“REGENERATION – THE BEGINNING” Titus 3:3-8
INTRO – “Complete Runner’s Guide” – kind of small. Not sure it’s really the COMPLETE guide, the complete book of running, but it’s got some good information in it.
The Bible IS the COMPLETE Book of running – running the race of the Christian life! Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT) – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” This race began w/ Jesus before the world was created, continues w/ Jesus as we keep our eyes fixed on Him, & will end w/ Jesus, either when we leave this life & go to be w/ Him, or when He returns to get us. Jesus initiates our faith; He is our source of faith; & He will perfect our faith in the end.
Every race I’ve run in has been started by someone firing a starter’s pistol or blowing an airhorn. The means of starting the race is not important. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a pistol, an airhorn, or a guy waving a green flag at a Nascar race. The important thing is that you hear it or see it, respond to it, start moving your feet or your car, & head toward the finish line.
The reason that the race analogy is used in Scripture is b/c it has such application to our salvation experience.
- 1 Cor. 9:24-25 (CEV) – “You know that many runners enter a race, and only one of them wins the prize. So run to win! Athletes work hard to win a crown that cannot last, but we do it for a crown that will last forever.”
o There’s the moment of entering the race.
o You run to win.
o You receive the crown at the end.
- 2 Tim. 4:6-8 (GW) – “My life is coming to an end, and it is now time for me to be poured out as a sacrifice to God. I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith. The prize that shows I have God’s approval is now waiting for me. The Lord, who is a fair judge, will give me that prize on that day. He will give it not only to me but also to everyone who is eagerly waiting for him to come again.”
o Paul clearly had a moment when he entered the race – Damascus Road.
o Throughout the race, he fought the good fight & kept the faith.
o He would soon receive his prize.
The main subject of this message today is the starting point. The word that describes this moment is REGENERATION (PUT UP ON SCREEN).
But before we jump into that, let me take just a moment to be very clear about something: Although Paul said that the athlete had to “work hard to win a crown,” & that HE had “fought the good right…completed the race…& kept the faith,” he is NOT saying that our salvation is contingent on our works. We are NOT saved by the grace of God, but then have to work in our strength to KEEP our salvation!
- Our salvation is a GIFT of God as Eph. 2:8 tells us. And God will never take that gift away from you once He’s given it to you. He’s not a cruel God like that.
- Phil 1:6 assures us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The work of salvation that God starts in our lives WILL be completed by HIM, not by OUR good works & our feverish efforts.
- Jude 24 – “To HIM who is able to keep you from falling…” – The word for “keep” here means “to keep from being snatched away; to guard from being lost or perishing.”
- 2 Tim. 1:12 (NLT) – “…I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” Word for “guard” is same word used in Jude 24. GOD WILL guard that which we’ve entrusted to Him. What is it that we’ve entrusted to Him? Our FAITH in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. God WILL keep that from being snatched away or stolen from us. If God guards it, it’s pretty safe, don’t you think???
One of the main things we must continually emphasize as we continue to study this amazing doctrine is that IT IS ALL ABOUT GOD! Every aspect of it. Every decision about it. Every truth related to it. God is the author of our salvation, the instigator & implementer of our salvation, the keeper of our salvation, & the finisher of our salvation. And regeneration is that work of God that brings us to the point of placing our faith in Christ alone for our salvation. Our BF&M states it this way: "Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."
When you buy a car, it normally comes w/ a certain package.
- Luxury package has more bells & whistles for comfort & convenience.
- Sport package has more performance & speed-oriented items.
- Off-road package has more rugged components to deal w/ rough conditions.
- Some cars like the Dodge Charger have police packages that have more powerful motors, electrical systems, & stronger suspensions, brakes, & better tires.
Regeneration is part of the “salvation package.” It, along w/ adoption, reconciliation, & other biblical concepts & truths make up the complete “salvation package” in our lives. “Simply put, regeneration is GOD making a person spiritually alive, a new creation, as a result of faith in Christ” (www.gotquestions.org). It is that amazing grace moment when God, completely out of love for us, calls us into an eternal relationship w/ Him, even though there was nothing in us or about us that would warrant Him doing that. We are born again!
