Harbor Lights Sermon Nov 14th, 2010

Born Again

As we saw last time under the New Covenant salvation from the wrath of God is provided as a free gift for those who believe in Christ having been bought and paid for by the blood of Christ and is not something one has to work for. Salvation through faith in Christ is neither gained nor lost based upon a person's performance. A person does not gain salvation by being good nor does he lose it by sinning. Once a person has been saved they are guaranteed eternal life and are eternally secure.

However this idea has historically disturbed some people from the times of the early church to the present. For what is it that prevents a person from turning the grace of God into a license to sin. Jude writes, "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." Jude 1:3,4

And from the fact that God's grace is magnified in his forgiveness of our sins, Paul notes some making a false inference we read in Romans 3:8 "Why not say— as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say— 'Let us do evil that good may result'? Their condemnation is deserved." Those people making those arguments are not saved. They don't embrace the gospel, and consequently they are still under the sentence of condemnation.

We saw last time that a cult had formed in the church at Jerusalem which had added requirements to salvation. But clearly dealt with that cult as recorded in the book of Acts and in his letter to the Galatians. Yet since then there have been individuals and groups that have misconceptions about the gospel and so they either add requirements to it, which is referred to as legalism, or they advocate that Christians should feel free to sin, which we call licentiousness. Theologically it's called antinomianism.

But what is the answer to this latter position. Why shouldn't Christian continue in sin. That's the topic I'll be dealing with today.

The idea that since the believer's salvation is not affected by sin would lead such believers to live a lifestyle of sin simply never actually occurs. It never happens. John writes about this in the first phrase of 1John 3:9a "No one who has been born of God will continue to sin" And he repeats this in 1John 5:18 "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin." Yes there are believers who sin from time to time, but don't continue in it. Sin is not characteristic of their lives. Yet in the same letter he writes, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins" 1John 2:1,2a indicating that those who have been saved might have less than perfect behavior.

And there are those who are "Christians" in name only who do continue in a lifestyle of sin, but who were never actually saved to begin with. Like those who left the faith of whom John wrote, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19 But no one who has been born of God will continue to sin. It just doesn't happen.

The reason why it never occurs is because of what John says right after that. The whole verse goes, "No one who has been born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1John 3:9 Because he has been born of God. You see when a person comes to faith in Christ not only are they given but they are also given two other things. The book of Hebrews speaks of these three things given under the New Covenant, "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Heb 8:10-12

We spoke of that last thing previously - what we call justification - the forgiveness of sins. But the first may be referred to as being "born again". Jesus himself said, "no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." John 3:3 And it's written in John 1:12 "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." And Gal 3:26 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."

Now the first time you're born what do you get? Among the things you get is a body, a mind, a heart. When you're born again you get a new mind, a new heart, and yes at the resurrection from the dead you will receive a new body as Jesus did, and incorruptible body which Paul elaborates upon in 1Corinthians 15 which I'll speak about at another time. But right now the believer is changed inside. In fact it says in 2Cor 5:17, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" For example Ezekiel prophecies, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God." Eze 11:19,20

And notice this incorporates another thing you're given. As I read from Hebrews 8 about what the New Covenant promised, it promised also a personal relationship with God. Elsewhere this is associated with the receiving of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the first Christian sermon in Acts chapter 2 Peter promises, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off— for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2:38,39 The Holy Spirit is given to everyone who believes such that Paul writes in Romans 8:9b "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

So for those who have come to believe the gospel, God writes his law on our minds and hearts, he gives us a new heart, an undivided heart and puts his Spirit in us. All these things move us to do the things which are right such that righteous behavior becomes more natural than unrighteousness behavior. There is still a struggle involved though, because we still have a sinful nature. Thus Paul writes, "live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Gal 5:16,17  Those who have born of God only sin reluctantly. Regret drives us back into right behavior.

But there are those who only have a surface knowlege of Christ, never having been born again of whom he says, "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known about the way of righteousness, than to have known about it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: 'A dog returns to its vomit,' and, 'A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.'" 2Peter 2:20-22 

There are people who get involved with Christianity merely to reform their lives, but never coming to genuine faith in Christ and thus do not become born again and while they know about Christ, they do not know Christ personally. A dog goes back to its vomit because it's a dog. That's its nature. A sheep doesn't go back to its vomit. A pig goes back to wallowing in the mud because that's it's nature. A sheep doesn't. Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 That's the natural behavior of his sheep.

How can you tell whether a person has been born of God? By their behavior. John writes, "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10 And Jesus said said, "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.." Mt 7:16-21 Here he is not talking about how to be saved, but rather diagnosing whether a person is saved. You can identified those born of God by their behavior. Thus Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5

Finally, to give you a feel for the kind of rhetoric Paul uses to motivate Christians not to sin I'll Read Romans chapter 6. You'll note that it's not about fear of condemnation but about rejoicing in the hope we have in our salvation in Christ. Paul writes:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey— whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jul 29,2015