"Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and KNOWETH ME, THAT I AM THE LORD." Jeremiah 9:23,24
In one on his letters to Erasmus, Luther said, "Your thoughts of God are too human." Probably that renowned scholar resented such a rebuke, the more so, since it proceeded from a miner's son; nevertheless, it was thoroughly deserved. We too, though having no standing among religious leaders of this degenerate age, prefer the same charge against the majority of the preachers of our day, and against those who, instead of searching the Scriptures for themselves, lazily accept the teaching of others. The most dishonoring and degrading conceptions of the rule and reign of the Almighty are now held almost everywhere. To countless thousands, even among those professing to be Christians, the God of the Scriptures is quite unknown.
Of old, God complained to an apostate Israel, "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether as thyself" (Psalm 50:21). Such must now be His indictment against an apostate Christendom. Men imagine that the Most High is moved by sentiment rather than actuated by principle. They suppose that His omnipotency is such an idle fiction that Satan is thwarting His designs on every side. They think that if He has formed any plan or purpose at all, then it must be like theirs, constantly subject to change. They openly declare that whatever power He possesses must be restricted, lest He invade the citadel of man's "free-will" and reduce him to a "machine." They lower the all-efficacious Atonement, which has actually redeemed everyone for whom it was made, to a mere "remedy", which sin-sick souls may use if they feel disposed to; and they enervate the invincible work of the Holy Spirit to an "offer" of the Gospel which sinners may accept or reject as they please.
The "god" of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The "god" who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences is the figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside of the pale of Christendom form "gods" out of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a "god" out of their own carnal mind. A "god" whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits nought but contempt.
Something more than a theoretical knowledge of God is needed by us. God is only TRULY KNOWN as we yield ourselves to Him, submit to His authority, and regulate all the details of our lives by His holy precepts and commandments. (Hosea 6:3; John 7:17; Daniel 11:32)
All men are by nature the children of wrath, and are under the power of darkness. In this state men are not the subjects of Christ's kingdom and have no fitness for heaven. From this terrible state they are unable to deliver themselves. (I John 5:19; Romans 5:6) Out of this state they must be supernaturally called.(I Peter 2:9; Colossians 1:13) This divine "call" or work of grace is called in Scriptures as: REGENERATION (Titus 3:5); TRANSFORMATION (II Cor.3:18); THE NEW BIRTH, ILLUMINATION (II Cor. 4:6); SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION (John 5:24). This inward call is attended with justification and adoption and conversion,(which includes faith and repentance). (Romans 8:30; Eph. 1:5; Eph.2:1-10) Thus leading us to the EFFECTS OF REGENERATION.
Jesus in John 3:8 tells us of this matter, speaking of the blowing of the wind. Man is unable to originate, order or regulate the wind. Man knows very little of the cause which controls the wind, yet the presence of the wind is unmistakable; and its EFFECTS are plainly evidenced, "SO IS EVERY ONE THAT IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT." BUT THE TRANSFORMING RESULTS BECOME PLAIN.
The illumination of the understanding Gen. 1 "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Then:" the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep." Next: "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," and God said: "Let there be light."
So it is when God begins to restore fallen man: "For God who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (II Cor. 4:6)
This Divine illumination is not by dreams, visions, or mere feelings, but the revelation of things to his mind and soul which have been all along in sacred Scriptures. Now the blessed Holy Spirit removes the blindfold from his eyes and opens his heart to receive the written Word. (Acts 16:14) Then He begins to powerfully apply to the mind and conscience some portion of it. The result is that the one renewed is able to say, "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." (John 9:25)
To be more particular, The sinner is now enlightened in the knowledge of his own terrible condition. He may earlier have known many Bible facts, even doctrinal statements, received much instruction; BUT NOW, the solemn declarations of God's Word concerning his fallen state are brought home in piercing power to him. He no longer justifies himself by comparison with his fellow man, he measures himself by the law of God. He is now terribly convicted by his own uncleanness and wickedness before a thrice holy God. ( Isaiah 1:6; 64:6)
By this new spiritual light which God communicates in REGENERATION he now sees that the "wages" he has earned by sin deserve eternal death. That he has placed himself under the awful wrath of God. He now realizes that he has lived his whole life in utter independence of God, having no regard for His glory, what pleased and displeased a holy God. He is thus brought to cry out "WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?"
