Monday, August 07, 2006

If God were your Father...

I'm teaching a two-week series on Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus and the surrounding context. (See my blog entries from a month or so ago). In explaining the new birth, and that it is not something that we bring about or cause as a result of our "strong desire" to follow Christ or much less our actual saving faith which welled-up in our fallen selves, I read the passage from John 8 where Jesus essetially explains the same thing.

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me... Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire... He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

This is very convincing regarding the order of regeneration first followed logically (though chronologically they may be simulataneous) by saving faith and repentance. Unfortunately, this is not what is generally taught in Christian churches today. Generally, you will hear from the pulpit that you must believe to be born again. Faith comes before regneration. If that is the case, why is the re-birth even necessary?

If you believe, it is because you are His sheep. If you don't believe, it is because you are not His sheep (John 10). You have no influence on whether or not you are a sheep. You have the same influence over your spiritual birth as you do over your physical birth - none. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Nicodemus shows us that. He strives for the spiritual truth that Jesus is teaching, yet he can't get it, because he's not born-again, he's not born from above, he's not born of God, he's not yet regenerated. But, he continues to strive for it, siding with Jesus in John 7:50-52, and later proving that he is re-born by anointing the lifeless body of Jesus in John 19:39. But his efforts did not move the Spirit to regenerate him. Rather his efforts were proof that the Spirit was at work in him. Sometimes it happens instantly, and sometimes it happens over a period of roller-coaster type years. It's like the wind. Sometimes the wind is calm, other times it's breezy, and still other times it's perilous. It's when we experience the hurricane force winds of the Spirit that blow us over that the re-birth happens.

Ephesians 2:1-5 says, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature (or flesh) and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved."

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