The New Birth
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name;
“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”—John 1:11-13
Some folks talk about being adopted into the family, but thank God, I was born into it. In the world when you want to receive some one into your family that was not born into it, you have got to go through a long legal procedure. You have got to go to law and establish the fact that you are a suitable person, and that you are responsible to bring up that life. If the Judge is well pleased with you he may write out a document and have it filled in and allow you to change the name of that child, and call it after your own name. That is legal adoption.
God has ways of doing things that is far in advance of our ways. God’s ways are as high above ours as the heavens are high above the Earth. He says, “I kill, and make alive.” That is God’s way of getting us into the family. When we say that God is love, it does not seem to harmonize with that, but God kills the old man in order that He may create a new man in his place. We are then new in the image and likeness of Himself, so that it is not a theory, but a blessed reality that we are partakers of the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world.
A Complete Change
It is a new birth. It is not a change of opinion. It is not simply a turning around and going into another way. It is a new birth. It is a change that is wrought in a man’s heart whereby the old desires are destroyed. The old purposes are blotted out from our very being, and our old sins which we used to desire are become abominable, not on our lips only, but in our very hearts. That is brought about in the way that John is telling us about.
He came to His own people who had been prepared for His coming, who had the law written for their instruction. Although He was to be born in Bethlehem, although the time of His coming was fixed, and although the whole description of His work and His life and the plan that He came to undertake was all so definitely laid down in the Old Testament Scriptures, yet when He came they received Him not, because He did not come as they wanted Him to come.
They wanted to see a glorious leader. A master of men. A leader of all the ages who would restore them to the splendor of the days of their Fathers. They looked to see some one coming in might, who would deliver them from the military power which was the curse. When He came as a Son of the Carpenter, coming from Galilee, coming from the countryside, uneducated in their schools of philosophy and theology, then they said: This cannot be. Yet it ever has been God’s way of doing things.
Jesus Christ Himself was pleased, when here on Earth, with God’s way of doing things. He hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes. So He came as a Nazarene, from the despised, provincial section of the country of Galilee. And they said: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
But let you and I follow after the example of the man who had come in touch with Jesus and had really something of His divine power. When they said: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” He said, “Come and see!”
Is it possible for a man to know in his heart that his sins are forgiven? Is it possible for a man to know he has been brought into the family of God? Come and see! Come to Jesus Christ and He will introduce you to God, and everything in this old Book will be yours, to receive and to enjoy and to believe.
But He came to His own after the manner that God said He would come, and although they had that matter of His coming written down in the Book, they were like many people today that do not believe it. They thought He must come according to their philosophy, according to their plan as to how God should do the work. As far as we submit our wills to the will of God, He is pleased to reveal it to us. He came to His own, and because He did not come after their ideas they received Him not, but as always, there were a few simple-hearted folks who had sense enough to take God at His word and received Jesus Christ the eternal Son of the Father.
To them what did He do? “As many as received Him, to them gave He power.” Oh, men are selling their very souls for power, whether it be in the political world, or in the commercial world, they are always craving for power. If there is not the power of a godly life in you it is because you have not received Him, Jesus Christ, for in Him is all power in heaven and in Earth, and if you have received Him you have within your own heart all the power of the Almighty that can be trusted to a human being, or that a human being needs. A human being does not need creative powers, for God Almighty created all things. The Christian needs power to live a godly life, and as many as receive Him receive that power, for in Him is all power in heaven and Earth.
Accepting and Receiving
We are tired of hearing people talk about accepting Christ. It is not a question of accepting. It is a question of receiving. You may accept an invitation to the house of your friends, and it is a very pleasant thing when you receive invitations to the homes of friends where we delight in social fellowship. When it comes to the day of going to the friend’s house they open the door and receive you into their midst.
You say, “Thy will, not mine, be done,” and you receive Him into your heart. You cannot receive a guest who is absent. You may have an acceptance of your invitation, but you miss him on the day of the reception if he is not actually present. When you receive him in your home and clasp his hand, you know there is nothing to separate you. That is the way to receive Jesus Christ. Open your heart to receive Him and he will enter in and dwell with you, and the feast shall be everlasting. Not a sentimental feeling that arises in some people’s hearts when they get into a good meeting. Let me illustrate it in the instance of the burning bush.
When Moses was on the back side of the desert attending the sheep of his father-in-law, he saw a bush burning. That was not what attracted his attention. That was a common thing, and it is a common thing today. The acacia bushes, because of the extreme heat and long dry spell, shrivel up, being exposed to the direct rays of the sun, and sometimes ignite by spontaneous combustion. We are well aware of the fact that there are a great many people who go off with that kind of fire. They come in touch with those whose hearts are on fire with God, and they have a little spontaneous combustion in the head, but it never gets to the heart.
What Moses saw was the bush burning. There are some folks who get spontaneous combustion, get it in the head, and when they go out of the meeting they are just as they were before coming into the meeting. The old evil habits are there. The old passions are there. But when the whole bush gets on fire then everything that is unclean flees away from it, and when the fire of the Holy Ghost gets into your heart and Jesus Christ becomes a resident of your soul, then you will find the things that used to hold you in bondage will hold you no more. “As many as received Him to them gave he power to become sons of God.”
I like to get all the knowledge about the Word of God that I can, and you do not have to travel very far to get a little illumination on the meaning of power. If you will just take your reference Bible and look in the margin you will see that “power” means right or privilege.