He now understands truly the awful malignity of sin, as being not only contrary to the whole law of God, but contrary to the true nature of God Himself. He is convinced of the absolute impossibility of contributing anything to obtain his own deliverance. He no longer has any confidence in himself; he has been brought to the end of himself. As Paul wrote "He is without Christ and without hope in this world." (Eph.2)
Thus his mouth is stopped and he confesses himself GUILTY BEFORE GOD, and justly liable to His awful vengeance, both because of the plague of his own heart and his numerous transgressions.
HE NOW SEES THE SUITABILITY OF CHRIST
By means of this illumination the renewed soul, under the Holy Spirit through the Word, now perceives (comprehends) how WELL SUITED Christ Jesus is to his poor wretched condition. The only hope he clings to is the prospect of obtaining deliverance from the "wrath to come" through the vicarious life and death of the Lord Jesus (i.e. Jesus Christ lived for and died right in the very place of a people). This keeps his soul from being overwhelmed with grief and from sinking into complete despondency because of the SIGHT of his sins.
As the Holy Spirit (through the Word) presents to him the infinite merits of Christ's obedience and righteousness, His tender compassion for repentant sinners, His great power to save, desires to share in that work now possess his heart. He is now resolved to look for salvation in no other. (person, working, or church) Under the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, the soul is drawn by such words as these: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." or "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,"and he is led to apply to Him for pardon, cleansing, peace, righteousness, strength.
Other acts besides turning to Christ, such as REPENTANCE, which is a godly sorrow for sin, a hating of sin as sin, and an earnest desire to forsake and be completely delivered from its pollution. In the light of God, the renewed soul now perceives the utter vanity of the world, and the worthlessness of those former worthless toys and perishing trifles which the godless strive so hard to acquire. He has been awakened from the dream-sleep of death, and things are now seen in their true nature. Time is precious, not to be frittered away. God in His awesome Majesty is an object of godly fear and reverence. His holy law is accepted as just and good. All of these perceptions (new sight, or new way of seeing what the Word has stated) and actions are included in that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. In some these actions are more vigorous than in others, and consequently, are more seen by the man himself. But the fruits of them are visible to others in external acts.
THE WILL FREED FROM BONDAGE
By nature,(the state into which all men are born), the will of man is free in only one direction: AWAY FROM GOD. Sin has enslaved the will, therefore, do we need to be "made free" (John 8:36). The two states are contrasted in Romans 6: "free from righteousness" v20 and "free from sin" v 18, when we have been made alive unto God. At the new birth the will is liberated from the "bondage of corruption" (Rom. 8:21 cf II Peter 2:19), and rendered conformable to the will of God (Psalm 119:97). In our unregenerate state the will was naturally rebellious, and its language was, "Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?" (Exodus 5:2) But the Father promised the Son, "Thy people shall BE WILLING in the day of thy power" (Ps.110:3), and this is accomplished when God "worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13; Heb.13:21)
"A new heart, a new spirit...I will take out your stony heart...and I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes." (Heb.8:10; Ezek.36:26-27) The regenerated freely consent to and gladly choose to walk in subjection to Christ, being anxious now to obey Him in all things, even though imperfectly. His authority is his only rule, His love the constraining power: "If a man love me, he WILL KEEP my words." (John 14:23)
The will is so emancipated from the power of sin to be enabled to answer the Divine Command.
ELEVATION OF THE HEART
Rightly does the Lord claim first place as Creator, Owner, and Redeemer. "My son give Me thine heart" (Prov.23:26) expresses God's claim. They "first gave their own selves to the Lord" (II Cor.8:5) is the response of the regenerate. For before they were born anew, by natural birth they are "lovers of their own selves" and "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God" (II Tim.3:2,4). When a sinner is renewed, his affections are taken off his idols and fixed on his Lord (I Thess. 1:9). Hence it is written "with the HEART man believeth unto righteousness" (Rom.10:10).And hence, also it is written, "If any man LOVE NOT the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed" (I Cor.16:22).
