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In our study today we are going to deal with a tremendous spiritual experience which is revealed in the New Testament. This experience is called being “born again.” Or sometimes it’s called “regeneration,” which is just one longer word meaning the same thing.
For an introductory Scripture passage we’re going to turn to John’s gospel, chapter 3 and read the first eight verses of this third chapter of John’s gospel.
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 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? 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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I say 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.” (KJV)
Three times in those verses, Jesus emphasizes this experience, the “new birth,” being “born again.” He says, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... He cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And then, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
I believe that it’s part of the inspiration of Scripture that this conversation of Jesus, as it’s recorded here, took place with Nicodemus. Because if ever there was a good man, whose religion and position in the world might have guaranteed him a place in heaven, that man was Nicodemus. He was a religious man, he was a Pharisee. He was a well-educated man, he was a teacher. He had a high social position. He was a ruler, and he was a member of a race that had been set apart by God to bless the world, the Jewish race. So he was religious, educated, of high social position, a Jew by birth. And yet it was to this very man that Jesus emphasized the necessity of the new birth.
Now Jesus uses, and the Scripture uses, a number of different phrases. Also the English translation is not entirely clear. The word that’s translated “again” means literally “from above.” And it is elsewhere used in the New Testament to mean “from the beginning.” And elsewhere we have the phrase “born of the Spirit.” If we put these phrases together we get a kind of picture. “Born again,” or the second time, a second birth. “Born anew,” a new start. “Born from above,” something that comes down from heaven. And “born of the Spirit,” a spiritual birth or a spiritual experience. So we’re talking about something which corresponds to those four phrases. “Born again,” “born anew,” “born from above,” “born of the Spirit.” Jesus said this is essential. There is no way to heaven but by the new birth.
Now Nicodemus, in spite of all his qualifications, absolutely could not understand what Jesus was talking about. He said, “How can a man be born again? Can he enter into his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” He was thinking in terms of a natural birth, going back into his mother’s womb. Jesus said, “That was a birth of the flesh, and it produced flesh. But,” He said, “what I’m talking about now is a birth of the Spirit, and the result of it is spiritual.” And He made this distinction: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” And then He made this emphasis, “Ye must be born again.”
And then, in order to help Nicodemus to understand what He was speaking about, He gave him an example from natural things. He said, “The wind—you don’t see the wind, no one has ever seen the wind.” Now in Greek the word wind is also the word for breath, the word for Spirit, pneuma, can be translated “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” So when Jesus speaks about the wind, He’s using the wind as the pattern, or picture in nature, of the Holy Spirit. It says, the “wind bloweth where it listeth.” No one can control the wind. No one can tell the wind to blow here or there. And you can’t see the wind, but you can hear the sound. And when it comes, you don’t know where it’s coming from, and you don’t know where it’s going to. But, when the wind blows, there are evidences that the wind is blowing. You walk outside on a windy day, you look up at the sky, the clouds are all scuttering across the sky in one direction. The trees are all bent in one direction. Their leaves are shaking. The leaves come off; they’re blown in one direction. There’s dust in the streets, it’s blown up. Everything indicates, wherever you look, the wind is at work. You cannot see the wind itself, but you can see the results the wind produces.
Now Jesus said, “So is every one that is born of the spirit.” The Spirit Himself is invisible, you cannot confine Him. You cannot make Him work by your rules. He doesn’t obey religious rules. But, when He’s at work, you can see the evidence. You don’t see the Spirit, but you see the Spirit’s evidence. The things that He does are the evidence that He’s at work. Let’s bear that in mind. A little later on we’ll see more clearly the kind of evidence.
Now, since this experience is essential, and Jesus, the very Author and Founder of the Christian faith, declares emphatically that no one can see or enter heaven apart from this experience. If we claim to be Christians, or if we take the teachings of Jesus seriously, it is obviously of the greatest importance that we ask ourselves: How can a man be born again? What is it necessary to do in order to be born again, born from above, born anew, born of the Spirit? I have met hundreds and hundreds of church members and professing Christians who could not give any kind of intelligent answer to that question—How can a person be born again?
