The Meaning of Life – Part 3

Andy Woods
The Meaning of Life, Part 3
6-21-15 John 20:30-31 Lesson 128

Good morning everybody; if we could take our Bibles and open them to John20:31, hoping to finish this chapter today, God willing. The title of our message this morning is The Meaning of Life, Part 3, as we have been sort of focused on, the last couple of Sunday’s, verses 30-31 which are so critical to John’s purpose in writing and the Christian life in general.

I want to take the time to salute the fathers that are out there. It’s sort of interesting to watch what our society is doing with fathers; how the role of the man within the home is sort of being lowered. It’s sort of interesting, not so much interesting but disturbing just to watch sitcoms and to see that the guy that’s always the dumbest in the room is the dad. I can think of a few sitcoms that go that direction. And of course, scripturally the role of fatherhood is highly elevated. In fact, you may not know this but if you’re a father of a family you’re the pastor of that little church, called your family. And you’re responsible, according to Ephesians 6:4 to raise them in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. [Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” KJV]

And, it’s not a job you can outsource to somebody else. You can’t farm it out to a Sunday School class, or a VBS or a church, all those ministries; they only thing they can really do is reinforce what’s happening at home. So we’ve lost a lot of ground on this issue of fatherhood and so on Father’s Day we want to try and reclaim some of that ground biblically.

And what we’re dealing with today is the ultimate Fatherhood, really, and I think it’s somewhat interesting that the Lord would have us in this particular passage on this particular day of the year where we celebrate fatherhood, because what we’re talking about here, through something that we are going to define as regeneration, once that happens to a person God becomes their personal Father.

So here’s the passage that we’re going to be looking at today. You’ll notice the second part of what I have there on the screen, “but these have been written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing you may have life in His name.” Last time we talked about the distinction between “believe” and “believing” and today we are getting into this whole subject of what does it mean when it says that “you may have line in His name.” What is that even talking about? I’m going to try to show you today what this word “life” means, and I’m going to show to you about 14 truths, I’ll go through these fairly quickly, but 14 truths about this subject of life because if a person has never received the life of God, through something called regeneration, God is not their Father at all. In fact, they have no relationship with God the Father at all, other than the fact that He one day will be their judge. So regeneration, then, becomes the foundation of the Christian life and experience.

So let’s go through these one by one. What is it speaking of it here when it says, “so that by believing you may have life in His name.” What is life even about? That’s why I’ve entitled these messages the meaning of life. The Greek word here for life is zoē and the very fancy word that theologians have generated is something, a phrase I mentioned a couple of times earlier, it’s called regeneration. Now regeneration is not mentioned here in the passage, the word “life” is mentioned but the word regeneration, you’ll find it used two times in the Greek New Testament, once in Matthew 19:28, talking about the regeneration of all things, which is the kingdom age. [Matthew 19:28, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes.”]

And then you’ll find it used one other time in Titus 3:5 in description of the born again experience of the Christian, sometimes called regeneration. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” The Greek word for regeneration is palingenesia and that’s a very interesting word; it’s used only twice in the Greek New Testament, it’s a compound word; it’s two words put together into one, palingenesia, palin means again, now you recognize the word genesia, as in the book of Genesis, which is the Greek name for the Hebrew book that we call Genesis. That name was not added until the Hebrew was translated into Greek; a couple of hundred years before the time of Christ it took on this name “Genesis,” which is not a Hebrew word, it’s a Greek word. And the Greeks named it that book because that’s what this book is about, it’s about creation, it’s about a birth, it’s about a new beginning, so to speak.

And so when the Greek New Testament uses this expression “regeneration” palingenesia essentially what it means is again palin creation; creation again. That’s the life of God, creation again. Dr. Chafer explains it this way: It is a God wrought, or brought metamorphosis. A new creation has happened the moment somebody has trusted in Jesus Christ. So we can define regeneration, or life, simply as this: the impartation of divine life, in fact it is the impartation of the very life of God. Now Dr. Chafer says this: “at least 85 New Testament passages describe that a Christian is a changed person by virtue of the fact that he has received the very life of God.” 85 times it tells us that if we are truly Christians we have been the recipients of the life of God.

