Updated: Aug 17
April 25, 2021
How the New Testament describes the change in a Christian's life:
"Born Again" 1 Peter 1:3
"A New Creation" 2 Corinthians 5:17
"Regeneration" Titus 3:5
Paliggensia: literally "birth again" "Born Again" or "New Birth" It means a brand new life is formed in a literal sense.
Regeneration, The New Birth
I. What Is it?
It's a new life implanted. Ephesians 2:4-5
It's a new power for change. Ephesians 1:18-20 (NIV)
It's a new desire and agenda. 2 Corinthians 5:17
II. Is it real? Acts 17:6 (ESV)
III. How is it received? John 3
You must give up on everything else.
And desperately look to Jesus to be your only answer.
“Does Christianity work?”
“Does Christianity do in me what it says it will do?”
My name is Rob Metter. This is my wife, Leanne Metter. We've been married 27 years. Out of those 27 years, 24 of those years I struggled with addiction. This is how God changed my life. So yeah, when I when I finally hit rock bottom, I had back issues. And on top of being an alcoholic, I ended up going to a pain management doctor. I'm not a drug addict, but I was on a lot of opiate drugs, fentanyl being one of them. I tried to stop; I was on those medications for six years. And when I tried to stop, I realized I couldn't. I was physically addicted. I tried to get out of that dark place for well, years and years and years. And I realized that no human power was going to be able to get me out of that. Not my wife, not my family. So, I actually turned to God for that. And I had a tough time with that for a long time. My wife has always been a woman of faith.
I was born and raised, believing in God. I mean, I was just taught that from day one. My parents went to church, we went to church and Sunday school. Then I met Rob. I felt like God put him in my path because he made me feel like a husband should make you feel. Leaving just wasn’t an option. I just had to keep praying.
Towards the end, my addiction got pretty bad. I went to a 12-step program. And even through that, I couldn't grasp that. And one day, she and I were standing in our bedroom. And she grabbed me face to face, hand in hand. And she said to me, “For once in your life, won’t you let God take care of us?” That was the turning point for me. Last Saturday, I celebrated three years of being sober. I couldn't put two days together at one time, our marriage is much stronger. And then through that 12-step program, that led me to Bear Creek church. Everybody is different. Like she said, a lot of people that are stuck in that dark place have a real hard time reaching out to God. But it's nothing hard. It's just something like I said, you’ve got to push the door; be willing to open it a little bit. So, no matter how dark it is, no matter where you're at, God can change your life.
Why not celebrate Rob's faith story?
Good morning, everybody. Welcome to 11 o'clock. And I'm so grateful that you're a part of this experience. And God's moved in an incredible way all morning. This is the fourth of four services on Sunday morning Bear Creek, and I'm grateful that you chose to be a part of that for everyone who has gathered in this place for everyone who has gathered through our broadcasts, God bless you, thank you for being a part.
So, we're in this series. It's called “Does Christianity Work?’ And yes, it's an apologetics series. You know, the word apologetic means to give a defense, a defense of the faith. Yes, it's an apologetics series, but like none I've ever experienced before. Because here's the deal, and we've made this point. A lot of atheists, a lot of skeptics, question Christianity on philosophical grounds. The question in terms of historical veracity, are on questions of cosmology, or rationality, miracles and lots of other stuff. And those are fine ways to ask questions of Christianity. But I don't think that's where most non-Christians have their questions about Christianity. In fact, I think I think that most unbelievers are unbelievers because they are unsure about God in the most practical ways. I think most non-believers are genuine enough to want to know if Christianity works. Here's the whole premise; they just want to know if Christianity actually works, does it do what it says it will do in my life? That's where they're unsure. And there's a reason that they're unsure. Here's a primary source for their doubt. There are some people around them who named Christ for their own lives, but they're toxic people; they are full of Christian pretense, but blind to how messed up their own lives really are. And we don't need any amens to that. We get that that's true, that there's not much in their lives that someone who doesn't know Christ would actually want. And so, it's an impediment. And I think that's what drives most of the skepticism, at least in our culture, at least in our generational moment. I don't know that I have all these questions about cosmology of the universe, cosmology of God creating the universe, but, but I am wondering, does prayer actually work? Does Christianity actually give hope, to my life? How do you answer that hypocrisy question? I don't know that I can answer it fully in the moment here that we have. But a part of the answer is this: hypocrisy has an effect. Here's the effect of a hypocrite; the effect of a hypocrite is that the hypocrite’s stench can drown out all of the beautiful fragrance of all the other genuine believers that are around you, and you can't see them because of the stench of the one, right? It's the principle of the smell test, you know, does the smell, take it along full of skunk oil, just take in a whole lung full of that, then turn and try to catch the aroma of a dozen roses. You get it. And so, it causes us to do something that's unfortunate. It causes us to ignore the countless number of people whose lives around us whose lives have been utterly transformed by faith in Christ, where there's no other reasonable explanation other than something supernatural happened to them. And what does Christianity say happened to them? That is what this message is about.