For the answer of Scripture, I want to take you back in John’s gospel to the first chapter and to read verses 11, 12, and 13 of John chapter one. Speaking about Jesus, the eleventh verse says:
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (KJV)
I believe “his own” means the Jewish nation. He came as a Jew, born as a Jew, brought up as a Jew, fulfilling the law as a Jew, to his own nation. And nationally, as a nation, they did not receive him. So the next verse brings it down to the individual level. The individual response.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power [but a better translation is ‘authority’] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name...” (KJV)
Verse 13 sums up the result of verse 12,
“... which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (KJV)
Now, if you miss out the middle section of verse 13, you have this statement that these people were born of God. And that gives us one more phrase that we can put down here: “born of God.” So we have now five different ways of describing one and the same experience. Born again, born anew, born from above, born of the Spirit, born of God.
But the great thing about these verses, in John 1 verses 12, and 13, is that they give us the key. What is it that a person has to do in order to receive this new birth—to be born of God. Verse 12 tells us this: “As many as received him [Jesus Christ], to them he gave authority [the privilege, opportunity] to become the children of God.” And this is a faith transaction; it’s through believing in His name. The result is, they were “born of God.” What is the key action which makes a person a child of God? What is it that brings the new birth to a person’s life? And the answer is very clear, very simple, very important. It’s receiving Him. Jesus Christ. And I find today that there are thousands and thousands and thousands of church members who lay claim to the title of Christian, who do not know what it is to receive Him, Jesus Christ, by personal experience.
And indeed for many years, I was in that category myself. I was brought up in the state church in Britain, christened as a baby, confirmed, went to church regularly, every day for many years at school and college. Repeated the Creed, said the prayers—even read the lessons in church, but I had never received Him, Jesus Christ. I had tried to be a Christian and failed miserably. The harder I tried, the worse I failed. Let me tell you this, you cannot be a Christian by trying. Trying will not do it.
In the end, my failure was so complete that I gave the whole thing up and decided that Christianity was not for me. Now I knew about Jesus intellectually. I believed about Jesus. But experientially there was one thing missing. I had never personally received Jesus. Receiving Jesus is not a sacrament, it’s not an ordinance, it’s a direct, personal transaction between Christ and the person. And it’s this one transaction that brings about the new birth. “As many as received him (John 1:12, KJV), were born of God.” Only those that received Him, no one else, but all those that received Him were born of God. Now the apostle John eliminates certain other possibilities. He says certain things that it is not. And it’s worthwhile looking rather carefully at that. It’s not “of blood.” In other words, it’s not of natural physical descent. Your parents cannot make you Christians. Your parents may be the best Christians in the world. But it’s not transmitted from parent to child by natural inheritance. It’s not “of blood.”
Secondly, it’s not of “the will of the flesh.” It’s not the result of some carnal appetite or desire. It’s no expression of fleshly desire. It’s not the satisfaction of a fleshly desire.
And thirdly, it’s not “of the will of man.” It’s not by human willpower. You cannot become a Christian by exercising your will to do what God requires. To be good, to keep the commandments, to go to church. The exercise of human will does not produce the result.
There is only one way that this can be experienced. And it is by receiving Him, Jesus Christ. It is a personal transaction, between the person and Jesus Christ. And when a person opens his heart by faith to Jesus Christ, and invites Christ to come in and take control of his life, and accepts the lordship of Jesus Christ over his life, then the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, brings to effect the “new birth.” The wind blows!
