"As to man, the law and the ordinances were only bondage. They aimed at bridling the will without its being changed."--J.N. Darby
Many christians today live as though they do not know that to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit, (born again), is to be a new creation in Christ Jesus. They live as though all that it's about is being forgiven and struggling to keep from sinning again. And many profess Christ who have never been regenerated by His Spirit. I believe it is important to take a look at just what it means to be regenerated by God's Holy Spirit.
The Regeneration of the will, what it means...
Tit 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
Tit 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
Tit 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Tit 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior;
Tit 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Regeneration, (Webster's 1828 dictionary)
1. Reproduction; the act of producing anew.
2. In theology, new birth by the grace of God; that change by which the will and natural enmity of man to God and his law are subdued, and a principle of supreme love to God and his law, or holy affections, are implanted in the heart.
He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3.
Scofield's notes on John 3:3--
(1) The necessity of the new birth grows out of the incapacity of the natural man to "see" or "enter into" the kingdom of God. However gifted, moral, or refined, the natural man is absolutely blind to spiritual truth, and impotent to enter the kingdom; for he can neither obey, understand, nor please God (Joh_3:3); (Joh_3:5); (Joh_3:6); (Psa_51:5); (Jer_17:9); (Mar_7:21-23); (1Co_2:14); (Rom_8:7); (Rom_8:8); (Eph_2:3).
(See Scofield) - (Mat_6:33).
(2) The new birth is not a reformation of the old nature
(See Scofield) - (Rom_6:6)
but a creative act of the holy Spirit (Joh_3:5); (Joh_1:12); (Joh_1:13); (2Co_5:17); (Eph_2:10); (Eph_4:24).
(3) The condition of the new birth is faith in Christ crucified (Joh_3:14); (Joh_3:15); (Joh_1:12); (Joh_1:13); (Gal_3:24).
(4) Through the new birth the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature and of the life of Christ Himself (Gal_2:20); (Eph_2:10); (Eph_4:24); (Col_1:27); (1Pe_1:23-25); (2Pe_1:4); (1Jo_5:10-12).
Is our will our own in Christ? Is it up to our will to keep us? Or has our will been "regenerated" by God and are we kept by His power alone?
Phi 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Phi 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Rom 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (deprived sin of its power in us - by the regeneration of His Spirit in our inner being. The law could not give us a new heart. His Spirit did.)
Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh (unbelievers)do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit (those born again) the things of the Spirit.
Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Rom 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Rom 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
There could be no desire in us to please God that is ... the "will" to please Him unless we were born again by His Spirit, our will being regenerated. It is not up to us to will hard enough to be kept ... it is the regeneration of our will by His Spirit that keeps us, by giving us a new heart towards God, and works in us to do His will, as is seen in those evidences of those who are born of His Spirit. This is why we can know that those who want to live in sin are not born of His Spirit. It is not that they need to will harder or try harder ... they need to be regenerated by His Spirit.
Eze 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
H3820 לב lêb BDB Hebrew Definition: 1) inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding 1a) inner part, midst 1a1) midst (of things) 1a2) heart (of man) 1a3) soul, heart (of man) 1a4) mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory 1a5) inclination, resolution, determination (of will) 1a6) conscience 1a7) heart (of moral character) 1a8) as seat of appetites 1a9) as seat of emotions and passions 1a10) as seat of courage
Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
In other words, they are given a renewed will ... that will of God, in their inward parts. It is not an act of man's will ... but an act of the Holy Spirit in those who believe (rely on, trust in, cling to) into Him ... to them He gives the power to become children of God.
Those warnings Paul gives will test and prove those in the church who are professing believers but not regenerated by His Spirit, and those who are truly of His Spirit. Those who are, will heed them and walk according to the Spirit in them by faith in the finished work of Christ. Those who are not, then need to be regenerated, not to try harder. They will be tested to see if they are regenerated by His Spirit, if they are in the faith. Those who are will be proven to be, and their faith made stronger and more secure.
