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Archive for Regeneration

The Big Picture

by Dick Hill

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The Bible is an inexhaustible source of amazing wisdom and insight. And there is always more to learn, always moreto understand. One will never plumb the depths of its truth this side of the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ. Paul said that at best in this life we will only have partial knowledge.

There will come a time, however, when partial knowledge will give way to full knowledge. Paul said that when he was a child, he spoke as a child and understood as a child. But when he became a man, he put away childish things. He then made this point: 

 

For at this present time we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now we know in part, but then we shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12).

When believers, those who have the Spirit of God living inside, begin to study the truths of the Bible, it is as though they are looking through a dimly lit corridor. They just catch glimpses of God’s amazing truth here and there. But there is coming a time when God will draw back the curtain and allow us to really see. Our dim mirrors will then become bright and crystal clear.    

Full knowledge of many things will eventually prevail. I do not think, however, that we will ever come to a complete understanding of God. God is, after all, incomprehensible and unfathomable. However, some day we will finally see God in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ – the King of all Kings.

God has used many different Bible teachers throughout my life to add to my knowledge of His word. But without a doubt, my greatest teacher by far has been the third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. Notice how Jesus introduced Him to us. Speaking to His disciples He said:

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15) 

Christians profit from the writings of different people and have throughout the years of history. God placed in my heart to write books on Bible truths that some may consider difficult.  It has been my desire to make these difficult Bible doctrines understandable to those who have the desire to know them. It takes time and the desire on the part of the listener and clear teaching on the part of the instructor to make the truth understandable.

In the book, A Glimpse of the Christian, I sought to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” What does the word Christian mean? It means “belonging to Christ” or “connected to Christ.” Some of the most exciting glimpses into God’s invisible domain are the ones that teach us exactly how we are connected to Him.

First and most importantly, Christians are Bible people. For most readers, this would appear glaringly obvious. “Well, of course,” you might respond. “What else would we be?”

Then again, you may not understand exactly what I mean by “Bible people.” Christians believe the Bible to be God’s inerrant, infallible Word. Christians are to be faithful to study the Bible, seeking to find the correct interpretation so we can do what it says and teach it accurately. But there is much more to the Bible than most people understand.

When I was young, I came into the possession of some old hand-me-down puzzles. These were definitely not children’s puzzles. Some of them had well over a hundred pieces and most of these pieces were very small. I simply had no clue where to begin. After the decision to try, I would begin by looking intently at the picture on the box. In fact, I would look at it over and over again trying to etch that picture in my mind. I found myself constantly gazing at the image, trying to visualize what this puzzle was to look like when completed.

The more familiar I became, the easier it was to zero-in on the location of various objects in the picture, like buildings or mountains or people. Then came the colors with their various shades. I studied all the pieces and their shapes – some had square corners, some rounded corners, etc. – all the while, keeping the picture on the box in mind.  Then piece by piece, ever so slowly, paying close attention to the colors and shapes, through much trial and error – I began to find where the pieces fit. I gradually began to make a little progress. Hours turned into days, and the picture began to take shape. As this happened, I was more motivated to go back and work on it. Though agonizingly slow, the picture on the box began to come into view in the puzzle. Finally, when the last few pieces were inserted, there it was! The puzzle became the picture on the box. When the last piece was laid in place, and the picture was complete, it was time to celebrate.

It is very much the same when attempting to understand the big picture behind the Bible. When we begin to put the pieces of truth together and catch a glimpse of God’s end game, His big picture, we are more motivated to study it. 

The apostle John was used by God to give us a glimpse of this big picture as well as some important truths to help us understand the way forward.  John was a prisoner, exiled on a deserted island for nothing more than believing and teaching that the testimony of the Bible is true.  John taught that the Bible’s main character is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth (including Caesar at that time).  John boldly said that Jesus loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:2, 5). John was charged as a criminal, found guilty, and later exiled to a desolate island called Patmos.  He had already realized that this world was not his final home. He was a pilgrim and a stranger here. He was just passing through (Hebrews 11:13). He knew also that he was completely in God’s hands and that God had placed him on that desolate island for His purpose.

Jesus Christ gave John a magnificent view of the big picture. John testified that he had seen a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. 

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God iswith men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and betheir God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:1).

I have tried to visualize in my mind exactly what that old grace champion must have seen, that is, what this new heaven and new earth will be like. The last two chapters of Revelation must have become for him his glimpse at the picture on the box of God’s final puzzle. This must have given him the added assurance that this world was not his home and his view of that new heaven and earth became for him the final piece of the puzzle. This, no doubt, was at least a part of his thinking when he wrote:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that isin the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-18)

Peter Shouts to Us

Every living thing came to be because of seed. God vividly illustrates this to us through the birds, the bees, the flowers and the trees, everyday things all around us. This is true also with the new birth. Without seed, there can be no new birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless you are born again you will not see the kingdom of God.” He was telling Nicodemus what he had to do in order to get into the kingdom of God.

