Regeneration

 The Bible does not observe the hair-splitting methods and fine theological distinctions of either modern or ancient theologians. These methods may be necessary to philosophic study; but when we interpret the Bible by them, we narrow it down and lose its real significance. It speaks many times in broad generalizations. Often the thing meant is broader than the term used. Sometimes part is put for all, sometimes all is put for part; and we have need to use our judgment and intelligence most carefully in order to arrive at the true meaning. This is true of the subject of Regeneration. For the work of God's grace in saving the sinner from his guilt there are many terms, most of which respectively apply strictly to only one particular phase of the work, but which, because of their necessary connection in operation and in time with other parts of the work, are used to represent the whole. As instances of this the following may be noted: Redemption - "Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things ... but with the precious blood of Christ" (I Peter 1:18, 19). Forgiveness - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins" (I John 1:9). The new birth - "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (verse 6). Reconciliation - "God who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19). Isaiah thus expresses this reconciliation: "Though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou com fortedst me" (chapter 12:1). Adoption - "That we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:5). We "received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15).

All these are but differing phases of the one great work of divine grace. By this means we are brought nigh unto God. We are made his dear children; we partake of his Spirit, of his love, of his goodness, and we rejoice in him with "joy unspeakable and full of glory."

SONSHIP

Of all the wonderful and gracious promises of God, none are more wonderful nor more gracious than his promise of fatherhood. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18). John says, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (I John 3:1). What infinite condescension that God should permit us who were once so sinful and vile to bear his name, to be called the sons of God, and not simply to be called the sons of God, but actually to be such, for John says in the next verse, "Now are we the sons of God." Jesus said to the wicked Pharisees, "Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:44); but "now are we the sons of God." What a marvelous change! How glorious the thought - the sons of the Most High! And now that we are sons, we can say in the language of our Lord, "Our Father who art in heaven." This is then to us not mere words, but the outpouring of our hearts, the answering of our spirits to his.

Have you not heard prayers beginning somewhat as follows: "All wise and Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth"? We may speak to God in such formal language, but we can never draw close to him in this way. The great God, the Creator, the Might y One who inhabiteth Eternity, he who stretched out the heavens and placed their galaxies, he whose splendor and majesty are too great for human vision what can we do before such a one but fall down in awe and fear. It is not such a one that we can love, in whose presence we can come with rejoicing and to whom we can make known our petitions; but it is to "our Father who art in heaven" that we can come, before whom we can bow and up into whose face we can look and make known our wants. It is he whom we can love; it is he to whom we may come boldly in every time of need to receive help and grace and mercy.

When a king sits upon the throne, who may approach him familiarly? All must recognize his majesty and his honor; but when he comes down off the throne and goes into the nursery, the children may play about his knees and climb upon his lap and put their arms about his neck and caress him and receive his caresses in return. To them, he is not the King, he is not His Majesty; he is Father. Such God would be to you and me. He wants to be our Father; he will be our Father; he is our Father. He wants to bestow upon us all the affection and tenderness that a father feels for his dear children. This is the relation into which we are brought when we become his sons. All the riches of his love will he lavish upon us, all the tenderness of his fatherly affection. We may approach him with the utmost confidence and the utmost freedom. He loves for us to pour out our hearts in tender devotion to him. He loves to know what troubles us. He loves to minister comfort and help to u s in all our needs.

Can our hearts today say "Our Father" instead of "Almighty God"? He is the Almighty God, and as such we reverence and adore and fear him. But he is still our Father and we draw near, forgetting his majesty and greatness in the realization of hi s loving-kindness. "I will be a father unto you," he said. Whatever he may be to others, whatever terrors his presence may inspire in them, whatever fears they may have, it shall not be so with us, for he is our Father and we are the children of his love.

THE NEW HEART

"From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:25, 26). The heart of the sinner is truly stony, and especially in its attitude toward God. How often the same is true in regard to its attitude toward man's fellow creatures. The story of this world is largely made up of what has been termed "man's inhumanity to man" - unspeakable cruelties bring oceans of tears, hatred of God and of his creatures. Yes, man's heart is naturally a stony heart. But God promises here to take away that stony heart and give a heart of flesh, even a new heart. What a change this expresses! Out of the natural heart flows a stream of wickedness, vile and degrading. It is a very fountain of iniquity. As Jeremiah declares, it is "desperately wicked." But regeneration changes all this, and God give s, as he has promised, a heart of flesh.