So, there are some ways that the New Testament describes how our lives changed. There are some descriptor words; the question today is, does Christianity actually change my life? Can it actually change my life? And genuine believers would say, yes, it has changed my life. So what does Christianity say happened to them? I think if you understand this, you ask questions of this, you'll get to the right answer of can it or does it change your life. And so, look, there are these terms that the New Testament uses that describes this change. And I'm going to introduce a couple of those terms to you. For instance, one is the term born again, it comes out of I Peter 1, and describes being born again to a living hope. You see that in I Peter 1:3. There's another way that this change is described. It's described in II Corinthians 5:17, that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creature. And that word new doesn't mean new in time. It means new in kind, meaning, there hasn't been one before it. It's brand new, you are a brand-new creature. That describes this change that Christians say Christianity makes in one's life. Then there's a third, and the third is kind of a technical term. The third is kind of an engineer's term, this change. It's the most technical of them. It's found in Titus 3:5. And there, it's talking about how God has saved us and how he has brought us into a relationship with him. And he says, it's not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness. That describes religion, that stuff that we do in order to try to get right with God. But rather, converse to that, it’s according to His mercy. The verse says, how does that change happen? Here it is, it is by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. The word is “regeneration”. And so, here's the here's the change that Christianity claims, and that is that God infuses new life into a person that comes to Him; not metaphorical language, not symbolic language, there's no simile here. There is this supernatural act that transforms them from the inside out, and they are radically changed. That's what Christianity says happens to a person whose life has changed by encountering Christ.
And so, here's the question, Is that real? Does that really happen when a person is genuinely converted to Christ? Well, let's explore that. And I think we'll get our ultimate answer for “Does Christianity work?” So, let's focus on the technical word that I've just described here, the word regeneration. So, in the biblical text, it's a compound word that literally reads these two words put together birth again, that's what makes the term “born again”, or “the new birth”, which is the most accurate way to describe how the change comes into our lives. It means a brand-new life is formed in a literal sense. And listen, if that's true, then it's staggering. And I want to describe why, because he tells us that placing your faith in Christ is not about you. It's not about anything in you, it's not about what you do, anything you do to change the core brokenness that is in your life. Putting your faith in Christ is not a decision on your part, to reform your life or your behavior, or to turn over a new leaf. That would be a religious decision. It's not this decision, “I'm going to now behave better.” Because you know, living for my flesh just hasn't worked out that well at all. Regeneration is a supernatural thing that God does to you, when you embrace Christ, when you utterly surrender and completely count on him to be the only answer that can help you now.
