Regeneration and Conversion

By Archibald Alexander: The necessity of a change of moral character in man, arises from the fact, that by nature all men are “dead in trespasses and sins,” and, therefore, if any of the human race are ever saved, they must be regenerated ; for, even if a man could be justified and yet remain under the power of sin, he could not be happy, because sin contains in itself the seeds of misery, and such an one would certainly be incapable of participating in the joys of heaven, which require a holy nature to perceive or relish them. Therefore, our Lord said to Nicodemus, ” except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is not necessary to be very exact in distinguishing between regeneration and conversion, especially as the Scriptures appear to speak of both together. But, it may not be amiss to remark, that regeneration, which is the communication of spiritual life,

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10 Things You should Know about Being Born Again

Sam Storms: Here we take up the issue of the new birth, or what we often refer to as regeneration or being born again. (1) Being born again is not to be thought of in terms of moral reformation, a mere exchange of one set of habits for another set. Some mistakenly think that mankind does not need re-creation, only redirection. But as we shall shortly see, being born again entails a radical renewal of the entire inner being of a man or woman. (2) One Arminian author argues that God alone regenerates the human heart but does so only when and because the individual believes by a free act of will, or does not resist the overtures of grace. We are told that “God cannot and to say the same thing – will not regenerate a heart that will not admit him. God respects the sovereignty-within-limitations with which he endowed man at creation” (William G. MacDonald, Grace Unlimited, 86).

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Something amazing happens

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17). Tim Chester: When you became a Christian, something amazing happens: you are a new creation. The power of God that made the sun and stars is focused down like a laser into your heart. God steps into the world, as it were, and creates all over again. We’re transformed, reborn, made new. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6). At creation God spoke a word into the darkness, and there was light. He spoke a word into the chaos, and there was beauty. And now again God speaks a word through the gospel. He speaks into the darkness of our hearts, and there is light. He speaks

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How to deal with indwelling sin

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s testimony to overcomining sexual sin. You can read the whole thing here. This is a wonderful model for dealing with any aspect of indwelling sin: What is the sin of sexual transgression? The sex? The identity? How deep was repentance to go? Meeting John Owen In these newfound struggles, a friend recommended that I read an old, seventeenth-century theologian named John Owen, in a trio of his books (now brought together under the title Overcoming Sin and Temptation). At first, I was offended to realize that what I called “who I am,” John Owen called “indwelling sin.” But I hung in there with him. Owen taught me that sin in the life of a believer manifests itself in three ways: distortion by original sin, distractionof actual day-to-day sin, and discouragement by the daily residence of indwelling sin. Eventually, the concept of indwelling sin provided a window to see how God intended to replace my shame with hope.

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That’s how you got saved

John Piper: Christianity is not the conclusion at the end of a syllogism. It is a meeting with God. It is a living supernatural power, called the Holy Spirit, moving into our hearts, shedding abroad the love of God experientially… So Christianity, While not being merely the conclusion at the end of an argument is neither an experience at the end of a needle… Christianity is a supernatural experience of the Holy Spirit mediating the love of God to you through a historical person who did a historical act, namely, dying and rising to bear your sin… To become a Christian is not to draw a conclusion at the end of a syllogism and sign a card that you think it is good logic. That makes nobody a Christian. To be a Christian is as the syllogism unfolds the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the heart so that in the truth of the gospel being presented… as the gospel

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John Owen on the Four Main Functions of the Holy Spirit

John Owen: The chief and principal ends for which the Holy Spirit is promised and received may be reduced to these four heads:—(1.) Regeneration; (2.) Sanctification; (3.) Consolation; (4.) Edification. There are, indeed, very many distinct operations and distributions of the Spirit, as I have in part already discovered, and shall yet farther go over them in particular instances; but they may be reduced unto these general heads, or at least they will suffice to exemplify the different manner and ends of the receiving of the Spirit. And this is the plain order and method of these things, as the Scripture both plainly and plentifully testifies: — (1.) He is promised and received as to the work of regeneration unto the elect; (2.) As to the work of sanctification unto the regenerate; (3.) As to the work of consolation unto the sanctified; and, (4.) As unto gifts for edification unto professors, according to his sovereign will and pleasure. (HT: The

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God Makes Us a New Person With a New Purpose

