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Want to turn tonight to the Epistle, to Titus. Paul’s epistle to Titus. Years back, when I was responsible for college for training teachers in east Africa, I gave them a scripture memorization course, and one of the verses that they were required to memorize was Titus 3:5. They used to say the references in Swahili. And in Swahili, the word for Titus is Tito, the word for three is ?tatu?, and the word for five is ?tano?. So it was ?Tito, tatu, tano?! Which made it easier to remember. However, I want to start reading in chapter 3, verse 3.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes [or once upon a time] foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”(Titus 3:3–7, KJV)
I want to take a little while just to explain what those verses mean and how they can apply in our lives. Going back to verse 3, I wonder how many of us would be honest to acknowledge that that’s the way we once lived. Maybe there are some of you here tonight that do not feel those words apply. But as far as I’m concerned, looking back on my experience for twenty-five years, and particularly on my life at Cambridge University, and the lives of my friends and colleagues and the other professors at the university, I would have to say that no one ever described this more accurately than in those words. I like to bring them up to date, put them into more modern English—For we ourselves also, were once upon a time foolish, highly educated, but very foolish. You know that it’s possible to be foolish and yet educated. Later, when I was a missionary in east Africa in educational work, I wrote a little tract, which is called “You Are Striving After Education, But Are You Also Finding Wisdom?” And I pointed out that there’s a difference between being educated and being wise. And I said in that little tract something which provoked a good deal of comment. I said most of the trouble in the world today is being caused by educated fools. And I’ve never seen any reason to change that statement.
So, it is possible to be very highly educated, very intellectual, and very foolish. I remember in my own case, amongst the other crazy things I did, I got the impression that it would be an easy way to make money and not work to gamble at roulette. So for a number of years I was what was called in Europe a “Riviera Lizard”! I would stand 8 hours a day at the roulette tables in Monte Carlo. How many of you have ever heard of Monte Carlo? Well, it is the casino center of Europe. One of the other persons that used to go to Monte Carlo was the provost, that’s the head person of my college, King’s College Cambridge. And his name was Sheppard, spelled S-h-e-p-p-a-r-d. And every year the college used to bring out a magazine in which you could write little poems about other people and they’d be published, and you were more or less safe from prosecution. So, I once wrote a poem about our provost. And really, when I look back I think I must have had more insight than I realized. But this is what I said. Remembering that his name was Sheppard. I said, “My sheep shall never stray, while I their shepherd am, but when my sheep’s away, I gamble like a lamb.”
Well, there we were, very intellectual, and very foolish. I’ll tell you why I gave up trying to make money at roulette. I was playing a system invented by a Frenchmen named ?LaBoucher?. And I discovered one day he died a pauper!
All right—we ourselves were once upon a time foolish, disobedient, breaking the laws of God and of man, deceived, highly educated, but deceived, trusting in the abilities of our own minds, believing that we could solve every problem intellectually.
I remember in the years before World War II, I used to live in a very tiny little house, which was just one room wide in a very ancient part of Cambridge, called Little Saint Mary’s Avenue. And there was a basement there where I had lunch every day with four or five of my friends who were all intellectual leaders in various areas of the university. And being somewhere in the early twenties, we used to sit around and discuss life as students do. And we intellectually reviewed the problems of the world and generally decided how we were going to solve them. We didn’t do very much about solving them, but we decided how it could be done. And I remember, at that time, quite suddenly, World War II broke out and plunged Europe into confusion and tragedy. And I could see the difference before and after. Before the war struck, I viewed life as a kind of football, which was my privilege to kick when I wanted and where I wanted. After the war broke out, I realized I got the picture wrong. I was the football, and I was just wondering where life was going to kick me next. So I was deceived: deceived about my own abilities, deceived about my own cleverness, deceived about the real values of life. Living a strange double life. Half of each week in my ivory tower of philosophy, and the other half of the week, finding the ivory tower too cold and remote, down in the gutter living it up.
So I was, as Paul says here, a slave of various lusts and pleasures. Lust brings slavery. Lust drives us and compels us to do many, many things which we inwardly know are harmful and evil. It makes us ruthless. We use other people simply as instruments of our own pleasure. And all the time we’re hurting ourselves and hurting other people. And yet we can’t change. Because we’re slaves. The ability to change is not within us. And then it says,
“...filled with malice [or living in malice] and envy...”
