TEXT. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3 KJV)
Salvation is the process by which a person is gloriously transformed from being a child of disobedience to a child of God. The children of disobedience are lost and have a different spirit than the saved. The lost live according to the ways of this world and according to the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2). Those who have been born of water only are fleshly (carnal); but those who have been born of the Holy Spirit are spiritual. Unless a person is born again of the Spirit they cannot see the Kingdom of God.
In this lesson I propose,
I. To examine first the three states of unrepentant sinners.
II. To explore the methods of dealing with each state of unrepentant sinner.
III. To explore the initial evidence of the born again experience.
I. The three states of unrepentant sinners.
A. The Careless Sinner
B. The Awakened Sinner
C. The ConvictedSinner
A. The careless sinner can simply care-less about their souls salvation and need for God. They are opposed to their own salvation. Some will get hostile or even violent at the proposal of being saved. Sinners are very creative in finding ways to ignore their need for God and press Him as far back in their minds as possible. They refuse to factor God into their decisions in life and live to sin unabated. These people are enemies of both God and themselves. Some simply ignore God and believe they are good people. Yet others may be involved in some form of false religion. No matter which category they fall into- they are quite careless about their souls. They are deceived by Satan and are fearlessly confident in their sinful condition. They feel no need to consider the vast number of ways in which God is trying to gain their attention at any given time. They ignore the sight of a church. They skip past Christian TV and radio when skimming channels. They ignore Christain related billboards and bumper stickers. More than that, they do always resist the Holy Ghost that is using these and many other means to arrest their attention. It is what Christ called, 'kicking against the goads' as He described Saul's rebellion and His sharp dealings. They surround themselves with worldly things that bolster their deception and hasten their damnation.
B. The awakened sinner is someone that has been somehow shocked into at least considering their need for God. This happens at times when tragedy strikes such as a loved one passing away or being suddenly killed. It happens when the individual themselves suffer some calamity such as being diagnosed with cancer or falling into financial crisis. It can happen at times of great distress and fear such as the events of 9-11 or the Great Tsunami Disaster. It may also happen at times when sudden danger is upon them such as a tornado warning or an earth quake. One of the jobs of the gospel minister is to play a part in awakening sinners by the truth of the Gospel. Occasionally God sovereignly shakes a sinner from their slumber with prophetic dreams or a general troubling of their heart and mind (Genesis 41:8, Daniel 4:5, etc.).
C. The convicted sinner is a person who after hearing a Gospel message and having been dealt with greatly by the Holy Spirit is convinced of their need for God and the Gospel. They are convinced they are a sinner and need to repent. They are convinced that they need to trust in Christ and turn everything completely over Him. To a lesser or greater degree they understand the Gospel. They are familiar more or less with God and His word- at least enough to be born again. The Holy Spirit has brought them to that place where they are trembling in awe of God and are halting between two opinions. They are at the crossroads- and must choose whom they will serve. At this time the Holy Spirit is in the role of Jesus Christ (John 16:1ff). Just as Jesus dealt with the rich young ruler- the Holy Spirit, in the same fashion, is dealing with this person. He is showing them in their minds-eye what they must submit to Him in order to be saved and have treasure in Heaven. He is putting His hand on an area of controversy that exists between them and God. This is a one-on-one with the Holy Ghost. This is where the great striving and wrestling happens. The Holy Spirit knows what is standing between Him and them and He is showing it to them. The convicted sinner is made to know exactly what he/she is trading for their immortal soul should they refuse to repent.
II. The method of dealing with each state of unrepentance.
A. Careless sinners require great wisdom to deal with. Proverbs 11:30 teachs us that He that winneth souls is wise. Since the careless sinners are opposed to themselves, they are like dealing with someone suicidal. Careless sinners are ready at a moments notice to turn on themselves and harden even further. Dealing with them requires the fruit of the Spirit and the wisdom of God. This is why prayer and the leading of the Spirit is important. Sometimes preaching will arrest their attention. Sometimes personal witnessing will do it. Dealing with sinners is on an individual basis; there are no cookie cutter methods. Awakening them with the Gospel or waiting for an opportunity to minister to them is a matter of the Spirit's leading, great wisdom and timing. Sometimes there will seem to be no real opportunity and you must witness knowing there will be great resistance or worse. But typically God is preparing hearts and we need to be sensitive to Him.
B. Awakened sinners also require great wisdom so as not to miss the opportunity to share the Gospel when the individual is in an awakened state. The enemy is working double-time to stop their conversion when he sees them in this condition. He will distract them and fill their minds with all sorts of rhetoric and lies. He will give them a multitude of excuses as to why they should not listen to God and yield to the Holy Ghost. If he can get them to put off until tomorrow their souls salvation he can wear down the urgency. No matter how bad a situation is human beings somehow lose their sense of seriousness with time.