I will always remember years back in London, England, when I was pastoring a congregation there, a young lady came over from Denmark. My wife is a Dane by birth, and we had quite a number of people from Denmark who came to visit us in our home. This young lady was a good Danish Lutheran. A member of the Lutheran State Church of Denmark, and a virtuous, moral woman. She knew nothing whatever about the new birth. And one day we began to speak about the new birth, she opened her eyes wide, and I could see interest rising within her. And she said, “Well, I’ve never heard about this. No one ever taught me about this.” She said, “How can a person be born again?” And I began to explain to her the teaching of Jesus in John chapter 3, and then here in John chapter 1, about the act of personally receiving Jesus. And I said, “It’s something that you can’t see, but when you do it, the Spirit of God comes into your life and it’s like the wind. You can’t see the wind, but you can see the results that the wind produces. You can’t see the Spirit, but you can see and feel the results that the Spirit produces. Then you know that the Spirit is at work.” So I said to her very bluntly and clearly, I said, “Do you want to be born again?” And she said, “Yes, I do.” So I gave her as much detailed instruction as I could. Brought up the point of clear understanding of the Word of God, and a willingness to act upon it. And I said, “Would you kneel down with me?” It was in our living room. “And say this short simple prayer after me?” And I led her in a prayer addressed to Jesus Christ, confessing her sins, professing her faith in the death of Jesus Christ on behalf of her sin. And then specifically and personally inviting Jesus to come into her heart and life. She said the prayer and said, “Amen.” We set up two chairs in the living room. And the Danes by and large are rather unemotional people. They don’t easily yield to emotion. We sat there and looked at one another. And as I looked at her, two large tears formed in her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. She was a little embarrassed. She reached in her purse, got out a handkerchief, mopped up the tears, and before she could finish the job, there were two more. So she looked at me in an embarrassed way, and she said, “I don’t know why I’m crying.” She said, “I never usually cry.” And I said, “I can tell you why you’re crying. The wind has started to blow! The Spirit is at work. He’s touched something in you that has never been touched before. That’s just your natural response to the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart.” Well, that woman had a beautiful experience with God. In a very quiet way, without a lot of drama, her life was completely changed. She became a real child of God.
So this is the key that unlocks the door of the new birth. It’s receiving Him, Jesus. When you receive Him, then He’ll give you the authority. He places within you that which, if you act upon it, will enable you to become a child of God. And you are born of God. Not of blood, not of natural inheritance, not of the will of the flesh, not of some carnal urge or desire, and not of human will power. But by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Born of God, born of the Spirit, born anew, born from above, born again.
Now thereafter, you are a Christian. In the New Testament sense, you have eternal life. The whole of the message of John concerning this is so clear and simple.
Let’s turn from the gospel of John to the first epistle of John. The first epistle of John, chapter 5, verses 10, 11, 12, and 13. We’ll read four verses there. First John chapter 5, verses 10, 11, 12, and 13:
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself...” (KJV)
When you believe on the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the way that the New Testament speaks about, you have an inner witness, you know it’s real. You know that God is there. You know that it’s happened. But:
“He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” (KJV)
The only thing that can keep you from this is unbelief. If you refuse the record that God gives in the gospel and in the New Testament of His Son Jesus Christ, then you cannot receive this experience. Now the record is stated very clearly in the next verse, the eleventh verse.
“This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (KJV)
Now there are various words in Greek for life. The word that’s used here is zoe, which gives us the English girl’s name, Zoe. Now this word zoe is used in the Bible only of life that comes from God— divine life, eternal life, a life that a man does not have by nature. There are other words (we do not need to go into them) which are used for natural, physical life. But this word zoe speaks about divine, eternal life. This is the word that’s used here.
“This is the record [or testimony of God], that God hath given unto us eternal life (zoe), and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son [capital ‘s,’ the Son of God] hath life [zoe—divine, eternal life]; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (KJV)
There is the great division in the Word of God between the “have’s” and the “have not’s.” The “have’s” are those who have received Jesus Christ, have the Son of God, and in Him have eternal life. The “have not’s” are those who have not received Jesus Christ, do not have the Son of God, and do not have eternal life. And the whole world is divided into just those two categories. The “have’s” and the “have not’s.” The “have’s,” those who have received Jesus Christ, who have the Son of God, and have eternal life. The “have not’s,” the others who have not received Jesus Christ and have not eternal life.
And then the Scripture goes on to say in the thirteenth verse of the same fifth chapter of the first epistle of John.
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” (KJV)
It’s very interesting if you compare the gospel of John and the first epistle. John says he wrote his gospel that those who believed it, that those who read it, might believe on Jesus Christ, and might have eternal life. But the epistle takes us one stage further. It’s that not merely those who read it may believe that they have eternal life, but that they may know that they have eternal life. And this is the will of God that every believer has eternal life and knows it. And I would like to make this a very personal question. Do you have eternal life, and do you know that you have it? Now I am bold enough to say that I have eternal life, and I know that I have it. Because I have received Jesus Christ. And in Him I have eternal life.
Now you might say to me, “Now, that’s a very bold and presumptuous statement to make.” But I will answer, “I am bold and presumptuous to accept the record of God.” This is the record that God has given of His Son. He hath given us eternal life—“He that hath the Son hath life.” Now if it be presumptuous to believe Almighty God, then I am presumptuous! But if you would not wish to accept what I say, let me suggest to you that you, too, could be considered presumptuous. For it says, “He that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar.” To refuse the record that God gives of His Son Jesus Christ is to call God a liar.