I don’t know whether there are many other places where there is more petty jealousy than in a university. Where people are more eager to promote their own way of life and their own reputation and their own books and their own learning—and very mean and nasty and jealous toward one another. Hateful, but we didn’t see it, and hating one another.
I look back, not only on my own life, but on the lives of many others, many situations that I was in, situations that I passed through. And I’d have to say there wasn’t a single word in that verse, that wasn’t a good description of me. I think greatest disasters happened when I tried to do good. Crazily enough, in spite of all my own problems, I really felt that I ought to save other people. I didn’t know anything about God’s salvation, but I tried to help people. Looking back, I’d have to say, I was responsible for major disasters every time I tried to help others. I’m just sorry for the people I helped.
And then Paul comes to a “but.” There are some wonderful “buts” in the New Testament. Having painted the black picture, he now turns to the other side and he says “...but there came a thing....” It is possible to be different. You don’t have to live that way the rest of your life. No matter whether you’ve lived that way 20 years, 30 years, 60 years. Something else can happen to you. And it says there,
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared...”
There are two very beautiful words used there. “Kindness and love.” I don’t think the average man who doesn’t know God ever thinks of God as being kind. At least I never did. Growing up in the Anglican Church as a boy, I don’t blame the Anglican Church for this, but my impression of God was that he was kind of an irritable old man, who sat in an office at the end of a long corridor, and the boards squeaked every time we went down the corridor to knock on his office door. And you never could catch him unexpectedly. And if you got inside, the best thing to do was to get out again as quickly as possible, because you’d probably be scolded for some of your misdeeds. And in all seriousness, I realized that that kind of thinking or picture dominated my attitude toward God. I had no idea that God was kind, and I had no concept whatever of the love of God.
But Paul says here that there came a time when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared. Historically it was revealed in Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ came he revealed a picture of God that was quite unlike what the religious people of the day expected, in fact the people He disturbed most were the religious people. They were the ones who couldn’t adjust to His presentation of God the Father. But He revealed God accurately. He revealed God in love, in power, in wisdom. He was the man with the answer. He never had a problem He couldn’t solve. He never faced an emergency to which He had no answer. He did good to everybody who ever came across His path. That’s the true revelation of God. That’s the distinctive message of the New Testament. There is no other religion on earth that presents God as Jesus presented God. But it’s possible to live in a quote, Christian country, and it’s possible to have some knowledge of the Bible, it’s possible indeed to be in a sense religious, and yet know nothing about the love of God. And that is one of life’s greatest tragedies. Bible says, “God is love” (1John 4:16, KJV). And until we know God personally, there is a depth of love that we cannot conceive. ‘Cause it’s found only in God. There’s no other source, there’s no other place. And I’ve noticed that some of the most bitter and lonely people that I’ve met in life, are people who are really frustrated because they are looking for love. I’ve seen people in their fifties suddenly discover for the first time that God really loved them. It was a dramatic discovery. I was 25 years old before I made that discovery. And it was not that I had not been to church, because as a boy from the age of 9 to the age of 18, I went to church 8 times a week. And yet I missed the most important fact that “God is Love.” I knew nothing about the kindness of God. I had no standard by which to measure God. I was just in darkness. And in ignorance. The highly educated fool, on my way to a lost eternity. And I could do nothing whatever about it. I was shut up in entirely to the mercy of God. I was so lost, I didn’t even know I was lost.
Now in verse 5, the apostle Paul tells us, how God will intervene in our lives. And we need to study each one of these phrases, and let them apply to us. In the middle of that verse, Paul says, God saved us. It’s good to know that God has saved you. Do you know that God saved you? I know that God saved me. I know it because I was there when it happened! I know what it was like before it happened, and I know what it’s like after it happened. I have very definite standards of comparison.
