BORN OF THE SPIRIT, #17
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (JOH 3:7-8)
There is one message that I think is the most decisive and the most important message of the entire gospel, and that is to properly understand the new birth. There are so many various interpretations of what constitutes the new birth. The Lord Jesus Christ says, "Ye must be born again." Without the new birth there is no eternal salvation. Without the new birth we are doomed eternally to hell. That is how important it is that we are born again. So how important is it that we properly and rightly understand the new birth? There is nothing Satan would rather do than to have us deceived on this one point: to think that we have been born again. What is more important than to understand that summons of the Lord Jesus Christ? "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (JOH 3:3) We cannot see it unless were born again.
This new birth is a marvelous thing which cannot be comprehended with the natural mind: it is a miracle of grace. Nicodemus, the ruler of the Jews, a Pharisee, and a teacher of the Jews - the tribe of Israel, the chosen of God - did not understand. "Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" (JOH 3:4) He did not understand that what Christ was speaking about is to be born spiritually. In verse 5, "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." Last week we studied what it means to be born of water. Water is the symbol of the Word of God. The Word of God is the vehicle or the instrument whereby the Holy Spirit quickens us unto newness of life. We are quickened by the Holy Word of God. So if we find theres no authority in the Word of God, we can lie spiritually dead thinking were alive.
See the importance of understanding the authority of the Word. It is by the Word of God that the Lord Jesus said, "Lazarus come forth," and Lazarus, who was dead in the grave four days, came forth by the power of the Word. It is the Word of God that has the power to quicken us spiritually, and the Holy Spirit uses the authority of the Word to bring us out of spiritual deadness into a state of spiritual life. There was a little girl in Scotland, and she was asked if she had received the new birth. Her answer was, "I know something has changed, it might be the world--it might be my heart--I'm not quite sure what it is, but there has been a great change somewhere." What was she saying? She had loved the world, the pleasures of the world, the entertainment of the world, and all of a sudden there was nothing about the world that charmed her anymore. She didnt know if the world had changed. She thought maybe there was something about the things she had loved so much that had changed. She wasnt sure what it was. She didnt know for sure if it was the world or her heart that had changed.
In the song we just sang, verse two says, "O Jesus, friend unfailing, naught, naught I count as pleasure compared, O Lord, with Thee." Verse three says, "O worldly pomp and glory, your charms are spread in vain." Why is that? It is because something has changed. It says that to be born of the Spirit is as "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof," you cant tell where it came from or where it went: all you know is something has changed. You feel the wind; you can feel the effect of it. You cant see the wind; you dont know where it came from, and you dont know where it went. That is the way it is when youre born of the Holy Spirit. You become a different person. You have a new desire. You have a new nature. You no longer have pleasure in the things of this life. Your pleasures become centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. Your pleasures become centered in serving and doing His will.
Our text says, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." The new birth is referred to in Scripture as a quickening from the dead. It quickens new desires. A dead person has no senses at all. Do you know that a person sometimes can be so near dead that the only way to truly tell if hes still alive is by taking brain scans? Sometimes thats the way I can tell if Ive been quickened spiritually: what brain waves can I detect? Our vital signs become the very elements whereby we can detect life. We can detect it by our brain scans. We can detect it by our vital signs: are our heart pulses correct, and are we breathing? Do we understand what it is to have breath? If I can see a person is breathing, and I can feel his pulse, I dont need to take his brain scans. I know that those elements (their vital signs) prove theres life, but if those are missing, and I cannot detect them then I can still tell by brain scans whether or not theres still life.
Think about these vital signs as we go into this spiritual vital signs, spiritual senses, and spiritual taste. Can you tell what is sweet and what is bitter? You have the sense of taste. What is sweet? Is it the charming things of this world, or is it the blessed atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ? When our spiritual senses are quickened, our taste buds begin to work, and no longer can we swallow those things that are bitter nor delight in those things that are bitter. We now have a taste for the things that are precious, those things that are of more value. The nature of the quickening is real, and it is revealed by our Saviour in the parable of the prodigal son. I want you to notice how the Lord Jesus Christ shows repentance. What shows repentance but your brain waves, your attitude, and your mental disposition? Its a change of mind. Have you known a change of mind? Have you known a change in your values? Have you noticed the difference in your taste buds so that you now have your spiritual senses quickened?
