We do not have the ability to enter the kingdom unless the Spirit of God gives us life through the new birth. We are born again, then, by a sovereign, monergistic (that is, the Spirit working alone) act of the Holy Spirit. Then, as a result of that new birth, we exercise the faith given to us, and enter the kingdom of God.
In one of the streets of Bedford I came to where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun and talking about the things of God. Willing to listen, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was a brisk talker myself in matters of religion. But I have to say that I heard, but I didn’t understand, for they were far above, out of my reach. They spoke about a new birth, the work of God in their hearts… They said how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted and supported against the temptations of the devil… And it seemed to me they spoke as if joy did make them speak. They spoke with such pleasantness of biblical language, and with such obvious grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world.
New birth…means one has enthroned Christ in the center of one’s life. You become a Christian when your life, thinking and behavior begin to revolve around Jesus Christ. Until that happens, professions and decisions mean very little. Changed behavior processing from a spiritual heart transplant is the only certain evidence of new birth.
Grace does not run in the blood, but corruption does. A sinner begets a sinner, but a saint does not beget a saint.
No child has ever been born into the world by its own will or plan. Its conception, gestation, and birth are completely out of its consciousness and control. It is merely the passive recipient of the will and action of it parents. Just as certainly, no person wills, much less creates, a new spiritual nature within himself.
What the Holy Spirit does in the new birth is not to make a man a Christian regardless of the evidence, but on the contrary to clear away the mists from his eyes and enable him to attend to the evidence.
Men may reform, but they cannot regenerate themselves. Men may give up their crimes and their vices, but they cannot, by their own strength, give up their sins. Can the Ethiopian change his skin? No. Can the leopard eliminate his spots? Regeneration is the great change which God works in the soul when He brings it into life, when He raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought when the love of the world is changed into the love of God; when pride is dethroned and humility enthroned; when passion is changed into meekness; when hatred, envy, and malice are changed into a sincere and tender love for all mankind. It is the change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the mind that was in Christ. The new birth is not the old nature altered, reformed, or reinvigorated, but a being born from above (Robert Lee).
New birth is a term used to describe the new life the Spirit produces when we trust Jesus Christ. It’s also called regeneration, but perhaps the most popular term is born again (from a Greek word gennao, meaning “bear” or “beget”). When we are regenerated, we receive the new birth. We are all born into this world spiritually dead. When God in His grace regenerates our hearts, giving us new life, we become a new creation. God convicts us of our sin and enables us to believe in Christ. This belief unites us to Christ, and in this union we receive the benefits of His work on the cross – justification and forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
Salvation (i.e., being saved from sin, death, and hell) is a gift from God. So experiencing the new birth, which is an aspect of salvation, is also a gift from God. We are unable to do this on our own. We are not saved by our works. God makes the first move. He stirs, He causes, He reaches out to us in love to make this happen. Just as babies are unable to cause themselves to be born physically, we are unable to cause ourselves to be reborn spiritually (See John 3:3-6).
Regeneration and faith in Christ should be seen as taking place in the same instant. From a human perspective, it may seem like faith precedes regeneration. But from Gods’ perspective, regeneration precedes faith. We cannot believe unless we are born again. The important factor is that God, in His grace, has enabled both regeneration and faith despite your sin. You believe because God has enabled you to do so. Belief is actually an evidence that someone has experienced the new birth. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1).
Unfortunately, many Christians think of salvation only in terms of getting into heaven and avoiding hell. Christ becomes not a way unto life, but merely a way to avoid death, reduced to a get-out-of-jail-free card or – even worse – fire insurance (you’ve seen those bumper stickers). This leaves many Christians understanding what they are saved from, but not having a good understanding of what they are saved into. One danger of evangelism that reduces Christianity to making a decision between heaven and hell is that it overlooks the value of the new birth for our earthly life.