Salvation is the word in the Bible for God’s all-inclusive provision for man through Jesus Christ. It includes the forgiveness of your sins. It includes the gift of eternal life. It includes the provision of physical healing. It includes the power to live a life that’s different. It includes every provision, financial and material for time, and it includes the assurance of eternity in the presence of Almighty God. That one word “salvation” is used in the New Testament to comprehend all the benefits and blessings of God made available through the Lord Jesus Christ. But there is a moment when you personally must enter into that provision of God.
And so we find in the Bible three tenses in which the verb “to save” is used. It’s used in the perfect tense. Paul says,
“By grace ye have been saved through faith.” (Eph. 2:8, KJV)
It’s used here in the simple past tense. “God saved us.” It’s used in the continuing present tense for Paul says in 1Corinthians chapter 1,
“The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us [who are being saved] it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18, KJV)
Notice the three tenses. A perfect tense, “By grace you have been saved.” The perfect tense describes something that has been settled forever, it cannot be changed. The simple past tense, “God saved us,” describes a specific event that happened at a given time and place. It’s called the historic past. The continuing present tense describes something that is going on all the time. “The preaching of the cross is to those who are [going on] perishing all the time—foolishness) ... but unto us who are [going on] being saved all the time, it is the power of God.”
We’ve got to find room in our experience for all three tenses. And to my way of thinking, one of the simplest and clearest illustrations is Noah’s Ark. Noah’s Ark, in the day of Noah was the total provision of God for salvation, there was no other. And it was total. It included the forgiveness of sins, it included provision for Noah’s family, for his body, for his meals, for his whole life. Every thing Noah needed at that time was in the Ark. The Ark was not an experiment, it was made according to divine instruction. It never had to be recalled. It never had to be refitted. It never had to be repaired. It was right from the beginning. And that’s like God’s salvation, you have been saved, it is something complete, perfect, entire, it’s never going to be amended, it never has to be improved. When Jesus died and rose from the dead, it was settled forever and ever. That’s the Ark. But the Ark didn’t help Noah and his family until they entered into it. That’s the simple past tense. There has to be a moment in your experience where you enter into God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Where you pass from death unto life. From condemnation to forgiveness. From darkness to light. All these words are used. There’s got to be a transition. You’ve got to step out of one condition, into another condition. And that’s what evangelicals call, being saved. It’s scriptural phrase. Although sometimes it’s used in a very limited way by evangelicals. It means stepping out of your own condition, and the condition of this world into the total provision of God.
And then, after Noah and his family had entered into the Ark, when the water arose and the rain descended, the Ark was continually saving them all the time. That’s the continuing present tense. Once you enter into Jesus Christ, He becomes your Ark of safety, and you are continually preserved, protected, and provided for in Him. The perfect tense is God’s provision. That’s complete. The simple past tense is our entering into God’s provision. The continuing present is what we enjoy once we’re in God’s provision. Think of the Ark, was built, never had to be modified, it was exactly right the first time, but they had to enter into the Ark and then they had to stay in the Ark. And as they stayed in the Ark, they were continually being saved.
In the verse that we’re looking at, Paul speaks about the decisive moment, of transition from one condition to another. He says God saved us. Something happened at a given moment in time, at a certain place. In my experience, I do not remember the date, I know the month. It was July, in the year 1941. And I had a definite personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. And that encounter changed me radically, totally, and permanently. I didn’t have any theories about salvation. I didn’t know there was such a thing. I had no doctoral understanding of the gospel. But I had an experience. Somebody said, the man with an experience is not at the mercy of the man with an argument. I am amused when I think back in my fellow soldiers in the British Army try to describe what had happened to me. They used all sorts of phrases. Neither they nor I used the right phrase. But we all knew something had happened. I’d rather have the experience without the phrase than the phrase without the experience.
All right, now Paul tells us in verse 5 the nature of the experience. It’s not by works of righteousness, which we have done. You can do nothing to earn the salvation, and I mean nothing. Don’t try to improve yourselves, and get saved when you’re a little better. Because I’ll tell from experience, the more you try to improve yourself the worse you’ll get. I had tried that, when I was confirmed at the age of 15 in the Anglican Church. I didn’t have salvation, but I knew I ought to be a lot better. So for about 6 months, I decided to be better. I never got bad so quickly as during those 6 months! At the end of 6 months, I just decided it might work for others, but it didn’t work for me. And I could be a lot happier and no worse without religion.