I want you to take notice of the parable of the prodigal son and see how beautifully our Saviour unfolds for us the meaning of the new birth. As I pointed out with regard to the beginning of miracles, we ask, "Wheres their delight?" "It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." (LUK 15:32) "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." (EPH 2:1) So where lies spiritual death? When we can walk in trespasses and sins, when we can live in them and delight in them, that is spiritual death. We see the father making merry because his son "was dead, and is alive." Where was the difference? He had gone out and wasted his living in the things of this life. He was dead; now he was alive. What had he done? He had come to himself, and returned unto his fathers house and into his fathers service. He was alive. He "was lost, and is found."
This parable teaches the true meaning of repentance, which is the first evidence of new birth. The Lord Jesus began by preaching the gospel of the kingdom saying, "Repent." The first word in the gospel is repent. The first sign, or the first evidence, of true spiritual life is repentance. Lets see how blessedly the Lord Jesus, in the parable of the prodigal son, illustrates what true repentance is. First, there is a change of attitude. Theres a change of values. LUK 15:17 says, "And when he came to himself," see what happened. If youll look in LUK 15, youll see how the prodigal son had gone to his father, asked for his living (in other words, for his inheritance), and went out and wasted it in riotous living. He lived for the pleasures and the things of this life. The Lord brought him to want. The Lord brought him down with poverty to the point that he was feeding swine and eating the husks that the swine left! Then it says that he changed his attitude. All of a sudden he came to himself, and he said, "How many hired servants of my fathers have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" He saw the poverty of serving sin. He saw the wretchedness there, and how it brings us only into eternal death. He saw how empty everything is in serving this world. He came to himself and had a change of attitude.
What brought this about? He wasnt sure. As the wind blows "where it listeth" in your life and in mine, circumstances bring us to the point where we see that the pleasures of this world are no longer the great goal of our life. He uses circumstances in providence to bring us to this realization. He "came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my fathers have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" He began to realize what a fool he was. He began to realize that the pleasures of this life only tend to poverty spiritual poverty.
Second, there is a well-planned change in our course of life and a confession of guilt. True repentance is the means whereby the new birth takes place. As I pointed out about the beginning of miracles, when the Lord Jesus told them to fill the water pots, they obeyed. The Lord Jesus said to take the water out and bear it unto the governor. In the performing, in action, in doing what Christ told them to do, the miracle was performed. It was in doing that the water was changed into wine. There was joy in serving. The filling of the water pots with water is the symbol of being filled with the power of the Holy Word of God. These pots were there for the cleansing of the Jews, which they were doing through Jewish ritual. The Lord Jesus showed them that it had to be by the power of the Word: it is by the washing of the water of the Word that were cleansed. As they obeyed, the miracle was performed.
The miracle of the new birth takes place as we begin to obey. Thats the instrument that the Lord uses to bring it to pass. There was a well-planned change in the prodigals life. Watch how he carefully planned what he was going to do. "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee." (LUK 15:18) He came to himself, he realized what a fool he had been, and he carefully planned how he was going to retrace his tracks: Ill go to my father, confess how wrong I was, and ask him if I can re-enter his service.
The third element of repentance is an urgent desire to return into the service of our Lord. When we have served sin, and it is no longer a delight and a pleasure to us, and we find the emptiness of sin, the emptiness of riches, and the emptiness of everything of this life. Then we start to see the fullness that there is in Christ, and we have a desire to return to His service. We no longer can serve sin. We no longer can serve the things of this world. We now want to return to the service of our Lord. Watch this third element in LUK 15:19. "And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." He wasnt looking for a place of glory and honor in the service of God; he was just saying, "May I be as one of your slaves? May I be as one of your hired servants? May I just enter your service again? I have wasted everything I have. I have taken my inheritance, I have gone out, and I have wasted it." Now he wants to know, "May I come back into your service?" This is one of the elements of repentance: a change of attitude. We no longer want to serve the world. We now have our chief delight in serving the Lord.
What brought about these changes? The wind blows where it lists. The Lord gives this change of attitude and He uses His providence and circumstances to bring about these changes in our attitudes. We dont know where these changes came from. All we know is they are there. Thats the work of the Spirit in bringing about the new birth in the soul.