And so, let's ask questions of that experience of regeneration. Let's ask what is it exactly? Let's ask, is it a real thing? And then let's ask, how do you take it into you? Ready to jump in? Regeneration: What is it? It is the Christian claim is that it is God bringing new, literal spiritual life into me. And I want you to think about it in three ways, because the Bible gives us three ways in which to think about this change. Number one, you think about it as this new life implanted. None of this is metaphorical, none of this is symbolic. This is literal, new life is place inside of you. That's what makes the word reborn really accurate to describe it. Ephesians 2 describes it as well, in terms of new life. So, the Bible says there in Ephesians 2:4” But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he has loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, he made us alive together with Christ.” He's just described it as new life implanted. There's a part of you that is dead. Not symbolically, but literally. It's unresponsive. There's a part of you that does not operate. We were dead in our transgressions, the Bible says. But then God implants a new life into you. The verse says, “God made us alive, together with Christ,” and you become a new life, a new person, you're not just an improved version of your old self, you become a whole new person. That's what it means by it being the impartation of a new life. But it's not just that, you should look at it a second way. This regeneration is also a new power for change; it's a new power for change. In Ephesians 1: 18 the apostle Paul writes, “I pray that you may know by experience (that you'll know it by experience), I pray that you will know he is in comparatively great power for us who believe. That this power is like that working of his mighty strength, which exerted in Christ, when he raised him from the dead. Simply put, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in you. That's what this new life is. That's what regeneration is, it's a new power for change. It's a power that is in the new life implanted in you, and it transforms you into who God ultimately created you to be. You have a power that was just not present in you before. This is why so many people have experienced such incredible change, by asking Christ into their lives. It explains a new power to overcome addictions in which you were dead before. This explains how a deeply selfish, harmful, and toxic person transforms into a person of total self-giving love and encouragement. This explains all of that. It's because you have a power that was simply not there before.
There's a third way to look at it: transformation, what is it? What is this regeneration? It's a new life and it's a power for change. And it is a completely new desire and agenda. It results in a completely new desire and agenda. So, we talked about II Corinthians 5: 17, one of those terms that describes this change in us that, that we become a new creation. But then there is something that follows this new creation, and that is old things pass away. Old agendas, old desires, stuff that you wanted in your life actually transforms, you don't even want them anymore; new things, new things have come. The new birth is not a whole new agenda. The new birth is not, I've got kind of a weak self-esteem, and I need more confidence. And so, God is going to help me get more confidence. It is not that; he's not going to help you fix your weak identity, he's going to give you a brand-new identity. That's what this power is. It results in a completely new desire and a new agenda. And so, faith in Christ is not taking on a new religion, a new way that I reform my behaviors, it's not a way that I finally get what I’ve looked for. Regeneration is that I am so thoroughly changed, I don't even want the same things I wanted before. So, the first question is, what is it again; what is this thing? What is it that Christianity says that changes you is regeneration, it is a new life and implanted a new power for change, a new agenda and desire in your life.
But the second questions, is why we're here. Is it real? So, I mean, let's ask the question, we're here for. Is there any evidence for it being real? And once again, let's acknowledge the obvious. You and I have known a lot of people who name Christ, but you know, they're toxic, they're self-absorbed, they're controllers. They're full of all kinds of darkness, they destroy others with their tongue. They point out how everyone else falls short, but they but they have no awareness of their own darkness, their own failing in their own life. They only point out their own superiority. What exactly explains their hypocrisy? What exactly explains their hypocrisy? Here it is... They’re fakers. Whatever they have experienced is not genuine; they're faking it. Whatever they've experienced is not Christianity, whatever they've experienced is not the new birth. And based on the evidence, there's a lot of them around us, right? In fact, I think there were more of them than there are more of them than there are of genuine regeneration. And there's no time to talk about why they haven't experienced the real thing. I wish I could talk about that. But I'll give it to you as shrink wrapped as possible. They were embracing a religion. They were embracing a way for me to reform my life. It doesn't work, it's not regeneration. There's the short answer.