Everything in this old Book belongs to us, and the promises are all “yea and amen,” in Christ Jesus to them that believe. Let us read the whole of the meaning of that word, power. To as many as received Him, God gave them the privilege and the power and the right to become the sons of God. Do you claim it today? The privilege is yours today if you will. To them gave He the privilege to claim all their right of belonging to Him, the Son of God. To as many as receive Him, to them the power may come. The question for us to decide is, Have I claimed that which is my privilege to become? Power to become what? A Christian. A member of the Church. A missionary. A preacher of the Gospel. No! Those things are the side issue. Those are only the exponents of the light that comes from God, but the right is to become a child of God in power.
The Old Testament power is here today, not to be called for, but wherever Christ is, there is the center and source of power, and He is the distributing station from which all power comes.
I do not wonder that men, when putting forth false doctrines, first attack Jesus Christ. Men today are no more lovers of Jesus Christ than those were who mocked Him at the tree. When we can bring forth some good ideas about religious matters that will close without some consideration of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, then we can get men to run after that doctrine. They will run after it eagerly. They will run after Russelism because it denounces the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It gives men the privilege of living in sin; it is a gospel of the second chance, saying that the man who had gone the farthest from the path of righteousness would be the first to accept Christ when He gives them another chance beyond the grave.
Mormonism is making disciples by the hundreds, in Europe as well as in this country, because it is a gospel of lust. Jesus said it is the desire of the heart, not alone the outward criminal action, which is sin.
Materialistic instead of being spiritual and blood-washed, is the doctrine of the Christian Scientist.
Jesus said: “Ye generation of vipers! How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” This exclamation came from the same lips that said, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The New-Born Hate Iniquity
The love of Christ was manifested toward those who desired to be free from sin, and the love of Christ was also manifested in His denunciation of sin. There are two ways in which love can be manifested. One is by a tender, unselfish yearning compassion, a compassion for the wayward and the sinful such as Jesus showed on the cross, when in His own agony He could turn aside from His own suffering with a word of compassion and love for the man hanging beside Him, saying: “Today, shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”
That same loving Saviour who could forget His own grief and His own burden, those same lips and that same heart that gave utterance to the words of love, were also the lips and the heart of Him who denounced hypocrisy, sin and shame as no other of the sons of men have ever done. He denounced them because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity.
“Because thou hast loved.” Not a sentimental feeling. When a man loves, his whole being goes out to the object of his affections. If it is anything short of that it is not love. When a man hates there is only one thing that will satisfy him, and that is the destruction of the thing that he hates.
You have not learned to love yet, you have not learned to know Jesus yet, except your balances hang even; loving righteousness, hating iniquity. The love for righteousness will produce a hatred for iniquity. Until you love righteousness and hate iniquity you will not have the joy that belongs to the Christian life.
Those of us who have received Him, not a theory, not an idea of the truth, but Him, have become partakers of His nature, and have claimed our privilege to receive power to become the sons of God.
Power to Serve
God does not create a vacuum. He creates something greater than that which He destroys. He creates a new man in Jesus Christ, who is full of love for righteousness, who is full of hatred for iniquity. I do not find anywhere in the Book where He wrote a hymn that had a verse like that one I would like to leave out; that familiar hymn we so often sing:
“Must I be carried to the skies,
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
An sailed through bloody seas.”
There is no flowery bed of ease for the Christian. It is a conflict. It is a life in which the fighting spirit is dominant. When you begin to hate a thing the first thing you do is to start in to destroy it. The first thing a new-born babe in Christ does is to set about, as far as human agency can accomplish it, to destroy sin. I do not believe a man can give his heart to the Lord, and his tongue to the control of the devil. The sooner you get rid of that condition the better. When a man has Christ in his heart then there is activity.
I do not know if you have them in Chicago, but we have a plague of them in the East, church members and active Christians. Those that will say, “Oh, I am a member of the church, but I cannot do anything. I am not active.” Are you paralyzed? Then you had better get some of the electricity of heaven through your soul and let it revive you again. Oh, for a revival of the power that John spoke about to them that come to Jesus Christ.
You cannot get anywhere without Jesus. You cannot get temporary blessings without Jesus. You cannot get spiritual blessings without Jesus. You cannot accomplish anything in the spiritual world without Jesus Christ. All power is centered in Him, and it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.
I can understand the father would be pleased that in His Son should all fullness dwell. It thrills my heart more when I hear of the success of my boys than when I make headway myself. I can understand a little better the fullness and the wealth and the richness and the reality of that statement. It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.
Jesus! the Name high over all,
In earth or hell or skies,
Angels and men before Thee fall,
And devils fear and fly.
Is He in your heart today? Have you received Him? Then if you have you will have power to do His will. You have become a child of God. But God says, God’s way is the way of the destruction of the old and the creation of the new—a new man and a new woman in Christ Jesus. Oh, how blessed it is! How delightful to sit and think upon it!
Have you ever turned out the light and sat down alone in your room and just opened your heart to all the fullness and riches of it? I, even I, am a child of God, born into the family, received into His arms. A child of God, an heir and joint-heir with Jesus Christ. “If so be that we suffer with Him.” A little suffering, a little trial, a little trouble. Sometimes we pray, like Paul, for these things to be removed. “His grace is sufficient for thee, and His strength is made perfect in weakness.” If you have not received that power, then look to Jesus Christ now.
—Sermon delivered at The Moody Church by John Harper MacMillan, Vineland, N.J.