Fourth, as the Holy Spirit instills the Word in our hearts, this well planned repentance is put into action. If the prodigal son had made this plan ("Ill do this, and I will arise and Ill go to my father, and Ill ask if I can re-enter his service."), what would all of this have availed if he had not put it into action, if he had not, after the plan was made, gotten up and done it? It was in doing, it was in putting this plan into action, that his restoration to his father took place. That is how his reconciliation was put into effect. His father would never have become reconciled to him if he had stayed there planning, but never doing anything. What did he do? "And he arose ." See this in LUK 15:20. "And he arose, and came to his father." That is how the new birth brings us into reconciliation with the Father: not only have we come to a change of attitude, not only have we come to a change of mind, not only have we new desires (including the desire to come back into the service of Him from whom we had broken away), but now "he arose, and came to his father." "But when he was yet a great way off ." See how the Lord looks upon you and me and the joy that there is in heaven over one sinner that repents, that comes to himself and truly desires to return to the service of his Lord. See how He responds: "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." (LUK 15:20b) He didnt even get a chance to make to his father a confession of all his sins. His father ran and kissed him and said to bring the best robe and a ring for his finger and shoes for his feet. What the Lord looks at is your heart. He saw in the heart of this man that he was returning into his house and his service. He was no longer serving the things of this life.
As this well-planned repentance is put into action, the beginning of miracles takes place. What is that? The power of the Holy Word of God becomes our authority, and we put it into action, coming into the service of our Lord. Then the beginning of miracles takes place the water is turned into wine (the wine is the symbol of joy and rejoicing). As the Word of God becomes our highest authority, as we put it into action, and obey the Word of God, then we see the joy described in LUK 15:32. There the father says unto the elder brother (who criticized), "It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." Do you see the joy? There was rejoicing. They killed the fatted calf and they brought together their friends and their relatives to rejoice. As the Lord Jesus says in the parable just before this story, in that same chapter, there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, and the angels in heaven rejoice over that one sinner true repentance.
When that beginning of miracles has taken place, there is no more desire to serve sin or live in the pleasures of this world. Our taste buds have been restored. As we have been spiritually quickened and our senses have been re-enlivened, we can taste the bitterness that there is in sin that we hadnt tasted before. We no longer see pleasure in the things of this world. We have no desire to do those things. 1TI 5:6 says, "But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." If we can find pleasure in this world, and if we can live in the pleasure of this world, we are dead spiritually while were alive physically. Our text compares the work of the new birth to the wind: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
The word Spirit comes from the Greek word, pneuma (pnyoo mah). The first translation of pneuma is a current of air, or breath. "The wind bloweth where it listeth ." Jesus compared the Spirit with the wind. When the Holy Spirit works grace in your heart, the first thing that takes place is that you receive breath. It is a current of air or a breath. The second translation is a spirit, that is, the human rational soul, a vital principle, or a mental disposition. As soon as spiritual life is breathed into your soul, it changes your mental disposition, your mental attitude, which is repentance. Thats what it is to be born of the Spirit: to have a change of mind, a change of attitude, a new life, or a new breath breathed into your soul.
The third definition of the word pneuma is translated as the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit or the mental disposition or the attitude of Christ (which still applies to our mental disposition). The Holy Spirit is another definition of the word, and then after that it means life, spiritually minded. That word Spirit means attitude. But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." (LUK 9:55) What does that mean? You dont realize the attitude you have. To be born of the Spirit is to have a change of attitude, a change of mind. It is a mental disposition: That which I used to like I now hate, and that which I used to hate I now love.
The word wind and the word Spirit in our text are both from the same word in the Greek. "The wind bloweth where it listeth [Our attitude is uncontrolled, it goes where it wants to.], and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth." How can you tell what is the source of your attitude? When the Holy Spirit quickens, our attitude becomes the Spirit of Christ: that spirit of self-sacrifice and that spirit of reverence for the will of God. That Spirit of Christ becomes our attitude, and it begins to take control.
First let's see how the new birth of the quickening of the Spirit is referred to in Scripture as breath. Lets see how this is referred to in Scripture as the quickening of our life, our spiritual life. GEN 2:7 is where it all began. In the creation, when man was created, he was no more than a brute beast like every other beast until "the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Do you know what it means to become a living soul? We are able to rationally think and understand. We were given a mental disposition. We were given the ability to reason. A beast has no reasoning. Man was given a reasoning mind.
