JESUS ANSWERED AND SAID UNTO [NICODEMUS], VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO THEE, EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN, HE CANNOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD. (John 3:3 KJV)
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
At this time of the year millions of people are busily thinking about and making New Year's resolutions in order to do many things better; to be a better person; to lose weight; to stop drinking alcohol; to stop smoking; and many other resolutions which they believe to be for their benefit. Almost none of these resolutions are kept for very long. There is a reason why they are not kept and cannot be kept. The real heart of the problem for every person in the world is the heart itself. The prophet Jeremiah said in God's Word, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The fact that the heart is deceitful, and it is, means that even the person making the resolution is deceived. The resolution itself always looks to be correct – truthful. But it deceives us. In fact, the truth is stated that the heart is so deceitful and so desperately wicked that we cannot even know our own hearts, much less the resolutions that we make at this time of the year.
The Apostle Paul pinpoints the reason in his letter to the Church at Ephesus wherein he says the following: “and you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in times past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:1 - 3)
Notice that the problem of the heart is that apart from Christ we are dead. Apart from Christ every person is dead in trespasses and sins and every person is by nature a child of wrath. What is the controlling factor one may ask? And the answer is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience! We are all by nature apart from Christ in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; we are by nature the children of wrath!. Indeed, the same Apostle Paul, when he was writing to the Church at Rome said, “for when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6) We note three things about those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ: first, we see that they are without strength; second, we see that they are ungodly; finally, we see that in due time, or, at the appointed time by God, Christ Jesus came into the world and died for the ungodly. Of course, that means that no sin is too great to disqualify one from Christ's death for him. Obviously, it also means that there are no sins that are too great or too many for Christ to die for the ungodly.
In Paul's letter to the Church of Rome in the very first chapter in verses 18 through 32, we see a detailed account of what ungodliness means. We also see the fact that the wrath of God is already revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness and those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. None can stand. None can survive. None can even see the Kingdom of God unless they are born- again. What does this mean? Are you and your children and grandchildren “born-again"?
Jesus asked on one occasion, “what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36) One can also ask it this way: what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own son, daughter, or grandchild? What a tragedy; especially in light of the fact that “in due time, while we were yet without strength, while we were still dead in our trespasses and sins, Christ died for the ungodly!”
What does the wrath of God mean? One explanation is it is the divine judge’s [God ] righteous retribution and personal revulsion evoked by moral evil. And, of course, we note from Romans chapter one verses 18 through 32 that God's judgment is not limited to some future time because His antagonism toward sin is already revealed in the world. Its effects are visible even now.
The only way to escape God's wrath is not by making some New Year's resolution to be a better person, a better husband or wife, or a better citizen. It is only to be born-again. It is in being born-again that we receive a new heart; we are declared to be righteous by the Lord God Himself. There is no other way! If there had been another way possible it would not have been necessary for the Son of God to have come to the world and be crucified. The amazing thing is that the Lord God wants us to know Him. He sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world. The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world “in due time", or one may say at the exact “appointed time”. “The Lord Jesus Christ came to save those who were still without strength" (Romans 5:6)
The great expository preacher of the 20th century, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd- Jones, said that in this verse, in Romans chapter 5 verse 6, the Apostle Paul is giving an exposition of the Gospel of John chapter 3 verse 16. Therefore, we see the Apostle Paul saying Christ came and “died for the ungodly". Paul also puts it in his first letter to Timothy as follows: "this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. How be it, for this reason, I have obtained mercy that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering as a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to everlasting life" (1 Timothy 1:15 – 16)
Therefore, we see the following: First, the true fact is that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world not to condemn the world, but to save sinners. Second, the how can one be born-again? Preliminarily then, this is the reason why all of the New Year's resolutions that are being made are almost never fulfilled. Men are dead in their trespasses and sins; they are ungodly; they are unrighteous and they cannot do right even when they want to. This, of course, doesn't mean that men are as bad as they could be, but it does mean that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”. (Isaiah 64:6)
I. THE NECESSITY TO BE BORN-AGAIN
Clearly the Lord Jesus Christ told Nicodemus, who was a master-teacher in Israel, a ruler of the Jews, and a rabbi, that one must be born-again or he will in no wise see the Kingdom of Heaven, meaning that one cannot go to Heaven unless one is born-again. One's record means nothing. It is of no consequence whatsoever to say, “well I've been pretty good maybe not perfect but pretty good and better than most". It is our record that we need saving from. It therefore cannot be the basis on which one receives salvation.