Now if I have to choose, I would rather be presumptuous in accepting the record that God has given of His Son than be presumptuous and rejecting God’s record and making God a liar. To me, the height of presumption is to make Almighty God a liar by refusing the testimony that He’s given of His Son Jesus Christ. I thank God that I have received Jesus Christ. I have the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And in Him I have eternal life. My testimony agrees with the testimony of God. And the Scripture says here, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” The witness of whom? The witness of the Holy Spirit.
We turn to Romans, the eighth chapter, and the sixteenth verse. Paul says,
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (KJV)
So, when by faith we receive Jesus Christ, in Him we have eternal life, we become the children of God, and we have the witness of the Holy Spirit Himself, who is the Spirit of truth, that we are the children of God. This is the new birth. It’s receiving Jesus Christ, receiving eternal life in Him, knowing that you have eternal life and having the witness of the Spirit to that effect. The result is strong assurance. It is a definite confidence that the destiny of your soul is settled. It can be settled, because God has made it that way. God has made it possible that we do not merely have to wish or to hope or to wonder. But we can know that we have eternal life.
For many years I used to preach regularly in the streets of London, and I gathered a very motley group of people who stood and listened to me. And afterwards when I finished I would stop and talk to some of the people. And if they had shown obvious interest, I would usually ask them this question, “Are you a Christian?” And I would get a variety of answers. After awhile, I could almost predict the answers I would get. They would be something like this. If I would say, “Are you a Christian?” they would say, “Well, I hope so!” Or, “I think so,” or “I don’t know,” or “I try to be.” And I would tease them a little bit and I’d say, “Isn’t that strange that you don’t know!” Or you only try to be, or you only hope, or you only think. I would say, “Suppose I’d asked you another question. Suppose I’d said, ‘Are you married?’ Would you say, ‘I hope so’? Or ‘I think so’? Or ‘I try to be,’ Or ‘I don’t know’?” Of course they would say no! “Well,” I said, “how is it that you can know that you’re married, but apparently you don’t know that you’re a Christian?” And I would bring them, of course, face to face with this fact: that marriage is entered into by a direct personal transaction between two persons. It’s a personal relationship that’s entered into and established. That would bring home to them the truth that becoming a Christian is a direct, personal relationship that’s entered into and established. When two persons are married, the preacher says to the woman, “Wilt thou have this man to be thy lawfully wedded husband?” The woman says, “I will”; the man says, “I will,” on his part, and the relationship is entered into and established.
Now, becoming a Christian is the same way. It’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ entered into by a personal decision. “I will have Jesus Christ to be my Savior. I will receive Him.”
In Revelation chapter three and verse twenty, we have a picture. A very vivid picture given by Jesus Himself. The opening chapters of Revelation contain seven messages to seven Christian churches in the province of Asia. The last of these churches was the church of Laodicea. And to this church Jesus addressed these words. Revelation 3 and verse 20.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV)
It’s rather remarkable that Jesus addressed those words to a professing Christian church. And yet, if we are to accept the words at their clear meaning, Jesus was not inside that church, He was outside trying to get in. Could it not be that the same is true of many professing Christian churches today? Though they profess faith in Jesus Christ, the actual truth of the matter is that He’s not inside but outside seeking to gain admission, seeking to gain recognition, seeking to be to them what He should be and what they need.
And I want you to see that the response that’s required from Jesus is not a collective response, it’s not the response of a congregation, it’s the response of an individual. “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Jesus demands an individual response. “If any man will hear my voice.” The voice of Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, comes by the Word of God, the preaching of the gospel. Jesus says, “When you hear My voice, if you will, you may open the door. The door of your heart and life, your personality.”