John also reveals this to us ...
1Jo 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
1Jo 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
This is simply because no one can "do righteousness" apart from being born of His Spirit. They may do "good acts" and appear righteous, but the inward righteousness that is manifested in loving one another from the heart is only possible to those who have been regenerated.
What John writes is not to tell those who are born again they will be condemned if they don't work to produce righteousness in their lives,or somehow change their hearts to measure up to God's standard of righteousness, it is to show the true signs of those who are indeed born of His Spirit ... regenerated ... of His seed! He gives evidence of why we can have assurance of our salvation by knowing we have His seed and are truly regenerated by His Spirit.
Those who don't and went out from them were not of them.
1Jo 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
1Jo 5:13 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, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (eternal life means life without end of existence or duration; everlasting; endless; immortal... Webster's dictionary. It is by believing on Him we can KNOW we have eternal life, not always fearing we will not make it somehow. It is faith in His perfect love that casts out all fear of judgement -- 1 John 4:18, Rom. 8:15.)
A dog that returns to his vomit was always a dog, never a sheep! A sheep would not turn into a dog or to a dog's vomit.
2Pe 2:22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
A sow may get washed but if it is still a sow, it has not become a sheep.
This is a quote from F.B. Meyer daily devotional - Dec. 30 --
God's Objective. It is an immense help in this human life to know the direction in which God's fiery cloud or pillar is leading us. If only we can get a clue to what God is meaning in our life, it will smooth out many perplexities and disentangle many a ravelled skein. What is God doing for you and me? The Apostle answers--He is endeavouring to bring it about that our mortality may be swallowed up of life. God wants to wipe out in each of us all traces of the Fall. It is His purpose to eliminate everything which brands us as members of an exiled race, so that our mortality, whether of spirit, soul, or body, may be swallowed up by Life--"the life of which our veins are scant, the life for which our spirits pant, more life and fuller!" Think of it! For thee, and me, and all who have been translated from the region of darkness, and brought into the Kingdom of the Son of His Love! Mortality engulfed in Life! We cannot fathom it! We know not what we shall be, we only know that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Such is God's objective. He is working for us and in us, for this very thing!
An excerpt from "All of Grace", by Charles Spurgeon
"Ye must be born again." This word of our Lord Jesus has appeared to flame in the way of many, like the drawn sword of the cherub at the gate of Paradise. They have despaired, because this change is beyond their utmost effort. The new birth is from above, and therefore it is not in the creature's power. Now, it is far from my mind to deny, or ever to conceal, a truth in order to create a false comfort. I freely admit that the new birth is supernatural, and that it cannot be wrought by the sinner's own self. It would be a poor help to my reader if I were wicked enough to try to cheer him by persuading him to reject or forget what is unquestionably true. But is it not remarkable that the very chapter in which our Lord makes this sweeping declaration also contains the most explicit statement as to salvation by faith? Read the third chapter of John's Gospel and do not dwell alone upon its earlier sentences. It is true that the third verse says:
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.
But, then, the fourteenth and fifteenth verses speak:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The eighteenth verse repeats the same doctrine in the broadest terms:
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
It is clear to every reader that these two statements must agree, since they came from the same lips, and are recorded on the same inspired page. Why should we make a difficulty where there can be none? If one statement assures us of the necessity to salvation of a something, which only God can give, and if another assures us that the Lord will save us upon our believing in Jesus, then we may safely conclude that the Lord will give to those who believe all that is declared to be necessary to salvation. The Lord does, in fact, produce the new birth in all who believe in Jesus; and their believing is the surest evidence that they are born again.
We trust in Jesus for what we cannot do ourselves: if it were in our own power, what need of looking to Him? It is ours to believe, it is the Lord's to create us anew. He will not believe for us, neither are we to do regenerating work for Him. It is enough for us to obey the gracious command; it is for the Lord to work the new birth in us. He who could go so far as to die on the cross for us, can and will give us all things that are needful for our eternal safety.