But let's talk about the evidence that Christianity does indeed change your life. Is there some evidence of it? Let me give you at least like two evidences, the first evidence is the evidence of ancient Christianity. What about at Christianity's birth? What about midcentury, mid first century, the first generation of Christianity, what happened in those people's lives? You know, the Acts of the Apostles, is a book of the Bible that is a historical record of the very first generation of Christianity; it just sort of describes what began to happen. In a generation, as a result of Christianity being more about Christ's death, burial, resurrection, people have embraced that, and then the change that began to make in their life. And so, in Acts 17, there's a little glimpse of it, you get this glimpse of it. And so, the Apostle Paul and his companions are in Thessalonica, they're on this missionary journey. They've been going from city to city sharing the gospel, people's lives have been impacted in this the most phenomenal ways miracles, actually having people's lives changed in incredible ways. And so, it is creating such a stir, such transformation and creating such change throughout the region, that once they come to Thessalonica, people are ready to attack them. And in fact, a part of the mob yells out these men who have turned the world upside down, have come here, too. There is this impact that it was making. And I can only tell you that when Christianity suddenly came on the scene in the middle years of the first century, the converts came to live radically different lives. In fact, they lived such radically different lives, there is no psychological or social explanation for it. All explanations fall away. In the first two centuries, in the first two centuries of Christianity, societies were changed by these Christians. And there is no rational explanation for it, because they were not government leaders. They were not military dictators. They were not highly educated leaders of society. They were poor, they were unknown, they were rejected people with no influence. And yet, the value system that changed in their lives absolutely transformed the societies around them. They were known for their incredibly selfless love toward other, where in the Roman Empire, love was seen as a weak virtue, a weak characteristic. They were known for how they took care of the poor, and a society that said, “Let the poor take care of themselves.” They were known for staying behind when plagues came into a region, and everyone in the villages of the towns and cities would flee the town in order to save their own lives, and Christians would stay and care for the sick, and they would die themselves in order to care for others. What explanation is there for that? They were known for rescuing baby girls left out to die of exposure because the culture found it really acceptable to just throw them away. They were known for buying slaves out of slavery, and taking them into their little spiritual communities, and actually lifting them up as leaders in these spiritual communities. Hospitals were invented by Christians. orphanages were invented by Christians and done in the middle of societies that had no value for them. Their lives were radically change; this was the evidence of ancient Christianity, the first-generation Christianity.
But then, because of time, let's just cut straight to the evidence around us. So, for me, I suppose you could say I have been in the middle of a 40 plus year linear research project of Christianity, I suppose.
I've spent all of that time living in the community of the New Testament Church. So, I've seen hundreds of people come to know Christ, and I've seen their life after. And I've known hundreds of people in my lifetime, who have embraced Christ and their lives have been utterly transformed from the inside out a change that they could have never generated themselves. And they were not changed because they decided to add extraordinary discipline to their lives. They're not changed because they added a life changing philosophy to how they lived. They were not changed, because they went to an extraordinary counselor who helped them re-think how to live their life, and it changed them forever. They were changed not because they adopted some code of ethics that formed them into someone substantial. It wasn't because they thought religion could help them. They were changed by something God did in them; it was supernatural. By the way, that's just a way of saying God acts and God works. If God acts or works, He's supernatural, it will be supernatural. I've known people now I'm thinking about specific people. When I wrote these next things, I am thinking about people, I have known decimated by an abusive childhood. And yet, by turning to Christ, He healed their scars; they began to flourish from the inside out. I've watched many, many people deeply in bondage to alcohol or drugs in their lives, by that time in ruins, and they turn to Christ. And God changes their desire, when nothing else would have done it. And He changed their life. I've known some really offensive people, selfish, mean, uncaring people that nobody could stand; powerfully changed from the inside out by coming to Christ. I can tell you from my own childhood, my own journey, my path, when you look at my childhood, my path should have been a straight line into drug and alcohol abuse. My life should have been a straight line, into a total inability to maintain a healthy love relationship. I should have self-destructed somewhere in my early adulthood. Now, listen, I am, I am very aware that I shouldn't be lifting myself up as an example to anybody. But I can only tell you that an encounter with Christ for me as a teenager changed me completely. And there's no social or psychological principle that can explain the rescue that I experienced. The only explanation that is reasonable is that a new life entered into me and began to totally renovate my identity and begin to totally overcome the woundedness and scars and to rebuild me from the inside out. And there's no other reasonable explanation, other than God did it. The only logical explanation is that something supernatural happened inside of me. Now, put it together? Can we just put the logic together? If there are thousands upon thousands of others who have had exactly the same experience, and that there's nothing else in their lives that would show you that they're big liars or that they're con artists. If you can observe the change that that they described working itself out in their lives, if you can observe that, then then the most reasonable conclusion is that it must be real. That a genuine experience of encountering Christ - that must actually work. Is it real? I think the most reasonable explanation is yes, it's real.
