that we come under the service of Christ.
So what is meant by "the kingdom of God?" It is entering into the service of Christ. Turn to ROM 14:17-18. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness [What is righteousness? It is a right attitude and right actions toward our neighbor.], and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost [In the Spirit of Christ: that is the kingdom.]. For he that in these things [What things? Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.] serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men." Were talking of service here, "For the kingdom of God "
We need to examine our own hearts and whether or not the kingdom of Christ has entered our souls? Were letting in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost so we can serve Christ acceptably: "acceptable to God and approved of men." Jesus said outside of the new birth, the kingdom of God cannot be seen in you. Until you have entered into His service, until Christ is formed in you, the new birth cannot be seen in you. Until that dove has descended upon you, that Spirit of holiness (when were serving Christ not only in righteousness and peace, but in the Holy Ghost), unless that spirit of holiness can be seen upon you, the kingdom of God cannot be seen in you. 1CO 2:14 says, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." It is so important that we understand what it is to be born again: it is to enter into that service of Christ; yet this is foolishness unto the carnal man, unto the natural man, who does not receive the Spirit of God.
For our second point, water is the instrument used to effect the new birth. What does that mean? Turn to JOH 3:5. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Water is one of the Scriptural symbols of the Word of God when it is used for cleansing. The Word of God is the instrument used of the Spirit for purification to perform the new birth. The Holy Spirit unto sanctification works the new birth. It is the Word of God that is used as the instrument for purifying unto sanctification.
See what Scripture says how purification becomes the work of the new birth in 1PE 1:22-23. "Seeing ye have purified your souls [How do you purify your souls?] in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again [How are we being born again? By the purifying of our souls, obeying the truth, and loving our brothers.], not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." The Word of God is the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses in working the new birth. What is it for? Its for the purifying of our souls. It is for the purging out of all things that are unclean - wrong attitudes, wrong desires, and all iniquity - unto righteousness. What is the kingdom of God but righteousness and peace in the Holy Ghost? Righteousness: a right attitude toward our brother.
Here we see the new birth is purifying your souls and "obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren. "We are counseled to see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." David attributed the quickening of the Spirit to the Word of God in PSA 119:49-50. "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me." Do you understand now what a new birth means? It is when the power of the Word of God becomes our authority.
Now back to the beginning of miracles,at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. (JOH 2:1-11) The water pots were filled with water to the brim. These water pots were for the purifying of the Jews. Their form of purification was hypocrisy, but in the purifying that takes place as we become filled with the Word, the miracle of the new birth takes place, and the serving of Christ becomes our greatest joy. This is typified by the Word being transformed into wine. By obedience it is purifying us all as we in obey the truth. It is by the act of obeying that we become filled with the Word, and as we become filled with the Word, it becomes our greatest joy to do His will. The miracle is performed in the way of obeying the Word of Truth.
This new birth is what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he said in 1CO 4:15, "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you [you were born: your spiritual birth] through the gospel." Thats how your new birth took place: through the gospel. This same word begotten or begat refers to the new birth by the Word in JAM 1:18. Again, it is speaking about the new birth. We were begotten. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
It is by the Word of God that the new birth is effected in your soul and it is when the Word of God comes in authority we come to reverence His will. PSA 111:10 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." What is the fear of the Lord? PRO 8:13 says, "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil." That is the working of the Holy Spirit, working the new birth in a soul. The Word is likened unto water because of its cleansing properties. As I pointed out in 1PE, "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth Being born again ."
Turn with me to PSA 119:9. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word." Thats why the symbol of water is used by our Saviour in saying that you must be born of water and of the Spirit. It is the washing of the water of the Word. The work of regeneration is a process of cleansing our old heart. It is cleansing our souls, minds, cleansing our attitude, making us "meet [or fit in character] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." (COL 1:12) Thats the work of the new birth. Being born of water means being sanctified by the cleansing power of the Word.
"Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." (JOH 15:3) When are you clean through the Word? When you have experienced the work of regeneration, when you have experienced the new birth. It is a cleansing. Thats why it is referred to as water. See what Christ came to do and how He came to prepare His bride for a great wedding day. "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (EPH 5:26-27)
How does He wash? How does He clean? By the Words becoming our highest authority. It is when the holy Word of God has authority in our hearts that we start living by the Word of God. Thats how it cleanses, "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle." The Lord is not going to take a bride unto Himself that is defiled. The process of the new birth is to cleanse away all iniquity, to cleanse away all wrong attitudes, to bring us to where we love the brethren, to bring us into righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
For the third point, the Holy Spirit produces the new birth. It says, "born of water and of the Spirit." The Word alone will not do it until the Word is brought home by the Holy Spirit. Many people have the Word who do not have the new birth. It happens when the Holy Spirit comes and accompanies the Word in the hearts, changing the attitudes and giving us a new desire. I want you to see why it is the Word and Spirit: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (JOH 6:63)
What is that telling us? Each of us could be a Pharisee of Pharisees. We could be studying the Word twenty-four hours a day and think weve got it all straight, but the Spirit must quicken. We could do that and still be just as hypocritical and proud and wrong in our attitude towards our brother as the Pharisees were. The Word alone does not do it. "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." It is when the Holy Spirit accompanies the Word that our hearts, our mental dispositions, are changed. That word spirit, when you refer to the original, means a breath, a wind, a breeze, a mental disposition. When you start to understand, "It is the spirit that quickeneth," you realize it is that mental attitude that changes. Repentance means a change of attitude, a change of mind.
The Holy Spirit uses the Word as water for cleansing, but also as a lamp. When the Holy Spirit quickens, He not only comes with the cleansing of the Word, but the Word is also used as a lamp to enlighten our understanding of the way of truth. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit come and bring the Word of God into our soul. He uses the Word also to enlighten our understanding to see the sinfulness of sin, to come to convince us of sin, to convince us how grievously God is displeased with sin. What is sin? Sin is the transgression of the law, disobedience. So the Holy Spirit uses the Word not only for cleansing but to enlighten our understanding of the way of truth.
PSA 119:104-105 says, "Through thy precepts I get understanding [As the Holy Spirit enlightens our understanding, we learn to realize the sinfulness of sin.]: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." The Word enlightens, but it only enlightens by the quickening of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the Word as a hammer to break up a hard and stony heart. The Holy Spirit uses the Word like a fire. Look at JER 23:29. "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" The Holy Spirit uses the Word to break rebellion in hard and stony hearts. He uses the holy Word of God to melt our hard and stony hearts as in a furnace, and to bring us to where our hearts melt before the Lord.
Nothing could be plainer than the fact that no sinner is quickened apart from the Word. It is when the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God that He melts our hard and stony hearts. It is when the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God that He enlightens us. So many people today talked about what the Lord said, and theyve gone outside of His Word. Then they find out that what they said doesnt happen because its outside of His Word. It is by the Word of God that He enlightens our understanding to understand His will. It is by the Word of God that He melts our hard and stony hearts. It is the Word of God that He uses as a hammer to break our rebellion into pieces.
ROM 10:17 says, "So then faith [Ive explained before that word faith means to become persuaded.] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." It is the Word of God. It was the authority of the Word that brought Nicodemus to Christ. He saw such an authority in the Word of God that it had brought him to seek the way of salvation. The order in which the Spirit produces the new creation is the same as that whereby the first creation was effected. The new creation - the re-creation - is performed by the Holy Spirit in the same manner that the first creation was. How was that? GEN 1:2 says, "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. [Thats a very clear description of the heart of natural man.] And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
Thats what takes place when the Lord begins the new creation in our hearts. The Holy Spirit moves upon our dark, hard hearts. This term moved upon, in the original, is also rendered brooded over. The Holy Spirit hovers over our hard and stony hearts. In the new creation the Spirit broods over, or hovers over, the heart and the conscience of the man whom He is about to quicken. He starts to give a tender conscience. He gives us a heart desire and thats what we see in Nicodemus. The Holy Spirit had hovered over him, and his heart was becoming tender. He had a desire to know the will of God. He didnt come there to be called out or to teach: he came to learn. The Spirit opens the eyes of our understanding to realize the deadness and the darkness of our human nature, giving us a desire to know the truth.