Here are some synonyms for regeneration or life: sometimes it’s called the new birth, sometimes it’s called spiritual reproduction, sometimes it’s called spiritual renewal, and sometimes it’s called re-creation. And this idea of regeneration or being created anew through the power of the Spirit of God is not some kind of obscure idea that just shows up on the pages of the New Testament, rather it’s well developed in the Old Testament.

You might want to jot down Ezekiel 36:24-28 where the nation of Israel in the last days is going to be regathered and I believe is being regathered into their own land. And then God says in verse 27, “I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes. And as that vision is interpreted for us in Ezekiel 37:11-14 it’s described as a valley of dry bones. And in this vision Ezekiel sees the bones assembling so that they form a living or an actual skeleton or body. And then he sees the skin and the muscles appearing on this skeleton, and then lastly Ezekiel sees the breath of God entering this skeleton or this person so that it becomes a living being. The “breath of God” is the Holy Spirit entering the nation of Israel and she comes to life, not just politically like you see her today politically alive, but she comes to life spiritually. And that’s essentially what we call regeneration or the life of God.

[Ezekiel 36:24-28, “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. [25] Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. [26] Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. [28] You will live in the land that I give to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.”

Ezekiel 37:11-14, “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ [12] Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. [13] Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. [14] I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,’ declares the LORD.’”]

In fact, Jesus referred to this reality, called regeneration, He referred to it as being born again, perhaps better translated being born from above. And He was trying to explain this reality to Nicodemus and Jesus is very frustrated with Nicodemus because Nicodemus doesn’t seem to get the whole idea. How can a man be born again when he is old, how can he enter his mother’s womb a second time, and Jesus says are you the teacher of Israel and you do not understand these things? Nicodemus, you should know what regeneration is, you should know what the new life is; it’s very well developed in the book of Ezekiel. [John 3:4, Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’” [5] Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”]

Dr. Walvoord says this: “While regeneration is not an experience it is the foundation of all Christian experience.” God begins His relationship with us, as I’ll show you in a minute, through regeneration which we can define as the impartation of the life of God. We are not born into the world with this life; it is something that has to be created in us anew. And this is what John is talking about here when he says that they “may believe” and “have life in His name.” He is talking about regeneration, which is the impartation of divine life.

The second thing I want to bring to your attention about regeneration is regeneration is what gives us a relationship with God. You see, if a person has never been regenerated they are only God’s creation but they have no spiritual relationship with Him. Regeneration is what allows us to know God. Prior to regeneration we know about God but regeneration allows us to actually know Him. Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The life of God in a person allows them not to know about God but to actually know Him personally in terms of a relationship.

Dr. Chafer says this: “It’s one thing to know about God, but it’s quite another thing to know God.” I can’t tell you how many people I run into that know things about God but they have no regeneration in them, they have no life of God in them, they don’t know Him. There’s no personal relationship between the two of them, they don’t talk to Him, He doesn’t speak to them; it’s just facts and data and information. At the point of regeneration God becomes your Father; that’s why it’s neat that we are looking at this on Father’s Day; this is the ultimate Father’s Day sort of experience.

In John 1:12-13 it talks very clearly about this new birth and you’ll notice what it says there. It says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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.” How do you become a child of God? How do we become children of God? We become children of God by being “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” God has no grandchildren; I cannot live off of the faith of my parents. I can’t live off of the spiritual life of my parents. I have to have my own new birth. God only has children. And the moment I trust in Christ and the life of God enters me is the moment God becomes my Father.

Galatians 4:6 says this: “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!” “Abba” is an Aramaic expression that means “Daddy.” What a great verse to look at on Father’s Day, we actually have the ability to call God “Daddy” because of our intimacy with Him. But you’ll notice very clearly that this only happens because He has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, it only happens because of the reality of regeneration.

So what is regeneration? It is the impartation of divine life. What is the significance of regeneration? Regeneration gives us a relationship with the God that made us. We know Him and He becomes our Father.

