Today I want to talk about the New Birth. Let me tell you what sparked my interest in this topic.
Last Sunday I read a quote describing how the author of an incredibly enduring book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” came to faith in Jesus Christ. His name is John Bunyan, and John Bunyan had his facts straight about the nature of the Christian faith. And God used him mightily in his day.
Just a few minutes ago, though, as I was reading another book, I remembered that most people do not have their facts straight as to the nature of the Christian faith. I have built my understanding of the Christian faith on a regular, literalistic reading of the 66 books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
What do you think of when you think of Christianity? Maybe you think of people with absurd rules for everything. Maybe you think of taking your confessions to some priest as if he has magical powers to absolve you of your sins against God. Maybe you think of mindless morons who cannot think for themselves.
All these perceptions are absolutely wrong. They are built on what people say and do. They are not based on the content of the Bible.
Your understanding of a religion should only ever be built on the content that is found in that religion’s authoritative literature.
The author of the book I was just reading is also wrong about the nature of the Christian faith. He goes about describing it in a very attractive way, though. He believes the essence of the Christian faith is what he calls “Holy Moments.”
One of the major problems with this book is that I am more than halfway through it, and he has still not explicitly defined exactly what a “Holy Moment” is. I am taking a very good and probably accurate educated guess when I say this: Matthew Kelly seems to believe a “Holy Moment” is simply doing good things for people and society.
Remember, Kelly does not explicitly define his terms. Heck, he doesn’t even define the word “holy.” But Kelly’s definition of the nature of the Christian faith seems to be a popular idea, too.
In “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity,” Kelly writes, “There is nothing more attractive than holiness. When someone actually lives the teachings of Jesus in an unqualified way, they capture the imagination of the people of their age, because Holy Moments are universally attractive.”
What Kelly does not do is tell us why doing good things for people and society — his “Holy Moments” — is attractive. He simply uses this idea to say you can change the world by being good. So just keep doing good things and the world will be a better place.
So, if that is true, why did Jesus say, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7:6)?
Why did Jesus feed thousands of people who abandoned him moments later? John 6:26 tells us why: “You seek me . . . because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”
According to Jesus, doing good things for people and society are attractive because they are corrupt from the inside and therefore selfish.
Doing good things for people is never a guarantee that you will change the world.
Sometimes doing good things for people will only result in ridicule, punishment and enabling those you serve to be more sinister.
Adolf Hitler was rescued from drowning in a river in Passau, Germany, in January 1894 as a child. Henry Tandey spared Hitler’s life in 1918, and Hitler repaid the world by murdering more than 6 million innocent people.
After the religious belief of evolution was popularized in the U.S., Margaret Sanger used this false premise to convince the public that Planned Parenthood was good and healthy. Some people might call that a “Holy Moment.” Her racist ideas have resulted in the death of over 7 million precious children in our nation.
If the essence of the Christian faith is “Holy Moments,” then the world is doomed.
Thus, “Holy Moments” cannot possibly be the essence of the Christians faith. So, what is?
The essence of the Christian faith is what is often called “The New Birth.” Sometimes it is called regeneration. Jesus called it being “born again” or “born from above” in John 3.
The New Birth is an act of God that takes place in your soul the moment you give your life to Jesus Christ to have salvation from his wrath. It is an act of God where God takes you from a state of spiritual death to permanent spiritual life. The New Birth is the moment God makes you good from your innermost desires. It is the moment God makes your will good.
That is the essence of the Christian faith.
The Bible teaches that your will and everyone else’s will have been corrupt against God. You do not desire the things of God. Since you do not desire the things of God, you will never be a truly good person. But God’s act of the New Birth in Jesus Christ alone is the guarantee to make you a good person.
Do you want to be a good person? Look to Jesus Christ alone. Give him your life. Trust in him. He is the only way to God. He is the only means to make your will good.
Christians are good because the savior they look to calls them to be good regardless of how their goodness is received. Being good can get you in a lot of trouble. It is never a guaranty to make the world a better place. Only Jesus Christ offers that by changing your will in the New Birth.
Receive the New Birth today.
Andrés Reyes is senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Perry.