Jesus said, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things" (Matthew 12:35). According to this, the difference between a good man and an evil man is i n the condition of his heart. A good man's heart is like a treasure-house filled with good things, which he brings out in the acts of his life; whereas of the evil man, the opposite is true: he has an evil treasure, out of which flows an evil life. "F or out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (chapter 15:19).

In order for the evil man to become good, there must of necessity be a change in the condition of that treasure of his heart. And so the Lord said, "I will give you a new heart." This signifies an entire renovation of the heart a new creation, as it were, in Christ Jesus. Out of this new heart flows new life. Instead of impurity, there comes forth purity. Instead of hatred for God, there is love of God and of all that is good. The new heart is the heart of pity, kindness, compassion, and sympathy. The old hard feelings are gone, the old cruelties are now no more; and there comes into the life a tenderness and a gentleness never known there before. The whole aspect of the life is altered because he is altered. He no longer loves anything that is evil: he loves instead that which is good, pure, holy, noble, and uplifting. His desires are to do right, to please God, and to be a real example of his grace before his fellows.

This same truth Jesus set forth when he said that a good tree could not bring forth corrupt fruit. If the life that flows from our hearts when we profess to be Christians is not a pure, godly, virtuous life, it is because there has not been a cleansing of that inner fountain. In vain do we try to live right until we are made right; but when we are once cleansed within, when once the fountain of our heart is purified, we can then live "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:12). God dwells in that new heart. It is the place of his sanctuary - the place in which he delights to manifest himself, and out from which he speaks through our tongues, and looks in kindness through our eyes, and spreads forth his hand through us in pity and compassion and helpfulness. Of us then it may be said, "It is God which worketh in you." Without this change of heart there may be morality, but there can never be Christianity.

THE NEW LIFE

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17, 18). According to this t ext, all things in the new life are of God; that is, they are wrought in righteousness. We can not live partly for God and partly for self and Satan. The life must bear one complexion throughout. God looks upon it as a whole and expects us to live it as a whole for him. He will accept nothing else. He has said that we are either for him or against him, and that we can not serve two masters, for we shall either love one and hate the other or cleave to one and despise the other. If we truly love G od and are truly living for him, our lives are godly. Scripture says, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin" (I John 3:9), and, "He that committeth sin is of the devil" (verse 8). Our sinning or not sinning shows to which master we belong. Therefore if we are Christ's, there is not seen in our lives the practice of sin, but we delight to do his will. We delight in that which is right and just and noble. People looking upon us can be able to say with real conviction that Christ liveth in us. The distinction between the Christian and the sinner is neither superficial nor imaginary, but reaches to the utmost depths of the heart and life. The line of separation is clean-cut and absolute. It is not simply a difference of profess ion, or of acts, or of association, nor even of character. It is more than all this; it is the possession of a new life divinely implanted - a new life that controls and actuates the being.

NEW IDEALS AND PURPOSES

When the heart is changed from sin to grace, the old ideals give place to new and better ones. The old purposes cease to sway us. Instead of being essentially selfish and living for our own pleasure, we begin to seek God's pleasure and earnestly to desire to do his will - that which pleases him. Whatever may have been our ideals before, they are now much exalted and must be so to be compatible with our new state. God becomes the ideal of our life, and it is our earnest desire that those qualities and characteristics which are manifested in him may be manifested in us. We abhor that which is low and debasing, and we reach out to that which is high and noble. These new ideals and purposes dominate our life and make it one of which we need not be ashamed.

EFFECT ON MORAL ATTRIBUTES AND FACULTIES

The effect of regeneration upon man's moral attributes and faculties is most profound. It amounts to a complete transformation. His conscience, his will, his perceptions and sensibilities are all revolutionized. His faculties are quickened and changed. He finds himself different in a thousand ways, and these differences show to him that he is indeed a new creature.

The conscience of the sinner is defiled. "But unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, there is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled" (Titus 1:15). Paul, speaking on this point, says that they have "their conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Timothy 4:2). This state of the conscience, however, need not be permanent. No matter how defiled it may have become, no matter how unclean, no matter how scarred, when the soul turns to God there is a remedy. "How much more shall the blood of Christ ... purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:14). Again, it is said, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (chapter 1 0:22). The result of this purification through the blood of Christ is told in chapter 12:2 - "Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." When our iniquities are blotted out, the guilt upon our conscience is removed and we are free. We are before the Lord as though we had never committed sin, so far as any sense of present guilt is concerned. We are brought into a blessed state of peace, which is thus expressed: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). This state may be maintained. Paul said, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). Among other things which we are to do is to hold "the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience" (I Timothy 3:9). There is nothing that can give us more inward satisfaction than a conscience void of offense, one that approves our conduct and our state. Nothing can be more harassing than t he stings of a defiled conscience.