Number 3, regeneration makes us a new creature. Galatians 6:15 says this: “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision,” circumcision or uncircumcision deals with the outer marks of the body, and Paul says, “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” The issue, Paul says, is not outward conformity to the Law; the issue is the new birth. Is the life of God in you or not? That’s the significant issue. Paul says in Ephesians 4:24 “put on the new self, which is in the likeness of God….” Galatians 6:15, “new creation;” Ephesians 4:24, “new self.” 2 Corinthians 5:17, a very famous passage of Scripture, says this: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a” what? “new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Because the life of God was not in you before, once it enters you, you are so different that God actually looks at you as if you are a totally new creature or creation or a new man or a new woman. So what is regeneration? What is the life of God? It is the impartation of divine life which gives us a relationship with God, which makes us a brand new creature or creation. And as you become a new creature, or creation, what you discover is you have brand new capacities. It’s just like when you were physically born into this world, you had certain capacities, you had the capacity for sight, smell, touch, personality, disposition, emotion, the sensation of pain, the sensation of joy, all of those things happened because of a physical reality called conception, which ultimately resulted in a physical birth. And it is exactly the same with the spiritual birth. As a person is born spiritually and they begin to experience the life of God within them, what they discover is they have brand new capacities.

Dr. Walvoord sums it up this way, he says: “New life brings with it new capacity. The person who before regeneration was spiritually dead and blind to spiritual truth, now becomes alive to a new world.”

Now you say well, do you have some examples of those new capacities that we have as newborn children of God. And the answer is this: You now have spiritual sight which you did not have before. John 3:3 puts it this way: “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” You see, Nicodemus’ problem was not a lack of intellect; it was based on an inability to perceive. Jesus is trying to communicate to Nicodemus spiritual truth which Nicodemus had no ability to perceive or to view or to see and what Jesus said is you need the new birth to see. How can you see spiritual realities if the Holy Spirit is not in you?

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 puts it this way, “But a natural man,” now the “natural man” would be the person without the Holy Spirit, the person who is alive physically, biologically, the heartbeat is working fine, the cardiovascular is working fine, but they do not have the life of God in them, “But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them,” why? “because they are spiritually appraised. [15] But he who is spiritual,” that would be the new birth, “he who is spiritual appraises all things, het he himself is appraised by no one.”

“As a blind man,” Dr. Walvoord says, “As a blind man for the first time contemplates the beauties of color and perspective once sight is restored, so the newborn soul contemplates new revelation of spiritual truth; for the first time he is able to understand the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.” With the new birth comes a new creature; with a new creature comes new capacities. One of the great capacities that we have is the capacity for communication as newborn children of God, as we seek to communicate with God Himself.

Dr. Walvoord says this: “He is now able to enjoy the intimacies of fellowship with God and freedom in prayer, a capacity that he did not have before.” Another example of a new capacity would be fruit of the Spirit. What is fruit of the Spirit? The Spirit is the character qualities that God seeks to replicate in us which He sees in His own Son: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. Prior to spiritual birth a person has no ability to generate such capacity. He is simply acting out his job description, which we call the works of the flesh.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5:19 and following that the works of the flesh are obvious. He talks about jealousy, outbursts of anger, quarrelsomeness, envy, drunkenness, these are the characteristics of what we’re like in our natural state, but then spiritual birth happens and suddenly Jesus, through the life of God is living inside of me and He’s seeking to live out His life in my place, and suddenly the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control, these types of things begin to become a reality. [Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, [21] envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”]

Dr. Walvoord says this: “He is now able to enjoy the intimacies of fellowship with God and freedom in prayer. As his life is under the control of the Spirit he is able to manifest the fruit of the Spirit, utterly foreign to the natural man. His whole being has new capacities for joy and sorrow and love and peace and guidance and all of the realities in the spiritual world.”

So this new birth is very significant; it is the impartation of divine life; it is what gives us a relationship with the God that made us. It is what makes us a new creature or creation in Christ and as a new man we have new capacities which we did not have before.

Number 5, regeneration is eternal. How long does regeneration last, exactly? Notice John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life,” that’s the Greek word zoē again for life, and the Greek word eternal is aiṓnios, which is a word used to describe God Himself. Romans 16:26 says God is eternal, therefore once a person experiences regeneration it is something that lasts forever, just as God Himself is forever the regeneration inside of us last forever because it is the identical word, aiṓnios, used to describe eternal life. What does that mean exactly? It means that once you are regenerated it can never be forfeited. If it could be forfeited then “eternal” doesn’t mean “eternal,” does it?

Dr. Walvoord puts it this way: “The bestowal of eternal life cannot be revoked; it declares the unchangeable purpose of God to being the regenerated person to glory. Never in Scripture do we find anyone regenerated a second time. Although the Christian may lose much of the normal spiritual experience due to sin and desperately need confession and restoration, the fact of regeneration does not change.” Aren’t you glad about that? As regenerated newborn children of God we sin and we can get out of fellowship with Him, until we confess our sin and fellowship is restored, but the underlying fact and foundation of regeneration is in or unalterable, or else eternal life simply doesn’t mean eternal life.

