OUR REGENERATION, OUR REBIRTH, OUR NEW BEGINNING
A SERMON PREVIOUSLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
17 SEPTEMBER 1995
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
2 Corinthians 5:17
1 Timothy 1:1-20
When I speak of our regeneration, or our new beginning, am I not also talking about our rebirth?
Yes, but only to a point.
We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."
Thus, we might conclude that we are fully regenerated and will have a perfect new beginning.
But common sense tells us that this is not completely true, for we still fall into our old ways on occasion.
This is true of believers, but what about those who claim to be born again, but continue to live in their old ways, and even claim that those ways are of Christ?
To get a better understanding, perhaps we have to combine this passage with another passage, as Paul tells the Philippians in 2:12-13:
12. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
13. for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Does this mean that God doesn't want to perfect us?
Not at all, but that we are not fully ready to accept all that He has for us; rather that He is willing to work with us to perfect us.
So we then come to the conclusion that: either we were not fully reborn when we made our confession of faith, or we are in danger of losing our salvation, which is right down the center of a major doctrinal difference between Baptists and Methodists.
Now having said this, letís not worry about it, but concentrate on how God works with us in our spiritual growth.
King David is a typical example of what we are talking about.
God chose David and anointed him.
David was reborn.
Yet David turned away from God at times and sinned, sometimes very greatly, as with Bathsheba.
When he finally realized what he had done, he repented, and in this repentance he wrote Psalm 51, a portion of which we are going to look at beginning at verse 1:
1. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions.
David needs to be regenerated.
He needs to have another new beginning, and as he tells us in the next verse, he knows that God will hear his repentant prayer.
2. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3. For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
4. Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned,
And done what is evil in Thy sight,
So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak,
And blameless when Thou dost judge.
5. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6. Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.
7. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
If we are sincere in our repentance, as David was, then we can be purified and become clean again; we can be regenerated, even after salvation, and look forward to another new beginning.
8. Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice.
9. Hide Thy face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
10. Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11. Do not cast me away from Thy presence,
And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me.
12. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation,
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
13. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways,
And sinners will be converted to Thee.
If David can do this, then so can every other true Christian.
It is only those who fake their faith that are, or should be, in fear of losing the salvation that is offered to them and which they only know about but have never really received to become a new creature in Christ.
Our new birth is not what we "claim", but who we've become in Christ Jesus our Lord, when the old things have passed away.
Let's now take a look at what Paul instructed Timothy about his responsibility as a Christian leader, and about the situation he would encounter concerning a person's relationship with the Lord (1 Timothy 1:1-20).
1. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope;
2. to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Paul's greeting, he reminds both Timothy and us that God's promises and the fulfillment of them in Jesus Christ is our hope.
That when we start to get depressed in our efforts to stand firm for God, because of all the evil around us, we are to remember that the evil can never pull us down unless we let it, because the evil can never pull down Christ.
Evil only destroys itself.
So, stand firm in your faith, which will continually regenerate you.
3. As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
4. nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
Our answers are in the Word of God, not in crystals or horoscopes or any other device or scheme that is counter to the Bible.
5. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
You have heard Mary and me say many times that if we do err, let it be on the side of love.
If we follow the Word of God in love and without any other agenda, we will never do any harm.
And this unconditional love has no limits; it extends to the whole of creation, to every human, to every animal, and to the environment in which we all live.
6. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,
7. wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
Because pure Godly love fulfills all of the Law and the Word of God.
8. But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
9. realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers
10. and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,
11. according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
While thinking about these things, we must remember that Jesus Christ never turned away a sinner, only their sins.
It's only those who continue to practice their sins, that are turned away.
And people try to justify their sins by encouraging others to join them in their ungodly ways, and then say, "See, I'm doing nothing wrong; I'm only doing what everyone else is doing."
We are not to fall into this trap, for it will only pull us down.
But the things of God will build us up.
12. I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service;
13. even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;
14. and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.
Paul was changed, Paul was regenerated, Paul was reborn; Paul was given a new beginning because he was willing to be changed and follow the Lord, in love.
And so will every one else, who is willing.
But Paul still recognized that he was not fully regenerated, and not fully perfected in God's love, as we see in the next verse.
15. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
The first step to becoming one with the Lord is to admit who we are.
Itís the same with an alcoholic or a drug addict; until they admit who they are, they can not be freed from their addiction.
16. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
This is the regeneration.
This is the rebirth.
This is the new beginning.
And it's set before us as a buffet in a restaurant would be, and itís free for the taking for as many times as we want to partake and refill our plates, or in this case, refill our hearts and souls.
17. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Then Paul inserts a personal note to Timothy, but it really applies to all of us.
18. This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight,
19. keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
20. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.
Every time I read this last verse, I can't help but wonder about how many of the problems we suffer are the result of our own sinful acts, or those acts of ours that cause others to blaspheme.
If such turning away from God brings our suffering, then by common sense we must realize that our regeneration begins with Him.
If we want things to improve, we must rely upon the Lord, and give up those things that are counter to His ways.
Your Comments are welcome
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