God has promised us that we should have his peace, and we can have this peace only as we have a peaceful conscience. This is the Christian's heritage; this is his glorious portion. We can so maintain our lives before God that we shall have the approval of our consciences and a continued realization that the things we are doing are done with the single purpose of pleasing God. We can be conscious that we are following him as his dear children and yielding our all to him. This inner consciousness is a joy indeed and a satisfaction that can come from no other source.

The sinner is fully bent on doing as he pleases, in following out his own purposes and desires. He does not take God into his consideration. He asks only, "What do I wish to do?" He feels that he is master of himself. He gives allegiance to none. Self sits upon the throne of his life and rules there. In regeneration all this is changed. The will submits to God. It takes its orders from him, as it were. The regenerated person yields his will to carry out the purpose of his Maker. This yielding is not forced; it is willing and ready. The regenerated will delights to do the will of God, delights to carry out his purpose. That charity which is from above "seeketh not her own." Instead of opposing God, the will actively cooperates with hi m. The one-time rebel has become a dutiful and obedient son.

The moral perceptions are also now greatly changed. We see things in a new light. Instead of seeing in God qualities that make us fear him and dread him and shrink from contact with him, we see those things which attract us and draw out our love to ward him. God becomes, as it were, a new God. We find him entirely different from what we supposed him to be. We find his attitude toward us different from what it seemed to be. His love, which we never really knew before, becomes a glorious reality to us. His Word becomes as a new book, and we read it eagerly and enjoy it greatly. Our perception of moral qualities in actions is also very different from what it was before. It was abnormal. We looked at things through the obscurity of our sinful ness. But now we see things face to face. We see them in their true colors, in their true perspective.

Our sensibilities, too, are vitally changed. There is, in fact, a complete reversal of the effect of the causes which excite our sensibilities, the effect upon our feelings of things involving moral questions being quite the opposite of what it was before. Sinful things repel instead of attracting, excite our disgust and disapproval instead of producing in us a sense of pleasure. The company of our former wicked associates brings to us now a feeling different from what it did before. The things of the world have lost their charm. We are strongly drawn to holy things. Contemplation of God and our relation to him instead of causing feelings of fear and distress, stir emotions of joy and thankfulness. New emotions arise and are sometimes very powerful. Spiritual joy, peace, contentment, and satisfaction unite to uplift the soul to new heights.

Different persons have different emotions, depending upon their natural temperaments. There is a wide variation even in the same person at different times. Emotion is not salvation or any part of it, but it often accompanies the�work of God in u s and follows in the life. We are profoundly conscious of the reversal of the effect of outside things upon our emotions. This is the most important thing in regard to them in our new life. In this particular they become an evidence of the change wrought in us. This subject will be treated more at length in a succeeding chapter.

Our natural faculties also are vitally affected. In the sinful life we may reverence God in a way, but not as when we are saved. We might worship him in form as we see others doing, but we can not worship him in spirit and in truth until our hearts are in harmony with him. In the new life we need no command to praise him or to worship him, for it is natural to do so. Praise flows from our hearts unto him as water from a fountain, and the flow is quickened by every consideration of his goodness to us. The contemplation of his being and character arouses a reverence in us that we could never have felt before. The wisdom and justice of his law excite our highest admiration.

Faith is another thing that is profoundly affected. It passes from the passive to the active state in the individual, and not only so, but it is greatly increased in degree. As sinners we may believe in God; but when we are converted, when we become God's children, our faith is active then, and we trust, we rely in him and believe him, and this faith brings us into and keeps us in vital relation with him.

The sinner is pictured as being without hope and without God in the world. He has nothing to look forward to. Hope brings him no blessings from the spiritual realm. He looks forward to the future, and all is dark and disappointing. He has no foundation for hope. But with a Christian it is quite different. Hope is born anew in him. Hope looks forward and sees its pathway illuminated with a heavenly light. It looks beyond this life and sees the future glorious with expectation. The Christian 's hope is based upon a sure foundation. He knows that he will not be disappointed. He knows that hope reaches within the veil and grasps hold of that which God has in store for him in the years of eternity. The Christian has hope in his present life and in his death and in God's glorious kingdom of heaven. No wonder that Paul spoke of it as being the "anchor of the soul." The sinner has no anchor for his soul. He is tossed about wherever the storms of life may throw him, while the Chr stian rests serene and calm and untroubled.

