Characteristics of The New Birth
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Characteristics of the New Birth
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
What is it to be born of God? That’s really what I would like to try to talk about, what it means to be born of God. And I won’t ask you to look up references for this first part because we’ve already talked about it before. You remember, how we said that the very first step that we can see in scripture is that verse in Colossians 1:15 where Jesus was the first-born of all creation and he is the very image of God and he was born first of all, the only begotten son and that that was the first step. And then that the second step was this one in Ephesians 2:10, that God created us in Christ Jesus for good works which he had prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. And then that God himself gave us free will in Jesus and explained to the Savior that I have to give these men and women free will if they are going to be part of you and therefore part of me. I have to give them free will, we ourselves have free will.
And there is a verse that later on you can look up afterwards it’s 30:19-20, “Behold I have set before you life and death, choose life that you may live.” And God at that point set before us life and death and said, “Now, I have put you in my son and you can choose that or you can choose death.” Then you remember, he foresaw what some men and women would do if not all indeed. And the lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world. God said to his Son, “Now you and I have to bear the consequences of what we have done. If they choose not to receive us, if they choose not to be in you, if they choose not to be part of us, my Son we have to bear that. Now I ask you, if you will bear that?” And that’s you remember, where the verse Isaiah it is, “It pleased the Lord, it was God’s will to bruise Jesus” that is it was his will to ask the Savior to bear that pain for us and that that is I think Isaiah 53:12.
And all that happened there. The lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world right there and everything was prepared and then God created Genesis 1:1, God created the earth and gave us free will. And from that point on of course, we chose one way. We rebelled against the whole idea of being in Christ. We rebelled against the whole idea of depending on God. We rebelled against the whole idea of being part of another person and we resolved simply to go our own way and that is the way that the world has been going since it was created. And during all that time you remember, we talked about Romans 8:28, all that time all things have been working together to conform us to the image of Jesus. Everything that happens to us works to say to us, “Look, this is what happened, this is what happened. Turn, turn, turn.”
Now, there is a great danger I think for you all and for me to look at that and say, “That seems reasonable. Not only reasonable but that seems scriptural so I believe that. So then what I must do now is to live in Christ. I’ve been created in Christ and I’ve to live in Christ and Christ has to live in me.” And it’s very easy for us to think that therefore all we need is a mental adjustment to that and to start trying to live in Jesus. And there are all kinds of people that try to do that and they end up just in a mystical meditation and mental assent that brings them into the same position as the Jewish people who were under the law. That is, they end up trying; they end up trying to be like Christ even though they themselves are actually out of Christ. They try to be like Christ. Really what Satan said to Eve, “You shall be as God.” And they want to go this way but be like God. And so there are many Christians, many church people are the same of Jews who live under the old dispensation, they live in a constant futile frustrated life of sinning and being forgiven, sinning and being forgiven, sinning and being forgiven and yet they continue on this downward path all the time.
It’s important therefore to see that it’s not enough to believe because that’s the problem the great parts of Christendom think all you have to do is believe this. After all whosoever believes is not condemned it says, so you just have to believe. And so people try to believe that and what they really do is they believe and they try. They just believe and try and that’s why most of Christendom has ended up in utter frustration. They try to live as people who have been born of the spirit but they can’t and so they just keep on, “I believe that, I believe that. I must try to make it real in my life so I have to try; I just have to try harder.” And so Christendom lives off of books, and books, and books that are designed to teach us how to try better, how to try harder.
