“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:7-8).
Jesus made it exceedingly clear to not only Nicodemas but also to us that the new birth in Jesus Christ is brought about solely by the person and work of the Holy Spirit God. After over 40+ years of ministry, I have witnessed many people make professions of faith in Jesus Christ, sign conversion cards, and walk aisles to the front of a church auditorium among other acts. However, true conversion (being born again to saving faith in Jesus Christ) can only happen when the Holy Spirit quickens the sinner’s heart and soul through the preaching of the Gospel. It is only then that the sinner can place their God given faith (the ability to trust, commit, depend and worship) in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus said that there is a physical birth which is brought about by human means. Many of us have rejoiced at the birth of our children and grandchildren. That is a birth which is of the flesh. It belongs to the area of one’s physical existence and only one’s physical existence. Yet, we had nothing to do with our physical birth. It was brought about by our parents who conceived us along with doctors and nurses who birthed us. We were passive participants.
Jesus also said there is a spiritual birth which is brought about by the Holy Spirit and only the Holy Spirit. Many of us have rejoiced at the new birth of our children, grandchildren along with friends, acquaintances and even strangers. That is a new birth which is brought about solely by the Holy Spirit. It belongs to the area of one’s spiritual existence and only one’s spiritual existence. Even the faith we exercise and place in Jesus Christ is a sovereign gift from Almighty God (Philippians 1:29; Acts 13:48; 2 Peter 1:1-2).
This new birth does not occur through the right use of pragmatic or other constituted means. The new birth is not guaranteed when there is the right lighting, the right message, the right invitation song and the right motivational statement(s) to lure an individual to make a decision for Christ. The new birth occurs only by the sovereign Holy Spirit who uses the preaching of the Gospel.
Romans 10:13-17 says, “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
In his book, Living for God’s Glory, Dr. Joel Beeke explains, “The means by which the effectual call (to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord) comes is the gospel of God’s salvation in Christ applied by the Spirit. Paul told the Thessalonians that they were called ‘by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thessalonians 2:14). John Calvin was fond of saying that there are two ministers preaching every sermon: the external minister, the ordained servant of God, who brings the Word of God to the ear; and the internal minister, the Holy Spirit, who moves the Word of God to the soul, convicting it, raising it to new life, and granting it to embrace Christ by faith.”
John Flavel concludes, “The external voice (of the ordained minister) is evermore ineffectual and successless when it is not animated by that internal spiritual voice of the Spirit to the heart.”
The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote to the Corinthians the following words: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2:1-4).
As I write this devotional, I am recalling that approximately 24 hours earlier I had the privilege of leading a young man to saving faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. As the Lord gave me the opportunity to do so, I remember that it was the Holy Spirit working through me, and in the heart and soul of the converted young man, that brought about such a miracle such as the new birth. We must never forget this. Otherwise, we many think that other external means are the real reason a person is converted.
Are you trusting in a commitment card you may have signed, a walk you took down an isle to the front of an auditorium, or some other act by which you believe you were converted? Rest solely in your repentant faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the new birth by the Holy Spirit which enabled you to do so.
John Calvin writes, “Faith brings nothing to God, but, on the contrary, places man before God as empty and poor, that he may be filled with Christ and with his grace.”
Another commentator explains, “Faith is something we “do,” but it is not a deed that merits a reward. It is something we can do only and solely when our hearts have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.”
Soli deo Gloria!