The text this week is John 3:1-21 and the topic is being “born again.”
Theologian Wayne Grudem defines regeneration (or the process of being born again) as follows: “regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us.” In other words, in order for us to be saved, we must be fundamentally changed and this is God’s work performed even before we profess faith. In fact, we can only make such a profession thanks to invisible work of God within us (See Eph. 2:8).
Dr. Grudem points to a number of Scriptures for support, not the least of which is Ezekiel 36:26-27 in which “the sovereign work of God in regeneration was also predicted…” Take a peak (and notice that I have emphasized the personal pronoun “I” which refers to God):
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
Why does God do this? See Eph. 2:1 and 2:5. Can “dead” people save themselves? You may object that you know “good people” who aren’t Christians, so therefore cannot be “spiritually dead” but is it possible that any “good deed” done in the name of “random acts of kindness” or “humanity” or “liberalism” is distorting the truth in the long run? If all life was intended by our creator to bring glory and honor to him then what do these act truly do?
How should we respond? How would you respond to someone who saved your life? See 1 John 5:3. We live in thanks manifested by obedience.
How does John say this all happens? See John 3:3 (the mystery of “the wind”). How does that make you feel? Are we truly capable of wholly understanding God? Can we ever manipulate him? How do you take John Piper’s statement, “My feelings do not define truth.”
Why evangelize if God does the important work? God’s role is decisive but our role is still essential. See Rom. 10:14-15.
You may object that if God really did this then the churches would not be in such poor shape but as John Piper writes, “research is not finding that born again people are permeated with worldliness; the research is finding that the church is permeated by people who are not born again.”
It is important to get this down. To quote John Piper again, “1) What happens in the new birth is not getting a new religion but getting new life. 2) What happens in the new birth is not merely affirming the supernatural in Jesus but experiencing the supernatural in yourself. 3) What happens in the new birth is not the improvement of your old human nature but the creation of a new human nature.”
Be sure to keep your sermon outline and be careful not to confuse “regeneration” with “sanctification.” Regeneration makes sanctification (growing to be more and more like Jesus) possible but it is not the same thing!
Once again, always cover in your groups: (1) What is the Gospel? (2) Who are you sharing it with? What is your plan to get to know those who don’t know Jesus and to be God’s instrument of redemption?