Monday, January 31, 2011

What did it feel like to be born again?

(I was asked this question by a man from a Pentecostal background and responded as follows:)

‎"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." - John 3:8.

The first work of regeneration, that implanting of new life is a secret unconditional and sovereign work of God, as that passage teaches. We can only see that it has happened from the fruits of it, namely faith in Jesus Christ, repentance from sin, and the beginning of the new obedience to the will of God. Just as we cannot be conscious of the exact moment of our natural conception (yet we know certainly it happened, as we live and breath today), we cannot conscious of the exact moment of our spiritual birth (even though afterwards we experience the results of it - spiritual life). Before we are born again, we are not spiritual, but dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-10), and so cannot believe:

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 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." - I Cor. 2:12-14.

So, before the new birth, we cannot believe and everything in us, our mind, will, affections, and strength, wages warfare against God:

"For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." - Rom. 8:6-9.

And this same passage also teaches that if someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they are not a Christian at all, because they do not belong to Christ.

All these passages prove that it is the Lord's gracious will and pleasure alone that determines who is reborn, and who is not. Without the Spirit, our will, and every other faculty of our entire being is under slavery to sin and Satan - and that is the natural condition of man since the Fall.

Because I see that I believe all this, that Christ has paid for my sins on the cross, and I therefore belong to Him, I am assured that He has given me His Holy Spirit. And this assurance is further strengthened as I see that the work of His Spirit in me, not only causing me to believe, but also to live a new life for Him. Since it is God who testifies in my conscience through the faith He works in me by His Spirit, there is nothing in all the world that can shake that confidence - not even certain Pentecostals who think that speaking in unintelligible languages is the necessary proof of the new birth:

"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:" - Rom. 8:15-16.

This is the primary difference between the true Christianity of the Bible, and the false religion of the Roman Catholic church. In one there is full assurance, confidence, peace and joy - and in the other, there is nothing but terror of punishment, and dread of presumption.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." - Rom. 5:1-2

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Rom. 8:38-39.

It was these same convictions, worked in Martin Luther by the Spirit of God, that led him to boldly declare in face of the fierce opposition of the false church of his day, "Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God."

This assurance of eternal salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and fellowship with God, is the foundation of the Christian life - without it, there is no Christianity; because it is the work of the Holy Spirit in every true Christian. But it is also true that many Christians for various reasons at various times (false teachings, and their own sins, etc), have a weak faith, and do not enjoy this assurance to the same degree - but these are exceptions in terrible temporary circumstances. The chief means by which God strengthens our faith is the preaching of His Word. This is why preachers who think that their calling is to try to terrify the congregation as much as possible, are not being obedient to their calling which is:

"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins." - Isa. 40:1-2.

This same message of comfort which strengthens God's people, and cultivates thankfulness and godly joy in them, testifies against hypocrites and unbelievers, and hardens them against the truth which they hate. The salvation of the church always means the destruction of her enemies.

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