All right, it’s not by works of righteousness which we have done. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8,
“By grace are you saved through faith.” (KJV)
It’s most important that we all understand that you cannot earn grace. There is nothing that you can do that will ever merit the grace of God. If you have any kind of religious experience which you have earned, it may be valid but it’s not by grace. Grace cannot be earned. In my observation, some of the Christian groups that taught the most about grace know the least about it. You don’t have to cut your hair short, you don’t have to change your style of dress, you don’t have to stop going to certain places of entertainment, all you have to do is believe.
I remember a young lady, years back that my wife told me about in Denmark, she was faced with the challenge of salvation and she really wanted to be saved, but she said, I want to put it off. So the pastor said why, so she said, well there’s a dance coming up Wednesday night and I want to go to the dance. And I know if I get saved, then I can’t go! So the pastor was very wise, he said, Well, don’t worry about the dance, just get saved and leave the future to take care of itself. So she got saved and Wednesday night she was in the prayer meeting! You can’t earn salvation by giving up anything, stop doing anything, start doing anything. It doesn’t happen that way. Faith precedes works.
Now once faith has begun to operate in you life, it will make you do all sorts of things, you never thought of doing. And you’ll stop and turn around and say, what am I doing here? How did I get into this? If there was one group of persons that seemed extraordinary to me when I was growing up, it was missionaries. I thought to myself whatever have they got to go around and tell people about. And if ever there was one kind of activity that seemed utterly ridiculous it was a prayer meeting. I heard about some people once, I mean no where near me, thank God, but they’d been to a prayer meeting that lasted an hour! How could anybody find anything to pray about that would take an hour? Well, guess what happened to me, when the Lord saved me—I became a missionary and my favorite meeting was the prayer meeting! But I didn’t decide I was going to be a missionary, and get all prayerful, I just let the Lord deal with me. In fact, even that’s an overstatement, I just had an encounter with the Lord, and discovered He’d dealt with me. So its not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but it’s according to His mercy. There is not one of us here tonight that does not desperately need the mercy of God. Not one person here, and I’ll gladly put myself at the top of the list. There’s one thing about me, I KNOW I need God’s mercy. And there’s one scripture in my life which has had a lot of influence over me, it’s the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7, KJV)
And whenever I’m tempted, and it’s quite frequent to be unmerciful, and unkind, and critical and withhold the good that I could do to others, that scripture always comes to me, and I say to myself, you sure need God’s mercy, you better show mercy to others. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
I have never... one of the things that has helped me in my Christian life is, I have never doubted that I needed God’s mercy. I’ve always seen that clearly. And I’ve never seen it more clearly than I see it tonight. I just want to tell the Lord, while you wait a moment, LORD, I NEED YOUR MERCY! And there’ll never come a time when I don’t need God’s mercy. In fact, the longer I live the Christian life, the more it seems to me I need the mercy of God. And I really do try, not always successfully, to show mercy to others. Because I don’t dare to face God on any other basis. But that I need His mercy. It says, “according to His mercy, He saved us.”
Now then there are four words that Paul uses at the end of that verse that we need to look at just briefly for a moment.
“By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost...”
Right at the end of the verse, Paul introduces the Holy Spirit. If the word Holy Ghost troubles you, just pass it by. It’s just old English. It doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is some kind of phantasm or spook, it’s just old English. Those of you that know German will know that the German word for Spirit is ?giste?, which is the same as the English word “ghost.” So let’s say the Holy Spirit.
All right, the agent that produces the changes that are needed in us is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God. Now no one can understand the Holy Spirit. If we wait ‘til the point where we understand the was of the Holy Spirit operates, we’ll wait forever. Jesus said, the Holy Spirit is like the wind, the wind blows where it wants to, we hear the sound, we can’t tell from where it’s coming, or wither it’s going. So is everyone that is born of the Spirit. No one gives orders to the wind. But we have to fit in with our lives the way that the wind blows. So it is with the Holy Spirit. We don’t command the Holy Spirit, we have to get in line with what the Holy Spirit is doing and submit to it. And every operation of God in our lives is done by the Holy Spirit.