One of the great tragedies that I saw as a new Christian who, as I watched people that didn’t grow up under sound doctrine, I watched Christians getting saved every Sunday; this particular church had an altar call and it was impressive because they got a lot of people to come forward, and as I was in that church for a period of time I started saying wait a minute, I thought they got saved last week, or the week before. And see, they’re never really taught the reality of eternal life, they’re never taught the meaning of the Greek word aiṓnios so what happened during the week? Well, they fell into sin and they fell out of fellowship with God and under His conviction. And they said to themselves, well, I had regeneration, I must have lost it so I need to get it back. And so they got saved, supposedly the Sunday that followed, and then the next Sunday, and then the next Sunday, when in reality what was happening was the sin they were under was taking them out of fellowship with God, which can seem severe, but it cannot cancel regeneration. So regeneration is something that is eternal.

Number 6, regeneration is immediate. It takes place the very moment you place your personal faith in the promises of Jesus Christ. The promise of the Word of God is that you are regenerated at that very moment. Notice again, John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life,” the Greek verb “has,” echo in the original language, the way it’s pronounced, it’s in the present tense. In other words, it’s a present, immediate reality in the life of a person the moment they place their personal trust in Jesus Christ. Eternal life is not something you have to wait and die to get. Oh, I can’t wait to die and go to heaven so that I can have eternal life? What a poor understanding of what the Scripture is saying. Eternal life or the life of God is something you get immediately. And if “eternal” means eternal and words mean anything it’s your life forever. So it is something that takes place instantaneously, it is something that takes place immediately.

Now look at this one here very carefully, number 7, and this is where much of the confusion comes in: regeneration does not eradicate the old nature. Yes, you receive regeneration instantaneously the moment you place your personal trust in Christ; yes, it is something yours forever; yes, it is something yours immediate, but that doesn’t mean the old nature that’s inside of you, that is the Adamic nature where the works of the flesh come from, that nature that’s been part of us ever since the point of conception, that does not mean that the old nature just withers away and dies.

In fact, sometimes when you get saved you actually think oh my gosh, I’ve gotten more sinful. I mean, I’m more sinful than before I was saved. Now why do you think that? You think that because now something greater than yourself is inside of you, that wasn’t there before, convicting you of different things. And sometimes the conviction of God is so severe we think I must have gotten more sinful. No, you didn’t become more sinful, you were a great sinner before and you’re a great sinner now. But you see, the fact of the matter is now you are aware of sin. Suddenly the sins that you have been committing all of these years, suddenly you are aware of them. Why? Because of regeneration and the life of God inside of us, which is highlighting our minds and our consciences to things that we do in through, word and deed, motives, things we say or don’t say or don’t do that are displeasing to God.

Dr. Walvoord puts it this way, he says: “Without eradicating the old nature with its capacities and will for sin, the new nature has within it the longing for God and His will that we would expect would ensue from eternal life. While the Scriptures are clear that a regenerated person can sin and does sin, the lapse is traced to the sin nature. The state of sinless perfection can never be reached until the sin nature is cast out and this is accomplished only through the death of the physical body, or the transformation of the body without death at the point of the rapture. Even the new nature, though never the origin of sin, does not have the abilities sufficient to conquer the old nature. The power for victory lies in the indwelling presence of God. The new nature provides a will to do the will of God and the power of God provides the enablement to accomplish this end in spite of the sinfulness of the sin nature.”

You know, I remember as a 16 year old hearing the gospel and believing it and it was a euphoria that swept over me. And I remember waking up the next day with the same old tendencies and proclivities that I had before. Why is that? Because yes, the life of God was inside of me but the old nature is still there, until death or the rapture, and the new nature, what it can do is it can give you the desire to please God, oh, the desire is there, but the new nature in and of itself cannot equip you to live the life of God.

Well then, what do we do to live the life of God? We have to become familiar with the grace riches that we have been given in New Testament revelation, the armor of God, the Holy Spirit within us, our baptism into Christ, the union that we have with Christian, the fellowship that we have with God’s people, the work of the church. I mean, all of these additional things that God has given us beyond simply the new nature, as we access them by faith and walk in them moment by moment by faith and access their power, we begin to discover that we have the ability to tell that sin nature no. But you see, the new nature in and of itself will not give you that power. It will give you the desire but not the power. And just because you’re a born again Christian does not mean that the old nature somehow withers away and dies.