The Apostle Paul states in Philippians chapter 3 that he came to the conclusion that his record meant nothing. He came to that conclusion because the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him this Holy Truth. In Philippians chapter 3, Paul states that he had a good record, and that if anybody could place confidence in their record, or in the flesh, he, Paul, could do so more. However, in that 3rd chapter in verses 2 through 11, the great Apostle Paul confesses that his good record was nothing more than “dung" – manure! Indeed, we see above that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64: 6) Paul is making it clear that no one can place any confidence in the flesh, or in his record (Philippians 3:3) In Romans, Paul says (Romans 3:9- 20), none are righteous – not one! Good deeds cannot save you. In chapter 5 of his letter to the Church of Rome, Paul states clearly that at the appointed time God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ into the world – not to condemn the world – but to save the world! It is precisely because we were without strength, meaning unable to save ourselves, and ungodly, meaning that we were not like God and were not going to be with God apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, that the Lord Jesus Christ came! As we saw earlier in the 2nd chapter of Ephesians, we are not merely without strength, we are actually dead! Dead men walking! And what do they walk after? Ungodliness and disobedience. The great Charles H. Spurgeon, called by many “the Prince of Preachers” said the following: “Ah, you may try and reform, dear friends, but you will find you cannot do it, and remember even if you could, still it would not be the work which God requires; he will not have reformation, he will have renovation, he will have a new heart, and not a heart changed a little…..” .
Thus, the reason why we must be born-again, is that we are actually incapable of saving ourselves – just as we are incapable of making and keeping any “New Year's resolution". Even if one could keep a New Year's resolution, in other words, even if his record was in fact good, he would not be any more righteous than the “pile of filthy rags” that we see referenced in Isaiah 64, or the pile of dung and the record referenced by the Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 3. Are you born-again? What about your children and grandchildren and all of your relatives and your neighbors? How can one be born-again?
II. THE METHOD OF BEING BORN-AGAIN
The method of being born-again is all of the Lord! It is for God to choose that you will be born-again. Indeed, it is only by God's grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, that anyone can be born-again. (Ephesians 2:8-10). Jesus, Himself, told Nicodemus that he must be born of the Spirit in order to see the Kingdom of Heaven. In the very first chapter of the gospel of John, we find this written: "… As many as received Him, to THEM [only] did he give the right to become the children of God. Even to those who believe on His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.” It is God the Holy Spirit who causes us to be born-again. It is God's sovereign choice alone. We cannot purchase being born-again; we cannot earn it by a good record; and we cannot barter for it. We can ask for it. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ says in Matthew chapter 7 ,”ask and you shall receive; seek you and shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.“(Matthew 7:7-11 KJV)
Thus, we receive the Lord Jesus Christ by God's grace alone, as a sheer gift, through faith in His promise – faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Christ is God's good news to all men. It is “the power of God unto salvation, to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek “(Romans 1:16) God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19) He has committed unto us this word of reconciliation. Is it committed unto you? Are you an ambassador for Christ? The Apostle Paul writes, “now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we beg you therefore in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled unto God." (2 Corinthians 5:20) We want to encourage people to come unto Him. Jesus Himself said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and by burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) This is the manner in which we are to be born-again. We hear the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We receive the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We place our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. The following is set forth as a precise synopsis of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)
It is only in hearing and receiving and believing the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that we can escape the wrath of God.(John 3:36) In the gospel of John in chapter 6 , we see Jesus responding to the question that was posed to Him by the multitude when they ask Him what one can do to do the works of God? Here is what He said: “Then said they unto him, what shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘this is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom he hath sent.’ “(John 6:28-29)
Therefore, God’s revealed way to be born-again is by the Holy Spirit as a part of God’s sovereign choice. Before the foundation of the world, God gave many to the Lord Jesus Christ to be His possession. The Lord Jesus Christ in due time came for those who were ungodly and died for them. He rose again from the dead to be the propitiation of all those whom the Father had given to the Son; to all those whom the Father gives, by grace alone, saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask, seek, knock, and go on asking and seeking and knocking and He will give you the new birth. Tell your children, tell your grandchildren, tell your relatives, tell all those you know of Jesus who is mighty to save. “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them”. (Hebrews 7:25)
Make a real and everlasting New Year’s Resolution this new year. Believe on the Lord God Jesus Christ.
Now unto to Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen!
Worldview Weekend Foundation
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