The Gift of Regeneration

Steve Viars November 26, 2017 John 3
Outline

Ephesians 4:14-15 - As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…

4 characteristics of our new life in Christ

I. It is an Honest Gift Because It Tells Us about Our Need

A. Defining regeneration

“Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us.” – Wayne Grudem

  • Titus 3:5 - He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
  • 1 Peter 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
  • 1 John 2:29 - If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
  • 1 John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
  • 1 John 5:4 - For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
  • John 3:15 - …so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
  • John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

B. Understanding Nicodemus

John 3:1 - Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews…

John 3:2 - …this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

C. How this story fits into the overall context

John 1:9-13 - There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 2:23-25 - Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

Ephesians 2:1 - And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…

Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

II. It is a Reliable Gift Because It Fulfills Old Testament Prophecy

A. You should have known this

John 3:10 - Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?

B. The source of this terminology is the Old Testament

Ezekiel 36:24-27 - “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

C. Meaning of “being born of water and the Spirit”

D. The powerful evidence when it truly occurs

John 3:8 - The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

III. It is a Loving Gift Because It Involves Great Sacrifice

A. On the part of the One with first-hand knowledge

John 3:13 - No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.

B. The powerful analogy of the serpent in the wilderness

John 3:14 - As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…

1 Peter 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

IV. It is an Eternal Gift Because He Who Receives It Will Never Perish

- Do you have anyone in your life you would describe as especially skilled at giving gifts?...I imagine most of us can think of at least someone…

- not because the gifts are large or expensive necessarily – but they’re just well-timed, thoughtful, and creative…

- now, I’m absolutely sure that no one at either FE, FW, or anyone on the internet, when asked that question, thought about…me…

- I know that because, for one thing, I’m a trained counselor and I can read you minds (which comes in very handy by the way)…

- and also because I admit – I’m a terrible gift-giver…unless it’s cash or a gift card, I’ll mess it up…

- and I’m sure if we scratched around long enough…that would reveal all sorts of character flaws in me…which is exactly why we’re not going to scratch around on it any longer this am…

- so let’s go back to the positive side – do you have someone in your life who’s just really good at it?...

- over 25 years ago...our family was the recipient of a gift like that…

- it was right after our church decided to host our first Living Nativity over 25 years ago…

- it started when Pastor Goode and I were doing some biblical counseling training at a church in Slidell, LA…and they started telling us about this outdoor evangelistic ministry they had at Christmastime…

- looking back – perhaps we should have thought a bit longer about the difference in temperature in LA and IN in December…but why let a little detail like that get in the way of a good ministry idea…

- and this is something I loved about Pastor Goode – even though he was in his latter years of ministry at that time…he didn’t mind trying new things at all…

- so that next Christmas, he and Arvid Olson and I flew down to Slidell to see theirs in action…

- Arvid has a master’s degree in theatrical design and ended up being an invaluable part of this story – along with his side-kick who joined the team a bit later, Ken Sherwin…

- and it’s funny what you remember about ministry trips like that…

- our plane was late so we drove straight to the church and they were just getting things set up…

- so one of their rather rotund pastoral staff members was trying to get a donkey on the set…but he just wouldn’t budge…

- so the donkey just sat down on his haunches and this pastor was dragging him (gently of course) across the parking lot on his back side…

- so he saw us and yelled out – we call this one “deacon”…and kept right on going…

- but what really stands out is the excitement that was in the air…cars were already lining up waiting to see and hear their presentation of the gospel…and we decided right then and there that we were going to recommend this to our church family…

- so we came back and had a presentation and vote – it involved a rather significant financial investment…and our congregation got down to work…

- Arvid and his team did a fabulous job on the sets…a rather sizable percentage of our church family was involved…and my role was to deal with the administrative and organizational pieces…

- well, it was fun, but it was also tiring…

- and so woman from our church bough our family this beautifully painted nativity set that we could put up in our yard…

- I had never seen anything like it before and we set it up at our house for years until it literally just wore out…