This awakened state is the time to take them through the scriptures leaving nothing out- nor selling the Gospel short of its requirements. A person needs to understand their condition and what salvation is as much as possible. Nothing is more important than this time! Spend the time required to bring them to genuine conversion. This is not a drive-thru process; it can take hours, days or even weeks. The tragedy of our day is that we do not take time for reflection in the service and at the altar. This is a very serious and solumn time. Birth is a process. This is the time where they decide their eternal fate. Either heaven or hell will rejoice when its all said and done. Dont yield to the temptation to take shortcuts for any reason. The enemy will fill your mind with thoughts such as hurry-up or this is taking too long. He will keep you looking at your watch. Stay with them until you know for certain that their blood has been washed from your hands.
C. Convicted sinners are convinced of their sin and know they need to repent. They understand what is required of them. The Holy Spirit is showing them what thing they lackest and they are striving with Him. DO NOT give them a place of refuge if they start rationalizing and minimizing their sins. FLUSH THEM OUT until you know why it is that they will not submit to God. Give them time and they will tell you what it is. Maybe its a pet sin or bitterness. Maybe they dont want to reconcile old enmities or make restitution to those they harmed. Maybe they refuse to allow Christ to be the LORD of their life. If the Holy Ghost is telling them to do something or lay something down don't dare tell them differently! He knows what is holding them back and so do they. There is a controversy and God will deal with it. What if they go away sorrowful as did the rich young ruler? Do what Christ did and let them go. Dont fight against the Holy Ghost by comforting them. Let them feel the full weight of what they are doing; it is their only hope. Let them dwell on it. Do not give them a false assurance. The devil will use your comforting words to fortify them in their sin and eventually damn their soul. Salvation is not a process at this stage. They have been through the process and they know what they must do! They are in rebellion. Be ye not partakers of that rebellion no matter how much the devil tempts you to do it. Lay it all -on- the line!
III. The initial evidence of the born again experience
A. Once a person has fully submitted to God to His satisfaction a transformation will take place in which there will be a new creature. God has got to be able to believe us. We cannot fool God. He will bring to bear the full weight of the process of conviction. When the person submits the Holy Spirit will leave off convicting and pour in the love and joy and peace. A new creature is self-announcing. Everyone will know there has been a change. The love and joy will flow! The sin has moved out and the Holy Spirit has moved in. The heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Our new Spirit will begin to cry out to God ABBA Father! (Romans 8:14; Galatians 4:6) They will be dead to sin and alive to God. They will know- that they know- that they know that they are a Child of God and that their sins are forgiven. This is known as the witness of the Spirit.
As newborn babes in Christ they will desire the sincere milk of the Word that they may grow thereby. (I Peter 2:2) They want to know what the will of their Heavenly Father is so they might please Him. They are satisfied and fulfilled by doing HIS will. Where once they may have been fulfilled by sin- now they are contented by being a hearer and a doer of the work. This is what they live for! This is what brings them joy! There is a deep craving for God that cannot be quenched any differently than quenching a new born babies need for a bottle. They will desire righteousness where they once craved sin.
B. Newborn babes in Christ are filled with zeal for the Lord. They desire to share their newfound salvation with others. New Christians are often a thorn in careless sinners sides. They seem to eat, sleep, and breathe God. They want to know when the next church service is or when the next prayer meeting will be. They are NEW LIFE to the Church! They are often unlearned about God, but they are sincere and full of love, joy, peace and faith. They may make mistakes but God knows their heart. John writes; My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:27-29) Notice this simple progression, Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him and that He gives them eternal life. This is one of the great evidences of the born again exprience- they hear and follow Jesus Christ. Their eyes and ears are open and ready to follow. They will never again feel at home in sin. The world is not their habitat any longer.
The process of actually being born again is a process that does not usually happen in a few moments. Many people simply pray-off conviction and are not really born again of the Spirit. What a tragedy to then give them the right hand of fellowship as though they were children of the Kingdom! Oh no! When they quit serving the Lord we say they backslid. Did they backslide or where they merely convicted sinners that fooled us but never fooled God? We must know the difference. Sadly, some of these folks end up with a false assurance and the Church of God ends up with someone who does not rightly represent Jesus Christ. Dr. A.W. Tozer once said that the Gospel in the hands of bad men is worse than error.
If the world is ever going to change it will only begin when we get back to this most basic thing; the born again experience at the altar. Ask people if they are saved and everyone is saved. The question should be Are you born again of the Spirit? What was it like when you were born again? Were you born again in a few minutes? Was their weeping and tears? Did you wrestle with God? Did you surrender all? Did you take the time to really pour out before God? What was the one thing thou lackest that you gave to God? Maybe it was many things.
Many times people will come to God unwilling to surrender all but want to know what are the least requirements with which they might miss hell and go to heaven. They are content to merely feel saved. This is not the nature of real salvation. Real salvation is the surrender of your person to another person just as a man would be committed to his wife. It is a covenant relationship that holds nothing back. Figuratively you might say that when you are born again you are married to Christ. You are betrothed among many to be His true Bride the Church. He wants our love and commitment. The born again individual has had a shift in their effection that sets the coarse for the rest of their lives. They have an effection for Christ. They have the beginnings of a great love that will transform their whole desire. In olden days this was called a 'hopeful conversion'.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon