Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Friday, June 30, 2017

Ye must be born again!!

The importance of the preaching of the doctrine of regeneration in the mind of the great evangelist George Whitefield is most readily summed up in the famous answer which he gave when asked why he preached so much on the subject of men and women being “born again” by the Spirit of God. “Mr Whitefield,” the question ran, as it came from the lips of a woman who had been in his congregation many years, “Why do you preach so much on, ‘Ye must be born again’?” “Because, Madame” was his reply, “Ye must be born again!”

 The necessity of the “re-birth”, or, of “regeneration”, is a subject that must form the very fibre of the gospel that the Church of Christ is to preach in every age in which she finds herself. But, even a casual examination of the bulk of preaching with the “evangelical” church today shows that this is far from the case. Although the words of the text are used – and have been used almost continuously throughout this present century – it is sadly apparent that the heart of the matter has been inadvertently lost, or, perhaps even deliberately set aside in order to produce a form of salvation that is more acceptable to the natural man and, therefore, able to give the appearance of the Holy Spirit’s operations among us when such operations are really not in existence. 

 When our Lord Jesus Christ used those famous words with that religious leader Nicodemus, He was pointing out to him what must happen within him – not something he must cause to happen. He was not speaking about Nicodemus “believing” on Him, but He was showing him the very source of that believing that would launch him into the course of eternal life as a follower of our Lord Jesus. The apostle John, earlier on in his gospel, sets forth the whole scheme of things in an unmistakable manner. “But as many as received him,” he says, “to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” This is another of the modern-day oft-quoted texts, but, unfortunately it is very often quoted out of context and so, becomes a pretext. While it is absolutely true that Christ gives the “right” to become “the sons of God” to all them that “receive” Him and “believe on his name,” it is also far from the truth to imagine that this is something that they perform by themselves without the work of God’s Holy Spirit first of all being accomplished in their hearts and minds. The next verse makes that crystal clear; “But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name;” and then, comes the explanation as to how and why they “received” and “believed”: “Who were born,” says John. (Every man, and woman, and young person, and child, who truly exercises faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for their soul’s salvation, in fact, manifests life – spiritual life. But, there is no life – either physical, or spiritual – unless there is, first of all, a “birth.” This is absolutely basic. And, says John, these people who received and believed did so, because they were “born.”)

 He tells us how they were born, they were “born of God.” And in order for us to fully grasp the content of that magnificent statement, he also throws it into contrast with the methods by which they were not born. “Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” They were “born of God.” Not of “blood,” he says. And this was the very thing that our Lord Himself was driving at with that man Nicodemus. No people boasted more in their “blood” than the children of Israel; “We be Abraham’s seed,” was their constant cry. But, salvation is not “of blood.” And grace does’t run in the blood. Believers’ children don’t inherit any of the parents’ graces, but their natures – their old, fallen, corrupt, rebellious nature – so that they must be “born again” – “born of God.”

 Most “evangelicals” would heartily concur with that. But, what of the next negative means of salvation that John sets before us? “Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh …” You see, this doesn’t mean salvation by works – the works of the flesh; that’s not what it says; it says, “the will of the flesh.” That is, anything that the will of man in his flesh can do apart from the operations of the Spirit of God upon him. If a person claims to have “believed” in order to be “born again,” then, they have placed their life before their birth. Those who did believe, says John, were those who were “born of God.” Not of themselves – not of some “act of free will,” for the will belongs to the “flesh” of fallen man (“ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.”) And knowing this to be the case, then, our Lord “regenerates” those wayward souls so that they can believe and receive Him unto “life” eternal. If a man persists in saying that he believed in order to be born again, and not that he was born again in order that he might believe, then he has exercised that belief in the flesh, and “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” The awful indictment that rests upon such theology is vividly portrayed in that lamentation of our Lord’s over the nation of Israel: “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel doth not know …” What an indictment on the people of God today if they fail to know and acknowledge from whence they have their spiritual beings – Who was their Father, and by whom they are born in spiritual things. “Who were born, not of … the will of the flesh …”

 “Nor of the will of man,” is the third false source of spiritual life. Not by my own works and efforts; not by the works of any other mortal upon the face of this earth. Not the persuasion of the preacher, or the methods employed. Oh, these things can do a work! Is that not the tragedy of our day? There is such a thing as a psychological conversion; practically every politician and able salesman can accomplish such a “change” in a person’s outlook, or, indeed, way of life. But this is not the work of regeneration. Oh, God uses men; of course, He does – “It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching …” But, it is especially, “through the foolishness of the thing preached …” That is, the gospel – the gospel of grace – the gospel which says to man, “Ye must be born again,” – which lays him in the dust of earth just as surely as Adam lay there until God breathed into him the breath of life and he became a living soul. He didn’t get up and walk about and then became a living soul. And says John, those who “received” Christ, and “believed on his name” did so, because they were “born of God.” “Not of blood, nor, of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” 

 Modern-day evangelicalism has confused things that differ. There is a vast difference between “conversion” and “regeneration.” In conversion we actually “see” the converted, as it were, showing forth the change in their life – turning from idols to serve the living and true God. But, this they do, because they have, first of all, been “born of God.” Just as surely as the child who takes his first struggling kicks into this massive world has been “born” into the world. The child didn’t become its own father! No more than any spiritual child of God has become his own father. The “conversion” – the “receiving,” – the “believing,” – these are the evidence of the life, but the source of the life is from “above”, not “within.” “Ye are born from above” – “Who were born … of God.”

 Then, they take up their position as “The sons of God.” Says John, “As many as receive him, to them gave he power (or right) to become the sons of God …” They weren’t the sons of God before; by nature we were all ”the children of wrath, even as other,” and we were “of our father the devil,” says our Lord. We were “born” of the devil, and the works of our father, as it says in another place, we willingly performed. But, when we “believed” on Christ we certainly were not doing “the works of our father” the devil; we were doing the “work of God.” For, says our Saviour, “This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom He has sent. And those who believe on Christ are then doing the “work of God”, because they have been “born of God”, just as they did the ”work” of their father the devil, being born, by nature, of their father the devil.

 When they do this work of God – when they “believe on him whom he has sent” – then they are “formally” and “legally” adopted into the family of God – they receive “the right to be called the sons of God.” 

 Again, we are not to confuse things that differ. Just as conversion and regeneration are two different things, so adoption and regeneration are two different things. In adoption God gives us the standing of the children of God; makes us joint-heirs with Christ, who is “the firstborn among many brethren.” But, in regeneration, God gives us the nature of the children of God. He can never, ever, have us in His family - joint-heirs with His only Begotten Who was “full of grace and truth” – as we stand in our old nature full of wrath and enmity against our God in heaven. So, - and, Oh, my friends this is the glory of the grace of our God in the gospel – He changes our nature! He “regenerates” us! He causes us to be “born again” of His Holy Spirit! He gives us “life” in place of our “death” – “you hath he quickened (made alive) who were dead in trespasses and sins.” And when He imparts this life, then we exercise that life by “receiving” His only begotten Son to our soul’s salvation. And then, we receive the “adoption papers”, as it were – signed, sealed, and delivered to us, so that none can take away this “right” to be a son of God. “But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

 “Mr Whitefield! Why do you preach so much on ‘Ye must be born again’?” “Because, madame, ‘Ye must be born again’.” Amen! 
 “The only gospel we can own,
 Sets Jesus Christ upon His throne;
 Proclaims salvation full and free, 
 Obtained on Calvary’s rugged tree.” 


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