And He says, “If you will open the door to Me, I will come in.” He is a gentleman, He will not force His way in; He will not come in uninvited. He can only be invited in. But if you realize that you need Him, that you do not have Him, that He’s speaking to you, you can open the door of your heart and He will come in. He says, “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” It’s a person-to-person direct relationship and transaction. Then Jesus says, “I will sup with him, and he with me.” The order there is rather significant. Jesus says, “Whatever you have to offer Me on your table I’ll eat with you. And if you offer Me your supper, I’ll offer you My supper.” The experience demands a surrender of yourself and what you have to Jesus. But it’s a good exchange, because if you’ll invite Jesus in, give Him what you’ve got, He’ll come in and He’ll give you what He’s got. And that’s really a good exchange. But first, you have to invite Him in, and you have to surrender to Him what you have. “I will come in, sup with him, take his supper, then I’ll give him My supper.” Jesus does not come in uninvited, and He will not grab what you have. He demands a voluntary response. But if you invite Him in, He will come in. And through coming in, He brings with Him eternal life. “He that hath the Son, hath life. He that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” This is the initial transaction by which a person becomes, by New Testament teaching and standard, a Christian. By which he is born again, by which he receives eternal life.
This is very clearly stated also, in Romans chapter six, and verse twenty-three. Romans chapter 6, and verse 23:
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (KJV)
Now where the King James Version says through, the Greek preposition is literally in: “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
There are two things here that are set opposite to each other. Two things that we are familiar with in human experience. First of all, wages. What are wages? The due reward for what you’ve done. That’s wages. Everybody knows that. You work 15 hours, five dollars an hour, you’ve earned $75.00. That’s your wages. The other is the free gift. Though the King James only says “gift,” it’s free gift, or grace gift. The Greek word is that familiar word that we hear so much about in some circles today, charisma— though most Charismatics don’t know that. And that part of the word, charisma, is the word for “grace.” Charisma is grace made specific.
Now grace is that which is free, unearned, and received by faith. If I can get that in the corner there (on the blackboard). So we have, every one of us, two alternatives: wages, the due reward for what you’ve done, or free gift, grace gift, the charisma, which is free, unearned, cannot be worked for, must be received by faith. That’s the choice. If you want eternal life, it’s a gift. You cannot work for it. You cannot be good enough to earn it. All your churchgoing, all your praying, all your Bible reading, all your good works will not qualify you for this gift. You have to receive it by faith, and it’s in the Lord Jesus Christ. So to receive eternal life, you must receive Jesus Himself. In Him is life. In Him is life. It’s the gift of God in Christ. “He that hath the Son, hath life. He that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” The great transaction is between you and the Lord Jesus Christ as a person. You receive Him, He stands at the door and knocks. He makes His presence known, He wants you to understand that He desires entrance. But He will not force His way in. Says, “If any man will hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” Now once you have received Jesus Christ, thereafter He dwells within your heart.
I would like to show you this, the further truth of continuing as a Christian. It is the continuing presence of Jesus Christ in your life. Ephesians chapter 3, and verse 17. The apostle Paul prays for the believers in Jesus Christ:
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” (KJV)
By faith you receive Him. And by faith He indwells you. He remains within you. He becomes your life. Your own life gives way to the life and the presence of Jesus Christ. Galatians chapter 2 and verse 20. Paul speaks about the transaction, the end of the old way of life, the beginning of a new way of life.
He puts it very vividly and very personally. Says:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (KJV)
Paul says, “My old life was under the sentence of God, it was a sinful rebellious life. But Jesus died in my place. He gave Himself for me on the cross. By His death, He expiated my sin, He paid my penalty, He died for me, He died as my representative. Now, I view myself as dead. When by faith I see Him on the cross, I say, ‘It is I who was crucified there. I am crucified with Christ. My old life ended. The sinful life, the shameful life, the life that brought no peace, no happiness, terminated on the cross. Now a new life has begun. But now it’s not my life, it’s Christ living in me.’” And then he goes on to say, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God. It isn’t even by my own faith, or by my own abilities, or by my own willpower. But it is by Jesus Christ indwelling me, living out His life through me. I yield myself to Him and His Lordship. I allow Him to take control of me. I reckon on His presence.”
I’m reminded of a little old lady who was well known as leading a real righteous victorious Christian life. Somebody said to her once, “Sister so-and-so, what do you do when you’re tempted.” And she said, “When the devil knocks at the door, I just let Jesus answer.”
See, this is the end of “myself.” My ability, my righteousness, my religion, that ended. A new life has begun. The new life is not mine, but it is Christ in me living out His life. The things that I could not do, now I can do. All God’s possibilities have become my possibilities in Christ.