When the Lord led the Prophet Ezekiel into the valley of vision to illustrate the spiritual deadness of Israel, He showed him a valley full of dry bones. "And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest." (EZE 37:3) He gave Ezekiel a vision of a valley filled with dead bones: dead, no sinews, no flesh, no skin; dead bones. He asked, "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel replied, "Lord thou knowest." As the prophet prophesied (the Lord told him to prophesy unto these bones) the bones came together, bone to bone, and the sinews of flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Do you know what the Lord was using this to symbolize? The professed Christian. He was talking to them to illustrate what Israel had become. The professed Christian church was nothing but dead bones. As the prophet prophesied they came together, "bone to his bone": they were spiritually dead. Their hearts were still filled with the things of this world. Thats what the Lord is teaching us by Ezekiels vision of the valley. He was teaching that Israel had become apostatized and had forsaken the Lord, even though they were going through all their religious rituals. They were not serving the Lord. They had the wrong mental attitude. There was no breath in them.
"Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind [The wind and the Holy Spirit and breath the breath of life. If you and I have spiritual life, we have spiritual breath.], prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army." (EZE 37:9-10) This valley of dry bones became a standing army by the breath of life being breathed into their nostrils: quickened by the Holy Spirit, quickened by the wind. This is the symbol of the Israelites and how they had become spiritually dead. The Lord is telling Ezekiel to prophesy that the wind should blow upon them and breathe into them the breath of life.
The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us how futile it is for us to gather together in a church where the Spirit, or the breath of life, is missing. How many churches today go a-whoring away from the blessed Bridegroom, so that they even go to the extent of worshipping a female god under the profession of Christianity? Theyve gone a-whoring away from the true Bridegroom. In REV 3:1 Jesus is talking to one of the seven churches of Asia that had been instituted by the apostles. "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
Sardis was an organized church, organized by the apostles. It was an apostolic church, but how did He discern it? He said, "I know thy works." There was no repentance. There was no change of attitude. Their hearts were still going a-whoring after the world. He said that He knew their works, but they were dead. They professed to be living Christians, but they were dead. These are solemn truths. These are solemn realities in our day. The professing Christian church, to a great extent, is a dead church. It does not have that Spirit of Christ. It does not have that new desire. There is no desire to know and do the will of God. There is no reverence for the authority of His Word.
Since it is possible to have a name that we are alive while we are in fact spiritually dead, and since this distinction is all decisive for eternity, it is of utmost importance to rightly divide these truths. In MAT 7:22-23 we read, "Many will say to me in that day [in the Day of Judgment], Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? [Havent we preached the gospel in thy name?] and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? [This was about the church of Christ, the believing church, the professed church.] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Oh, what a solemn day that will be! On that Day of Judgment, when many shall say, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name," Jesus will say, "I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity," you that are still serving sin, you that have never been quickened, nor born again, you that have never come into the service of God. What does Jesus mean by "ye that work iniquity"? See what He said in the preceding verse. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (MAT 7:21) We can talk about repentance, but repentance was not repentance until "he [the prodigal son] arose, and came to his father." Until he had carefully planned and put it into action, it was no repentance at all. Jesus says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
Does this mean that all we have to do is say that we are sorry for our sin, say a few prayers, and do what we can to reform our lives? Is that the new birth? Many people teach this on the basis of ROM 3:28, which says, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." What they teach by that is that we dont have to obey the law. After all, were washed in the blood, were saved: we confess were sinners, and were saved. There is no repentance. One thing is very clear: we may be able to change our sins, but we cannot change our hearts. Thats the work of grace. That is the work of the Holy Spirit to change your heart. The Pharisees, as touching the law, were blameless. They never broke the letter of the law, but oh, how miserably they crucified the spirit of the law. The law says, "Thou shalt not kill." They thought that as long as they didnt kill their brother literally, they had not violated the law, but the Lord Jesus says that we may not hate our brother. Hating our brother is also murder. We need a change of attitude, a new heart, and a new nature!
We may make many reforms. If we were drinkers we might quit drinking. If we were smokers, we might quit smoking. We might say, "Now, look at the change in me!" We may break many old habits, but we cannot create a new principle within. What we need is a new heart. We need to ask the Lord to give us that quickening grace of His Spirit that new attitude. We need that new mind, new desire, a desire to serve and that delight in serving. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, [Have you ever thought of an Ethiopian changing the color of his skin? It is impossible. All the soap and water you want to use on your outward skin wont change whats in the heart. What we need is a change of heart. We need a change of attitude!] or the leopard his spots? [if that were possible] then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." (JER 13:23) That means that we might wash the outside of the platter, but inside it is still full of death and dead mens bones. What we need is a change of heart, a change of attitude, and a change of mind.
