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No one can be saved unless he is born again by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. “Ye must be born again,” says Jesus. The necessity is absolute; not merely, “Ye may be born again,” but “Ye must be born again.”
Nothing else will take the place of the new birth. Neither baptism nor confirmation will take the place of the new birth. Simon, in the eighth of the Acts of the Apostles, was baptized, and whatever the right form of water baptism may be, he was baptized the right way, for he was baptized by a man sent by the Apostles, and taken into the early Church; but when Peter and John came down and saw his heart, Peter said unto him, “Thou hast neither lot nor part in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Thou art still in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” A baptized lost sinner! I go to people in these meetings and ask them to come to Christ, but they say, “I have been baptized; I have been confirmed.” Have you been born again? “Ye must be born again.”
No performance of religious duties will take the place of the new birth. A great many people are depending upon the fact that they say their prayers, read their Bibles, go to church, partake of the Sacrament, and perform other duties; but all that will not take the place of the new birth. “Ye must be born again.”
The orthodoxy of faith will not take the place of the new birth. A great many people are saying, “I believe the Apostles’ Creed,” “I believe the Nicene Creed,” “I believe in the Longer and Shorter Catechism,” “I am orthodox; I hold the right views about Christ, the right views about the Bible, the right views about the Atonement.” You can be orthodox upon every doctrine, and be lost forever. I suppose the devil is as orthodox a person as there is. The devil knows the truth about the Bible. He hates it and loves to get others to believe something else, but he believes it himself. The devil knows the truth about Christ. He believes in the Divinity of Christ. He tries to keep others from believing in it, but he believes in it himself, he knows Jesus Christ is Divine. The devil believes the truth about hell. There is no one knows better than the devil that there is an everlasting hell. The devil is perfectly orthodox, but he is lost. “Ye must be born again.”
Culture, and refinement, and outward correctness of life will not take the place of the new birth. The trouble with us is not merely in our outward life. The trouble is in the heart. The corruption is in the heart, in the very deepest depths of our inner life; and merely to reform your outward life is not enough; that will not save you. It does not go deep enough. Suppose I had a rotten apple. I could take that apple to an artist and have him put a coating of wax around the rotten apple, and then paint it until it was just as beautiful in appearance as any apple you ever saw, but it would be just as rotten as ever. Take one bite into it and you bite into the decay. The trouble with you is that out of Christ you are rotten at the heart, and mere culture, mere refinement, mere respectability, mere reform, mere morality, is simply putting a coating of wax on the outside and painting it up. You must be changed down to the deepest depths of your being. What we need is the power of God going down to the deepest depths of our souls, banishing death, and bringing in life; banishing corruption, and bringing in the holiness of God. “Without holiness, no man shall see God,” and it is only by the regenerating power of the Spirit of God that any man or woman can become holy. “Ye must be born again.”
The necessity of the new birth is universal. There is not a man or woman on the face of the earth that shall ever see the kingdom of God, or enter the kingdom of God, except they be born again. There is no exception. There is not a woman anywhere, I care not how refined, how highly educated, how amiable, how beautiful in her daily life, that will ever see the kingdom of God unless she is born again. If anybody could have entered the kingdom of God without the new birth it was Nicodemus. Nicodemus was an upright man, honored by everyone; he moved in the best society, a man of wealth and culture; he belonged to the orthodox party, a man of deep religious earnestness, sincerely desiring to know the right way, a man who prayed and studied his Bible, and went regularly to the synagogue several times a week; and the Lord Jesus looked him right in the face, and He said, “Nicodemus, you must be born again.” No exceptions. Except a man be born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God. So I come to you with the question, “Have you been born again?” I do not ask if you are a church member. I do not ask you if you believe the truth. I do not ask if you say your prayers or read your Bible. I do not ask if you go to church. I do not ask if you have a liberal heart toward the poor. I do not ask if you give to foreign missions. Have you been born again?
Well, somebody says, “What does it mean to be born again?” As good a definition as I know of the new birth is given in 2 Cor. 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The new birth is a new creation. A radical transformation by the power of the Spirit of God in the deepest depths of our being; a new will, new affections, new thoughts. We are born with a perverted will. We are born with corrupted affections. We are born with a blinded mind.
In regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit God transforms our will, transforms our affections and our tastes, transforms our way of looking at things. Let me go into it a little more specifically. Every man and woman by nature has a perverted will, a will that is set on pleasing self. By nature, we love to please self. We do what pleases ourselves. What pleases us may not be vicious at all; we may not be pleased to get drunk or swear, or lie, or do anything vicious or vulgar, but our minds are bent on pleasing ourselves. But when God, by His Spirit, imparts to us His nature and life, our will is changed, and the whole purpose of our life. Instead of pleasing self, it is pleasing God; the whole will is surrendered to God, and we live to please Him. We may do a great many of the things we did before, but now we do them because they please God. Before, we did them because they pleased ourselves. Our affections are corrupt by nature. We love the things we ought not to love and hate the things we ought to love.
