The Heavenly Birth
One evening, after preaching on the subject of the heavenly life, a gentleman said to me, “I have been a member of a church for thirty years; I have had pastors capable of giving instructions in the divine life, and I have tried to live a Christian life, but have utterly failed; can you tell me the cause of my failure?” We told him that we thought we could. We asked him if a fig tree could bear olive berries? He replied, “I get your meaning. Is it possible I have been trying to live a life I did not possess?” That was his trouble, and it has been the trouble with many another. You cannot live an heavenly life if you do not possess the life. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7) We have a number of different translations of the New Testament in our library, and for the words, “born again,” as given in our common version, they all read, “born from above.” To be born from above is to have an heavenly birth. Man becomes a Christian in no other way than that of being born from above. Birth means life, and since this birth is from above, the Christian’s life is of heavenly origin. This birth brings man into an heavenly state on earth, enables him to live an heavenly life, and entitles him to an eternal heaven beyond this life. There can be no more important theme in the Bible. There are many sincere people who do not understand the nature of the new birth and the life that is to follow. We hope to bring them help. There are a few questions often asked which we will try to answer.
- How can a man be born again? This was Nicodemus’ question.
- Why does a man need to be born again?
- What is needful for man to do that he might be born again?
- What are the results of the heavenly birth in the life of man?
To answer these questions fully would require more space than we can give, but we will give enough to start you on the way to the truth of the subject, and you can go the rest of the way.
1. How can a man be born again?
We do not mean to tell you in what manner the work is done. No one knows this. We know that it is done and that it is done by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. These are the agencies at work in effecting the new birth, but we do not know how they work. Peter says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23) James says, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” (James 1:18) The word of God planted in the heart springs into life just as the seed planted in the ground, warmed by the sunshine, springs into life. But the seed needs moisture, heat, light, etc., that it may germinate. So the Word of God needs the germinating power of the Holy Spirit. The wire is said to be but a change of nature also, a change from bad principles to good principles. It is not a change in action, such as to discontinue to go to the theater, and to go to some religious service. It is not the change from bad words to good words. It is not to supplant cursing by praises to God. These are only the effects of being born again and not the work itself. Now it is true that man can leave off many bad deeds and take up the doing of good ones and yet not be a Christian. The doing of some good deeds is not necessarily heavenly living. Heavenly living comes only from heavenly life, and heavenly life comes only from being born again, and this is a change, not of action, but from death unto life. Being born again is to be resurrected from a state of death to that of life. It is to be translated from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of Christ. It is a change whereby man becomes a new creature. He is a new creation. Old things pass away, and all things become new, and all these new things are of God. The Bible becomes a new book, Jesus becomes a new Christ, love is new, joy is new, the world is a new realm of light and beauty, it is childhood innocence, joy and gladness in an heavenly life. This can be wrought in the life of man only by the Word and Spirit of God.
2. Why does man need to be born again?
Is there not some other way? Is this absolutely necessary? Would Jesus, who loved man so well as to die for him, have said, “Ye must, and except you do, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven,” if it had not been a positive necessity? Whenever anyone argues for some other way than an actual birth from heaven to become a Christian, he is pleading—it may be consciously or unconsciously; nevertheless, he is pleading for a looseness, a liberty in life that is below the standard of Bible living. Heaven is a fixed state of holiness. Man is in sin, and consequently in a state of death. He must have his sins forgiven, he must pass from death unto life, he must pass from a state or guiltiness to a state of innocence, he must pass from a state of sinfulness unto a state of holiness or he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. It is a fixed law. The reason why man must be born again is, then, because he cannot enter heaven without it.
Another reason is because he can never receive the things of God. If God should take him into heaven without being made a new creature he could not receive the things of heaven. Listen, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 1:41) Man is a natural man until he is born again. When he is born again he is born of the supernatural power and he becomes supernatural or spiritual. Without this heaven could not be heaven to him. He could no more be able to receive the things of heaven than a dark body is to receive light, nor more able to enjoy heaven than a deaf man to enjoy music, or the blind man to enjoy the beauty of the flower. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us [those who have been born again] by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
Men are traveling all over the world to see and enjoy wondrous scenes of the material world. They are utterly unable to conceive of the beauties, the glories, the wonders, God has for those who have been born again except they have this experience. The heavenly birth brings man into a world of beauty, of light, of grandeur, of wonder, that fills him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Praise the Lord. The Spirit of God brings up the deep and wondrous things of God and reveals them unto the spiritual. There can be no thirsting for such scenes as are displayed in the theater when man once gets a vision of the unfading glories in the kingdom of heaven through the new birth. There are other reasons why man should be born again, but we must pass on.
3. What is needful for man to do that he might he born again?
Some will tell us that all has been done, that there is nothing for man to do. This is a serious mistake. There is something for man to do. He must believe on Jesus Christ. The Philippian jailor asked what he should do to be saved. He was not told there was nothing for him to do. He was told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1) A census officer called upon a Christian with a form to be filled up, the latter gave him the family Bible in which were recorded the names of the various members of the family. After looking down the list of names, the officer said, “I do not understand this; here is the name of Samuel T. who was born in 1890, and in 1920 was born again. I do not know how to make this entry.” Reader, could you have explained the point from a personal experience?