- It’s when we are changed from being dead to being alive in Christ.
- …we are changed from being lost to being found.
- …we are changed from being an enemy of God to a friend of God.
- …we are changed from being a child of the devil to being a child of God.
- …we are changed from being headed to hell to being headed to heaven.
So how does this amazing grace moment happen?
INDIFFERENCE TO THE GOSPEL – This is where we all start. In our unsaved condition, you & I do not care about the things of God at all. 1 Cor. 2:14 – “The person w/out the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit but considers them foolishness, & cannot understand them b/c they are discerned only through the Spirit.” In our lost state, we are totally & completely indifferent to Jesus, the Gospel, the Bible, & anything related to God. We are mired in our sin, living in sin, loving our sin, reveling in our sin, wallowing in our sin. A LOST PERSON SIMPLY DOES NOT CARE ABOUT GOD!
INTEREST IN SPIRITUAL THINGS – God uses a variety of ways to begin to stir a person’s heart toward Him. It may be a tragedy in a person’s life; an unexpected blessing; the birth of a child; a child’s salvation or involvement in church; an invitation from a friend to an event like “Courageous;” a FAITH Team just “randomly” showing up at a person’s front door on a Mon. night; or a guy named Paul showing up on a riverbank in Acts 16. God will make it happen, He IS God. However He chooses to do it, He opens the person’s heart to the Gospel. Acts 16 – story of Lydia – v. 14 – “One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”
This is such a cool moment to be a part of! Paul talked about when “the kindness & love of God our Savior appeared” (v. 4). He’s talking about when Jesus Himself appeared & paid the price for our sins on the cross. But, through us, the Body of Christ, His kindness & love appears to others all the time. That’s why FAITH is a part of our strategy for sharing the Gospel w/ our community. It’s such a joy for me as Pastor of this church to see this moment happen as some of you are sharing the Gospel w/ someone.
ILLUMINATION OF OUR NEED – As God opens a person’s heart to the purity & truth of the Gospel, the spotlight of His Spirit begins to shine on the IM-purity & truth of the sin in that person’s life. There comes that sobering moment when the person realizes how horrible their sin truly is & that their sin has done & will continue to do terrible damage in their life & in the lives of those around them. They begin to realize that, no matter how “good” a person they may think themselves to be, their sin is a vile, grotesque disease that has consumed their lives, & that “something” needs to be done about it. They begin to see what Paul was talking about in Titus 3:3: “At one time, we…were foolish, disobedient, deceived & enslaved by all kinds of passions & pleasures. “When we realize how guilty sin is, & how condemned is the sinner, we begin to feel the weight of that load.” (A.C. Dixon)
IGNORANT STRIVING – Many times, this moment of illumination leads the person to begin “doing” a lot of stuff – “I’VE got to go to church” – “I’VE got to get my kids in church” – “I’VE got to give some $ to the church” – “I’VE got to get my life straightened out” – “I’VE got to clean up my act” – “I’VE got to start hanging out w/ some better people.”
INTENTIONAL RESPONSE – Finally, the person comes to that sweet moment of decision where they acknowledge their desperate lostness & realize that there is only 1 thing they can do: Trust Christ alone for their salvation. They realize, as one person said, that “The only thing that will kill what is killing you is the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Russell Moore). And in that God-ordained moment, they cry out to God & are born again – HALLELUJAH!
- The “rebirth & renewal by the Holy Spirit” happens (v. 5).
- The Holy Spirit is “poured out on [them] generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (v. 6).
- They are “justified by His grace” (v. 7).
- They become “heirs having the hope of eternal life” (v. 7).
- And the angels rejoice!
- And the “great cloud of witnesses” cheers!
- And the Body of Christ celebrates!
- And God is pleased!
- And the devil sulks b/c he has lost another one!