For example, a great many young people love music, smartphones, and social media, more than they love the Bible, which God loves. If a great many of you young ones were, to tell the truth, and would stand up and speak the truth, you would say, “I would rather listen to music or troll social media on my smartphone any day of the week than read the Bible.” You love the teen shows today that glorify teen sex and graphic violence, which God hates. I don’t say God hates all teen TV shows, mind you, but he hates the ones that are in opposition to his moral standards; He hates them. God hates fornication: Sex before marriage, adultery, bestiality, incest, and homosexuality. (Leviticus 18:6; Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) God hated couples living together outside of marriage. (Hebrews 13:4) God hates Lying, Gambling, Stealing. (Titus 1:2; Ephesians 5:3-5; Exodus 20:15; Ephesians 4:28) God hates Fits of Anger, Violence. (Genesis 4:5-8; Psalm 11:5; Proverbs 22:24-25; Proverbs 24:29; Romans 12:17-21) God hates Magical Spells and Spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Proverbs 18:10) You may think this no longer applies but God hates the TV shows that glorify witches, demons, werewolves, vampires, and magic. God hates Drunkenness (Psalm 104:15; 1 Timothy 5:23) There is nothing wrong drinking a little wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverage. However, abusing alcohol is a sin. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 1 Timothy 3:8; Proverbs 23:20, 21, 29-35) Persons who living in and sin, no matter how small, that God says are bad, he or she will “not inherit God’s kingdom.” (Galatians 5:19-21) If you really love God, you will want to please him. Therefore, make the effort you can break free from living in any sin. (1 John 5:3) You need to learn to hate what God says is bad. (Romans 12:9) When God, through the power of the Spirit, imparts to you a new nature, you will love the Bible more than any other thing in the world. You will love the place where God manifests Himself better than any place of worldly entertainment. You will love the company of God’s people better than you will love the pleasures of this world; and the beautiful thing is that in a moment of time, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, the change comes.
New tastes, new affections, take the place of the old tastes and old affections. Do you love the things you once hated, and do you hate the things you once loved? Then you will get new thoughts. Many today are blind to the Divine authority of this book. You believe all the nonsense that people tell you in the name of what they call “scholarship”—about the mistakes in it. When you are born again, you will get a mind so in tune with the mind of God that you will believe everything in it in spite of everybody. Some of you cannot believe the doctrine of the Atonement, that Jesus took our sins in His own body on the cross. The preaching of this doctrine is “foolishness to them that perish”; but when you are born again, the doctrine that the Son of God died on the Cross of Calvary will be one of the sweetest doctrines in all the universe. A new will set upon pleasing God instead of pleasing self, new affections to love the things that God loves and to hate the things that God hates, a new mind about the truth of God. Have you been born again? If not, you are not saved. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
How can we tell whether we have been born again or not? 1 John 2:29: “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him.” If you have been born of God, you will do as God does. God does righteousness. If you are born of God righteousness will be the practice of your life. What is righteousness? To do righteousness is to do that which is right in God’s sight. A man that is born of God will study the Word of God to find out what God’s will is as revealed in His Word, and when he finds out, he will do it. Are you doing that? Studying the Word of God daily to find out what God wants you to do? When you find out what God wants you to do, are you doing it?
1 John 3:9: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” That is, does not make a practice of sin. What John means by sin he tells us a few verses before this. To commit sin is to do that which you know to be contrary to God’s will. The man of God will not, when he knows God’s will, disobey it. He may be mistaken. He may do something that he did not think at the time was not God’s will, but he will find out it was not, and when he does he will own it up and confess it as sin. Or he may be suddenly surprised, overtaken by a sudden temptation, and fall; but as soon as he sees it he will confess it. He will not go on day after day doing that which he knows to be contrary to the will of God. Anybody that is making a practice day after day of something that they know when they do it to be contrary to the will of God has reason to doubt whether they are born again. A young man asked me once, “If a man is born again and lies down in sin and dies in sin, will he be saved?” “Why,” I said, “a man who is born again will not lie down in sin. He may fall into it, but he will not stay there.”
