How Can God Re-Create Me?
April 17th, 1984 @ 12:00 PM
HOW CAN GOD RE-CREATE ME?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-17-84 12:00 p.m.
The theme out of the twentieth chapter of John, the exclamation of doubting Thomas to the Lord: "My Lord and my God!" [John 20:28]. Yesterday, the title of the message: How Can God Become a Man? Today: How Can God Recreate, Regenerate Me? Tomorrow: How Can God Save Me Forever? On Thursday: How Can God Sympathize With Me? On Friday: How Could God Die For Me? And on Sunday, Easter day: How Can God Raise Me From the Dead? Today, How Can God Recreate, Regenerate Me? And we’re going to read in the third chapter of the Gospel of John. John, chapter 3:
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh: that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not they said unto thee, You must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be?
Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily I say unto thee, We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen, and receive not Our witness.
If I have told you earthly things and you believe not, how shall you believe if I tell you of heavenly things?
Had this man been a traitor, or a terrorist, or a murderer, or a thief, or a robber, or a violent man, I could have understood why Jesus said to him, "You must be born again, you must be regenerated, re-created" [John 3:3]. But immediately the problem would arise. This man is not a murderer or an insurrectionist. This man is a Hebrew of the Hebrews. He is a doctor of the law. He belongs to the sect of the Pharisees, the straitest, most dedicated of all of the groups who taught in Israel. He is a ruler. He is a rabbi. He is everything morally excellent. It’s to that man that Jesus says, "You must be born again" [John 3:3, 7]. You must be regenerated. You must be re-created."
It’s the same gospel that John the Baptist preached when he cast all Israel outside the covenant and outside the kingdom of God. John the Baptist preached that God can raise up children to Abraham out of the stones. And you are not saved, you are not in the kingdom because you avow yourself to be a child of Israel, of the seed of Abraham [Matthew 3:9]. The gospel begins with the avowal that nationality or race or culture or education or moral excellence – none and neither can bring us into the salvation in the kingdom of God [Matthew 3:10]. That is an amazing assertion!
If you will think of it for a moment, it is astonishing! It’s not by moral excellence. And it’s not by nationality. And it’s not by training or education. It’s not by advancement or achievement that we become members of the kingdom of our Lord. We are born into the kingdom of God. By re-creation and regeneration [John 3:3] do we become children of our Lord and Savior. That’s hard for us to realize.
An evangelist was preaching the gospel, and a little boy came forward in the service. And the evangelist sat by the side of the little fellow, and as he did so, the teacher of the boy came and sat by the lad on the other side. And the evangelist began to talk to the little fellow, and said to him, "Do you realize that you are a sinner, that you are lost?"
And the teacher broke in and said, "You are a stranger here. You’re not acquainted with our people. This boy is the best boy in my Sunday school class. And he belongs to the best family in our town."
The evangelist, paying no attention to the teacher, began again to say to the lad, "Do you realize that you are a lost sinner?"
And the teacher broke in again and said, "You are a stranger and don’t realize who this little boy is. He’s the best child in my Sunday school class, and he belongs to the best family in this city."
The evangelist asked the little boy if he would move and sit on the other side of him and away from the teacher. Then he started again, "Son, do you realize you are a lost sinner and that you need Christ to come into your heart to save you, to forgive you of your sins, to write your name in the Book of Life, that you become a Christian?" And in no time at all the evangelist had won the lad to the Lord – becoming a Christian, accepting Jesus. In the free pardon of his sins, born, regenerated, recreated into the kingdom of God.
It is not by race or nationality. It is not by moral excellence or personal achievement. It’s not by education or training. We become members of the kingdom of God by a new birth, by a regeneration, by a recreation. It is something God does for us. The necessity for our recreation, our resurrection, our spiritual regeneration is very plainly set forth in the Bible.