"But a saving change of heart is the work of the Holy Spirit." This also is most true, and let it be far from us to question it, or to forget it. But the work of the Holy Spirit is secret and mysterious, and it can only be perceived by its results. There are mysteries about our natural birth into which it would be an unhallowed curiosity to pry: still more is this the case with the sacred operations of the Spirit of God. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." This much, however, we do know - the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit cannot be a reason for refusing to believe in Jesus to whom that same Spirit beareth witness.
If a man were bidden to sow a field, he could not excuse his neglect by saying that it would be useless to sow unless God caused the seed to grow. He would not be justified in neglecting tillage because the secret energy of God alone can create a harvest. No one is hindered in the ordinary pursuits of life by the fact that unless the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it. It is certain that no man who believes in Jesus will ever find that the Holy Spirit refuses to work in him: in fact, his believing is the proof that the Spirit is already at work in his heart.
God works in providence, but men do not therefore sit still. They could not move without the divine power giving them life and strength, and yet they proceed upon their way without question; the power being bestowed from day to day by Him in whose hand their breath is, and whose are all their ways. So is it in grace. We repent and believe, though we could do neither if the Lord did not enable us. We forsake sin and trust in Jesus, and then we perceive that the Lord has wrought in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure. It is idle to pretend that there is any real difficulty in the matter.
Some truths which it is hard to explain in words are simple enough in actual experience. There is no discrepancy between the truth that the sinner believes, and that his faith is wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. Only folly can lead men to puzzle themselves about plain matters while their souls are in danger. No man would refuse to enter a lifeboat because he did not know the specific gravity of bodies; neither would a starving man decline to eat till he understood the whole process of nutrition. If you, my reader, will not believe till you can understand all mysteries, you will never be saved at all; and if you allow self-invented difficulties to keep you from accepting pardon through your Lord and Saviour, you will perish in a condemnation which will be richly deserved. Do not commit spiritual suicide through a passion for discussing metaphysical subtleties.
Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.
One of the things that has struck me lately, in the matter of eternal life, freedom of will to reject Christ as a believer, etc. is that of the free will of Jesus Himself, as He walked this earth as man. Repeatedly He stated that He came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father. When He walked this earth no one would argue that He had perfect freedom of will to do what He chose. He could have called on His Father to send angels to rescue Him from the cross. Yet we know because of the very nature of Who He was... the Son of God... God Himself in the flesh, that that nature would cause Him only to will the will of the Father. He never had a sinful nature. He would choose no other. Those who are born of Him also are of His seed, and though they have freedom to choose, their will becomes regenerated... they now have His Spirit in them to will to do the will of the Father, though they dwell in this unregenerated flesh in this earth. John tells us because of that seed in us, we cannot sin and only will to do righteousness. We struggle with the fleshly nature in this body, but yet we have His righteousness indwelling us, rendering powerless, the nature of sin, (we've been crucified with Christ and risen to newness of life--see An "I" For An "I"), and it is that alone... that regenerated will... that presence of His Spirit in us, that keeps us and gives us, here and now, eternal life that is in Him. Read John 10:25-29 and 1 John 2:19, 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:1-10, and compare. How could Jesus will to do anything in His walk in the flesh in this world but that which was God's will? How can His children who have His nature will to do anything but His will? Though we struggle with the sin nature, we overcome because of our faith in Him! It is not our strong will to live right that keeps us... it is His Spirit in our regenerated will that keeps us. Those who depend on their own strength of will, and their own works, will never find assurance completely, and will always be in a Romans 7 experience of law of sin and death, up and down. One is set free to truly live by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, when they realize the power of His salvation. My prayer is the same for the church that Paul prayed for the Ephesians...
Eph 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
Eph 1:18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Eph 1:19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength
Eph 1:20 which He worked in Christ in raising Him from the dead, and He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies,
Eph 1:21 far above all principality and authority and power and dominion, and every name being named, not only in this world, but also in the coming age.
Eph 1:22 And He has put all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church,
Eph 1:23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
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