See, that’s why Paul couldn’t wait to die. He says, “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” [2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” KJV] He said, “For me to live is Christ, to die is” what? “gain.” [Philippians 1:21] He longed to be free from this body because he longed to be free from the old nature and to be totally dominated by the new nature, because as long as he was in the body that he was in the sinful desires and temptations and tendencies just continue, the desire to return to sin never disappears.

That’s why we have to become familiar with our riches and our resources in Christ and access them moment by moment. And if we don’t do that we’re stuck in Romans 7. You know Romans 7, don’t you? Paul says the very thing I want to do I don’t do, and the very thing I shouldn’t do I end up doing. He goes on for a whole chapter like this. He’s describing the desire that he had to please God because of the reality of the new nature within Him and yet he had not grown to a point to really appreciate all of his resources and he’s talking about a stumble and a struggle that he had in Christianity.

Does that sound like you? I’ve had major times in my Christian life just like that. And the mistake we make is we think regeneration gets rid of the old nature and that doesn’t happen until resurrection, death or the rapture.

Number 8, however… however regeneration is a token, if you will, of the coming age. Dr. Walvoord puts it this way: “In the last analysis the experiences of this life are only antecedents to the larger experiences the regenerated person will have after deliverance from the presence and temptation of sin. Regeneration will have its ultimate display when the person regenerated is completely sanctified and glorified. Our present experiences, limited as they are by the presence of the sinful nature and the sinful body, are only a partial portrayal of the glories of eternal life. Through the experiences of life, however, the fact of regeneration should be a constant source of hope and an abiding confidence that ‘He who has begun a good work in us will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.’”

What, then, is the new nature in us? What is it a reminder of? It’s a reminder of future glory; it’s a reminder that payday someday. It’s a reminder that the new nature that is inside of me one day will be placed in a resurrected body, in a glorified state, that matches the new nature, and doesn’t even have an ambition or a temptation, or tendency to sin. Every time you sense a yearning to please God rejoice, because number 1, it’s evidence of the new nature within you. And number 2, it’s a reminder of payday someday.

Did you know the Holy Spirit within us is called a down payment? Ephesians 1:13-14 says this: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” The Spirit of God is inside of us, [14] “who is given as a pledge” sometimes translated down payment, “given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.” What is the Holy Spirit inside of me? It is a down payment. Now when you make a down payment on something what are you guaranteeing to the seller? More payments are coming. What is the new nature and the life of God inside of us? It’s a down payment, if you will, of greater glories coming, speaking of our ultimate glorification and our one day state of sinless perfection, which obviously we don’t have now. But you know, the interesting thing about God, I start a lot of projects and I don’t finish them, God’s not that way. What He starts He finishes; what He orders He pays for. That’s why there was this quote from Philippians 1, “He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 1:6]

Yes, the new life of God does not eradicate the old nature but it is a token of the time in history where that old nature will be gone, and a thing of the past.

Number 9, Regeneration is needed, desperately, in people. Why? Because of the presence and reality of spiritual death. Genesis 2:17 says this: “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” And guess what? They ate, and did they die that split second? No, at least not physically, Adam lived to the ripe old age of 930, Genesis 5:5 says that, but something went out that day; the life of God went out; the relationship that they had with God disappeared. And all of us are born under Adam’s lineage, devoid of spiritual life, devoid of the life of God. Oh, your heartbeat might be pumping blood just fine, the cardiovascular system might be working just fine, but you are without spiritual life. If you had spiritual life there would be no need for regeneration, would there?

Ephesians 2:1 says this, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” they didn’t die physically that split second but they spiritually died. And this is why the Christian is always portrayed in the Scripture as one who returns to life from death. Romans 6:13 says, “…present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, […and your members as instruments of righteous¬ness to God. [14] For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:13 and 14.

Ephesians 2:5 says He has “made us alive together with Christ.” If regeneration has happened in your life you are like a person that has come back from the dead; not physically but certainly spiritually. And if spiritual death is this reality, if all of Adam’s descendants physically have been affected by spiritual death, what is the greatest desperate need a human being has? It is regeneration. If you have not been regenerated then you’re missing the greatest thing you need from God, but don’t presently possess.