First step it seems to me, to some degree of reality in your life, is to see that there are people who believe and do not love God at all. Look at James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” Even the demons believe and shudder. It’s vital that we see that even the devil believes. This is reality so even the devil believes this. So it is possible to believe this and still to be a devil. It is not enough just to say you believe and you want to try. Jesus told us plainly what is needed Mark 1:15, “And saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
So Jesus was saying, “Everything has been done, the feast has spread, my Father has created you in me, he has crucified you in me, everything is ready, now, not just believe but repent.” And repent is in Greek “metanoia” and in English translation it’s “metanoia” and some of you who know something about pneus and pneumatic in English know that that is your mind and meta is to change. And first of all it means you yourself have to change your mind, you have to change your way of thinking about your own life and you have to decide whether you’re willing to do that. You have to decide, “Am I willing to change my mind about my birth that I have not actually been born first and foremost of my parents, that I have been born first and foremost in Jesus and that he is my Father and that I owe my life to him and I don’t owe my life primarily to my mother but I owe my life to him.
It means changing your mind about your own parentage. It means changing your mind about the way you think life should go for you. It means changing your mind about your feeling that you have a right to live your life the way you please or you have a right to do with your life what you please. It means changing your mind about who actually is in you. It means changing your mind about the idea that this is your life, that this is you in this body and that you can do with this body what you want. It means believing at last reality that this is Christ’s life and that this is not your life, and that Christ alone has the right to do what he wants with this life and not you. It means loved ones at least that but it does mean changing your mind about those things. And if you still have a mind that thinks, “Oh well, my mother is not really just my sister she’s really my mother I owe everything to her and my father is not just my elder brother he’s really my father and I owe everything to him.” Then you haven’t changed your mind because in fact, reality is that you and I were made in Jesus and we are part of him and we owe everything to him and he is, in fact, our Everlasting Father.
And the other is true, that this is a lie and a deception that God has allowed to take place so that we would be free to work out all that he has done here. You can see that he did all that in eternity and then he provided time for us to work that out in our free wills. And so what is being worked out here is what God has done there and it’s vital for us to change our mind about who is in this life. If you still think, “This is my life. I’m my own person. I have the right to act on my own; I have the right to think my own thoughts. I ought not to do bad things, but I have the right to do what I think is right.” If you have that feeling that you’re still on your own, that this is
still your own life, that this is not anybody else’s life but yours, in other words, if you still think that this life has only you to answer to and you don’t think that Jesus, that this is his life, that this is absolutely his life. That everybody else calls you by your first name but you know better, you know that Jesus is the name of this person here. If you don’t change your mind about that, then you aren’t repenting.
The second part of repentance is not by any means just the mental change of mind but it is a volitional change. Volition is will. It means that you stop doing those things. That you stop thinking that way about your parentage, you stop thinking that way about whose life this is, and you stop doing the things that spring from that attitude of mind. You actively exercise your will to stop that. Now, that’s what Jesus means when he says, “Repent.” And when you repent, then a mighty change takes place and all of eternity flows in to you here this little speck in time and all of eternity comes in and the Holy Spirit works the miracle of making eternity real in you and bringing you eternal life. But above all, making all this real in you and then you are born of the spirit.
Now that loved ones, is a mighty change and God works that change and he works it in response to an honest repentance. A repentance that means a change in the way you think about your life and that means a change in your will. It means you stop doing the things that really you have developed all through your life on the basis of the fact that this is your life and not anyone else’s. On the basis that you owe only what you do owe to your parents and to nobody else. But when you change that will, in other words, when you actually not simply believe it but when you say, “Lord God, thank you I am willing for that. I am willing to be destroyed in Christ and to be born from the Spirit and to come into you Lord Jesus, and for you to come into me and live your life over again in me.” Then, a mighty change takes place and the Holy Spirit enables you to be born from above.
The new birth is the only thing that will enable us to live this life. Now, all I’d like to say very plainly is, that is a change from darkness into light. That is being translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. That is a different kind of life and that life has certain clear qualities and clear symptoms that you cannot mistake. I’ll show you one of them, 1 John 3:9, “No one born of God,” no one who experiences that new birth, “Commits sin.” Why? “For God’s nature,” you can see that, “God’s nature abides in him,” Christ lives in him. “And he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.”