Kevin DeYoung: When God saves sinners he makes them a new person and he gives them a new purpose. Never underestimate the gift of new life in Christ. We are new creations. The old has passed away, and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no long I who lives but Christ who lives in me and the life I know live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). When you become a Christian you may wake up the next morning with the same family, the same job, the same house, the same money, the same looks, but make no mistake: you are a new person and you have a new purpose. You no longer live for the glory of your name, but for the glory of the Name. And let’s be honest, this is why many people

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Effectual Calling and Regeneration

“So, then, what is this effectual, internal call that we are speaking about? Well, the most we can say about it is — and this must of necessity be true in the light of these scriptures — that it is the exercise of the power of the Holy Spirit in the soul. It is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit within us. It is immediate, it is spiritual, it is supernatural, miraculous. And what it does is to make a new mode of spiritual activity possible within us. Without this operation we are incapable of any true spiritual activity but as the result of this operation of the Holy Spirit upon us, we are rendered capable, for the first time, of spiritual activity and that is how this call now becomes effectual, that is what enables us to receive it. “Now this is very important and I want to emphasise the immediacy, the direct action. You see, what happens

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2 Ways to Know You Are Saved

J.D. Greear: I get the question from Christians a lot: “How can I know for sure that I’m saved?” So often, in fact, that I wrote a book addressing it: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart (which you can pre-order here). I struggled with the question a lot myself until someone pointed me to passage from 1 John that helped open my eyes. In 1 John 5:13–18, John identifies 2 ways that we can be sure of our salvation. 1. We have placed our hopes for heaven entirely on Jesus. (1 John 5:13) “I write these things to you,” John says, “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It’s so simple that we’re liable to miss it, but assurance comes from believing in Jesus. This is the gospel: when we trust in his name, we cease striving to earn heaven by drawing upon our own moral bank account; instead, we withdraw on his righteous account in our place. The gospel, by its very nature,

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Justification and Regeneration

Dane Ortlund: Seems to me there are roughly four camps when it comes to the question of how to put together the gospel with our ongoing growth. Maybe we can put all four in terms of their unification of the objective/legal/pardoning/external side of salvation (which for simplicity’s sake we’ll call justification [J]) with the subjective/mystical/empowering/internal side (which for simplicity we’ll call regeneration [R]). 1. Unbelievers (neither J nor R). No focus on either justification or regeneration. Full-blown functional Pelagianism and Socinianism without knowing it. 2. The Christian Buzz Lightyears (R, not J). A focus on regeneration to the neglect of justification. Overly optimistic. Anthropologically naive. Historically known as ‘Neonomian.’ Forgets that even the regenerate continue, in many ways, to be hard-wired to self-generate, even a little bit, God’s approval. Focuses on the ongoing need for the work of the Spirit to the neglect of the ongoing need for the work of the Son. I think the German Pietists Franke and

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A Divine and Supernatural Light

“This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates our nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. 2 Cor. iii. 18. “But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Christ. It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation therein revealed: it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in

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A Divine and Supernatural Light

Jared Wilson posts: Look ye blind, that ye may see – Isaiah 42:18 “I come now . . . to show the truth of the doctrine; that is, to show that there is such a thing as that spiritual light that has been described, thus immediately let into the mind by God. And here I would show briefly, that this doctrine is both scriptural and rational . . . First, It is scriptural. My text is not only full to the purpose, but it is a doctrine that the Scripture abounds in. We are there abundantly taught, that the saints differ from the ungodly in this, that they have the knowledge of God, and a sight of God, and of Jesus Christ. I shall mention but few texts of many. 1 John 3:6, “Whosoever sinneth, has not seen him, nor known him.” 3 John 11, “He that doth good, is of God: but he that doth evil, hath not seen God.” John 14:19, “The

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No longer blind to the gospel of the glory of Christ

“For as God, the Creator of the world, pours forth upon us the brightness of the sun, and gives us eyes to receive it, so, as the Redeemer, in the person of His Son, He shines forth, indeed, upon us by His gospel, but, as we are blind, that would be in vain, if He did not at the same time enlighten our understandings by His Spirit. His meaning, therefore, is, that God has, by His Spirit, opened the eyes of our understandings, so as to make them capable of receiving the light of the gospel. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 20, p. 200 (HT: John Fonville)