For example, in the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul says we are dead in trespasses and in sins; dead [Ephesians 2:1]. We are dead, spiritually dead. Dead! A corpse has no eyes to see, and no ears to hear, and no heart to feel, and no will to obey. Dead. Before God, we are dead in trespasses and in sins. And however the preacher may be earnest, he can’t preach a soul into heaven. He can’t raise a dead man to life in Christ. He cannot do it. And however faithful a teacher may teach, the teacher cannot raise the pupil into everlasting life.
This is something God must do. God must create us, regenerate us, give us a new birth, an entrance into heaven. God must do it. We are shut up to Him. We cannot, God can and He alone.
In the following verse in the second chapter of Ephesians not only are we dead in trespasses and in sins, but by nature – by nature we are the children of wrath, of judgment [Ephesians 2:1-3]. You don’t have to teach a child, a small child – you don’t have to teach a child to sin, to do wrong. The child will do wrong by nature. By birth we are sinners and fallen creatures from our inception. And all of our teaching and all of our training and all of our preaching cannot change the nature of a fallen soul. We are shut up to God. Only God can change our natures. All the teaching in the world cannot lift a mole in the ground to soar like an eagle in the sun.
All of the training in the world cannot make a tortoise fleet like a deer. The nature has to be changed. All of the improvement we could bring to command to pass cannot make a rabbit strong like a horse. The nature has to be changed. There is no yoke we could devise that could harness a whale in the sea to a plow or make it possible for an ox to live in the deep. The nature has to be changed.
So it is with us. By nature we are sinners. We are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1]. God must do something for us. We have to be changed, regenerated, born again, recreated, resurrected by the power of God [John 3:3]. God has to do it. Now we are somewhat like Nicodemus. We stagger at that miracle of regeneration and resurrection [John 3:4].
The great Pharisaic teachers exclaim, "How can these things be? I do not understand" [John 3:9].
And the Lord said, "Why, why Nicodemus, I am telling you of earthly things, things that are observable all around us: this re-creation, this rejuvenation, this resurrection – earthly things. I am just pointing out to you earthly things, things that are witnessed by all of us, and almost every day" [John 3:12].
There is a rejuvenation, a recreation by the hand of God in the springtime – the rose, the red buds and the azaleas, and all of the beauty of the verdant earth coming to life in the springtime. Who does that? God does it! It’s an evidence of the mighty hand of the Lord. I can hold in my hand seeds that look like rocks. They look like pebbles. But inside of them is the gift of life, and it is God that brings it to new creation and fruition. It’s the work of God.
We see it in the twice-born life of a butterfly. A caterpillar has a life of its own, but it is reborn, it is re-created, it is resurrected into an altogether different creation. Jesus said, "I tell you earthly things" [John 3:12]. These things that we witness all around us – the ableness and the mightiness of God to bring life and beauty, the re-creation of God.
Then He avows it is a like mystery of the work of God in the recreation and the rebirth of our souls. He says, "The wind bloweth," [John 3:8]. It is a strange thing. The breath of God, the breath of God, translated here "wind." In Hebrew, ruach, in Greek, pneuma. In both instances, Spirit is Breath. The Breath of God moves.
"So is everyone that is born of the Breath of God" [John 3:8]. The Lord breathes upon it. He did upon His disciples. And He breathed upon them: "Receive ye the Spirit" [John 20:22]. The Breath of God brings to us an incomparable creation.
He says here, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" [John 3:6]. Miraculous, both. There’s not anything more amazing than the birth of a little child – a baby, a little girl, a little boy, created by the hands of Almighty God.
So it is in our re-creation. It is a work of the omnipotence, almightiness of God Himself. God does it. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 the apostle avows, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation." A new creation – everything is changed.
Like a man who just been converted exclaimed; he says, "I am a new creation, or else everything is changed." Something has changed. Another man said, "I have lived fifty years and never thought anything about Christ. Now I have been saved for fifty minutes, and to me He is the great fact of all of my life."
It’s an amazing thing! It’s a marvelous thing! It’s a mysterious thing, but a factual reality: the ableness of God to recreate us, to remake us, to regenerate us.