- but the point of the gift was – thank you for all your work on our church’s LN – here’s something that you and your family can enjoy as you celebrate the birth of our Savior…

- it was incredibly thoughtful…and greatly appreciated…

- you probably have some stories like that in your life too – I hope you do – of just receiving the perfect gift by a very thoughtful person…

- well, we all have that story this time of year – at least potentially, don’t we?...because of the marvelous gift we’ve received at Christmastime…

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible to John chapter 3…page 72 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- our theme all this year has been In Christ Alone…and so we thought at Christmastime, we would study…Gifts that Comes from Being in Christ

- so we’re going to study topics like justification, and propitiation, security, and eternal hope…

- this morning we’d like to launch all of this by looking at The Gift of Regeneration

- part of our privilege and responsibility as pastors is to teach theology – the study of God and His Word…Paul said it this way…

- Ephesians 4:14–15 - As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

- now, we always want this to be practical…theology is never given in Scripture apart from real life applications…but talking about the practice apart from a sound and growing foundation is ultimately both powerless and meaningless…

- it degenerates into pious sentimentalism or trivial religious entertainment…but there’s no meat or substance to it…

- so, what are some of the gifts that come from being in Christ?...

- it might also be helpful to know that systematic theology has various classifications…

- so there’s Theology Proper – the doctrine of God

- Anthropology – the doctrine of man

- Hamartiology – the doctrine of sin

- Christology – the doctrine of Christ

- Pneumatology – the doctrine of the Holy Spirit

- Angelology – the doctrine of angels

- Ecclesiology – the doctrine on the local church

- Eschatology – the doctrine of the end times

- what’s we’re studying in this series falls under the heading of Soteriology – the doctrine of salvation

- honestly, I can’t think of a more delightful and powerful and practical topic for us to discuss this Christmas season…what are the gifts that comes being in Christ?...

- one great answer to that question is – The Gift of Regeneration

- read John 3:1-16

- so we’re talking about the gift of regeneration, and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 4 characteristics of our new life in Christ.

I. It is an Honest Gift Because it Tells Us About Our Need

A. Defining Regeneration

- Theologian Wayne Grudem defines regeneration as Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us – Wayne Grudem.

- you can recognize some of these words and concepts as coming directly from the verses we just read in John 3. 

- and there’s all sorts of theological issues and even debates wrapped up in this concept…many of which we’re not going to get sidetracked by this am in this setting…

- but at the core is a beautiful gift of new life…

- [show picture of Jackson]…

- some of you know our family was blessed with our third grandson last week joining Liam and Jude…[show pic from FB of me holding Liam and Jude]

- so this morning I don’t want to get sidetracked in controversy in a way that would take the focus away from what’s clear and most important…

- in regeneration, God is imparting to us the gift of new life in Him…

- here’s a few other passages where this concept is developed and explained

  • Titus 3:5 - He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
  • 1 Peter 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
  • 1 John 2:29 - If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
  • 1 John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
  • 1 John 5:4 - For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

- so, regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us.

- now, let’s bring this definition into what unfolded in John 3…

B. Understanding Nicodemus

- verse 1 says that he was….John 3:1 - Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;

- so he would have been extremely devout…extremely religious…part of the Sanhedrin, the group who interpreted and applied and made the law for the Jewish nation…

- if anyone was going to heaven, humanly speaking, on the basis of his own merit…it was this man…

- and he comes by night – and different writers try to make all sorts of points of points about that – about the only thing we can say for sure is – that means it was dark outside…

- and history suggests that’s when the Sanhedrin often held their deliberations…so that’s what may have occurred here – they were debating who Jesus was, and so Nicodemus is selected to go ask Him…

- and he addresses Christ respectfully, but as if he’s simply another human being…and he doesn’t actually ask a question – he just says…

- John 3:2 - this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

- implied in that is – who are you?...I’ve been sent to gather more information so that we can judge you…

