Now that everyone is back on board the train, it’s time for us to leave the Salvation Station; the place where we introduced to God’s wonderful plan for saving sinners from death and destruction while, at the same time, adopting them as His very own children; in the process, giving them a hope in this life, as well as a glorious future in the next.
What we didn’t learn here, though, is just how we can appropriate this salvation that God has so graciously provided for us. With that as our immediate goal, then, let’s make our way to the next stop on our tour, the New Birth Station; where we will not only discover what the New Birth is, but for those who have never been this way before, they will learn how they, too, can participate in the New Birth experience and be “born again.”
While some may consider the “head” knowledge of God’s salvation which we gained at our first stop to be sufficient for any venture into the world of the Word, for the purposes of this journey, that mere intellectual knowledge will prove to be woefully inadequate when it comes to providing us with access to all of the places listed on our itinerary. That’s because, on this trip, we will actually be traveling from one land into another; going from the darkened land of the natural, where we live every day, into the illumined land of the spiritual, where God dwells eternally—and without an experiential knowledge of salvation, should we even make it into the Word, we would be at a loss to understand the language, the laws, and the culture of that land once we had arrived there.
I should also point out that there is a heavily guarded border which separates these two lands and, since it runs right through the New Birth Station, before we can go any farther on our tour, we will have to stop there and make our way through Customs, before being allowed to cross the border. The purpose of this processing is to help insure that all of us will have the “experiential” knowledge of salvation that it will take to make the rest of our trip truly enjoyable and productive. And, once that has been done, we will be provided with the Passports that we will need for our further travel.
Well, what do you know—we’re here at the station already! Quickly, before you leave the train, let me give you some instructions which should help to facilitate your processing through Customs. As soon as you disembark, you will see two signs overhead: one saying, “Something to Declare,” and the other saying, “Nothing to Declare.” For those who are traveling in Group #1—those who have already experienced the New Birth—please proceed to the “Something to Declare” counter, where, when asked, you will declare “Salvation by the Blood of the Lamb,” be handed your passport, and then be escorted back to the comfort of the train. However, those who are traveling in Groups #2 and #3 (and possibly some in Group #1 who are not certain that you’ve experienced the New Birth), will need to proceed to the “Nothing to Declare” counter, where you will begin your processing through Customs in the following order:
- First, you will visit Room 1, where you will learn about the mandate for the New Birth;
- Next, you will proceed to Room 2, where you will learn about the spiritual dynamics of the New Birth;
- Then, you will go to Room 3, where you will learn about the legal reasons for the New Birth; and,
- Finally, you will go to Room 4, where you can share in the experience the New Birth for yourself.
Once you have completed the process, you will also be escorted to the “Something to Declare” counter where, when asked, you too will have the opportunity to declare, “Salvation by the Blood of the Lamb,” be handed your passport, and then be escorted back to the comfort of the train.
Here, you will learn what Jesus had to say about the New Birth, as you witness a scene taking place between Him and one of the religious leaders of His day. This scene, as recorded for us in John 3:1-14, takes place one night as Nicodemus seeks out Jesus, for reasons which are never really made clear to us. That’s because, before Nicodemus is able let us in on the motivation for this visit, Jesus, knowing the real need of his heart, tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (V.3).” Thinking like a true natural man, Nicodemus tries to rationalize how he could go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time. To this, Jesus responds, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said unto you, ‘You must be born again’ (vv. 5-7).”
During the course of this interchange, Jesus makes it very clear that there is a fixed gulf between our fleshly beings and our spirits; and that, while everyone born into this world will be initially born into a fleshly or physical state, only those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God will be born into life in the Spirit. Here, then, is the mandate, given by Jesus Himself, stating that anyone who hopes to see God and participate in His kingdom must be born again. But, what isn’t given here are the answers to the questions of why is this necessary, and how does one go about being born again? So, in pursuit of those answers, you will go on to…
…where you will learn about the dynamics involved in the New Birth; dynamics which have everything to do with regeneration. Since our DOT for regeneration is—the act of bringing something into existence again—that is, to form again, or to be made new—for us, regeneration is the act by which our dead spirits are brought back to life again by the Holy Spirit of God. You may be wondering, though, just why is this necessary?
In order for us to answer that question, we will need to go back to the beginning of human history, back to the time when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God; the time when their spirits, as well as those of all of their future descendants, died because sin caused them to be separated or cut off from God. What this means is that every human being who has been born since then, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has been born spiritually dead—or, with a spirit that has been cut off from its source of life in God.
As Watchman Nee explains in his book, The Spiritual Man, “…when we say the spirit is dead it does not imply there is no more spirit; we simply mean the spirit has lost its sensitivity towards God and thus is dead to Him. The exact situation is that the spirit is incapacitated, unable to communicate with God…it remains in a coma as if non-existent.” And, as a result of this death, no descendant of Adam has ever been able to have a relationship with God while remaining in his or her natural or fleshly state.
The New Birth, then, is what occurs when God’s Spirit brings a man’s spirit back to life, restoring that man’s lost relationship to God, and making it possible for him to communicate with God once again. But—and this is a very BIG BUT—before this can happen, certain legalities will have to be taken care of; legalities which will be discussed in…
…legalities involving our repeated violations of God’s laws. As we learned back at the Salvation Station, each of us has, throughout our lives, offended God by violating His laws, or His codes of acceptable moral and spiritual conduct. In the process, we have unwittingly erected a barrier between Him and us, a wall of offense which makes any relationship between us impossible. Until such a time as we confess our faults—that is, we agree with God about what we have done wrong, and seek His forgiveness—we will continue to be “cut off” from Him, losing whatever opportunities we may have had to get to know Him and to love Him. Thus, the elimination of our offenses against God, along with the removal of the wall which those offenses created, is what the New Birth is all about.