The apostle Peter shed more light on what it means to be born again. He was encouraging believers to obey the truth of the Bible, love fellow believers, and keep themselves clean before God. Then he focused in on the one single act that made this possible – the new birth.

“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, But the word of the Lordendures forever.” And this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”(1 Peter 1:23–25)

Let’s unpack the meaning of this passage one layer at a time.

Having been born again.

The Greek wordanagenao is a past participle of the verb “to be.”This means that Peter intended to make clear that he had made this new birth trip. What Jesus had told Nick he had to do, Peter had done.  He also assumed that his readers had been born again. Then he proceeded to explain how this birth actually happens.

Not of corruptible seed 

Peter explained first how this birth does not happen. This birth is not associated with physical human birth from our biological parents. This is what Nicodemus wrongly thought that Jesus was speaking of. The physical birthfrom Adam’s fallen seed, far from giving us life, brought death to us. Well, if this new birth does not happen from physical seed, then how does it happen?

But incorruptible(seed)

Peter plainly stated precisely how we are regenerated, or born again. We are born again with seed that has not been tarnished with death; it is living seed. What is this living seed? Recall that God allowed two seeds to pass through the Fall and not be corrupted. One was the amazing seed planted in the womb of the virgin Mary that led to the birth of our Savior, the God-Man. Jesus Christ missed the universal death seed from Adam because He was born in the spiritually sterile womb of the virgin with no human seed added. This meant that our Savoir came into the world of sinners, but He himself remained free from sin. He could then go to the cross and bear the sins of many as a free born man. The other seed is now explained.

Through the word of God

The other seed that God allowed to miss the sting of death through Adam the first was the Word of God. We are born again through the incorruptible (living) Word of Godplaced into the soil of our sinful minds. No seed, no birth!No seed, no regeneration! The seed that brings the new birth is the seed of God’s living Word.

Peter was careful to make abundantly clear the contrast between seed that is corruptible (physical and stained with death) and that which is incorruptible (spiritual and living). “Seed” is the Greek word spora,the fertilized and mature ovule of the flowering plant, which enables the species to perpetuate itself.

Now we understand why God gave us His Word. It is not the corruptible physical seed of Adam’s fallen race that produces this new birth. The Fall made this impossible. Corruptible physical seed is producing a fallen civilization that is destined to die and perish – after its kind. In contrast, God is using the imperishable seed of His Word to germinate new lives  – after its kind. What kind of seed is the Word of God? Peter was quick to add a most important component of this living seed.

Which lives and abides forever

God’s Word, like Himself, is eternal. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).David wrote in the Psalms, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89-93). By the use of the words “settled in heaven,” David meant that God’s Word has been written in eternal stone; it can never change. David said that it was by God’s precepts that life came to Him. “For by them[God’s words] You have given me life”(Psalm 119:93). God’s living seed is like all seed. It produces “after its kind.” Because this seed is an eternal seed, what it germinates lasts forever. It results in a life that is eternal. Peter explained why this new birth is necessary. He quoted from Isaiah 40:6–8 to prove that this new birth is not optional, it is crucial.

All flesh is as grass

Every human being is like grass. Grass dies. Likewise, it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

And the glory of man like the flower of grass

All that sheds light upon the human race’s amazing accomplishments in the tech world, art, medicine, military, etc. is like the flowers of grass. These achievements bring favorable attention to the genius of man and his scientific discoveries.

The grass withers and the flower fades

Both the grass and flowers will wither and die. James said that human life is like a vapor. It appears for a little while and then vanishes. All members of the human race birthed the old-fashioned way are like the grass. All are destined to wither and die. Both life and fame are fleeting. All of man’s accomplishments will wither and be gone.

But the word of God endures forever.

What a tremendous contrast! The Word of God lasts forever. Peter finally threw back the curtain, so we can view in all its amazing splendor, the very seed of God.

And this is the word which by the gospelwas preached to you.(1 Peter 1:23–25)

There can be no new birth without God’s living seed. The Word of God that gives life to the spiritually dead is God’s living seed packed as the gospel. The gospel is at the very heart of the Bible. Gospelmeans “good news.” The gospel is wonderful news beyond anything that our human minds can grasp. It is the gospel that gives life.

“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures”(James 1:18).