And this is why Jesus said, number 10, regeneration is absolutely necessary. Do you recall what He said to Nicodemus? John 3:7, “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Notice the word “must.” He doesn’t say hey, why don’t you try out the born again thing and see if it works, it’s one of your options. It’s not an option, it’s mandatory! It’s foundational. If it doesn’t happen you have nothing with God… nothing!

John 3:10 “Jesus answered and said to Him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” Did you catch the definite article, “the” in front of “teacher?” Nicodemus was not just one of many teachers, he was the head hauncho. He was the big cheese; he was the big kahuna, whatever you want to call him, he was in charge, he was the boss. And Jesus said you’re the top dog and you don’t understand a rudimentary basic truth, very well developed by the 6th century prophet Ezekiel?

Dr. Chafer says this: “In announcing these great truths about flesh and spirit God did not address them to the lowest in the social order, such as those people that obviously needed to be improved.” He’s not talking to the skid row wino or drunk, he’s not talking to the drug addict, he’s not talking to the prostitute, he’s talking to the most elite erudite, educated religious leader in the whole country. And to him he says, ‘you must be born again.’” He chose to speak these words to a ruler and teacher in Israel who was, without doubt, the very flower of Judaism. Think about that! If Nicodemus in his socioeconomic and educational religious standing needed this new birth, what about the rest of us? Certainly we need it all the more as well, don’t we?

You see, I used to look at the “born again’s” as a denomination within Christianity. Oh, there’s the Presbyterian Christians over there, there’s the Baptist Christians over there, there’s the Methodist Christians over there, there’s the Lutheran Christians over there, there’s the Bible church Christians over there, there’s the Evangelical Free Churches over there and oh yeah, over there somewhere is the born again Christians, as if being born again is some kind of subset within Christendom.

Beloved, if you’re not a born again Christian you’re not a Christian. I don’t really care, I don’t think Jesus cares where you happen to go to church. You may be a Metho-catho-bapterian or a Bapti-costal-fundamentic or whatever you want to call yourself but the fact of the matter is the new birth has to happen. If it doesn’t happen it doesn’t matter where you go to church you do not have the life of God in you nor do you have a relationship with God at all. How blind I was for 16 years of my life, not understanding this simple thing. And then I received the new birth as a 16 year old and everything changed. We’re not talking about an option here.

And then number 11, regeneration is acquired by exposure to the Word of God. If you do not hear or read the Word of God you cannot be regenerated because you have nothing to respond to. The Word of God is the instrument that the Spirit of God uses to awaken us to our need for the new life of God. If the Word of God has no interaction with you at all, then the new birth can’t happen. I don’t think this is just my opinion, I think this is in the Scripture. James 1:18 says this: “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the” what? “the word of truth.” 1 Peter 1:23 says, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” How do we become born again? Through an exposure to the Word of God. Romans 10:17, you all know the verse, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” 2 Timothy 3:15 says, “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith … in Christ.” How do you learn about salvation through faith in Christ? Through the Scriptures that you have known from infancy Timothy.

Did you catch the very end there of verse 31, “and that believing you may have life in” what? “…believing in” what? “Believing in His name.” You have to believe in the promises of Jesus Christ and there’s only one place to get them; there’s only one record of them and that’s the Scriptures. Acts 4:12 says, “There is no salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” If you will not respond to or have an awareness of the promises of Jesus Christ as revealed through the Scripture, the new birth simply cannot happen. It doesn’t matter how philosophical or erudite the preacher or teacher is. And this is something that is just killing us in evangelicalism in America today. The content of the Bible is disappearing from most Bible churches. You get thoughts of people, philosophies, motivational self-help, any number of topics. But what about the Word of God? And people say well look, if I just jettison the Word of God just a little bit and talk about other things I’ll fill the building. You can do that; you can fill buildings this way.