It’s just very clear. It’s just very clear and very plain, a person who is born of God, and you see how it explains it, a person who is born of God does not sin. He cannot sin because now it is not him that is alive it is Christ that is alive and he is translated utterly into a whole new way of life. I mean, sin he doesn’t – sin is no problem to him. It isn’t a problem not to sin because his whole heart is that of Jesus and he finds himself wanting to go the way Jesus wants. So, there’s an absolute change in him and so he doesn’t sin not because he says, “I must not sin. I must not sin, otherwise I’m not born of God so I have to not sin so that I can prove…” No, no, it’s not backwards like that at all. That’s like a person who is dead saying, “I’ll have to breathe, I’ll have to breathe to prove I’m alive and not dead.” Well you’re dead, you can’t breathe that’s it. In order to breathe you have to come alive. So it’s foolishness to say, “Oh well, I’ll have to try not to sin.” It’s like saying, “I have to try to breathe. I have to try to see. I have to try to hear.” No, those are all symptoms that you have if you’re alive. So, when a person who is born of God, they don’t sin. Why? Because God’s nature abides in them.
I want us to be very clear what sin is. James 4:17, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” That’s it nothing complicated. If you know what is right to do it and you don’t do it that’s sin. You don’t need to get into all kinds of theological niceties, it’s just plain and straight if you know what is right to do and you don’t do it then that is sin. Because? Of course, you can see why it’s sin, if you know all of this and you don’t do it well, then you’re just rejecting what the mighty God the Creator has done in eternity and what he had in mind when he made you. So, you’re turning against all that is power, and all that is live, and all that is good in the universe. So you’re deliberately turning against it so that is saying plainly to God, “You have given me free will to reject you. I reject you.” That’s what it is. Whoever knows what is right to do and doesn’t do it, that’s sin. That’s saying, “I do not want what you want. Whatever that means, I don’t want what you want.”
Now, I just want us to see these things so that we do not become a bunch of hypocrites and so that we do not become a group that plays games with each other and thinks that we can play games with God. I don’t want us to do that because we are lost if we do that. I’m lost and you’re lost if we play that kind of game so I want you to be very straight about it and not try to build a theological defense for yourself that enables you to continue to remain dead in your sins. When, because you see what I’m saying, when this all awaits you, as long as you are alive in this world this awaits you. That’s why the Bible says, “Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it.” Right up until you die this is all yours so this morning, if you feel, “Oh well, I am not in that position.” Then I’m saying, “Here it is the table is spread, the eternity is waiting, it is all alive for you.” God is saying today, “Come now and enter in. Come now and change your mind. Come now and change your will.” So that’s why I want you to see these things.
Not to make you sad and not to steal your assurance from you but so that you will do whatever is needed for all this to flow in upon you because you see, that’s what it is it is a flowing in. That’s why Jesus says, “It’s being born from above.” It’s a wonderful supernatural life that comes from him that is above yourself, it lifts you into a new realm, a realm that you can’t lift yourself into it. All eternity flows into time, eternal life comes into a little temporal being like us. That’s what it means.
Now, what I’d like you to do is to be clear, alright what are some sins? Galatians 5 and this is where I think it’s very easy for us to play games. Galatians 5:19, flesh is “sarx” in Greek and it means the life that is independent of God. “Now the works of the flesh,” the works of a life that is independent of God, “Are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.” Now, what God is saying there is all of these are works of the flesh. Any one of them is a work of the flesh. You might be free from fornication for various reasons, you might be free of impurity for various reasons, you might be free of idolatry because of the society you live in, but if you have enmity towards anyone, or strife, or jealousy, or anger, or selfishness, or dissension, then you have a work of the flesh. That is sin.
