The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘regeneration

Extreme makeover

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Would you like a real change?

Would you like new surroundings?  A new house, a new room, or new clothes?

Would you like new relationships?  New friends, new colleagues, even a new family?

Would you like a new you?  A new appearance, enlargements and reductions, a new nose or chin, a new waistline, or renewed health?

Would you like a new life?  A completely fresh start, being a different person altogether, sweeping away everything that is, leaving it all behind, and starting over entirely?

One way or another, many of us would like – or may even long for – a makeover of some kind.  We would truly love to change something about us and our lives.

Most of these changes are – at best – what you might call ‘cosmetic.’  That is, they are mere changes in appearance, manipulating externals without ever altering reality.  As a result, they rarely make us happy.  If you like, many of the changes we try to make are like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic: making a doomed vessel more pleasing to the eye.

You probably know by experience that such changes make little lasting difference.  At best, they solve problems temporarily.  At worst, they lock us into a downward spiral of more and more extreme changes, each one more desperate, expensive, or humiliating than the last.  In either case, they present no final solution to problems.

Why is this?

It is because whatever you do and wherever you go and whenever you change outwardly, what you carry within you remains the same.  We carry our issues, our personalities, our problems, our sins, with us wherever we go.

What you need is the most radical change of all: an extreme makeover that lies utterly outside your own power of will or money to accomplish, but a change that will once-and-for-all alter everything about you for the better.  It is a change that begins on the inside and works its way out, radically altering in lasting fashion our thoughts, feelings, desires, words, and deeds.

It is called “new creation.”  It begins with the essential you, the heart and soul of who and what you are, and – over the course of time – works itself through your whole being.  It is a new life that will reach its climax with a new body in a new heavens and a new earth.

Would you like such a change?  Do you long for an extreme makeover of this sort?  This is no gimmick or fable, no lie or scam.  This is God’s own truth, his free and sincere offer: “If anyone is in Christ,” says the Bible, “he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Would you like a fresh start?  There is nothing to pay, no forms to fill out, no waiting list, and guaranteed results.  Faith in Christ brings new life in him.  It is the only true solution to the otherwise empty search for a new you.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 19 March 2010 at 10:28

A tale of two Sundays

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A bit of catching up . . .

I have begun a series on Becoming and being a Christian.  I started it a couple of weeks ago with a sermon on Isaiah 45.22 on Looking to Jesus.

Afterwards we looked at 2 Corinthians 5.17, on being A new creation in Christ.  In dealing with that we looked at what Paul says about our position: “If anyone is in Christ.”  Many are without Christ, which makes every other good and privilege to be ultimately dust and ashes in our mouths.  There are those who are with Christ, and they are enjoying the blessings of being in the very presence of the risen Jesus.  But no one will be with Christ without being first in Christ – united to him by a saving connection, enjoying new life in him.

Then there is the matter of our condition: “new creation.”  This speaks of a radical, thorough, divinely-worked reality, in which the Almighty works not with nothing but against everything in us to change our antagonism and give us a new heart.  Men try to rehabilitate, but only God can regenerate.  We must be a new creation before we can live as one: we cannot earn new creation by trying to live like Christians.  Salvation comes first.

Finally, Paul offers an explanation: “the old has gone and is gone for good; look! the new has come and keeps on coming.”  The old nature has been dethroned and Christ reigns.  A transformation has taken place – the Christian has new light, understanding, will, desire, purpose and destiny.  There is a note of wonder as the persecutor-turned-preacher marvels at God’s grace in Jesus Christ in saving sinners from the darkness and bringing them into his marvellous light.

Last Sunday, we came on to the subject of A true Christian.  How can I know if I am a new creation in Christ?  Am I a true child of God?  The apostle John wrote his gospel so that we might know that Jesus is the Christ, believe, and be saved (Jn 20.31).  He wrote his first letter so that believers might “know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1Jn 5.13).  I had intended to show the things that the world and many religious people assume are certain marks of true Christianity, but which fool many and which will fail those who rely on them when trials come, things which are no sure mark of a genuine conversion, before moving on to the positive indications of genuine saving faith.

However, the sermon took off in the first moments, and I spent the hour dealing with seven things (developed from headings in Gardiner Spring’s excellent The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character or here [or, for Logos users, here] – sorry, not too many hard copies around!).  Visible morality, head knowledge, the form of religion, eminent gifts, conviction for sin, strong assurance, and a memorable or notable experience of alleged conversion, individually or in combination, do not indicate the genuine nature of a professed work of grace.  Unbelievers who assume they are saved on this basis are being fooled; believers who build their assurance on this flawed foundation will find it fails when they need it.  I got no further, closing by urging sinners to acknowledge their need and flee to Jesus, and calling upon the people of God to hold fast to the finished work of Christ, the promises of God, and the reality of the Spirit’s renovating work.  I hope to go on to the four positive indications of genuine saving grace, as spelled out by the apostle John, next Lord’s day.

