The Necessity of the New Birth
Why do we make the decisions that we do? What is the motivational structure of the human heart that forms the foundation for the decisions we make? According to Scripture, people choose to do what they love. The desires of the heart determine the actions of one’s life.
Jesus made this point immediately following one of the most familiar passages in Scripture. In John 3:19-21 Jesus talked about “the judgment”:
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21 ESV)
People live in darkness because they don’t want their evil deeds exposed. They do evil deeds because they loved the darkness. Therefore, the basis for the choices sinners make in life have to do with hard-wired desires that form the motivations of the heart. To use the words of the Apostle Paul, we are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) because we are sinners by nature and sinners by choice. Sinners are alive in the flesh, that is, in their worldly way of living, and they are spiritually dead, separate from God, and devoid of eternal life.
Paul says “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh”, and the mind set on the flesh (1) is death and (2) is hostile toward God (Romans 8:5-8). This is consistent from what we learn from Jesus in John 3 where loving darkness is living a life characterized by wicked deeds. From God’s Word, we gain a heavenly, true perspective about our sin nature how serious our state of judgment really is.
Moreover, we learn why it is absolutely necessary that sinners must be born again of the Spirit. We can no more produce spiritual life in ourselves as we could produce earthly life when we were born into this world. We need the ability to make right choices (to repent and believe), but for that to happen, we need hearts that are changed to love what is right and true, thus having a foundational change to the motivational structure of our heart. Nothing short of a resurrection of spiritual life is needed for sinners to be saved. You must be born again because your heart must be changed so that you love differently.
The sin you once love you now hate.
The God you once ran from you know run to.
The Bible you once thought boring you find like a banqueting table for a starving soul.
The fellowship of the saints you thought unnecessary and imposing on your individualism you find life-giving and refreshing.
When you once prayed to God only in a state of crisis, you now pray to God in a state of joyful communion.
This is the change wrought in the soul of a man who has been brought from death to life by the Spirit of God to love, to live, and to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord.
It is the Spirit who gives life, Jesus says (John 6:63). And it is this same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead who Paul says, will give life to your mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). For anyone to be saved from their sin, for anyone to repent and believe in Christ, they must be born again. By sovereign grace and effectual power of the Spirit, God promises to address the fundamental need of our lives fully by changing our hearts to love what is true. Unless this motivational structure of our heart is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, our choices will continue to demonstrate a free will enslaved to sin and hostile toward God.
You and I live in a world of sinners who love darkness. But you and I also live in a world where the Holy Spirit is at work to magnify Christ, removing hearts of stone and making hearts of flesh to love and desire Jesus. He is working where He wishes. We can see the effects. And as the Great Evangelist, we ought to pray and depend on the Spirit to work in us to use us as His vessels by which the good news of Jesus Christ is planted in hearts that have come alive by the fresh wind of the Spirit of God.
Eric Alexander A Sermon on Regeneration