There are three things that Paul speaks about here—washing, regeneration, and renewing. Three necessary acts of God. Washing speaks of cleansing. Before we come to God and trust in Jesus, we are defiled. We’re unclean. Unclean morally. Unclean mentally. And unclean spiritually. And there is no means by which we can cleanse ourselves. There is nothing that we can do about the uncleanness of sin. Except trust in the mercy of God. No man has any way to cleanse himself from the defilement of sin. We need therefore to be cleansed. The scripture says that the great cleansing agent of the Holy Spirit is the Blood of Jesus Christ. The Blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. I don’t suppose that any human mind will ever fully understand how that happens. But thank God there are millions of people alive today that know it does happen.
Then the word used is regeneration. Regeneration means being born again. And that’s one aspect of what God does. Jesus said,
“Except a man be born again [or born from above] he cannot see [or enter] the kingdom of God.”
(John 3:5, KJV)
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.”
(John 3:6, KJV)
We had a natural birth, that’s why we’re here in this world. But in order to enter into the kingdom of God, we have to experience a spiritual birth. We have to be born again. It’s a completely new start. A new source of life. A new heritage. Jesus said to the religious people of his day,
“You are of your father the devil.” (John 8:44, KJV)
That was very blunt language, but it was true. Everyone of us, by our natural sinful acts, have acknowledged the devil to be our father. We have to get another parent. And that parent is God. The scripture says, “Of His own will, God begat us with the word of Truth.” That we should be a kind of first fruits of His creation. When you receive God’s word by faith into your heart, and the Holy Spirit quickens it, then a birth takes place within, not a physical birth, but a spiritual birth, a new life. A new personality is brought into being within you. This is a matter of personal experience. When Nicodemus questioned it and couldn’t understand it, Jesus said, we testify what we do know, we speak what we have seen. Tonight I testify what I know. I speak what I’ve have seen. I have been born again of the spirit of God. I look back on the moment, and I know it happened. And there’s not one person here tonight that need be without that assurance of being born again. And then the third word that’s used there is renewing. It’s not merely a birth, but a total renewing. Everything about us becomes new.
I’d like to turn for a moment to 2Corinthians chapter 5. And I want to read from verse 16. And read a few verses down from 2Corinthians chapter 5 verse 16.
“Wherefore henceforth we know no man after the flesh.” (KJV)
Paul says we don’t any longer concern ourselves with what a man is by his own unregenerate nature. We’re only interested in what God will make out of a person.
“Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.”
One of the most remarkable things about the New Testament is, and I cannot believe other than it is by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there is not one single shred of evidence as to the physical appearance of Jesus. We’re not told of His height, His weight, the color of His hair, the color of His eyes. There’s is not one shred of information. I believe that is what I call a negative evidence of inspiration. Had any natural human being written such a record there would have been something by which we could have formed the picture of Jesus natural physical appearance. There is not one word. And I would have to say I have some reservations about trying to portray Jesus as a human being. I mean I know there are all sorts of famous pictures and I’m not against them on grounds of principle, but all of them disappoint me. They all fall short of what I believe Jesus must have looked like, yet I don’t know what he looked like. So if they bless you—that’s all right. But for my part, I’d rather have a landscape. At least I know what I’m dealing with. Don’t be offended by that. What always amuses me was about five years ago, when everybody was wearing a beards, all the religious people had a picture of Jesus on the wall with a beard and protested about everybody wearing a beard all around them! Now we do know He had a beard, that’s one thing.
Now I believe the reason for that is, the Holy Spirit does not want us concerned with what the theologians call the historical Jesus. That’s NOT the emphasis of God. What the Holy Spirit directs us to is the eternal Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come. Who has neither beginning of days nor end of life. And when we come to know Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, that’s how we know Him. Not in His historical character, not wearing sandals, not walking the streets of Galilee, but the eternal, unchanging Son of God. See, had I seen Jesus with my physical eyes, in July 1941, I’d have no guarantee that He’s still alive today. Anything could have happened in the intervening 35 years. But when I came to know Him by the Holy Spirit, I came into an eternal, ever present, unceasing awareness of His reality. And I have to tell you tonight, for me it is impossible to doubt that Jesus Christ is alive. I do not have that assurance through my senses, I have it by the eternal and ever faithful spirit of God. I’m directly related to Him. I know Him in the deepest and most intimate way.