Resurrection Life

The Puritan John Howe, in a series of 13 sermons on regeneration, said this: “You see by this what a Christian is. And all will agree (no doubt) in the common notion, a Christian is one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ. But you see who are reckoned to believe to this purpose, such as are born thereupon another sort of creatures from what they were, and so continue as long as they live: and such as are heaven born, born of God by immediate divine operation and influence, a mighty power from God coming upon their souls, conforming them to God, addicting them to God, uniting them with God, making them to centre in God, taking them off from all this world.” “The Spirit that is from God suits us to God and to divine things and makes us savor the things of God and take delight in them.  It seasons us more and more, so that God

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“Spiritual,” because…

The latest issue of The Gospel Coalition’s online theological journal, Themelios is out now. From Don Carson’s editorial on Spiritual Disciplines: . “People think of themselves as “spiritual” because they have certain aesthetic sensibilities, or because they feel some kind of mystical connection with nature, or because they espouse some highly privatized version of one of any number of religions (but “religion” tends to be a word with negative connotations while “spirituality” has positive overtones). Under the terms of the new covenant, however, the only “spiritual” person is the person who has the Holy Spirit, poured out on individuals in regeneration.” (HT: Guy Davies)

Forgiven and Born Again: Two Things at Once

I love this post by Fred Sanders. Here he points us to John Wesley’s astute understanding of the relationship between justification and regeneration: It’s one thing to be forgiven, and another thing to be born again. Both happen at once, but they are distinct from each other. They have to be distinguished clearly, in order to be united perfectly. It’s hard to know whether it’s more important to distinguish them, or to insist that they go together. John Wesley may have been the most successful at distinguishing and uniting them in his preaching. Nearly everything Wesley taught flowed from his understanding of the new birth, because the new birth (or regeneration) is where the great salvation proclaimed in the gospel actually enters into human experience. It is “a vast inward change, a change wrought in the soul, by the operation of the Holy Ghost.” And it is crucial that we see how Wesley related this doctrine, a doctrine about a change

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No More Important Event

Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), first professor at Princeton Seminary, on regeneration– There is no more important event, which occurs in our world, than the new birth of an immortal soul. Heirs to titles and estates, to kingdoms and empires, are frequently born, and such events are blazoned with imposing pomp, and celebrated by poets and orators; but what are all these honours and possessions but the gewgaws of children, when compared with the inheritance and glory to which every child of God is born an heir! The implantation of spiritual life in a soul dead in sin, is an event, the consequences of which will never end. When you plant an acorn, and it grows, you expect not to see the maturity, much less the end of the majestic oak, which will expand its boughs and strike deeply into the earth its roots. The fierce blast of centuries of winters may beat upon it and agitate it; but it resists them

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Marks of a True Christian

From Kevin DeYoung: How can you tell the difference between a true Christian and a false professor or heretic? Wilhelmus à Brakel in The Christian’s Reasonable Service (1700) lays down six propositions to get us started. Proposition1: A Christian must have a great love for the truth; all splendid pretense void of love for the truth is deceit. Proposition 2: A Christian must have great love and esteem for the church. Proposition 3: The Holy Scriptures are the only rule for doctrine and life. Proposition 4: Regeneration is the originating cause of spiritual life, and of all spiritual thoughts and deeds. Proposition 5: A Christian avails himself of faith. Proposition 6: All of man’s felicity, here and hereafter, consists in communion with and the beholding of God. To be sure, the list could be longer, but à Brakel is trying to warn against “Quietists,” “fanatics,” and “Boehmists” in particular. In any case, propositions 1 and 2 seem particularly relevant for our day. And proposition

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JI Packer on Regeneration and Sanctification

The concept [of sanctification] is not of sin being totally eradicated (that is to claim too much) or merely counteracted (that is to say too little), but of a divinely wrought character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues. Sanctification is an ongoing transformation within a maintained consecration, and it engenders real righteousness within the frame of relational holiness. Relational sanctification, the state of being permanently set apart for God, flows from the cross, where God through Christ purchased and claimed us for himself (Acts 20:28; 26:18; Heb. 10:10). Moral renovation, whereby we are increasingly changed from what we once were, flows from the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13; 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:11, 19-20; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:22-24; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 13:20-21). God calls his children to sanctity and graciously gives what he commands (1 Thess. 4:4; 5:23). Regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before: desire

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