In 1 John 3:14, you find the third proof of regeneration—love of the brethren. “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” Love to everybody that belongs to Christ, irrespective of their social position, irrespective of their race or color. “We love the brethren,” every child of God. The nature of God is love, and if God has imparted His nature to you, you have a heart full of love, and especially love for God’s children. “Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) Unlike the wicked world that we live in today, where there is a lack of love, those who are genuine worshipers of God love their fellow man. This has been the case since the beginning. Jesus told his disciples that loving one’s neighbor is the second greatest commandment under the Mosaic Law, second only to loving God. (Matt. 22:38-39) Jesus also tells us that this kind of love is an identifying marker for true Christians. (John 13:35) This love is beyond what the world knows because it even encompasses one’s enemies. (Matt. 5:43-44) Jesus’s love for others can hardly be matched because he gave his entire life to help others and then literally gave his life itself. He spent the last three and a half years going from city to city, tell people about the good news of the Kingdom. Jesus cured the blind, the lame, the lepers, and the deaf. He literally raised people from the dead. (Luke 7:22) In the end, Jesus gave his own life on behalf of all mankind. (Matt. 20:28) Throughout this earth, genuine Christians, while not being able to imitate Jesus perfectly, they will reflect that kind of love to others.
Another test. 1 John 5:1: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Now, you say, “I come in on that. I believe that Jesus is the Christ.” Do you? “Of course I do. I am perfectly orthodox.” It is not orthodoxy, it is real belief. “Christ” means King, and if you really believe in Christ as King, it leads you to set Him up as King in your heart. Everybody that really believes in Christ as King makes Christ King. Does Christ sit upon the throne of your heart? Does Christ rule your life? If He does, you are born of God. If He doesn’t, you are not.
1 John 5:4: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” There are two classes of people in the world—those who are overcoming the world, and those who are being overcome by the world. Which class do you belong to? Are you getting the victory over the world, or is the world getting the victory over you? A great many people come to me and say, “I know this is not just right, but it is what everybody is doing, and so I do it.” The world is getting the victory over you. “I don’t believe in this, but all the people in our community, even including the church members, do it, therefore I do it.” The world is getting the victory over you. If you are born of God you will get the victory over the world. You won’t ask what the world does; you will ask what Christ says, and you will obey Christ, your King, and get the victory over the world, though you have to stand alone. Are you born of God? “Ye must be born again.” Have you been born again?
Now, I think, some of you may honestly say, “No, I haven’t. Can you tell me just now what I must do to be born again?” Yes, I can. God Himself tells us.
John 1:12: “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” We are born again by God’s Holy Spirit, through His Word, the moment we receive Christ. When you take Christ into your heart, you take the life of God into your heart. When you take Christ into your heart, Christ comes and reigns and transforms you through and through in a moment. Anybody reading this article, I care not how worldly you are, how sinful you are, how hard you are; I care not how unbelieving you are, anyone who will take in the knowledge of the only true God, and the one He has sent, Jesus Christ (John 17:3), he will will throw his heart open and let Jesus come in to rule and reign, who will take Christ as his sin-bearing Saviour, as his Saviour and Deliverer from the power of sin, the moment you surrender to Him the control of your life, God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, will make you a new creature.
“Ye must be born again.” Ye can be born again. There is not a person within the hearing of my voice but who will become a child of God right now if he will take the Lord Jesus Christ. The moment he does it, God, by a creative act, by the power of His Holy Spirit, will make him a new creature. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Two thoughts I wish to leave with you. First, that the most highly-educated, most upright, most amiable, most attractive man or woman who is out of Christ will never be saved but by the creative act of God until the Holy Spirit in the inmost depths of your soul makes you a new creation in Christ. Second, the most hopeless abandoned man or woman in the world can get on the path of salvation, be born again, made a new creature, the moment they accept Christ. We are all saved the same way. By the acceptance of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit the instant you accept Christ. Have you been born again? If not, understand Jesus words, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Listen to Paul’s words,
Romans 10:13-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” 14 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 will they hear without someone to preach?
Romans 12:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Hebrews 5:14-:6:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 But solid food belongs to the mature, to those who through practice have their discernment trained to distinguish between good and evil.
Press on to Maturity
6 Therefore, leaving behind the elementary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God,
The Following three are needed, and none of the three can be missing.
To become a well-grounded Christian, one must
(1) obtain a real, broad knowledge of Bible truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4),
(2) put faith in the things we have learned (Hebrews 11:6),
(3) repent of your sins (Acts 17:30-31), and
(4) turn around in your course of life. (Acts 3:19);
(5) Then our love for God should move us to dedicate ourselves to Christ. (Matt. 16:24; 22:37)
(6) Finally, baptism (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-10; Acts 8:36)
If one is missing the knowledge department, he cannot believe in something he has no real in-depth knowledge of. Deeper Bible study is no guarantee that spiritual maturity will result but a lack thereof is a guarantee that spiritual immaturity will result.
By R. A. Torrey and Edward D. Andrews
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