 

 

Powerful Seed

Christians are physical people who have been made spiritual people by means of the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). To become a Christian, one needs neither reformation nor religion. One does not need to follow the teachings of Islam or Buddha, to become a devout Hindu, Mormon, or Jehovah’s Witness, or even to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. A person does not need to become a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Catholic, or an Episcopalian. One needs to be born of God by hearing and responding to the gospel. 

The gospel, guided by the Holy Spirit, is the only power on earth capable of infusing spiritual life into the spiritually dead. The only place on this earth where this message is found is in the Bible. This is why the Bible was given to man. This is why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ and why he called it “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

The Greek word for “power” is dunamis. It is where we get our English word “dynamite.” The gospel is the dynamite of God.

The gospel is God’s powerful seed planted by the Holy Spirit into the soil of the mind. When the Spirit germinates the seed, it results in faith in Christ and new life. The gospel has the power to break through every barrier, every objection, every human argument, and all the human rationalization that is thrown against it. The simplicity of the gospel insults both man’s intelligence and his pride. No amount of education, success, or wealth can give us a spiritual birth. Only the gospel wielded by the Holy Spirit of God can make it happen.

We have no control over God’s power to give the new birth. A great illustration of this is our human birth. God alone determined that we would have life and how and when and where this life would occur. He determined all of the various circumstances behind it. He made it happen.

The same is true with spiritual birth. The new birth involves hearing and believing the gospel. It also involves trusting in Jesus Christ, becoming connected to Christ by birth.The result is that the one believing in Christ becomes a child of God. But God does it all. God is in complete control of the whole process.

John was very clear on this. He wrote that all who receive the Lord Jesus Christ are given the authority to become children of God. He then quickly added that God’s children are born not from a physical genealogical line of human beings, as a result of human choice, or from the choice of any human father, but from the source of God alone (John 1:12–13). No power on earth or in heaven can cause God to give life or prevent Him from making it happen.

 

 

Regeneration and Seed

One does not have to be a Bible scholar or an expert theologian to understand how sinful people become Christians. All we need to know is a little something about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, and we are there. God is the great genius. He penned the Bible for ordinary people who are acquainted with His creation. Arguably the most amazing and powerful glimpse into the invisible world of God is the Bible’s teaching about regeneration. The science of biological regeneration is a God-ordained fact of life. In the beginning, God established this unchanging blueprint. After His initial creative act, God destined that all living organisms reproduce themselves. God ordained that both plants and animals procreate by making seed within themselves and reproducing more plants and animals according to their kind (Genesis 1:11–12).

Thus God commanded what scientists call “organic reproduction.” It is referred to as the cycle of life. He created trees that produce fruit containing seed, and the planted seed again regenerates the tree. Apple trees make apples and the seeds within them. Other fruit trees do the same. Corn seeds regenerate corn plants and then corn, and the process starts again. The seeds always produce fruit after their kind. James said that the fig tree does not produce olives, and the grapevine does not produce figs (James 3:12).

A seed can be stored away and lie dormant for years. It may give the appearance that there is no life within, but when it is placed into the ground, the whole of God’s universe springs into action to cause germination. The earth turns on its axis, and the seasons change, bringing the spring.

The sun, which is located some 93,000,000 miles away, warms the soil to just the right temperature. The tides move in with the pull of the moon, causing the warm air to rise from the oceans and to turn to tiny droplets of water. The wind currents move this moisture inland, producing condensation and the rain that waters the seed. The lightning flashes and produces the necessary nitrogen to fertilize the soil. The seed germinates, and another plant is born. This process has been repeated throughout history.

It is God who sends the rain from heaven and provides fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). What an amazing thought! God is in absolute control of the whole process.

God also established the same biological regeneration pattern for the animal world. He created sea creatures and birds and told them to “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (Genesis 1:20, 24–25). The phrase “according to its kind” is repeated over and over. There are obvious genetic changes within the plant and animal world. There are different kinds of plants and different breeds of animals, but there is no crossing over from one species to another. Plants do not reproduce animals, animals do not reproduce plants, dogs do not reproduce cats, birds do not reproduce fish, and so forth. God’s established order is firmly in place and He has an amazing purpose for this. God created it all to reveal to us His beyond this world plan. It is all a gigantic object lesson.

The remarkable truth made known is that God’s words – all 774, 646 of them – are His incredible seed, His sperma(1 John 3:9). This seed is in the form of the good news of the origin, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:23-25). This seed is being used to birth a new generation – a heavenly generation after its kind(James 1:18).  It is spiritual seed, therefore it produces a spiritual product, a spiritual birth (John 1:13, 3:6). God’s seed is guided by Him – generation after generation – all over the earth reproducing a heavenly people that will one day occupy a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). God sends His seed to accomplish His purpose, and it never fails. There are no miscarriages (Isaiah 55:11). Wow!