Posts Tagged ‘regeneration’

Thanks to Charlie Jordan for finding this. The atheist who wrote this article, Matthew Parris, describes the regeneration associated with faith and the work of the Holy Spirit in a far more moving and convincing way than most Western Christians. I recommend you read the whole thing

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

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This is the text that I spoke from at Sunday School on Nov 23.  These notes are not the full talk.  If you were there, you will notice much new material and much left out.  I write this out in full so that I can internalize and deliver it without being too dependent on a “script”.  Nevertheless, the substance is still here.  Enjoy!

Thy Will be Done!

“To Inspire All People, Through the Power of the Gospel, to Become Living Members of the Body of Christ”

Sunday School

Nov 23, 2008

 

This morning we will examine the second petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”  It is important before we begin for me to state clearly what it is that I hope we will accomplish this morning.  What we will not be doing this morning is a systematic look at the nature of God’s will as it is revealed in the Bible.  Rather, what I hope to do this morning is to help us understand what it means to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  I hope that as we present the Gospel as it applies to this portion of the Lord’s prayer, it will affect your heart in such a way that you will be inspired to come more alive to God, as is our stated purpose in all that we do here at Trinity Church. 

Let us begin with a brief examination of God’s will. (more…)

Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself and by whose side would you sit? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes are not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy, if you had not been holy on earth?

Now perhaps you love the company of the light and careless, the worldly-minded and the covetous, the reveler and the pleasure-seeker, the ungodly and the profane. There will be none such in heaven.

Now perhaps you think the saints of God too strict and particular and serious. You rather avoid them. You have no delight in their society. There will be no other company in heaven.

Now perhaps you think praying and Scripture reading, and hymn singing, dull and melancholy and stupid work, a thing to be tolerated now and then, but not enjoyed. You reckon the Sabbath a burden and a weariness; you could not possibly spend more than a small part of it in worshipping God. But remember, heaven is a never-ending Sabbath. The inhabitants thereof rest not day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” and singing the praise of the Lamb. How could an unholy man find pleasure in occupation such as this? (more…)

what Scripture requires, essentially, is a new heart. That heart is given by grace, but God’s Spirit progressively cultivates it until it fully becomes what it essentially is, a heart consecrated to God and obedient to him. Thus there is a fundamental unity to biblical ethics. Biblical commandments are concerned with forming the heart, and each does it for a different angle.

That single heart-quality may be called “love.” Or it may be described in many ways, each of which characterizes the whole. The “new heart” is a heart which sets no gods before the Lord, which worships no idols, which speaks no blasphemy, and so on. You can understand, then, why if you keep one commandment perfectly, you will thereby keep all the others. And if you disobey one, it detracts from your obedience to the others. There is a single heart-attitude in all obedience, and a single attitude involved in all sin.

Sometimes when we do a job we divide it neatly into parts: do this part first, leaving the others aside for the time being. Then move on to the others. The living of the Christian life is not like that. You cannot work on your attitudes toward authority, for example, leaving everything else aside until you have perfected that area; for if you do that, your attitude toward authority will always be defective. (One who respects God’s authority wants to hear and obey every word that proceeds from God.) Rather what we need to do is to hear everything God says and seek to obey at each moment.

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On page 2531 of the ESVSB in the article entitled “Biblical Doctrine: An Overview” under the subheading of “salvation” it reads as follows:

From God’s vantage point salvation begins with his election of individuals, which is his determination beforehand that his saving purpose will be accomplished in them (John 6:37–39, 44, 64–66; 8:47; 10:26; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; Romans 9; 1 John 4:19; 5:1). God then in due course brings people to himself by calling them to faith in Christ (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:9).
God’s calling produces regeneration, which is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in which a spiritually dead person is made alive in Christ (Ezek. 11:19–20; Matt. 19:28; John 3:3, 5, 7; Titus 3:5). The revived heart repents and trusts Christ in saving faith as the only source of justification.

Notice that the editors clearly affirm that a regenerated, revived heart precedes repentance and trust in Christ. It goes on to describe saving faith as follows:

To be a Christian means one has traded in his “polluted garment” of self-righteousness for the perfect righteousness of Christ (Phil. 3:8–9; cf. Isa. 64:6). He has ceased striving and now rests in the finished work of Christ—no longer depending on personal accomplishments, religious pedigree, or good works for God’s approval, but only on what Christ has accomplished on his behalf (Phil. 2:8–9). A Christian understands with Paul that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). As regards Jesus paying the penalty for our sins, the Christian believes that when Jesus said, “it is finished” (John 19:30), it really was. Because of this, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), and they have been “saved to the uttermost” (Heb. 7:25). A miraculous transformation has taken place in which the believer has “passed from death to life” (John 5:24). The Holy Spirit empowers the transformation from rebellious sinner to humble worshiper, leading to “confidence for the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17).

Now moving away from the theological essays, we would like to point to some related commentary the ESVSB makes on a few important texts of Scripture which speak of regeneration:  check them out here

When the divine command comes to a butterfly, “Fly!” it feels no burden, no fear, no guilt. It just does what it has been made to do: it flies—and sings to the grace of God with every flap of the wing. It has the new nature of a flier that it didn’t have when it was a larva in the cocoon. That is what Scougal means by the “vital principle” of true religion in the soul.

But when the divine command comes to the larva in the cocoon, “Fly!” it does not fly. Instead it has three options for how it can respond. 1) It can sink in despair and say, “I can’t fly! There is no hope for me!” Or 2) it can soar in self-deceit and say, “I am flying! See, there is the ground way down there.” Or 3) it can do what St. Augustine did and cry out, “Command what you will, and grant what you command—Make me a butterfly, O my God!”

The true and wonderful thing about the comparison is that it points to the necessity and the miracle of the new birth. To be a Christian is to have a new vital principle of life in the soul so that the commands of God are not oppressive, but are the beckoning of a beautiful spring day and the aroma of a flower-filled garden. By the grace of God we have been transformed into butterflies. The life of God has come to dwell in our soul and it is now our nature to be up and flying for the Savior.

read it all here