The Miracle of the New Birth
Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How is this possible? Because God has fulfilled that other prophecy of Joel, that “I will pour forth my Spirit upon all flesh.” Because the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon all mankind, the merest cry from the sinner to God is enough.
No preacher of the gospel is of much use unless he believes this. The Holy Spirit’s proximity to the sinner is vital to our preaching. God in the heavens is too far beyond man’s reach. But “Say not in thy heart, who shall ascend into heaven? That is, to bring Christ down…..The word is nigh thee.” I always believe the Holy Spirit is upon a man when I preach Christ to him, just as He was upon the waters at the creation. He is waiting to bring Christ into his life. His ministry is like the daylight. Open the window shutters even a little, and it floods in and illumines the whole interior. Let there be but a cry from the heart to God, and in that instant the Spirit enters and begins his transforming work of conviction, repentance, and faith- the miracle of the new birth.
Sometimes the simpler something is the more difficult it is to accept and to understand. Something that lies within our flawed sin nature drives us to make things complicated, especially the things of God.
All the way back in the Garden, humans were tempted and succumbed to the temptation to grasp for the more complex. Everyday God met with them, every day their needs were abundantly met, and every day they were loved, protected and cared for. But Satan enticed them to desire more so they gave up the simplicity of being obedient to God and sought the knowledge of good and evil. I don’t think they fully understood the weight or responsibility of having to make choices based on the knowledge rather than simply listening to a loving God’s instructions.
Those of us who are adults now can remember when we couldn’t wait to get our on our own and live life like we wanted to live it. A recent conversation with one of my grandchildren reminded me of this fallacy. They shared with me that the excitement of living on their own and not having to answer to mom or dad was losing its glamour as each month the had to come up with rent and utilities and food along with their other expenses. I remember thinking after I had been gone from home how easy I had it there. My parents provided me a room, my mother prepared my food and they paid the utilities and house payment and such. I was free to spend my money on whatever I wanted.
Those who have chosen their own way in life have discovered that the responsibilities and challenges that come with choice can indeed be heavy.
As humans became aware that being separated from God wasn’t a good thing, they begin to seek ways to return and God made the way simple.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus introduces the disciples and us to the Holy Spirit. He defines the role the Holy Spirit plays in bringing to back to God. Christ Himself would provide the way to salvation. While theologians and believers may struggle trying to understand or to explain in human terms this great but simple plan of God was to clothe Himself in flesh, live upon earth as human, die on a cross as our substitute, overthrow the devil and break the power of sin, and raise from the dead to sit down at the right hand of the Father. Having done so, He sent the Holy Spirit to continue His work. Listen to what Jesus says that work is:
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment: about sin [and the true nature of it], because they do not believe in Me [and My message]; about righteousness [personal integrity and godly character], because I am going to My Father and you will no longer see Me; about judgment [the certainty of it], because the ruler of this world (Satan) has been judged condemned. “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [to hear] them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]. He will glorify honor Me, because He (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Because of this I said that He [the Spirit] will take from what is Mine and will reveal it to you.”
John 16: 7-15
Listen again to the simplicity of the miracle of salvation. God sends the Holy Spirit and He comes to us and convicts us of our sins and our need of a Savior. He comes to those who have not yet believed in Christ and shows Christ to them. He convicts us if our need for righteousness- the path to heaven and God. And He convicts us about judgement- first that Satan has already been judged at the cross and the power of sin over us has been conquered and second, that those who reject Christ set themselves up to receive judgement. The simplicity of salvation is that we receive Christ and thereby grace, mercy, and forgiveness or we reject Christ and receive justice, judgement, and punishment.
But the work of the Holy Spirit doesn’t cease once we’re saved. We might say it has just begun. Jesus goes on to say that the Holy Spirit will guide us to truth, make known to us the desires and instructions of the Father and reveal to us what is to come in the future. There is no indication that at any moment we are left on our own to figure out life. Finally Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will lead us to honor and glorify Christ as He makes us more aware and makes known to us the fullness of Christ.
Simple, powerful, true describes fully the miracle of the new birth. It is beyond human description as Nicodemus, the Jewish scholar discovered. It is as invisible and yet as powerful as the wind which can’t be seen but has visible effect.
You don’t have to comprehend salvation to receive it. It isn’t some mental exercise of will power to make a change in your life. It is truly coming as a little child and trusting and accepting what God has said.
“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word [the message, the basis] of faith which we preach— because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].”
So take the plunge, let go of doubt and trust that Christ will save you and the Holy Spirit will guide you and you will end up in heaven.
Dr. John Thompson