In Philippians chapter four and the thirteenth verse, the apostle Paul makes the most tremendous statement:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (KJV)
More literally, I can do all things through Christ in me, empowering me. What I could not do before, because I was trying to do it in my own willpower and in my own strength and ability, I can do now. Because I’m not relying on myself, but I’m relying on the indwelling presence and person of Jesus Christ within me. Christ has become my life. The way into life is through death. First Peter 2:24, the same truth is unfolded again. There has to be an end of one life before there can be a beginning of another. Speaking of Jesus on the cross, Peter says:
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree [the cross], that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes [or wounds] ye were healed.” (KJV)
Through the death of Jesus Christ for my sins on the cross, I am dead to sin. Sin no longer controls me and rules my life. It was terminated at that point of death on the cross. Now I’m alive unto God, and alive unto righteousness, through Jesus Christ indwelling me. I have received Him. He is my life. He is my righteousness.
First Corinthians chapter 1 and verse 30. The apostle Paul speaks of what is made available to us in Christ. He says:
“But of him [that is, of God] are ye [believers] in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification [or holiness], and redemption.” (KJV)
All that I need for my life is now available to me in Christ. I have received Him, I have yielded my life to Him. He has become my life. He’s my wisdom. He’s my righteousness. He’s my holiness. He’s my redemption. Every need that I have is supplied through Christ. Not without some external object of worship, but through indwelling me. Through taking His place in my heart and in my life, He controls me. He enables me to live out the life which I cannot live apart from Him. Jesus said to His disciples:
“I am the true vine, ... [and] ye are the branches ... for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:1, 5, KJV)
As He lives in me, His Divine life flows out through me, by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit becomes the source of my life, the source of my strength. Romans chapter 8 and verse 10:
“If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (KJV)
The body here does not mean, of course, my physical body, but it means that old, carnal, rebellious nature. When Christ comes in, that old body is dead. It’s reckoned dead with Christ on the cross. And in its place I have a new life, which is given to me on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, imputed to me. The Spirit is life because of righteousness. This is the exchange. It’s through death into life, through Christ’s death into a new life. I accept His death on my behalf. I say, “When Christ died, I died. That ended the old life. He paid the penalty for me. He died my death. He terminated sin’s dominion. When He rose from the dead, He became a living Savior. When I receive Him by faith in His resurrection life and fullness, He becomes my life. It is Christ living in me. My life of struggle and effort and religion in the sense of religious duty and struggle and the keeping of rules and ordinances, and human requirements, terminates. And in its place there is a life that is a gift. A life that is free. A life that is pure and righteous.” Jesus said in John chapter 10 and verse 10,
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (KJV)
The thief is one of the titles of the devil. The devil is the life-taker. But Jesus said,
“I am come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, KJV)
This more abundant life is through the new birth. It’s through receiving Jesus. It’s through the presence of Jesus in the heart and life. He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8, 11 KJV)... the first and the last.” In Him we are complete. All that we will ever need for time and eternity is made available to us in Christ. Received by faith, appropriated, indwelling my heart and life. That is the offer that God has made to me. This is the exchange that God makes available. I come to the end of my own struggles and efforts, my willpower. All that I have received by natural inheritance. Jesus, the Word of God says, “It’s not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, it’s not of the will of man.” But it’s a birth from God, it’s a life from God. It is the very life of God in Jesus Christ flowing into me. I have eternal life, I have the divine life of God. It’s received within me, as I receive Jesus Christ, as I yield to Him, as I allow Him to be my Lord, as I allow Him to live out His life in me, He dwells in my heart by faith. It’s no longer church membership. It’s no longer religious duties. They may have their place, but they do not bring life. Life is in Christ. Life is received by an experience. Life comes through a birth. Natural life comes through natural birth. Spiritual life comes through a spiritual birth. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again” (John 3:7, KJV). The Holy Spirit, like the wind, moves in, invisible in Himself, but changing my desires, my attitudes, my reactions, my ambitions. Giving me godly desires. Making me delight in that which is pure. Giving me a love for the Word of God. Making the Scripture alive and real to me.
