Introduction: Lot of people love the fall season with its cooler temperatures and its beautiful colors. Personally, I love the spring season. Despite the pollen and the allergies, it’s a sign of life. All throughout winter, everything is so cold, grey, and lifeless. Then, sometime around March and April, we begin to see tiny buds and blossoms on trees and bushes. It reminds me of the resurrection of Christ – life coming out of death. It also reminds me of the regeneration that happens in the life of every believer the moment they place their faith in Christ. Message: Regeneration is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in bringing life into a spiritually dead person. It happens at the moment a lost sinner responds to the word of truth and receives Jesus as Savior and King. At that instant, there is a new understanding of the truth of God, a new love for the things of God, a new power over sin and temptation, and a new relationship with God.
Ephesians 2 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.”
Context: For the past couple of weeks, we have been studying the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith. We learned that at the moment we place our faith in Jesus and accept His gift of salvation, God makes a transaction called Imputation. He takes our sins and puts them on Christ’s account, and He takes Christ’s righteousness and puts it on our account. In an instant, God declares us “righteous.” We are “justified.” Now when God sees us, He sees Christ. Furthermore, the righteousness of Christ in our account is for us to draw upon for our daily needs. This is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. But, there’s more. Simultaneously, we are also Regenerated. At the very instant we place our faith upon Jesus, God imparts new divine life into us, spiritually dead sinners, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of his word. Just like justification, this is also instantaneous. Let’s break it down:
1. We are all born spiritually dead.
Ephesians 2:1 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” The source of our spiritual deadness is twofold: Trespasses (paraptoma) – violating God’s law, specifically his moral law; and, Sins (hamartia) – traitorous rebellion against God. This was brought about due to the sin of our grandparents, Adam and Eve. By choosing to disobey God and listening to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, they became fallen creatures, and, in turn, all of us are also fallen or spiritually dead. Don’t assume that this means lifelessness. To the contrary, we are very active in the wrong direction – verse 2 “in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Under the influence of the Unholy Trinity, we have lost the ability to have a relationship with God, and we have become separated from him. Don’t think that each human being is living to their utmost in sin, but the deep nature of sin is in each of us.
Question: If we’re spiritually dead, do we have a choice? 2 things to keep in mind:
- We have not lost God’s image. It has been defaced, not erased.
- James 3 8 “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude (image) of God.”
- In other words, the potential for a relationship with God is there in each of us.
- We have not lost our free will. It has been damaged, not destroyed.
- Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
- Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
- John 5 39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
Typically, the reason that some people have a tough time believing this is because of passages like Romans 3:10-11, which is a reference to Psalm 14 and 53, “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.” The important thing to remember here is that the word for seeks in Greek is “ekzetein,” which implies “earnestly seek.” Both the psalms from where Paul was quoting from begin with the statement – “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” The atheist cannot find God for the same reason that a thief cannot find a policeman. How sincerely do you think they seek for him? Paul was saying the same thing about both the Jewish people and the Gentile who were not diligently seeking after God. Others bring up passages like John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” or John 8 43 “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” All such passages in their context were spoken by Jesus against the unrepentant Jewish religious leaders who were constantly opposing him.
Here’s the point: We’re all born dead in trespasses and sins, but this does not mean that we are unable to receive the gift of salvation. We have a choice.
2. We are made alive by the Holy Spirit when we respond by faith to the Word.
Ephesians 2 4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
How does God make us alive? Paul didn’t tell us here, but Jesus explained this very clearly in John 3 when Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Jewish people, came to see him one night. He complemented Jesus about coming from God, but Jesus responded in John 3:3 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus responded with “How is this possible? Do I have to go back in my mother’s womb a second time?” Listen to Jesus’ response – John 3 5 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus was still confused. Listen to what Jesus said to him, John 3:10 “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” What did Jesus mean by that? People think about baptism or the amnionic fluid of the physical birth. To this contrary, it was a reference to Ezekiel 36 25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Were people born again in the Old Testament? Yes, and in the same way as in the New Testament. The only difference is that, in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came quietly, and in the New Testament, he came powerfully! Same gospel – Same Savior – Same Process – Same Result
When does this happen? It happens when we respond by faith to the gospel. Listen to Ephesians 2 8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Some people ask – Is faith the gift of God? Grammatically, “it” is referring to salvation. Salvation is a gift, but faith develops in your heart through the word of God. Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” What is this word of God? A verse earlier in Romans 10:16 “But they have not all obeyed the gospel.”
In the first message on Justification, we learned what the gospel is all about.
- Jesus brought God’s kingdom into the world.
- He is Christ, God’s Anointed King.
- He died on the cross for our sins, according to Scriptures.
- He was buried but rose again on the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by many.
- Repent – change of thinking about sin, self, and Savior.
- Believe – trust that Jesus is God’s Son who has paid the penalty of our sins and he can remove the guilt of sin and give eternal life.
- Follow – as our King, we are to obey and follow him no matter the cost.
When we pray to receive Jesus as our Savior and King not only are we justified but we are also regenerated, born again.
Let me make a side remark: God can do miracles, but faith is easier when the following 3 conditions are met:
- Prior Belief: Inborn conception of God (the desire to call on God and worship someone or something), inborn conception of first cause (the understanding that everything has a beginning/cause), inborn desire for meaning (the desire to do or be something), and inborn desire for love (we all want to love). Each of these can be encouraged or discouraged in a person, especially during the early years. That’s why we place such emphasis on children’s and youth ministries. Yesterday, we had a packed house with the Easter Egg hunt!
- Evidence: Historical/Cultural (creativity and culture, misconduct of Christians, church history, religion and wars, other religions), Moral/Ethical (moral law, presence of evil), Scientific (design, bible and natural science, cause) Theological/Philosophical (fall of man, judgment and hell, truthfulness of the Bible, theodicy, Israel) and Personal (pain, suffering, miracles, personal testimony). When we hear about people renouncing their faith, one of these evidence is weak or faulty. Therefore, we did the Contend series and will go back to it soon.
- Will: Some need just a little rational belief; some only need some rational belief; and for some, strong rational belief is not enough.
What is the result of this regeneration/new birth? Let’s go back to Ephesians 2 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. At the instant we received Jesus as Savior and King by faith, there is a new understanding of the truth of God, a new love for the things of God, a new power over sin and temptation, and a new relationship with God.
Invitation: Are you grateful to God for making you alive? Are you truly born again?
John 1 12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”