Jesus said to His disciples who had been with Him 3½ years, when they were grieving because He said He was going away, He said I’ll tell you the truth, it’s expedient for you that I go away. ‘Cause if I don’t go away, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, won’t come. But if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And by implication—what He was saying is—you’ll be much better off with Me in heaven, and the Holy Spirit on earth, than you have been with Me on earth and the Holy Spirit in heaven. And that’s true to every born again child of God, the Holy Spirit offers the privilege and the opportunity to know Jesus more perfectly, more intimately, and more accurately than any of the other apostles knew Him during His earthly ministry. Never sit and say I wished I’d lived in the day of the apostles, ‘cause then I would have known Jesus. That’s completely incorrect. They had a very partial, inaccurate, incomplete knowledge of Jesus Christ, until the Holy Spirit came. And then they had a sudden blinding immediate revelation of who He really is. It’s the Holy Spirit that going to reveal to you the eternal Christ. You don’t need to know Him as He was in the days of His flesh. Paul says in the church, we don’t need to know one another as we were in the days of our flesh.
All right, you have a person in your church who led a very wicked, immoral, sinful life. A prostitute. A drug addict. Once he comes to Jesus Christ and is transformed by the Holy Spirit, you don’t think about that person as a prostitute or a drug addict any longer. You know them for what they are in Christ. And we all need to get that mind. We don’t keep reminding people about their sinful past, ‘cause it isn’t theirs any longer. And the same is true about Jesus. We don’t go back to the historical Christ. We’re directly related to the eternal Christ. I want to read those words again because they are very significant, and their place is very significant.
“Wherefore, henceforth know we no man after the flesh. Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more [in that way].”
And then he goes on to say, “Therefore...” and many of you have heard me say, when you find a “therefore “ in the Bible, you need to find out what it’s there for! And it’s there because of the preceding verse. For many years I didn’t see the connection between verse 16 and verse 17. But as a result of knowing Jesus, not after the flesh, but by the Holy Spirit, a radical change takes place within us.
“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, [the King James says] he is a new creature.”
But you’ll notice if you have a King James Version in front of you, the words “He is” are in italics. That means they’re supplied by the translator. And it’s better to say the word “creation” than “creature.” So, “If any man be in Christ, a new creation [exclamation mark]” I believe that’s the way it should be presented. The moment you enter into the Ark, the moment you’re in Christ, the moment Christ is revealed to you by the Holy Spirit, a new creation!
To go back to the picture of the Ark for a moment. Have you ever thought of all the different animals in the Ark. And how by nature they were enemies. And yet apparently they lived in harmony for all those months. What happened? When any animal entered the Ark, it experienced a change of nature. The bear could live with the lamb, the tiger with the cow, et cetera. And that’s what happens to us when we enter into Christ. By nature we were irreconcilable, we couldn’t agree. But, friend, when you come into the Ark, your nature is changed. You can live with classes and races of people that you couldn’t abide before. And if you can’t get on with your fellow Christians, I sometimes wonder if you ever really got into the Ark.
All right, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ,” notice it’s an “if,” that “if” divides us all. In this auditorium tonight, there are two categories—in Christ or not in Christ. And there’s nothing in between. Everybody here tonight is either in Christ or not in Christ. And the scripture says, if anybody be in Christ, a new creation has taken place. If there never has been a new creation, there is no evidence that you are in Christ. You may be in a church, you may be religious, but you are not a new creation. Old things are passed away. “Behold...” that’s a dramatic word, “all things have become new.” Not some things, but all things. God does not patch up the old creation. He doesn’t reform us, He doesn’t send us back to church, He does something totally radical and totally new. A new beginning. How many of us here tonight must have wished at some time in life—if only I could start again, how different things would be. I want to tell you tonight, you can start again. You can start without any guilt, without any condemnation, without any bondage, without any evil powers driving you. There is a way out of this world, and into the Ark. And the door is Jesus.
