Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pastoral Implications of Regeneration

More thoughts about the new birth....

If people have been regenerated, then they have new desires for God that previously did not exist. They have new spiritual taste buds that now enjoy God. Even though sin deceives and tempts, the regenerated man has the glory of God at the center of his heart's joy.

If that's the case, then we should be able to assume some truths as we minister to believers.

1. If we preach Christ, people's hearts will be warmed. We don't need to moralize or convince by the strength of our voice. We simply need to present Christ in all His glory and splendor and beauty and sufficiency. As Christ is revealed, people's hearts will warm and the sin which so easily entangles will begin to melt away.

2. People want Christ to be preached. This is an implication of regeneration - now, its the glory of Christ that is satisfying for the thirsty soul. So we can preach and teach and counsel with confidence.

3. We can appeal to their own deepest desires in our exhortations. We don't have to convince the unconvincable - we have an audience of people who we know will respond to the preaching of Christ. So we can dip into the well their longings when bringing adjustment. This means saying something more like "You know in your heart this is the truth of God" vs. "If you can't see this is the truth of God, you must be blind."

4. We can trust the Holy Spirit to regenerate the unbeliever as we preach. If regeneration is necessary for faith, and if regeneration comes by the Spirit as the gospel is presented, then we don't need to convince the unconvincable. They are unable to be convinced apart from the Spirit. So we shouldn't modify the message of the cross; rather, we can trust that God will work in the lost to save and in the Christian to encourage/challenge.

Thank you Spirit for the work of regeneration.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Birth and Faith

First of all - sorry its been so long since my last post. That is to say, if there is anyone still out there who reads this, sorry.

Ok moving forward.

I've been thinking alot lately about the new birth in John 3 and its relationship to our faith. Jesus says to Nicodemus, in essence, your religion won't get you into the kingdom of heaven. Only the new birth will produce the kind of faith that's needed. Jesus is saying that the promise of Ezekiel 36 must take place in order to get access to God. Until then, all we do is religious works that flow from hearts that treasure our own religious works.

I think one legitimate question that is raised is 'How do I know if I've been born again?' Are we supposed to look to ourselves in evaluation, discerning whether we've been reborn? Jesus would say no. His response is to look to him and believe. Anyone who looks to the Son of Man will be saved, and that is a product of the new birth. You can tell you have saving faith not by looking inward but by looking outward and treasuring Christ from the heart. Only the regenerated heart can do that.

I read a great illustration by Clement Read Vaughan. He was inquired of by a friend who was dying and doubting his salvation. This friend asked how he could maintain his faith in the face of death and here was Vaughan's response:

"What would a traveler do if he came to a chasm over which a bridge was spanned? What does he do to breed confidence in the bridge? He looks at the bridge; he gets down and examines it. He doesn't stand at the bridge-head and turns his thoughts curiously in on his own mind to see if has enough confidence in the bridge. If his examination of the bridge gives him a certain amount of confidence, and yet he wants more, how does he make his faith grow? Why, in the same way; he still continues to examine the bridge. Now my dear old man, let your faith take care of itself for awhile, and you just think of what you are allowed to trust in. Think of the Master's power, think of his love, think how he is interested in the soul that searches for him, and will not be comforted until he finds him. Think of what he has done, his work. That blood of his is mightier than all the sins of all the sinners that ever lived. Don't you think it will master yours?.....

Now, dear old friend, may God give you grace, not to lay too much stress on your faith, but to grasp the great ground of confidence, Christ, and all his work and all his personal fitness to be a sinner's refuge. Faith is only an eye to see him. I have been praying that God would quiet your pains as you advance, and enable you to see the gladness of the gospel at every step. Goodbye. God be with you as he will. Think of the Bridge!"

I have been challenged all the more to keep my eyes on the Bridge, Jesus Christ, and to let my faith be in the certainty and sufficiency of his gospel! Turn your eyes to the Bridge!

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