Then the Word enters the heart with power, shedding light upon our darkened minds as the Spirit says: "Let there be light: and there was light." (GEN 1:3) It is in the authority of the Word. Now the authority of the Word can move upon the heart; when the Spirit says, "Let there be light," what do we see? We see our lost condition and our need of a Saviour. The Holy Spirit produces the new birth by the authority of the Word. "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (JOH 3:5-6)
Fourth is the new character found in the new birth - a new nature: a new "spirit," or a new mental disposition. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (JOH 3:6) But what is the new birth? What is the great difference between one who is dead in trespasses and sins, and one who is passed from death unto life? Where is the great difference? See JOH 5:24. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." "He that heareth my word": with a spiritual ear to hear, and a spiritual understanding. When someone starts hearing the Word as it comes with power and with authority, he "hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
Tell the average person that he must be born again, and he thinks that you mean he must reform his manner of life, but the trouble is within the heart. The Pharisees had reformed their lives to the point that they could go no further, and they were still sepulchres filled with dead mens bones in the Lords view. The new birth is that which is in the heart; it is the mental disposition, the mental attitude. I can hear of your sitting at church on a Sunday, in a straitjacket: you dont move a muscle, and still you have not rested on the Sabbath day. Do you know why? Your heart wasnt there. The Lord has no pleasure in your serving Him out of compulsion; the Lords only pleasure is when we serve Him from the heart.
"For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. [Hes talking there to the children of Israel who are weary of rebellion after having been cast into captivity.] Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you [Hes talking about how the work of regeneration takes place.], and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. [That work of regeneration is where He cleans up our attitude, He cleans up our act.] A new heart also will I give you [Now we have new desires and new affections. We have a new attitude.], and a new spirit [a new mental disposition. This new spirit, I want you to notice, is not with a capital s: new spirit, a new attitude, a new mental disposition] will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (EZE 36:24-27)
Do you see the effect of the new birth? Do you see where our evidence lies, that we have the new birth? "And I will cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." Theres your evidence. We start with the authority of Gods Word.
Those who have received a new heart have a new attitude, new desires, and new affections (that is, the new man of the heart), but that old man of sin is still well and alive. Thats one of the most positive ways to identify the work of God in our heart. Do I recognize that spiritual warfare? Do I see that old man of sin, that ugly monstrous self still always wanting to raise up his ugly head? I have a new desire to put him down, a new desire to crucify that old man of sin and to walk in His statutes and to do His will, and yet theres that ugly monster of sin that still sticks up its ugly head. Thats a spiritual warfare. That new man of the heart has been created within, but that old man of sin must be crucified daily.
Therefore Jesus says in LUK 9:23, "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." That means every day you live. Why is that? That ugly monster "self" is still so well and alive. It needs to be cut down day after day, hour after hour, and minute after minute. We are in constant warfare to continuously cut down that old man of sin. Our highest command is found in JOH 15:12. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
I want to ask you a question. Let one of your brethren step on your toe, especially if you happen to have a corn, immediately you must conquer that old bitterness that youve got within. Theres that spiritual warfare. Now be on guard that the old man of sin doesnt just jump right back out of your heart. Hell take another swing at you. Crucify yourself daily.
So what is our best evidence that we have experienced the new birth? 1JO 3:14-16 says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." If you are claiming that you have passed from death unto life, you may have had rich experiences, you may really think that you have been born again, yet you have a heart full of bitterness and hatred not only for your brother (one you call a brother), but for your fellow man, including those who are totally outside of grace - I mean for the neighbor that lives down the block.
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us." Are we to love one another as He loved us? Here now we know that because He laid down His life for us, we ought to lay down our life for the brethren. The new birth is the new nature imparted by the Holy Spirit as we see in 2PE 1:3-4. "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
Being made partakers of that Divine nature reveals itself by its fruit, which is set forth in 2PE 1:5-9. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." Amen.
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