Another thing is equally clear: there is no pastor, or any man, who can effect this change. Have you ever tried to talk to one of your children, one of your loved ones, your husband, or your wife, and tried to use the Word of God and the authority of the Word of God to effect a change in their attitude? You cant do it. The Holy Spirit is the only one that can change that. You cannot do it, but the Holy Spirit can do it by the power of the Word. When the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God with power and applies it to the heart, then there comes a new breath, a new desire, a new quickening, and a new taste. You cannot bring Gods Word with power into the soul regardless of how clearly you explain it. Theyll always gainsay it with, "Yeah, but I believe ." All of a sudden the Word of God means nothing because of what they believe or what they think. What they think has to be changed. You cannot penetrate below the surface. Just like the Ethiopian: if he could take enough soap and water to clean his skin, its still only the skin that is cleansed, but the natural color remains.
The apostle Paul says in 1CO 3:6, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." You can preach to your loved ones all day long and its our duty to do so because it is by hearing the Word that they are persuaded but it isnt you thats going to persuade them; its the Spirit applying the Word that is going to persuade them. "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." So who can take a dead soul and make him alive? No one except the Creator of heaven and earth. The one who breathed into our nostrils in Paradise the breath of life and made us a living soul: He can do it!
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [The Lord Jesus Christ is the Word.] The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (JOH 1:1-3) Life comes through Christ and Christ is the only source of life. Christ is The Word. The unction and the power and the authority of the Word is what the Holy Spirit uses to quicken our souls.
So how do we identify this being "...born of water, and of the Spirit"? As I pointed out, the meaning of the word Spirit in our text in the first place means breath, or the breath of life, but in the second and third instance it means a spirit: that is, the human rational soul, vital principle, mental disposition. It is also translated as the Spirit of Christ (which still refers to the mental disposition), the Holy Spirit, or spiritually minded. This is what constitutes being born of the Spirit.
As the Spirit works in you, "God worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (PHI 2:13) He gives you the desire so you do it willingly and the ability (enabling grace) to do it. "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind [theres the new birth and this results in action]; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (EPH 4:23-24) Theres the new birth: being "renewed in the spirit of your mind." Verse 24 shows how it is put into action by putting on the new man, "which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Righteousness means a right attitude towards our brother. What is true holiness? It is the first table of the law: it is to love God with our heart, our soul, and our mind. It is to start observing the law of love.
The two preceding verses tell us what it is to put on the new man, to be created in righteousness and true holiness. EPH 4:21-22 says, "If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts."
What does the word for conversation mean? The word conversation, as set forth in Scripture, means your mental disposition. You dont always have to be talking to have a conversation. Everything that passes through your mind is your conversation. That is what is going through your mind. So walking down the street, driving a tractor, or riding on a horse, your mind is always thinking about something. What is the conversation of your heart? It says, "put off concerning the former conversation the old man": that your heart and your mind are no longer filled with the things and the desires of the flesh "which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." You put off of the old man that corrupt thought process; that mental disposition.
The greatest sinners see the greatest changes. Think about Mary Magdalene. She was possessed of seven devils, but when she was renewed in the spirit of her mind, she received the forgiveness of sins. Salvation to so many people means to go to heaven to escape hell. Do you realize that the forgiveness of sins is not even to be preached to a person that has not repented? The gospel begins with "repent." We should not talk about forgiving sins, in which were still living and have no desire to change, if we still cherish. The first word of the gospel is "repent." Our Lord Jesus showed that Mary Magdalene was walking in the law of love and received the assurance of the forgiveness of her sins. See what comes first in LUK 7:44-48. (If you read the preceding verses, youll see that He came into Simons house, and Mary Magdalene followed. She was sitting at His feet and wiping His feet with the hairs of her head as she wept over her sins.) "And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee [As she walked in the law, as she washed His feet with her tears, and as she came in the way of repentance], Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven."
