“You must be born again.” John 3:7
You. This is personal. If I change the subject to someone else’s need, that could be evidence I have not been born again. If I confess my own desperate need for God, that could be evidence I have been born again.
Must. This is authoritative. If I resent the must, that could be evidence I have not been born again. If I rejoice that God is actually opening a door for me, that could be evidence I have been born again.
Be born again. This is passive. I need a miracle. I need God to call into existence within me a new aliveness to God, such as I cannot conjure up out of my own good intentions. In fact, my eternal destiny hangs on something only God can do for me.
“It is a noteworthy and striking fact that no doctrine has excited such surprise in every age of the Church and has called forth so much opposition from the great and learned as this very doctrine of the new birth. The men of the present day who sneer at conversions and revivals as fanaticism are no better than Nicodemus. Like him, they expose their own entire ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit.”
J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John 1:1-10:9 (Grand Rapids, n.d.), page 139. Style updated.
“Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” Proverbs 5:19
“The quality of her lovemaking is totally satisfying, and its quantity unending. . . . The father admonishes that inhibitions be left behind in the marriage bed.”
Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 (Grand Rapids, 2004), page 322. Italics original.
“For how many a soldier in a concentration camp, weak with hunger and smarting under the whip of the torturers; for how many a person huddling in the last extremity of ghastly dread in a bomb shelter; for how many on the endless gray road of a refugee trek was it not the great experience suddenly to know: I am not in the hands of men, despite everything to the contrary; another hand, a higher hand is governing in the midst of all man’s madness and canceling all the logic of my calculations and all the images of my anxious sick imagination? I am being led to the undreamed-of shore, the harbor, the Father’s house. And always when things grow dark, suddenly that marvelous helping hand is there. If there is anything that is really bombproof, then it is this.”
Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father (New York, 1959), page 36. Italics original.
“We should be merciful to one another in seeking never to look at the worst side of a brother’s character. Oh, how quick some are to spy out other people’s faults! They hear that Mr. So-and-so is very useful in the church, and they say, ‘Yes, he is, but he has a very curious way of going to work, has he not? And he is so eccentric.’ Well, did you ever know a good man who was very successful, who was not a little eccentric? . . .
Do you go out when the sun is shining brightly and say, ‘Yes, this sun is a very good illuminator, but I remark that it has spots’? If you do, you had better keep your remark to yourself, for it gives more light than you do, whatever spots you may have or may not have. And many excellent persons in the world have spots, but yet they do good service to God and to their age.
So let us not always be the spot-finders, but let us look at the bright side of the brother’s character rather than the dark one, and feel that we rise in repute when other Christians rise in repute, and that, as they have honor through their holiness, our Lord has the glory of it, and we share in some of the comfort of it.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, n.d.), I:65.
As part of our ongoing Peace In The City series, Steve Brown will be speaking this evening from 7 to 9 at Immanuel Nashville, with open Q&A. All are welcome. 4301 Charlotte Avenue.
If you believe there is room in our city for more grace, more forgiveness, more reconciliation and more restoration, then this event is for you.
“We are justified freely, for Christ’s sake, by faith, without the exertion of our own strength, gaining of merit, or doing of works. To the age-old question, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ the confessional answer is shocking: ‘Nothing! Just be still; shut up and listen for once in your life to what God the Almighty, creator and redeemer, is saying to his world and to you in the death and resurrection of his Son! Listen and believe!'”
Gerhard O. Forde, Justification by Faith (Philadelphia, 1983), page 22.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? 1 Corinthians 6:15
Our bodies, the humblest part of us, are members of Christ, limbs of Christ, organs of Christ. I never would have thought of that. Without the gospel, I would have agreed with Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, who taught this:
“Inasmuch as these two elements were comingled in our begetting, on the one hand the body, which we have in common with the brutes, and, on the other, reason and intelligence, which we have in common with the gods, some of us incline toward the former relationship, which is unblessed by fortune and is mortal, and only a few toward that which is divine and blessed.”
That seems plausible. There is my intellectual self, which I neglect, and there is my physical self, which I indulge, sadly.
But the Word became flesh (John 1:14). The intellectual and the physical are “comingled,” to use Epictetus’ word, but in a more profound way than he knew. We are physical extensions of Christ in the world today. So, for example, our legs are how Jesus walks the streets of our cities. He so cares for us in all that we are, he so identifies with us, he so gets involved with us, that our very bodies, including our sexuality — which is Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 6 — are eternally joined to him now. The Christian gospel creates strong sexual integrity not by despising the body but by honoring the body.
Have you thought through a theology of the body — your body?
“After conversion we need bruising, that reeds may know themselves to be reeds and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy. . . . Thus Peter was bruised when he wept bitterly. This reed, till he met with this bruise, had more wind in him than pith. ‘Though all forsake thee, I will not.’ The people of God cannot be without these examples. The heroic deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so much as their falls and bruises do.”
Richard Sibbes, “The Bruised Reed,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:44.