The faculty of love also is greatly changed, or manifests itself in a greatly different way. The sinner does not and can not really love God. He may have an admiration for the character of God and for the laws of God, but this can never rise to love. He may love himself; he may love his friends and the things about him; he may love and does love his sins, or he would not persist in them. This selfish love and the love of sin must be destroyed out of the heart and is destroyed in regeneration. The new-born soul loves God. He knows not when he began or how it is, but he feels his heart drawn out in tenderest love toward God. His capacity to love seems to be increased, and all its strength seems to go out toward God. Not that he does not love those about him nor the things that are lovely; he still loves these, but he loves them as they ought to be loved, and he loves God more than they all. "We love him, because he first loved us" (I John 4:19), and a contemplation of his love for us begets more and more of love toward him in return.

Our sense of justice and fair play is likewise greatly affected. If we are treated unfairly, we no longer feel vindictive. We no longer feel disposed to take vengeance on those who do us ill, but rather to say, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." The disposition to enforce our rights by carnal means is taken away. We are willing to let God rule in our lives and rule in the things that concern us. Hatred, bitterness, envy, malice and all such things have their end, and in their stead come kindness and mercy and justice. Abnormal self-esteem, pride, haughtiness, arrogance, and all such things give way to meekness, quietness, and consideration of others. We learn to value others at their true worth and by the same standard by which we value ourselves.

EFFECTS ON MENTAL CONDITION

The effect of regeneration on man's mental constitution is important. Not only is his mental point of view changed, but the general course of his thoughts run in a different direction. When we are in the valley of sin, the prospect is quite different from what it is when we are on the mountain-top of salvation. Things do not appear the same to us as they did before. Our horizon is widened, and we view things more truly in their relation ship to other things. The mind is often strongly affected by the general course of the sinful life. It runs in the channels of sin and upon the things of sin. It delights in the things of the world and of sin. The converted person thinks rather of the things of God and of the things that are pure and noble and uplifting. His thoughts are turned into new channels and upon new objects. The Holy Spirit illuminates his mind, so that many things that were once dark and mysterious now seem plain and clear. He understands the Bible as he could not understand it before. He understands God, and he understands himself. He sees them in a new light. His understanding may be only partial; he may not understand clearly; but things appear quite different from what they did before.

The effect on his reasoning faculties is very marked. He is now in a position where God can reveal to him through his Spirit many truths wholly unknown before, and his reason is quickened so that he may readily understand the philosophy of many things that he did not know before and that he could not understand even when he heard others speak of them. The problems of life have a new meaning to him, and one by one he finds their solution. He finds the laws and purposes of God such as to excite the admiration of his reason and to lead it on to deeper and deeper understanding. Sinners have deified reason and bowed down to and worshiped it, but man's unaided reason is not a safe guide. Too often it has led him astray into bogs from which he could not easily make his way. Reason, under the direction of the Spirit of God, finds its way into the path of truth and rejoices therein.

We may well say that the whole course of man's thoughts, so far as they relate to moral things, is changed. He thinks now as a son of God; he thinks now with his reason illuminated. He delights to have his mind dwell on that which is right and just and noble and good, that which will bless him and his fellows, and that which will please and honor his God.

EFFECTS ON PHYSICAL BEING

The effect of regeneration on man's physical being must of necessity be less than that on the other parts of his being. Its greatest physical effects are probably obtained through the cessation of injurious habits that the person followed in his sinful days. His natural functions are not affected by regeneration. They are necessary to his being; they are parts, as it were, of his physical being. It does, however, oftentimes have a profound effect upon his appetites, especially such as are acquired and unnatural. In most instances the appetite for intoxicating liquors disappears as if by magic. The same is often true of the appetite for tobacco and narcotic drugs and other unnatural things. However, experiences are not always uniform in this regard. But in all cases where the appetite leads to sinfulness, the grace of God will be found sufficient to overcome it, God himself intervening usually to destroy the unnatural appetite. The effect on natural appetites is less marked. In fact, these are left to be controlled by the mental and moral constitution of man, according to wisdom and to will.

The least that we can say of the work of God in the human nature and being is that it brings us into a place where we can serve God in holiness and righteousness, in a manner that is acceptable to him and glorifying to his name. We should stop nothing short of this, for nothing short of this will enable us to live a real Christian life.