- and when we read the next two verses, we learn that this is one of the many places is Scripture where God cuts right to heart of the matter…

- instead of you judging me, let’s let the Word of God judge you…

- because if you want to see the kingdom of God [verse 3]…something supernatural has to happen to you…

- if you want to enter the kingdom of God [verse 5]…that will require a secret act of God in which He imparts new life to you…

- meaning there is something fundamentally wrong with your life as it is currently being lived…and no amount of human effort and attempts at self-righteousness and personal improvement can overcome that fatal flaw…you must be – born again…

- Jesus was offering him an honest gift because it told him about his need…

- now, this is one of the many places in the Bible where the chapter division is very unfortunate…because what has already been said chapters 1-2?...

C. How this story fits into the overall context

- John 1:9–13 - There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

- that prepares us to hear the story of Nicodemus, as does what occurred in chapter, where John tells about the miracle of turning water into wine and then later cleansing the temple…

- but please look carefully at the end of chapter 2…

- John 2:23–25 - Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

- do you see the word “man” here -- over and over – generically in this passage to signify the fickle state of human beings…

- and how does chapter 3 begin…now there was a man…

- here’s another person who thinks he believes…who thinks he’s right with God…who thinks he’s going to earn his way to heaven…

- and who needs to receive a gift…a gift of honesty…

- before God in your own righteousness you are spiritually…dead…

- Ephesians 2:1 - And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

- Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

- this is why repentance is central to the process of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ…

- God grants new life – evidenced by a human being repenting of his or her sin and choosing to believe the gospel message…

- the flow of thought between chapter 2 and chapter 3 is this – Jesus is looking for genuine conversion, not fascination with the spectacular…

- that is why the LN starts in the Garden of Eden…it always has…

- because without an acknowledgement of sin…there is no reason to look to God for a solution…

- that is a hard message…but it is an essential one…and the Christmas story makes absolutely no sense without it…

- let me give you three quick implications of this:

1. as a pastor, I have a great concern for anyone who might have started attending our church, or even joined our church…but in reality is very much like Nicodemus…I’m good enough to save myself…

- but there’s been no genuine regeneration because there was no conviction that is was necessary….

- and our message to such a person would be – you must be born again…you must humble yourself and accept a gift that you have absolutely no ability to earn…

2. this dramatically affects the way we do ministry here – you may have wondered why the people on our counseling staff are slow about being licensed by the state…the answer is, because depending on who you listen to…licensure could obligate you to having to accept the client’s goal at face value…so if they want to divorce their spouse without biblical grounds…you have to support them in that goal…

- if they want to try to overcome alcohol dependence using some secular technique…you have to let them set the agenda…

- and we would respectfully say – we cannot and we will not place ourselves in a position where we’re discussing the most important issues of a person’s life without being able to clearly point out – you must be born again…

- your marriage problems…your substance abuse problems…your struggle with anxiety…whatever it might be --- often is an indication of a lack of new life in Christ…you need a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit of God…you must be born again…

- that message is a gift…a gift of honesty…

3. this should affect the way anyone thinks about addressing social issues in our community…

- lots of people right now are rushing to the table to talk about the drug and alcohol epidemic we’re facing…

- and a number of local foundations desire to be of help and we’re thankful for that…

- but some of those same foundations say right on their websites – we will not support anything faith-based…

- which puts a number of non-profits in this town in a real bind…because on the one hand, they know there is often a faith-based component to the best practice treatment of the persons they are serving – but on the other hand they can’t risk losing the money from the foundations…

- and our response to that is – we wish you the best…but we will never be ashamed of the gospel…

- and if you happen to work for one of those companies or sit on one of those boards – you might want to respectfully put your hand in the area at the right time and right place and say something like – excuse me….excuse me…why are we discriminating against faith based ideas when it’s very apparent that secular treatments are very well…

- is it possible that this wrongful discrimination is making the problem worse not better…

- so it’s a honest gift because it tells us about our need…

II. It is a Reliable Gift because it Fulfills Old Testament Prophecy

- Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus…

A. You should have known this.

- John 3:10 - Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?