Unfortunately, because most of us have no concept of what God’s righteous requirements for relationship with Him are, we don’t know what we have done to offend Him. Most of us have lived our lives according to the codes of conduct that we acquired from our parents, picked up from our friends and associates, or created for ourselves in response to the ever-changing circumstances of life. Unlike God’s immutable standard of holiness, our concepts of what constitutes right and wrong have been derived from very human and fallible sources and, as a result, tend to have very nebulous boundaries. Consequently, the principles by which we live are often adapted to the situations in which we find ourselves at any given moment, with what is true and right in one situation differing from that in another. With backgrounds steeped in such a relativistic system of ethics, how are we to know for sure what God’s requirements are; how can we understand what our offenses against Him have been?
The only way we can know how we have missed God’s “mark” for acceptable behavior (and sin is defined as “missing the mark” of God) is through His Word, where God has set forth His standard of righteousness, or right living, in Exodus 20: 1-17; a standard we know today as the Ten Commandments. There, He makes it clear that in order for us to have a spiritual relationship with Him, we must meet certain conditions:
- We can have no gods other than Him; ours is to be a personal and an exclusive relationship;
- We cannot make an idol, or anything in the form of a person, or an object from the natural or spiritual world, which we worship in His place; so, no person, possession, position, pleasure, power or money can be substituted for Him;
- We cannot take His name in vain—that is, use His name in a disrespectful or dishonest manner. We are not to use God’s name as a swear word, or to legitimatize or authorize any activity which He has not sanctioned;
- We are to remember the Sabbath day, or one day in seven as a day of rest and worship, and keep it holy, or set apart for Him;
- We are to honor our parents, respecting them as God’s appointed authorities in our lives;
- We are not to murder; or, according to Jesus in an expanded version found in Matthew 5: 22, to even harbor hatred in our hearts toward another person;
- We cannot steal—that is, take anything which is not ours, including money, property, an employer’s time, a person’s reputation, or the affection of someone who belongs to another;
- We cannot commit adultery, or any sexual sin, either by thinking about it or actually doing it (see Matthew 5: 28 for another amplified rendition);
- We cannot bear false witness or lie about anyone else; and,
- We are not to covet, or want for our own, anything that belongs to another person; this includes his or her spouse, children, positions, possessions, personalities, looks, or money.
Of course, we have all violated these laws at one time or another; so, how is it possible for us, as naturally unrighteous people, to meet God’s demands for righteousness, and enter into a relationship with Him? In all honesty, we can’t—at least, not on our own. We must have the help of Someone who can meet these demands on our behalf; Someone who can bridge the gap between God’s holiness and our sinful condition, thereby making a relationship between God and us possible–Someone you will learn more about in…
Since God is the only One who completely understands the strict demands of His law, and man’s total inability to meet those demands, He took it upon Himself to create a plan by which Someone, namely Jesus, could bring God and man together. In order to understand how His plan works, here is what we need to know:
- First, we need to understand that God is so holy that anyone who comes into His presence must be free from any and all impurities, or else he will die. When God told Adam that if he ate from the forbidden tree he would die, He was making clear to him the principle that “…the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23)” and that “the person who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:20).”
- Since the law of God’s holiness requires that sin’s offenses be paid for by death, this means that the one who has offended must die to satisfy the judgment imposed upon him by the law.
- However, God in His grace, also stipulated in His law that a substitution could be made for the offender—that is, the sinner could avoid paying the penalty for his own violations of God’s law if he could find Someone else who was willing to die in his place.
- But, in order to qualify as such a substitution, this Someone could not be a person who was himself a sinner—he would have to be Someone without guilt in order to satisfy every one of God’s specific rules for holiness. The only Person who has ever lived who could meet these demands was Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
- Therefore, God sent Jesus into the world to live a life of sinless perfection; a life which would fulfill all of the righteous demands of the law. Then Jesus died an agonizing death on the cross—a death which paid sin’s penalty, and one which could be substituted for the death required of each and every sinner who would ever live.
- In addition to paying the price for everyone’s sin through His substitutionary death, Jesus also conquered the power of death once and for all when He was raised from the dead to live again forever.
- Although Jesus’ death paid the price for everyone’s sin, the payment for any individual’s penalty will not automatically be credited to him.
– First, he must come humbly before God, acknowledging that he has violated the laws of God and is unable to meet God’s demands for righteousness on his own, in order to receive, by faith, what Christ has done on his behalf.
– He can then exchange his sin for the gift of salvation that God has graciously made available to him through Christ’s sacrificial death.
– It is with this transaction that his spirit becomes “born again”; and it is at this time that God’s Spirit comes to live within him and begins teaching how to live like a son of God.
This, then, is God’s plan for providing us with a New Birth. If you aren’t sure if you have ever experienced it, then let me urge you to go to God, acknowledging the offenses which have kept you spiritually dead and alienated from Him, and ask Him, for Jesus’ sake, to remove them. When you do, the Holy Spirit will come to live within your spirit, and you will be “born again!”
Take as much time as you need at this station, and I will meet you back at the train whenever you are ready to travel again.
You can rejoice along with Third Day because you are “Born Again”…