But do you know what’s shrinking? The actual number of regenerated people is shrinking because if the Word of God disappears then the spiritual birth cannot happen. You don’t have a church any more; you have a crowd, like you would have at a basketball game or a football game. You’ve got a lot of people but percentage wise the budget may be up, the room might be packed but the actual number of regenerated people is shrinking because the Scripture is telling us that regeneration cannot and will not happen without contact with the Word of God. That’s why it’s so important to memorize Scripture, so that when opportunities arise to evangelize give them what the Scripture says. Don’t give them your ten points on how to live a happy life, that doesn’t save anybody. Give them the Scripture; the Scripture is the ancient writings which are sufficient to lead us unto salvation

Number 12, the generation is gained or acquired by responding in faith to the Word of God. John 1:12-13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” how do you become a child of God? You have to receive, which is a synonym for believe, in Him, His promises as revealed in the Scripture.

John 3:16, we know this verse very well, don’t we: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever” what? “believes in” what? “Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Do you see the order here? First comes belief in the promises of God as revealed in the Word of God; what follows is what? Life, regeneration! People say well, don’t you get regenerated first and believe second? Show me where it says that in the Bible; show me one verse that clearly teaches that. I could show you hundreds that teach the opposite. You don’t have the life of God in you until you believe in Christ. The life of God is something given to you at the point of faith.

John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has” what? “eternal life.” When do you get eternal life? After you believe. Dr. Chafer puts it this way: “Thus without exception all that enter into salvation, including the gift of eternal life depends only on the one human requirement of believing on the Savior.” Oh, yeah, God will bother you before you believe, He’ll convict you, He’ll put circumstances in your path, He’ll (I believe) make every effort to expose you to His promise, but until you trust in those promises everything that God has done prior to that is not eternal life. It is the grace of God but it is not eternal life.

Dr. Walvoord says this: “As related to faith the human will can act by means of efficacious grace; in the new birth, of course, the human will is not opposed to regeneration and wills by divine grace to believe, but this in and of itself does not produce the new birth. It is not that human will is ruled aside, nor does it waive the human responsibility to believe. It is rather that regeneration is wholly a work of God in the believing heart. While regeneration is often preceded by various antecedents, such as the work of common grace and accompanying influences, these must be sharply distinguished from regeneration.” The conviction to believe is not regeneration. Believing itself is not regeneration. Believing is a condition of regeneration. Regeneration is the impartation of divine life which is promised by God at the point of faith.

Number 13, Regeneration is completely a work of God. And don’t get faith and regeneration mixed up. Faith, you exercise volition; regeneration itself, which is promised to follow faith, that in and of itself can only be accomplished by one being, God Himself. We do not regenerate ourselves. God alone regenerates us.

You might recall John 1:13, we made reference to it a little earlier, you recall what that verse said? [12] “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” watch this, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” What is he saying? He’s saying that regeneration is not accomplished because of blood or your own will; it is accomplished only by God Himself.

There’s a very interesting expression that recurs throughout the book of Genesis, you’ll find it in Genesis 1:12, you’ll find it in Genesis 1:25, it says each produce after its own kind. What does that mean? It means Mr. and Mrs. rhinoceros got together and they had a baby rhinoceros. They didn’t have a baby giraffe; they didn’t have a baby hippopotamus. Each produced after its own kind, male, female rhinoceros produced another rhinoceros, and this, of course, flies right in the face of evolutionary thinking which talks about how one species evolved into another. And the Bible flatly rejects that principle when it says each produced after its own kind. [Genesis 1:12, “The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25, ‘God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.”]

Now remember that because notice what Jesus said to Nicodemus about the new birth in John 3:5-6, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Watch this. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. What is he saying? He’s saying Nicodemus, the new birth that I am talking about you can’t get it on your own. Why is that? Because flesh gives birth to flesh. Things produce after their own kind. You are fleshly, all you can produce is flesh. What you need is a miracle of God. What you need is something greater than yourself deposited into you. Flesh won’t get it done because things produce after their own kind. Flesh gives birth to flesh.

Dr. Chafer writes, “Where would Nicodemus begin were he to attend the achievement of his own birth from above?” I mean, if the whole thing was up to him, other than to believe, where would Nicodemus even start since he is a man of the flesh. How can a man of the flesh, with each thing producing after its own kind, get you the life of the Spirit? How can that happen?