Over the last few lessons of our adult Sunday School we have been working from Luke 2.52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  We have used this as a framework to consider the parents’ responsibility to train their children with regard to intellectual, physical, spiritual and social or cultural development.  We hope to finish off this section next week before the Easter break, picking up afterwards with the training and admonition (required primarily of fathers as heads of households) commanded in Ephesians 6.4.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 31 March 2009 at 13:47

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“Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again”

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Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again by John Piper

Christian Focus, 2009 (203pp, pbk)

john-piper-2“You must be born again” is John Piper’s starting point for this earnest and careful treatise on the new birth.  He immediately emphasises the radical nature of this declaration, vigorously rejecting empty professions of new birth without a changed life.  For Piper, where there is no new life there has been no new birth.  Determined to fill the phrase “born again” with its Scriptural substance and weight, the author answers five questions: What is the new birth?  Why must we be born again?  How does the new birth come about?  What are the effects of the new birth?  How can we help others be born again?

finally-alive-piperThe answers to these questions are given in brief chapters (no more than four per question).  Each question has a thorough exegetical grounding, as our writer assesses, explains and applies key Scriptures (the writings of the apostle John are prominent).  You might not agree with every detail of the expositions, but the whole is orthodox, equally rigorous in its assault upon error and its propagation of truth.  The dangers of being mistaken and the blessings of grasping the truth in Christ are clearly presented.  The volume has a deliberate gospel thrust, making it not only valuable for Christians needing a clearer understanding, but also for those who need to understand what must take place in order for them to be saved.  Earlier on in the book a debate might arise in the reader’s mind as to whether regeneration is the fruit of faith or vice versa, but the author soon makes plain that our first experience of the new birth is faith: “There is no separation of time here.  When we are born again, we believe.  And when we believe, we know we have been born again” (78).  Later he makes plain that God’s begetting is the cause of our believing.  The “Christian hedonism” motif makes a brief and not unexpected appearance, but only as a sideline.

The book maintains a tight focus on regeneration, rarely straying from its brief.  The place of the new birth in the ordo salutis is not the issue, and so other aspects of our salvation are brought in as they relate to regeneration (so, for example, sanctification has a quite prominent place).  The volume closes by pointing us to the new world in which those who have experienced the new birth will enjoy in the greatest degree all the blessings of their abounding life in Christ.

This is an excellent book.  It combines the virtues of clarity and comprehensiveness, maintaining lucidity without skimping on truth or avoiding difficulty.  It is a clarion call to get this essential doctrine right – for our own sakes, and for the sakes of our churches, our friends, and those who follow after us.

[I should also point out that my friend Gary Brady recently wrote a similar title, Being Born Again.  It is disappointing that so many are falling over themselves to commend Piper for ‘finally’ writing a book on the new birth without reading Gary’s as well!  While the style and structure are obviously different, Gary makes many of the same points, sounds many of the same warnings, and expounds many of the same truths.  If you want to consider this topic, and Piper is not for you, then might I warmly recommend Brady?]

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 18 March 2009 at 09:37

In with the new?

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It is a new year.

Would you like a real change?

Would you like new surroundings?  A new house, a new room, or new clothes?

Would you like new relationships?  New friends, new colleagues, even a new family?

Would you like a new you?  A new appearance, enlargements and reductions, a new nose or chin, a new waistline, or renewed health?

Would you like a new life?  A completely fresh start, being a different person altogether, sweeping away everything that is, leaving it all behind, and starting over entirely?

One way or another, many of us would like – or may even long for – a makeover of some kind.  We would truly love to change something about us and our lives.

Most of these changes are – at best – what you might call ‘cosmetic.’  That is, they are mere changes in appearance, manipulating externals without ever altering reality.  As a result, they rarely make us happy.  If you like, many of the changes we try to make are like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic: making a doomed vessel more pleasing to the eye.

You probably know by experience that such changes make little lasting difference.  At best, they solve problems temporarily.  At worst, they lock us into a downward spiral of more and more extreme changes, each one more desperate, expensive, or humiliating than the last.  In either case, they present no final solution to problems.

Why is this?  It is because whatever you do and wherever you go and whenever you change outwardly, what you carry within you remains the same.  We carry our issues, our characters, our personalities, our problems, our sins, with us wherever we go.

What you need is the most radical change of all: an extreme makeover that lies utterly outside your own power of will or money to accomplish, but a change that will once-and-for-all alter everything about you for the better.  It is a change that begins on the inside and works its way out, radically altering in lasting fashion our thoughts, feelings, desires, words, and deeds.

new-leaf2

It is called “new creation.”   It begins with the essential you, the heart and soul of who and what you are, and – over the course of time – works itself through your whole being.  It is a new life that will reach its climax with a new body in a new heavens and a new earth.

Would you like such a change?  Do you long for an extreme makeover of this sort?  This is no gimmick or fable, no lie or scam.  This is God’s own truth, his free and sincere offer: “If anyone is in Christ,” says the Bible, “he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Would you like a fresh start?  There is nothing to pay, no forms to fill out, no waiting list, and guaranteed results.  Faith in Christ brings new life in him.  It is the only true solution to the otherwise empty search for a new you.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 1 January 2009 at 18:39

J. I. Packer’s counsel

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Mark Driscoll records counsels from J. I. Packer to young Christian leaders concerning regeneration, God-centred theology, domestic godliness, and the Trinity here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 30 July 2008 at 19:16

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