Now, if you’re angry with anybody else in this family at any time, or if you lose your temper with somebody else, if you express angry words to another person in this room, of course if you express angry words to anybody outside this room it’s the same, but if you do that, that is sin. That is sin and Christ does not sin. And if Christ is in you he does not sin. So it’s very important that you and I are real about it, otherwise we become just a clever bunch of sophisticates who go and preach to the people in Thailand and the people in China and we ourselves live like devils. And then you see, we have a way of saying to ourselves, “Oh well, we’re trying, we’re trying.” No, it
doesn’t matter how hard you try a dead person with all the trying in the world can’t become an alive person. So, a person who is born of the flesh cannot become a person born of the spirit by trying. They can only do it by a total repentance, a total change of mind about who owns their life, a total change of mind about whose life this is. And only then if they are willing to stop these things and to stop these sins, because that’s what repentance is, it is not only changing your mind about who owns your life, and changing your mind about who lives in your life, but it’s a volitional act stopping the sins that you have become conscious of in your life. And of course, before you do that you have to confess them and confess you remember, is agreeing with God about what is sin.
Now, while you continue to count anger as just a refined type of failure in your personality, you are not agreeing with God. God says, “Anger is sin.” He says – you’ve heard how it was said of old time whoever kills is guilty of the judgment. I say to you whoever is angry with your brother is guilty of the judgment. Jesus said that anger is like killing just the same as unclean thoughts are like committing adultery. And what you need to see is that he says that to us to help us, to save us, not to beat us down but to bring home to our hearts that if that is in our life, Christ is not in our life. And it’s vital for us to allow Christ to be in our lives.
What of course is really the truth is the dear Savior is in your life but he’s being crucified daily by your refusal to believe that he is in your life, and your refusal to let him live, and your determination to behave the same way as the very soldiers that killed him behaved. So of course, it is a wretched agony that is taking place inside you. Christ himself is being crucified daily and moment-by-moment by your own attitude and you yourself are living in the midst of death and deadness. So loved ones, it is vital to be honest about that. It’s vital for Marty to be, it’s vital for me to be honest about that. For Martha, for Sheila, it’s vital for each of us to be very honest. You cannot be angry with each other, you cannot have strife and dissention, you cannot argue with each other, you cannot have those things in your heart and Christ be living in you. You cannot, it is a contradiction. God’s nature abides in one who is born of God and he cannot sin because God’s nature abides in him.
What we need to do is be very honest and real about our sins and then see that this very moment God is willing, this very moment. But that will only continue as long as you have that attitude of mind. You are my parent Lord Jesus, I was made in you. This is your life, you are to live this life as you please and I exercise my will along with yours to reject all sin. Everything that I know is wrong I will turn from. Now wherever there is not a soft and yielding heart like that then Christ does not dwell and you need to be born of God. So it’s very important that we are born of God and it’s very important that we live in the light of what God has done in Jesus and that we live the life of one who is born of God. If you don’t live that life you are not born of God.
So loved ones, I do ask you please not to lower the standard of heaven because you’re just lying to yourself. The standard of heaven and the standard of Jesus is a life above sin, above known sin. And if we’re not living that life then there is the answer and God is willing every moment, until we die and then comes the judgment. He’s willing every moment to bring all this in upon us through the Holy Spirit, more than willing, if we are willing to accept in our hearts and our wills what he has done in eternity. Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, we see you standing before us with all of eternity in your hands and you’re holding it out to us. And we see Lord that you cannot give it to people who do not believe. We see you can only fill us with yourself if we believe that we were made in you and owe everything to you and you are our Everlasting Father and if we believe that this is your life, it is not ours. It is yours to
live. You alone have the right to make decisions in it. You have the right to do with it what you want. But we do see Lord, that if we believe those things then we will exercise our will in the light of reality. We see that we will turn this very day from every known sin in our life and we will stop doing it.
We will stop being angry with another person. We will stop being jealous of another person. We will stop being proud. We will stop being critical because your heart is in this. And we see Lord that your heart is here. That all the yearnings we’ve had for being good has come from you. It has been you crying out within us to be allowed to live and we have repeatedly rolled the stone back over the grave to keep you dead so that we could live.
Lord Jesus, we see that you give us the choice this very day, to roll that stone away from the mouth of the grave and to come to you on our knees and apologize with all our hearts for having buried you and to help you free from the grave clothes and to allow you to live free and whole and complete and royal in this life.