This was true in my experience over thirty years ago. I was a philosopher, studying the Scriptures as a work of philosophy. Seeking to reason my way to the truth about God and about life. And the more I reasoned the less I understood. I had read and studied hundreds of books. But the Bible baffled me. It was the only book I read that did not make sense to me. I could not analyze it, I could not dissect it, I could not find out what its real message was. And in the end I came to the limits of my own ability to understand and to reason. And I was brought to a place of definite face-to-face confrontation with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. And I ceased my own efforts, I ceased my struggles, I yielded up my ambitions, and I allowed Jesus Christ to come in. I had at that time no doctrinal knowledge of salvation. I couldn’t quote verses of Scripture. I didn’t have evangelical terminology about being saved, or being born again. But the most tremendous, total revolution took place within me. My whole way of thinking, my desires, my attitudes, my pleasures, my ambitions were changed. I stood back, in a certain sense, and viewed the change that had taken place within me. I was both astonished and scared. It was the most revolutionary thing that ever happened in my life. It was not primarily an emotional experience. It went deeper than my emotions. It was the yielding of my heart and will and life to Christ made real by the Holy Spirit. I cannot emphasize too strongly that it’s not an intellectual study of Christianity. It’s a vital contact with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
I think Paul makes this very clear in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, where he says this, and I’ll read from verse 14 and through a few verses. Second Corinthians chapter 5.
“For the love of Christ constraineth us...”
The motive in Paul’s life was love, not law. He had lived under the law long enough. He said now the pressure that motivates me is the pressure of divine love. And he gives the reason.
“Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he [Christ] died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.” (KJV)
Jesus died for us, that He might redeem us. That He might purchase us by His death upon the cross. And when we acknowledge Him as having died and risen for us, we no longer belong to ourselves, we no longer are lords of our own lives. We live for Him, who died and rose from the dead.
And then Paul goes on to say something directly related to this truth of Christ’s death and resurrection:
“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.” (KJV)
You see, this revelation of Jesus Christ is not of the historical Christ. It’s not of Christ as a man, or even as a teacher. But it’s a revelation given by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, of Jesus who died and rose from the dead. It’s the revelation of the resurrected Christ. Not given by the natural senses. But given by the Spirit of God through the Scriptures. Henceforth Paul says, we and the other apostles know Christ no longer after the flesh ... Though we have known Him after the flesh, we don’t. Our knowledge of Him today, our understanding of Him today, our contact with Him today, is by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives ten days before Pentecost, that was the last contact the disciples had with Him through their physical senses. Ten days later the Holy Spirit came and He brought with Him the direct contact by the Spirit with the risen, ascended, glorified Christ. And from that day until this, the knowledge of Jesus Christ is not after the flesh. It’s not the historical Christ. It’s not just the teacher who walked the streets of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem. And preached the Sermon on the Mount. And taught the parables. The knowledge of Christ today is by the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ. It’s a direct personal contact through the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ. And this is the experience that transforms and changes a person’s life. That brings life in place of death. And righteousness in place of sin. And victory in place of defeat. This is the revolutionary, life-transforming contact. And therefore, Paul goes on to say, and I want you to listen carefully to these words.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: [more literally, a new creation has taken place] old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God.” (KJV)
See, this is the difference between one creation, one order of life, and another order of life. Under the old order our inheritance was from Adam. It was a natural inheritance. It was a fleshly life. But the new creation is of God. It’s brought into being by the direct, personal contact with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. And in that new creation old things are passed away, all things have become new, and all things are of God. If any man be in Christ a new creation has taken place. This is the direct personal contact with Jesus Christ. This is the receiving of Jesus Christ by personal faith as risen Savior and Lord. It’s the revelation that’s made by the Holy Spirit. It comes when Jesus stands at the door and by the Spirit of God makes His voice heard to a man or to a woman. It says:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him.” (Rev. 3:20)
There is that moment when the Spirit of God reveals Christ. When the Word of God becomes a voice that speaks to us, not just black marks on white paper, but a living voice. And when that moment comes we are confronted with Christ. God asks that we make a decision, that we open the door, that we yield our will, that we say, Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge you now as the Son of God, the one who died on the cross for my sins and rose again. And by faith I receive you now, as my personal Savior. I confess you as my Lord. Come into my heart and give me eternal life. And I will be yours from this day forward.
Shall we pray? Father, we thank You for this clear message of salvation, we pray for everyone that hears this message. That those who have never received Jesus may be given grace to open their hearts and to receive Him. In Jesus’ name, Amen!