But let's do the third question. It'll take only a couple of minutes. And that is, but how do I take it in?
We're talking about this renovation; we're talking about this regeneration of my inner life. How do I actually take that into me? How is it received? John 3 helps us so much with this. In the gospel of John three, an eminent theologian comes to Jesus secretly, the picture is painted so beautifully in, in the Gospel of John. His name is Nicodemus. And he comes to Jesus secretly at night, the setting is, let's just keep this quiet. He's an expert in religion. (That's important to know). He knows that the core of any human religion is human effort; the human effort necessary to be approved or to be accepted by it. He knows that because he is a professional, he's a practitioner of a human religion. He studies that every day, and he seeks to live out the rote and the ritual of it in order to gain some approval from a deity. And so, in the just of subtlest way, he is engaging Jesus secretly at night, individually. He's engaging Jesus very carefully, trying not to reveal his own heart too much. But it's obvious to see that he's thirsty; he's thirsty for reality. He's hoping that Jesus is going to tell him that one thing, the thing that he needs to know: How does he experience God? And how does he experience his life changed? All of his learning, all of his religious discipline, all his all of his observance of rule and ritual had just left him secretly empty. And so, he's going to Jesus and Jesus cuts through all of the subtlety, no innuendo, no symbolic language, Jesus just cuts through the pretense, and he says, Nicodemus, you’ve got to be reborn. Our word “regenerated from the inside out”. He's telling him something literal there. And that is your answer to you. Listen, I'm going to say the most important thing of this message in this next one minute. You have to give up on anything making you better, you have to give up on anything other than Christ making you better. You have to give up on anything you can do to make yourself acceptable to God, you have to utterly give up on that. You have to totally give up on everything else, and desperately look to Jesus to be your only answer. There are some …those who have named Christ but have never experienced rebirth. It is because they turned to Christ thinking that he was a religion. Thinking that I turned to him, guy, yeah, grace had a mercy guy on the cross. Now what do I do to get him to like me, to accept me, and they've missed it completely. And they've had no experience of regeneration. It can’t even be Jesus, I'll choose Jesus, plus religion. It can't be, I choose Jesus, plus my own self-righteousness. Your absolute surrender, you absolutely surrender to the fact that nothing you can do to make you better. That is not a typical place to go. That is why when a person kind of goes through this rote or ritual thing, or kind of a trite thing, nothing ever happens. Because they have not utterly emptied themselves of all their other answers. It’s utter helplessness, that I can do anything to change me, I don't even possess the right desire to be transformed into what God has designed me to be. Do you get, do you get the absolute level I'm describing of giving up? It's not that I need help. It's not that I need help with the struggles I'm going through right now, so, I'll turn to Jesus. That's not regeneration, it's not I need help to become successful in something I'm pursuing. And so, I turned to Jesus, that is not regeneration. It's not that I need help to be a better person. And so, I'm going to turn to Jesus; that is not regeneration. It's this, I give up my way, I give up my way of my life, and I hand it over to him. I trust that there is a supernatural thing that God does, and that thing is all I need. And I believe it, and I desperately turned to it. I put all my faith in Christ as my total answer, for everything I need in my life.
I'm going to ask us to bow together with our heads bowed down, I want to ask you to really grapple with your own heart and tell yourself the truth. You look at your life and you say, look, I have never asked Christ in my life. Or you say, I've gone through something, but it turned out to be nothing. What if this moment you were willing to give up your own agenda? Give up your own way of how you think your life could be changed? And in this moment, you just utterly surrendered to