Wednesday, March 25, 2015

experiencing the new birth

I have begun reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Experiencing the New Birth (Crossway Books, 2015), based upon a series of sermons on John chapter 3 that he preached at Westminster Chapel (London) almost fifty years ago (in 1966).

I'm so very thankful to see Lloyd-Jones' sermons are still being published, and that Crossway is offering these previously-unpublished messages in book form.  

The subject -- experiencing the new birth -- is also a very timely and needed topic for study today.  Much has been written in recent years (it seems to me) on the nature of justification and sanctification, but not as much on regeneration, or the new birth. 

Lloyd-Jones is always biblical, thoughtful, insightful, and practical. His pastoral heart is evident in these messages. MLJ was a Spirit-anointed preacher and has been for decades a kind of historical mentor to many ministers. I was first introduced to his writings in 1997, when I read Knowing The Times, a series of his addresses on various topics. 

Here are some excerpts, my first highlights...

“And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Now we are concentrating on that particular theme because, after all, that is what is meant by being Christian. This, it seems to me more and more, is the greatest need of the hour, that we should all realize what a Christian really is and is meant to be, and there is no better definition than this one. It involves, of course, believing certain things. There is the creedal element; that is vital. But Christianity is primarily life receiving of his fullness, and if we forget that, we miss the greatness and the glory and the splendor of it all. Our danger always, even as Christian people, is to be reducing this life — eternal life — to something that is merely a point of view, a teaching, a philosophy, a theology, or whatever. We must never do that. Its essence is that it is a life, and that means receiving of his fullness. This is the greatest thing in the world, the greatest thing that any of us can ever realize...

"There is nothing so fatal as to approach the Bible as just a textbook that you get to know; that is not its business. Its whole object is to bring you to him in whom is all this fullness of which we stand in need... That is why he [Nicodemus] went to our Lord; he was conscious of a need.

"We cannot make ourselves humble. There is only one thing that will ever make us really humble, and that is when we see perfection and then see what we are by contrast. That is what always makes people humble.

"But the moment you meet him [Jesus] you are no longer the master; you are very much the pupil, you are very much the pauper, you are no longer in charge of yourself.

"[There is] the danger of seeking sanctification before we know anything at all about regeneration, or to put it still more simply, it is the mistake of trying to grow before you have been born....Before you can live the Christian life you must be a Christian.

"The glory of this is that it is something that happens to us. It is not something we do; it is something that is done to us... Because it is the action of God, not the action of man. It does not presuppose anything in us, except that we are lost and helpless and hopeless.

"It is not our action that we are most conscious of; it is that Another is dealing with us, coming into our life, disturbing us.

"We cannot be born again without being humbled.

"Sometimes the first way in which one really discovers that one is born again is that other people let us know that we are.

"The spiritual outlook is one that realizes the depth and the gravity of the problem, but also the heights and the endless limits of the grace of God.

"The most important thing for any one of us in this life is to know whether we are born again or not."

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