Now, I am sure there are many of us – maybe all of us – who feel as Nicodemus felt when he said, "I would love to be elevated and reborn and remade and regenerated into the glorious image and likeness of God, but how could such a thing be for me? Can I go back into my mother’s womb and be recreated and regenerated and reborn? Could I?" [John 3:4]. No! The evident answer is the answer for all of us. I cannot create myself. I cannot regenerate myself. I cannot save myself. I am shut up to God.
It is God who must recreate me and regenerate me and save me. And for me to arrogate to myself that in myself I’m able to save myself, and to deliver myself and to forgive my sins, and to born me into the kingdom of God – for me to arrogate that to myself is to face ultimate despair. I cannot do it. And the more I strive, the more do I sense the depths and the height of constant failure.
I must take myself to God. I must bow in His presence. I must cry unto Him in my helplessness and hopelessness: "Lord, You save me, a condemned sinner. Lord, You have pity upon me. Lord, You touch me. You do it Lord." And God answers that appeal and that prayer.
If I come to the Lord and hesitate, saying, "But Lord I have a withered hand, I have a withered hand," the Lord says to me, "Stretch forth thine hand" [Matthew 12:13]. God is able.
If I say to the Lord, "But I cannot walk," the Lord says, "Arise, and walk" [Matthew 9:5]. God makes us able.
If I say, "I am deaf and cannot speak," the Lord says, "Ephphatha!" [Mark 7:34]. The dumb ears be opened and I hear and I speak. God does it!
If the servants in the family cry, saying, "There is no need to come to the house of Jairus, the girl is dead" [Mark 5:35]. the Lord says, "Talitha cumi, rise, damsel" [Mark 5:41]. God does it.
Even if Mary and Martha intervene, saying, "Do not roll the stone away – by now he is corrupting" [John 11:39], but when Jesus says, "Lazarus, come forth" [John 11:43], it is God who raises the dead! It is God who brings life and resurrection!
So it is with us in our lives. Our attempts to save ourselves, to deliver ourselves are always futile and end in despair. We must take ourselves to God. We must bow in His presence. We must come in commitment and in faith to Him, and say, "Lord, into Thy hands do I yield my life and my will and my every tomorrow. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. Lord, intervene for me. Intercede for me. Mediate for me. Lord, save me." And God does it. God does it!
The great Almighty spoke this world, created this world out of nothing. He created the light out of darkness [Genesis 1:1-3]. He creates life out of death. And the same omnipotent Lord can raise us up to Himself in infinite glory and wondrous salvation. That’s why, when we get to heaven, we won’t sing "Worthy is I, I did it, I saved myself, that’s the reason I’m here in this golden city." No.
When you get to heaven, you’re going to sing: "Worthy is the Lamb" [Revelation 5:12], who washed us in His own blood [Revelation 1:5], and who made us kings and priests" [Revelation 1:6], and we shall reign with Him forever and ever [Revelation 22:5].
Our Lord, may the energy of our lives flow in praise to Thee! God made us. God can remake us. It is God who saves us. And we praise His name world without end, forever and ever, amen.
HOW CAN GOD RE-CREATE ME?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The word of regeneration to Nicodemus
A. Must be born again (John 3:3)
B. This to a man who is Hebrew of the Hebrews, doctor of the law
C. It is not by culture, education, moral excellence that we are saved
1. L. R. Scarborough
II. The necessity for regeneration, recreation
A. We are dead in trespasses and in sins (Ephesians 2:1)
B. We are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
C. God must intervene
III. Nicodemus staggers before the miracle of regeneration
A. Jesus says it is an observable phenomenon (John 3:12)
B. The regeneration of our souls (2 Corinthians 5:17)
1. B. H. Carroll’s "My Infidelity and What Became of It"
IV. The miracle of regeneration extended to us
A. Maybe we are like Nicodemus
1. It is God who must do it (Ephesians 2:8-9, Isaiah 45:22, Acts 4:12)