In Deut. 30:6 we read: "And the Lord God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to LOVE the Lord thy God WITH ALL THY HEART." This is the renewing of the heart, severing its love from all illicit objects. None can truly love God supremely till this miracle of grace has been worked in him. Then, and only then, is it that the affections are refined and directed to their proper objects, He who once was despised by the soul, is now the "altogether lovely" One. He who was hated (John 15:18) is now loved above all others. "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee." is now their joyous confession.
The love of God is now become the governing principle of their life. (II Cor.5:13) What before was drudgery is now a delight. The approval of His Saviour is now his concern. Gratitude moves his will to glad obedience. Then his heart goes out to members of Christ's family, no matter their nationality, social position, or church connections: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (I John 3:14).
"A NEW HEART ALSO WILL I GIVE YOU..."
A tree is known by its fruits. Faith is evidenced by works. The principle of holiness manifests itself in a godly walk. "If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him" (I John 2:29). The deep longing of every child of God is to please his heavenly Father in all things, and though this longing is never fully realized in this life-"NOT as though I had ALREADY attained, either were already perfect" (Phil.3:12)- nevertheless he continues "reaching forth unto those things which are before."
A change will take place in the conduct of the most oral unconverted man as soon as he is born from above. Not only will he be far less eager in his pursuit of the world, more careful in his selections of companions, but he now realizes that the holy eye of God is ever upon him, marking not only his actions, but weighing his motives. He now bears the sacred name of Christ, and his deepest concern is to be kept from everything which would bring a reproach upon it. His aim is to let his light so shine before men that they may see his good works and glorify his Father which is in heaven. That which gives him concern and distress is not the sneers and taunts of the ungodly, but that he fails to measure up to the standard God has set before him, and that conformity to it after which he so yearns. BUT ought not the Christian to "grow in grace"? Yes, indeed. Yet it must be emphatically said that growing in grace most certainly does not mean an increasing satisfaction with myself. No, it is the very opposite. The more I walk in the light of God, the more plainly I see the vileness within me. The only relief from this distressing discovery and the only peace for the renewed heart is to look away from self to Christ and His perfect work for us. Faith empties of all self-complacency and gives an exalted estimate of God in Christ.
OCCUPIED WITH CHRIST
A growth in grace is defined, in great part, by the words that immediately follow: "...and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). It is the GROWING realization of the perfect suitability of Christ to a poor sinner, the deepening conviction of His fitness to be the Saviour of such a vile wretch as the Spirit shows me I am. It is the apprehension of how much I need His precious blood to cleans me, His righteousness to clothe me, His arm to support me, His advocacy to answer me on high, His grace to deliver me from all my enemies, both inward and outward.
The more the heart is occupied with Christ, the more the mind is stayed on Him by trusting in Him (just camped right there, JCS) (Isaiah 26:3), the more will faith, hope, love, patience, meekness, and all spiritual graces be strengthened and drawn forth into exercise and action to the glory of God. The MANIFESTATION of growth in grace and in the knowledge of Christ is another thing. The actual process of growing is not perceptible either in the natural or in the spiritual sphere; but the results of it are, mainly so to others. The chief EVIDENCES of spiritual growth in the Christian are a deepening hatred of sin and a higher value put on spiritual things, a yearning after them, and a fuller recognition of our deep need and dependency on God to supply it.
"The Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Ps.84:11). Grace and glory are not to be separated. Grace is glory begun. Glory is grace elevated to its perfection in the eternal state. In I John 3:2, we are told that we shall be like Him, reason? "WE SHALL SEE HIM AS HE IS." The immediate vision of the Lord of glory will be a transforming one, the bright reflections of God's purity and holiness cast upon the glorified will make them perfectly holy and blessed. BUT there is to be a resemblance of that here in the lives of His people. And too comes from BEHOLDING HIM. (II Cor.3:18)
"But we all...beholding...the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
(Excerpts from A.W. Pink on Regeneration and the new birth)
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