The new birth is very much more than simply shedding a few tears due to a temporary remorse over sin. It is far more than changing our course of life, the leaving off of bad habits and the substituting of good ones. It is something different from the mere cherishing and practicing of noble ideals. It goes infinitely deeper than coming forward to take some popular evangelist by the hand, signing a pledge-card, or “joining a church.” The new birth is no mere turning over a new leaf, but is the inception and reception of a new life. It is no mere reformation but a complete transformation. In short, the new birth is a miracle, the result of the supernatural operation of God. It is radical, revolutionary, lasting.
The native hardness of our hearts makes us unwilling and unable to turn from sin and trust the Savior. Therefore conversion involves a miracle of new birth. Thus new birth precedes and enables faith and repentance. Nevertheless, faith and repentance are our acts. We are accountable for them. By the miracle of new birth, by pure grace, God grants the inclination we need.
Evangelism can never be finished, but missions can be finished. The reason is this: missions has the unique task of crossing language and culture barriers to penetrate a people group and establish a church movement; but evangelism is the ongoing task of sharing the gospel among people within the same culture.
A person who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it. Sin no longer pleases him, nor is it even a matter of indifference to him; it has become a horrible thing which he hates.
To be born again is, as it were, to enter upon a new existence, to have a new mind, a new heart, new views, new principles, new tastes, new affections, new likings, new dislikings, new fears, new joys, new sorrows, new love to things once hated, new hatred to things once loved, new thoughts of God, and ourselves, and the world, and the life to come, and salvation.
Except a man be born again, he will wish one day he had never been born at all.
It is a noteworthy and striking fact that no doctrine has excited such surprise in every age of the Church and has called forth so much opposition from the great and learned as this very doctrine of the new birth. The men of the present day who sneer at conversions and revivals as fanaticism are no better than Nicodemus. Like him, they expose their own entire ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit.
A regeneration which a man can have, and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness, is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture… In a word, where there is no sanctification there is no regeneration, and where there is no holy life there is no new birth.
Regeneration means that one has been born again or born from above (Jn. 3:3, 5, 7, 8). The new birth is the work of God, so that all those who are born again are “born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8). Or, as 1 Pet 1:3 says, it is God who “caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Pet 1:3). The means God uses to grant such new life is the gospel, for believers “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23; cf. Jas. 1:18). Regeneration or being born again is a supernatural birth. Just as we cannot do anything to be born physically – it just happens to us! – so too we cannot do anything to cause our spiritual rebirth.
So many are excusing their sin saying they were “born that way.” That’s why we need to heed the words of Jesus Christ and be born again.
The work of the Holy Spirit in John 3 is applied to the wind (the same word as spirit). From a human perspective, the wind has a point of origin and a destination that is unknown, yet we know the wind is present based upon the effects it leaves behind. Likewise, we are totally at the mercy of the free and sovereign will of God. Just as the wind is invisible and unpredictable and uncontrollable, God’s Spirit is moving among human beings, regenerating their hearts, and enabling them to willingly trust Christ for salvation. And when people do trust Christ, there will be evidence of His presence.
If you have been truly born again you have a new and holy nature, and you are no longer moved towards sinful objects as you were before. The things that you once loved you now hate, and therefore you will not run after them. You can hardly understand it but so it is, that your thoughts and tastes are radically changed. You long for that very holiness which once it was irksome to hear of; and you loathe those vain pursuits which were once your delights. The man who puts his trust in the Lord sees the pleasures of sin in a new light. For he sees the evil which follows them by noting the agonies which they brought upon our Lord when He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. Without faith a man says to himself, “This sin is a very pleasant thing, why should I not enjoy it? Surely I may eat this fruit, which looks so charming and is so much to be desired.” The flesh sees honey in the drink, but faith at once perceives that there is poison in the cup. Faith spies the snake in the grass and gives warning of it. Faith remembers death, judgment, the great reward, the just punishment and that dread word, eternity.
I find you grow more and more famous in the learned world. As you have made a pretty considerable progress in the mysteries of electricity, I would now humbly recommend to your diligent, unprejudiced pursuit and study, the mystery of the new birth. It is a most important, interesting study; and, when mastered, will richly answer and repay you for all your pains. One, at whose bar we are shortly to appear, hath solemnly declared, without it we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You will excuse this freedom. I must have something of Christ in all my letters.