The believing that is spoken of in our last quoted text is more than intellectual belief. It is to believe with the heart. Now, it is true that none can believe from the heart that Jesus is the Christ except they forsake all for Christ. “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) said Jesus. Do not attempt to believe on Jesus except you have forsaken all to follow Him. He must have all your heart. A dying king said to his dutiful servant, “Go tell the dead, I come.” The servant understanding he could not go tell the dead the king was coming except he die, therefore he fell upon his sword and died. We cannot go tell the dead in sin that Jesus has come to give life except we die to all that is in sin.
To enter into heavenly life man must receive Jesus. This he can and must do. “He came unto his own and his own received him not, but as many as received him to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) The caterpillar, as it lies in the cocoon, seems to be in a state of death, yet it is capable, under proper conditions to receive something outside of itself, and receiving this, is converted into a butterfly. The soul of man, dead in sin, is capable under proper conditions to receive Jesus Christ, and as it receives Him, it is born of God.
4. The results in life of man having been born again?
He has victory over the world. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” (1 John 5:4) It is not that we go out of the world, it is not that we cannot be citizens of the world, it is not that we cannot do business with the world, but that we have overcome the world. Those born of God live above the world. When the world of mankind speaks evil of you, neglects you, persecutes you, insults you, misrepresents you, despises you, you have victory. You have victory over the charms and allurements of the world. They have no power over you. They do not have your love; they do not engage your mind. The loss of all things earthly, the most adverse circumstances of life, cannot disturb you. Things to eat, things to wear, nor any earthly thing causes you any anxiety. You have victory over the world. This world is not your lord and master. You do not have to bow down to this world for anything. You are a child of God. Your heavenly Father careth for you. God will see that this world serves you in all that you need while you are here in it. You are not to trouble your mind a moment about any earthly thing. This is victory.
Man born of God has victory over the flesh. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5) Victory over the flesh; we have a beautiful and forceful example of it in the life of Jesus when He refused to turn stones to bread. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:24) “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” () One said he did not understand what it meant to live after the flesh and to mortify the deeds of the body. He was advised to search and seek for an understanding, for it is a most serious matter. If a man’s physical life depended upon his knowing and doing a certain thing, he would put forth much effort to know and do that thing. Did you ever read your Bible carefully and prayerfully that you might have a clear and concise, connected view of its hallowed teaching with respect to not living after the flesh? To have the Spirit of God dwelling in you, you must walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh (Romans 8:9).
We will take the liberty of quoting from a very old book published in London, England:
Through these lips and eyes, and so on, we are continually exercising an influence on all with whom we come in contact. Now, the question is, what is the nature of that influence? Dear friends, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it will be a revelation of Christ. Our lives will be a constant epiphany. In these bodies, we should carry about the marks of the Lord Jesus. The tone of our voice, the line of our conduct, the look in our eyes, everything about us will speak of Christ. I do not think it a light thing, dear friend, that so many who name the name of Christ adopt a light, rattling, worldly manner, to emulate the manners of the world. These bodies of ours are the veils which conceal the things unseen, the things of the spiritual world, from our present sensible, experience. Strip off these bodies, and in a moment, we are landed in the presence of invisible realities. If it were not for the veil which now for a time overshadows us, it would be impossible for us to fulfill the work of our probation. At the same time, however, it will be the great effort of the foe of God and man to employ this bodily organism as a means of deadening our spiritual sensibilities.
It is this last sentence that we especially desire you to give serious thought. Indulgence of the flesh dulls the sensibilities of the soul. There are only comparatively few saints that can come into the presence of God and talk heart to heart with Him, that can feel His presence, that can see the realities of the unseen world, that have any particular realization of Christ through the spiritual senses. It is all because they live too much after the flesh. Many have to acknowledge that their private devotions are not satisfactory. They do not talk to God face to face as they believe is their privilege. It is because the veil of flesh is too thick. They are in too direct communication with the world. They mind earthly things too much. Their life is a feasting rather than a fasting. Their life is a self-indulgence rather than a self-sacrifice.
Recently, I was invited to listen over the radio to a sermon that was being preached. I tried to tune in for the sermon, but I could not get out of tune with another station where they were broadcasting something about a prize fight. I could hear in one sentence something about the Lord Jesus, but the next sentence was about the boxing match. I could get nothing satisfactory out of the sermon because I could not get out of tune with the boxing match. Some people have this trouble in their spiritual life. They do not get into satisfactory communication with heaven, and it is because their connection with the world is not wholly cut off.
Another result of having been born into heavenly life is victory over the devil. “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1 John 5:18) The Christian’s privilege is to triumph over Satan at all times. When the seventy that Jesus sent out to preach returned, they were rejoicing because the devils were subject to them. Jesus told them He would give them power to tread on scorpions and serpents and give them power over all the power of the enemy. “[But] in this rejoice not,” he said, “but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20) When your name is written in heaven, you are invested with power and victory over Satan. When your name is written in heaven, you are related to heaven, and all heaven has power over the devil. Satan sways his power only over those who are in sin. Every soul that comes to Jesus is liberated from Satan and given power over him.
Still another result in the lives of those who have been regenerated is that they have victory over sin. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” (1 John 3:9) “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” (1 John 5:18) There is no sin in a heavenly life. Adam was driven out of Eden when he sinned. Those who are born of God live heavenly, consequently live sinless lives. They walk with God. They live in obedience to the Word of God. They have been delivered out of the hand of the enemy; therefore, they serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness all their life long (Luke 1:74-75).