“Behold, all things have become new, and all things are of God.”
It’s marvelous to think about the new creation. Everything in it originates with God. It’s not half human and half divine. It’s not half natural and half spiritual. It’s a totally new beginning. Many, many Christians do not avail themselves of the fullness of their rights in the new creation. I believe the new creation gives us the right to shut off every past inheritance that’s evil. The scripture says, The word of God “shall be health to thy navel” (Prov. 3:8, KJV). The navel is the point by which we are connected with our natural mother. And I believe that when the word of God says that it will provide health to your navel, it means it can cut off every evil inheritance from the natural past. But many Christians are still living under the shadow of evil inheritances. Condemnation, evil habits, evil associations—we have not availed ourselves of what is possible in the new creation. It’s by faith.
Let me say here at this point—I was talking to a brother this morning who was driving me to Orlando Airport, and I do not say this to be controversial, but accepted evangelical ideas today of how to enter into salvation, are remarkably inadequate and incomplete. The early church never invited sinners to an altar. They never asked them to sign the decision card. There’s only one thing they invited them to—and that was water! When the sinners said on the day of Pentecost, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” the answer was clear and specific—“Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 3:37,38, KJV). God has never changed His program. If we practiced evangelism as the New Testament did, every time for the first time people professed faith in Christ for salvation, we would lead them to the water. And why I say that is because in all the types given of salvation in the Old Testament, the cut off point between the past and the new life is the water. In the Ark, they entered into the Ark and the Ark was still part of the old order. But Peter says in his first epistle, the 3rd chapter about the Ark,
“Wherein few, that is eight souls were saved... [By what? By water.] The like figure whereunto, even Baptism doth also now save us.” (KJV)
What separated Noah and his family from the old world? The water. When they passed through the water, they came out on the other side into a new order, a new covenant, a new lifestyle. It was the water that separated them. I venture to suggest to you that we do not have a scriptural right to believe in totally ending the old inheritance if we don’t pass through the water. When Israel was brought out of Egypt we have the most beautiful picture of the salvation of God, they were saved in Egypt by faith in the blood of the Passover lamb, which is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, but they were separated from Egypt by a double baptism! 1Corinthians chapter 10:2 says,
“They were all baptized unto their leader Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” (KJV)
The cloud was the supernatural power of God’s presence that came down over them, and they were immersed in that cloud. Every Israelite entered into, passed through, and came out of the cloud. And then they were baptized in the sea. Every Israelite went down into the sea, passed through the sea, and came up on the other side, under a new leader with new laws and a new destination. What separated Israel from Egypt ? Not the blood of the lamb, not even the cloud, but the water. It was in the water that Pharaoh and his pursuing hosts perished and were cut off forever. And if we want to enter in to the fullness of the new creation, and know for sure that old things are passed away and all things have become new, and all things are of God. The scriptural way to do it is to repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. And if you can get God to give His consent some to other way, that’s between you and God. But as a creature of scripture I have no authority to change His program. Going on in verse 18,
“All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (KJV)
According to that scripture, Christians are reconciled reconcilers! First, we had to be reconciled with God, now we become the messengers and the instruments of God’s reconciliation to those that do not know God.
Let me go back now to Titus chapter 3, and complete what I’m expounding there. Going back to verse 5, but moving on. Titus 3:5,
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, [we’ve ruled out any attempt to earn salvation or the grace of God,] but according to His mercy,” (KJV)
We’re shut up to the mercy of God. He saved us, a definite experience, a point of transition and it was an operation of the Holy Spirit manifested in three things—washing, regeneration and renewing. And then in the next verse it says,
“Which He (God) shed on us (or poured out on us abundantly) through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
Now I believe we have there, two distinct operations of the Holy Spirit very clearly presented. First of all there’s the inner operation of regeneration, renewing, and cleansing. And secondly, there’s another operation which is the Holy Spirit being poured out over us abundantly in overflow. And if I look at the experience of the first believers, I see those two experiences very clearly presented in the historical account on the resurrection Sunday evening, The Lord Jesus Christ just risen from the dead appeared to His scared cowering disciples, showed them who He was, convinced them that He was the very one who had hung and died on the cross, convinced them that he was risen and alive. And then breathed on them and said,
“Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22, KJV)
And according to my understanding, that is when the first disciples were regenerated. They passed from Old testament salvation to New Testament salvation at that point. The Old Testament believers were saved in hope, looking forward through types and prophecies and shadows to an event they did not fully understand, which was the death an resurrection of Jesus Christ. But in the New Testament, we are saved by looking back on an accomplished historical fact, which is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And when we look back at that in faith and receive it’s benefits, we have passed from death to life. Paul says to enter into New Testament salvation there are two requirements.