See the word for there? " for she loved much": in other words, she has now got a complete change of heart. She has become a new creature. She no longer is possessed with seven devils. She is sitting at His feet, washing them with her tears, mourning over her sins. It says, "Her sins are forgiven; for she loved much." Do you know what that word for means? It means because: because "she loved much." Do we want our sins forgiven? Are we only looking for a fire escape to escape hell? Do we still cherish and love sin? We are hell-bound. Do we know what it is to have remorse over our sins, over having sinned against such a loving God, that we truly weep tears, come to His feet, and want to serve Him because we are so remorseful over having sinned against such love? That is what the Lord means when He says, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much."
When we are renewed in the spirit of our mind the strongest and the worst habits are broken like burnt flax. Habits can be so strong that you and I have no power against them. Were not able to break them, but all these old habits are broken as easily as burnt straw because theyve lost their power. We no longer yearn after these things. Now we have a new desire, to walk in the ways of God. We have learned to see how displeased our Heavenly Father was with sin so that rather than let one sin go unpunished, He placed it upon His Son at Calvarys cross.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, His own Son sweat blood and said, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." Therein was the Father so pleased that the Son of God was willing to obey and to step into His wrath and take the penalty of sin as an act of obedience. Thats what made His blood acceptable before the Father as the appeasement of His wrath. Do you see why it's necessary that we must love much before we talk about forgiveness of sin? We must first come to where we love to do the will of God, so that it becomes our chief and our highest pleasure and delight. Thats the work of the new birth. Thats being born again: our hearts have been changed, and we love to do His will. He says, "for she loved much"; therefore shes forgiven. The Father was able to accept that blessed blood of Christ for the appeasing of His wrath because He loved much, because He loved the Father to such an extent that He said, "not my will but thine be done."
When a person gets a faith-view of forgiveness, the power of sin is broken. Those old habits no longer have any power or control over us. The new birth purifies the most impure mind. No matter how base and how vile we have been, the new birth purifies us. 1CO 6:9-10 says, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Does that leave room for any one of us? Can any one of us say that we have never been covetous, that we have never desired something that wasnt ours?
The Apostle Paul goes on to say in verse 11, "And such were some of you [Some of you have been under the power of these sins, but you cant remain under the power of that sin and enter the kingdom of God.]: but ye are washed [Washed by the washing of the water of the Word. Youre no longer serving in these sins, but you are washed.], but ye are sanctified [That means cleansed, set apart for the Lords service. Then it talks about justification.], but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God," by the mental disposition of Christ, by the Spirit of Christ. You are first washed, then youre sanctified, and then youre justified. There is no justification while were living in sin and continue in sin.
When the Holy Spirit changes the spirit of our mind, He can change the most obstinate Pharisee into an apostle of the very Jesus he had been persecuting. The Apostle Paul had received license to put the children of the kingdom in prison, and the Lord Jesus said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." Paul said, "What would thou have me to do?" The same Manasseh who had filled Jerusalem with idols, murdering his own children in honor of these false gods, was renewed in the spirit of his mind, and he went on to purify the temple. I want you to see the total contrast when the Holy Spirit works grace in the soul: a man who had been promoting idols and who had been sacrificing his own children unto these false gods, then purified the temple and put down idolatry.
"So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, [As king, he commanded them to do these things, to serve these idols] and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel." (2CH 33:9) After Manasseh was renewed in the Spirit of his mind, "he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. [He completely reversed his actions.] And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel." (2CH 33:15-16)
Now instead of ordering them to serve idols, he ordered them to "serve the LORD God of Israel." His actions were in total reverse when he was renewed in the spirit of his mind. Like Manasseh, we don't need to question whether we have been renewed in the spirit of our mind; our actions will reveal it. Our actions are prompted by our hearts. "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate." (PRO 8:13) Do you understand the work of the Spirit and the work of the new birth? Then you learn to hate evil. Those things that we have cherished, we now hate.
If we have been quickened, we will prove it by our spiritual growth. Spiritual life is not like the life of a beast; its like the life of a tree. ISA 65:22 says, "They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands." A tree grows as long as its alive. As long as you have spiritual life, its going to grow. Many people may say that they have been saved by faith, but see what Peter says about spiritually growing. 2PE 1:5-7 says, "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue [You receive faith, now you add to it, keep growing spiritually.]; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness [All these things keep growing, they keep adding one to another.]; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." All this godliness keeps growing. See how these things grow into a blessed assurance of our salvation in 2PE 1:10-11. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." In doing these things, in growing in these graces, we see that Christ is ministering unto us abundantly, leading us into the everlasting kingdom. Amen.
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