Dr. Walvoord writes this: “It is a smashing blow to all philosophies which hold that man has inherent capacities of saving himself.” Regeneration is wholly of God. No possible human effort, however noble, can supply eternal life. The proper doctrine of regeneration gives to God all glory and power due His name. And at the same time it displays His abundant provision for a race dead in sin. I love that first sentence, I love the whole quote, “It is a smashing blow to all philosophies which hold that man has inherent capacities of saving himself. Regeneration is wholly of God.” It’s a miracle, that’s what it is. And people say well, why doesn’t God do some miracles today? Let me just tell you something, if someone believes in Christ and receives the gift of life and is regenerated, that’s a miracle. Why is it a miracle? Because only God can do that. Man can’t do it; human manipulation can’t do it; scheming can’t do it, marketing research can’t do it, because flesh only gives birth to flesh.

What an astounding thing it is when a person responds to the gospel by way of faith and is regenerated. That, in and of itself, is a miracle far greater (in my mind) than turning water into wine at Cana, or any other miracle, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, all of those miracles are so important but they are so subpar to this ultimate miracle that God seeks to do in men and women through regeneration.

And then finally number 15, and with this we’re finished. Regeneration is the purpose of John’s Gospel. Remember the verses that we’ve been looking at very carefully, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; [14] but these have been written so” what? “so that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” You mean this whole thing is not just a theology textbook? It’s not just designed as a biography to get across information? NO, it’s not that at all. It is a historical account but that’s not its ultimate aim; its ultimate aim is to present lost man with the information he needs to respond in faith to the promises of Christ and experience the greatest miracle, the foundational miracle, that we desperately need, which is regeneration.

Palingenesia means created again. That’s why John wrote the book. Dr. Constable says this: “John’s purpose was clearly evangelistic. His Gospel is an excellent portion of Scripture to give to an unbeliever. It is probably the most effective evangelistic tool available. Its impact on the reader is strongest when he reads it through at one sitting, which takes most people less than two hours.” I’ve been teaching it for three years; you can read the whole thing in two hours. “This document can also deepen and establish the faith of any believer, and John undoubtedly wrote what he did to accomplish this end as well.” I mean, I read it as a believer since 1983 and my faith is strengthened. But you see, its ultimate purpose is for the person that has never believed in Jesus, to respond to the Word of God through simple childlike faith and receive this promise.

You’ll notice the word “may” there, translated in the NASB at the end, “that believing you may” or might “have life in His name.” Why is it translated that way? Because “have” is in the subjunctive mood. Just like, you might remember a few Sundays ago I said “believe” is in the subjunctive mood. Why does that matter? It matters plenty. The subjunctive mood is not the mood of certainty. It is the mood of possibility. He’s saying you have these promises now the ball is in your court; maybe you’ll respond, maybe you won’t. That’s what the subjunctive mood here is communicating.

So what are we trying to say? We’re trying to say respond to it; you have the information, respond to it, trust in it, rely on it, depend upon it, have confidence in it. Trust its promises; trust it and its promises for the safekeeping of your soul. And this is not something you have to do through any human activity, such as raise your hand, walk an aisle, join the church, vow to do better, giving money, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah dah. It’s a private moment between you and God, where the Spirit of God convicts you of your need to believe and He essentially communicates through the conviction that you are in a lost state; you have not been regenerated. So fix it, solve the problem, believe in Jesus and experience the miracle of regeneration.

John 3:3-5 was so strategic in my life, having been raised as a devout Episcopalian up until the age of 16, banking my eternity in my desire to be good, that stumbling into a home Bible study I heard the teacher talking about you must be “born of water and the Spirit,” and quite frankly I had no idea what it meant, but I knew this much: whatever it meant, spiritual birth, I didn’t have it; could I articulate it to you? Could I explain it to you? Could I show you Bible verses? No I couldn’t, but I knew whatever he was talking about I didn’t have it. And consequently that very night He saw my confusion and gave me the opportunity to respond in faith to Christ. And I became born spiritually

Have I lived a perfect life since then? No, but the desire has always been there, and I’ve had ups and I’ve had downs and I’ve had times in my life when I needed to educate myself in my resources of God because regeneration will not eradicate the old nature. But you see, what you need on the front end of the equation is regeneration. You need that new nature and you need the Spirit and you need the life of God; it’s a moment of privacy between you and the Lord as I’m speaking.
If you’ve never done this, just trust in Jesus and His promises the best you know how. And if you have done that, and are doing it, on the authority of the Word of God regeneration is a present reality for you. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray?

Father, forgive us for rushing over, many times in our reading this life and what it means and read things in the Scripture that we really don’t understand. Help us to grasp the significance of this statement and this miracle; we will be happy and grateful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.