Even my regular readers may not remember that some time ago I decided I wanted to work my way through John Piper’s sermons on the new birth. I know it has been awhile since I mentioned this, but I don’t want to rush this process. Watching the second video, I found Piper’s love for his people compelling. He describes being eager to comfort and give assurance to the timid new believer, but also wanting to unhinge the complacent arrogant person who falsely believes he is reborn. Oh that such pastoral wisdom and love for others would characterize every Christian! Somehow he reminded me of a quote from C. S. Lewis I shared in the past. Here is an excerpt from Piper’s sermon on Nicodemus, which I urge you to go and watch in its entirety.
Apart from God, we are spiritually dead in our selfishness and rebellion. We are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Our rebellion is so deep that we cannot detect or desire the glory of Christ in the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). Therefore, we if we are going to be born again, it will rely decisively and ultimately on God. His decision to make us alive will not be a response to what we as spiritual corpses do, but what we do will be a response to his making us alive. For most people, at least at first, this is unsettling.
My Hope: Stabilize and Save, Not Just Unsettle
So, as I begin this series, I am aware of how unsettling this teaching on the new birth can be. And O how careful I want to be. I do not want to cause tender souls any unnecessary distress. And I do not want to give false hope to those who have confused morality or religion for spiritual life. Please pray for me. I feel like I am taking eternal souls in my hands in these days. And yet I know that I have no power in myself to give them life. But God does. And I am very hopeful that he will do what he says in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” God loves to magnify the riches of his life-giving grace where Christ is lifted up in truth. That is my hope: that this series will not just unsettle but stabilize and save.
What Happens in the New Birth?
So let’s turn now to the question: What happens in the new birth? I will try to put the answer in three statements . . .
- What happens in the new birth is not getting new religion but getting new life.
- What happens in the new birth is not merely affirming the supernatural in Jesus but experiencing the supernatural in yourself.
- What happens in the new birth is not the improvement of your old human nature but the creation of a new human nature—a nature that is really you, and is forgiven and cleansed; and a nature that is really new, and is being formed by the indwelling Spirit of God.