This past week, in conversation with Gareth Bolton (our guest speaker this past Sunday), he told me about a series of preaching opportunities he had in Denmark several years ago. In each of these he preached the exact same message to similar groups of people. Most of these messages were not very well-received. But in the final location his message was met with an overwhelming response, and many people came to faith in Christ. He then commented, “It really is humbling. You prepare a message from God’s Word, preach it with passion, and 4 out of 5 times it seems to fall on deaf ears. But what makes the difference the fifth time? The only explanation is that the Holy Spirit chooses to open blind eyes and cause deaf ears to hear.” Then he observed, “It really is true that the Spirit is like the wind that blows where it wishes.” Gareth’s experience is a reflection of the words of Jesus in John 3.
John 3:1-15 records the account of Nicodemus’ night-time encounter with Jesus. Nicodemus comes to tell Jesus that he and at least some of the other Pharisees know that He is a teacher sent from God. Jesus responds not by commending him for this insight, but by reminding him of what he doesn’t yet comprehend: “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He tells Nicodemus that the one thing necessary is something he cannot do for himself. Why? Because “that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Jesus is describing the necessity of regeneration in order for a man or woman or child to come to faith in Him. Apart from spiritual rebirth, the natural inclination of our hearts is always rebellion against God (Eph. 2:1-3). In this state we are unable to comprehend the things of the Spirit for they are folly to us (1 Cor. 2:14). Our natural state is one of spiritual death. What we need is not medicine or a helping hand. We need spiritual resurrection!
And thanks be to God that this is exactly what He gives us: “even when we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ…” (Eph. 2:5).
This Sunday we will continue our series on the Holy Spirit, looking specifically at the Spirit’s work of regeneration. We will focus our attention mainly on Titus 3:1-7. But we will also look at Ephesians 2:1-5, which is one of the most dramatic descriptions of what happens in regeneration.
Knowing that God has rescued us from our state of spiritual death and utter helplessness should lead us to fall down and worship Him and give thanks for His amazing grace! God has done for us what we were helpless to do for ourselves.
Halleluiah, what a Savior!