A new friend of mine, an elderly gentleman I would guess around age 80, has become quite the center of focus for my prayer life. You see, he’s not a believer, and would probably fall into the category somewhere between agnostic and atheist, though leaning more to unsure belief. To ask him, he would put his hand up, drop it down in an “axe” like motion to signify the middle of the road, not believing in God or the devil, but content to straddle the fence. Despite these beliefs, he recognizes the difference between good and evil in his life and can point towards an event that ended the “old life” and created a “new birth” so to speak. The only problem is that this event was a stroke and not a conversion through the blood of Jesus.
This really has me thinking, first on how can I evangelize to a man that seems so content on his beliefs and life that any eternal decision is not welcome change. Secondly, it has me thinking about a true “new birth” and what that signifies in a person’s life. While my new friend recognizes a change in his life from evil to good, that evil is still a part of his life and he has never been cleansed from it. To my knowledge there’s been no confession or repentance to Christ. The Bible tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 Despite the stroke that might make him feel a greater sense of moral conscience, it has not cleansed him from unrighteousness.
Jesus tells us in John 3:7, “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.'” This new birth, along with justification, are fundamental doctrines of Christianity. As John Wesley would say, the latter represents that great work which God does for us in forgiving our sins, while the former relates to the work that God does in us, renewing our fallen nature. Mr. Wesley continues along this thought, “In order of time, neither of these is before the other. In the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also ‘born of the Spirit.’ But in order of thinking, as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth. We first conceive His wrath to be turned away and then His Spirit to work in our hearts.”
These two fundamental truths bring forth 3 questions, questions that would apply to my new friend. One, Why must we be born again?; secondly, How must we be born again?; thirdly, For what purpose must we be born again?. To answer the first question, we must understand some basic principles. Man was created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 This was a wholly perfect and moral image. The problem came about from the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. From that point forward, each of us was born into sin. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Additionally, we’re taught in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Because we are born into sin, we are spiritually dead and as such each of us require a new birth, or to be born again.
The second question is a bit more delicate. Jesus, talking to Nicodemus in John 3, says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:3 Understandably, Nicodemus replies, “”How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” John 3:4 Masterfully, “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” To realize the “how” to be born again, we must first recognize the “why” from the first question and that is that we are sinful in nature. As we learned in I John 1:9, we must confess those sins to God. Likewise, we must realize the truth that God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for those sins. John 3:16 With His death, burial, and resurrection, our sins, our sinful nature, died and was buried; we too were raised to walk in newness of life and are spiritually “born again.” Romans 6:4 If we faithfully believe these truths and ask Christ to come into our hearts as our Lord and Savior, then God will provide us the Holy Spirit to begin our new life.
Now the final question, For what purpose must we be born again? As soon as a person is born of God, just as a baby is born, their eyes are open to see God, their ears open to hear Him. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Ephesians 1:18 Having these new spiritual senses, our life changes in such a way that we are now able to see God’s purpose in our lives. This rebirth gives forth the Holy Spirit to live within us and as such to grow in Christ and reflect the fruits of the Spirit, “… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25 God’s purpose in our lives, the purpose for our rebirth, goes all the way back to Adam being created in the image of God, to be holy. That’s it. You don’t need a “purpose driven” book or a search for the meaning of life. It’s that simple, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” I Peter 1:15-16 Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
So what about my new friend? For him to realize, just like you, God’s purpose in his life, he must recognize why he must be born again, because he is a sinner Romans 6:23; he must know how to be born again by confessing his sins to God, believing in the name of His Son Jesus and in His death, burial, and resurrection for his sins and then to call on the name of the Lord Jesus to enter his heart as Savior I John 1:9 Romans 3:23 Romans 5:8 Romans 6:23 Romans 10:13 ; and finally, he must know the purpose of being born again, to live holy. Ephesians 4:24 Romans 6:1-2
Please pray for my friend, as I pray for you, that the Holy Spirit will continue to work and that these truths will be revealed.
Have a Blessed Day!
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2