- well, how should Nicodemus have known this?...because it was clearly and repeatedly taught….

B. The source of this terminology is the Old Testament

- for example

- Ezekiel 36:24–27 - “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

- there’s all sorts of other OT examples like this as well…

- and this tells us something about the reliability of the gift and the reasonableness of our faith…

- it is based on promises and prophecies that stretch back hundreds and in some cases thousands of years…

- that’s one of the challenges of Christmastime…it can become very sentimental…which is not bad necessarily as long as when you strip that away – you find the foundation of biblical faith in objective, revealed prophecies that could only be fulfilled by our powerful, all wise God…

- that’s why we’ve always had some sort of prophecy scene in the LN…to tie all of this back to the beauty and magnificence of fulfilled prophecy…

- it’s a reliable gift….

- now, what is the….

C. Meaning of “being born of water and the Spirit”?

- this isn’t literal water…remember that later in this chapter we’re going to read about the work of John the Baptist – and those who were coming to him were agreeing with his message of repentance…

- they were saying – I understand I need a gift…I‘m repenting of my self-righteousness and self-centered approach to living…I want to, and I need receive a new heart of flesh that only comes through a supernatural act of God…

- and Jesus also tells Nicodemus about…

D. The powerful evidence when it truly occurs.

- what does He say this process is like in verse 8?...

- John 3:8 - The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

- you don’t know where it’s coming from but you know it just blew your hat off your head…

- these are spiritual issues but they have real life implications…and it should, and it will – if it’s the fulfillment of promises made so long ago…

- we had some marvelous testimonies at our Stewardship Celebration…and a number of people told about how God has dramatically changed their life…what were they saying?...

- I’ve been given new life in Christ…

- I’ve been washed by the blood of the Lamb…

- I accepted a gift that was honest because it told me about my need…

- and reliable because it’s based on promises made long ago…

III. It is a Loving Gift because it Involves Great Sacrifice

- Jesus explains to Nicodemus that He has….

A. On the part of the One with first-hand knowledge

- can you imagine getting a new I-phone for Christmas and you’re having trouble getting it set up and everyone around the Christmas tree has a different opinion of what you ought to do…

- and then you sister’s new boyfriend quietly says – well, I work at Apple and I was involved in designing that new phone…perhaps I can help…

- I’m fairly certain everyone else in the room is going to get really quiet…

- Jesus says…John 3:13 - No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.

- then He shows us the pricetag…

B. The powerful analogy of the serpent on the wilderness

- John 3:14 - As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;

- what an incredible description of the cross…

- and I know that’s one of the hardest scenes to work at in the LN…

- no one wants to be one of the mockers at the cross…it feels so dirty and blasphemous…

- but friends, we have to have that…especially when that’s not the final scene…

- did you hear what Peter said a minute ago…1 Peter 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

IV. It is an Eternal Gift because He Who Receives it Will Never Perish

  • John 3:15 - so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
  • John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

- I’m leaving for Portugal this week to serve with a couple of our friends from Brazil and then will be in north GA the following week for board meetings and then a leadership retreat for the Biblical Counseling Coalition…

- but then Lord willing, our family will all be together at Christmas and I’ll be able to hold all three grandsons on my lap…and celebrate the gift of life together

- but human life – though incredibly precious – is just temporal and fragile and fleeting…

- I don’t generally worry a lot – I do have to guard my heart and mind when driving family members back and forth from the airport that time of year…

- human life is a gift – but it’s fragile for so many reasons…

- that’s why the gift we’re studying this morning is much better than human life…

- your second birth is far superior to your first one…

- because it’s life that’s eternal…

- 2 questions – have you accepted the gift that Jesus offered you?....

- a gift that is honest, reliable, loving, and eternal?....[develop – what’s stopping you]

- secondly – are you looking for as many opportunities as possible to tell others about it?...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video