“That if thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom. 10:9, KJV)
There is no New Testament salvation unless you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. The first time the disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead was when Jesus stood among them, risen, and gave the evidence of His death and resurrection. And He breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” And something happened inside them through the inbreathed breath of the resurrected Christ. But in spite of all that was accomplished by that, He still said to them, don’t go out and start preaching,
“Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.”(Luke 24:49, KJV)
John truly baptized with water, but forty days after that resurrection experience, He said to them,
“Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5, KJV)
That was yet future. Whatever happened when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into them was not the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Which happened exactly fifty days later. And when you look at the picture of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is no longer physically on earth. He’s in heaven. He no longer breathes the Holy Spirit into His disciples, He pours out the Holy Spirit over them. And I would say the difference in historical picture is this. The regeneration is the resurrected Christ and the inbreathed Spirit. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the exalted Christ, the out-poured Spirit. Now neither experience is a substitute for the other. But they must come in a certain order. You cannot be baptized unless you have been regenerated.
Some of you in this room have never met the resurrected Christ. You may have been religious, but you’ve never been saved. Probably quite a number of you who have met the resurrected Christ and been regenerated, but you never received the outpoured Spirit. Why stop short of God’s total provision? I want to challenge you right now. I want to ask you, have you been saved? Have you ever met the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in such a definite personal way that you know for sure He’s alive? Has your life ever been changed in such a way that you can say, “Old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new. And all things are of God” (2Cor. 5:17–18 KJV)? I want to tell you in all humility, I can answer yes to every one of those questions. God doesn’t love me any more than He loves anybody else. It’s the will of God that every person here should be able to answer a definite, clear, emphatic YES to every one of those questions. YES, I have been saved. YES, I do know Jesus is alive. YES, a new creation has taken place within me. The old things have passed away, all things have become new. If you do not have that experience, and you desire to have it, it’s my privilege to tell you, that you can receive it here tonight! Jesus said,
“Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37, KJV)
He’s given you a written guarantee. That if you come to Him, confess your sins, and receive Him as your Savior, and confess Him as your Lord, He’ll receive you. And you’ll become His child. You’ll be regenerated. The scripture says in John chapter 1,
“He came unto His own [the Jewish people] and His own received Him not.” (John 1:11, KJV)
The greatest tragedy of any nation in history. But it goes on to say,
“But as many as received Him [Jesus Christ], to them gave He power to become the Sons of God... which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God.”(John 1:12–13, KJV)
Born of God. How? By receiving Him. Not by joining a church, but by receiving Him. I want every body here to just pray quietly for a moment. I want you to face the message that I brought to you. I want you to consider your own life and situation—are you satisfied? Are you happy? Do you have peace? Or are you in turmoil, are you challenged, are you unsettled—are you uncertain and insecure? And if in the light of what I’m saying, you would like to come to know Jesus in that definite, personal way, through the Holy Spirit. Know that you’ve been saved, and entered into a new creation—I want to ask you to do something specific, because you have to exercise your will. I heard Jimmy Owens say recently that every time that Jesus called a man, He did it in public. There were no private calls. And I’m not offering you a private opportunity, I’m giving you a public challenge. To acknowledge your condition, and take the steps that are needed to change it. I’ll pray for you now, that if you see your need, and you want that change in your life, you’ll do what I ask. And that is, stand up, walk right down to the front and come and stand in front of me here, right now. Anybody here that does not know for sure you have been saved, you’ve been regenerated, the past has been dealt with—I’m asking you to stand up right now in front of all these people and move down to the front. God Bless You!