Nearly all the messages on the work of the Holy Spirit I have heard and the commentaries I have read have been on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. However, the Bible tells us that, before a person comes to Christ, the Holy Spirit has been at work in that personís life in a number of ways. We may not fully understand this, but that doesnít alter the fact that the Holy Spirit is deeply involved in our salvation.
We are born in need of a spiritual rebirth. Manís moral character falls far short of Godís requirements for fellowship with Him and for eternal life. The greatest need in the world has always been this transformation of the human nature to the spiritual nature.
In light of this, even the political radicals and the humanists acknowledge that man, as he is, is not good enough even for this world. They want to change the human environment in an effort to produce better people but they are attempting to do this in altogether the wrong way. They are trying to change man through society and not through God. Their theory is this; if they can change manís actions and attitudes toward his fellow man, then society in general will establish peace on earth and good will toward all men.
Donít wait around for this new man to come into being because there will be no new man through manís efforts.
We have genetic engineers who believe that by the end of this century they will be able to create any type of person they want. They may be able to alter the physical and mental side of man but they will never alter the spiritual side apart from God.
Only God, our Creator, can recreate us. And that is what He does when we give ourselves to Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." We are all born into this world but the Bible tells us we are "born again" when we accept Christ as our Savior.
In John 3, we read about a influential Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus. Certainly few passages in the New Testament speak as directly about the role of the Holy Spirit in our salvation as this chapter. Nicodemus obviously was a good man and was wealthy and a member of the ruling council of the Jewish nation called the Sanhedrin. He probably fasted, prayed in the Temple, and tithed his income and was a well respected religious teacher. But Jesus told him all his goodness wasnít enough. He needed more than religion, he needed regeneration. He no doubt had obeyed the Law of Moses to the extent any man could, but he needed more than the law, he needed a new life.
John 3:1-8. ďThere was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him. 3. 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. 4. 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? 5. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7. Marvel not that I said unto you, You must be born again. 8. The wind blows where it listeth, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.Ē
Jesus went right to the point. He said, `You must be born again.' Nicodemus asked, `How can a man be born a second time when he is old?' Then Jesus pointed out the difference in the two births: `That which is born of flesh is flesh' (the flesh will never change); and `that which is born of the Spirit is spirit' (the Spirit will never change). Jesus explained in verse 8 that this new birth, this spiritual regeneration, is accomplished by the Holy Sprit.
I donít understand how the new birth comes about. I know it comes from God, not from the earth or from our human nature. It comes because of the love and grace of God and it comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we only come to accept it in our hearts through the action of the Holy Spirit.
To put it bluntly, when we are born the first time, we are sinners and the sinner is spiritually "dead" before God. Romans 5:12. "through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." It requires a change in the inner being of man for this condition to change. Man canít earn it. Only God can do this. In our natural state, we are blind to our own sin. 2 Corinthians 4:4. "The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Only the Holy Spirit can call the unsaved person and only He can convict us of our sin, and only He can convince us of the truth of the gospel. Jesus said, in John 16:8-11, "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9. of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10. of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11. of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."
Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we would never clearly see the truth of God concerning our sin or the truth about our Savior. This is what Jesus meant in John 6:44: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..."
The Bible warns us about resisting the call of the Holy Spirit back in Genesis 6:3: "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever." If the Holy Spirit didnít make us aware of our sin nature, it would be impossible for a person to come to Christ. Thereís a real danger that our hearts may become hardened and might no longer listen to the call of the Spirit.
In 2 Corinthians 6:2, the Bible again warns us that God will not wait forever for us to make a decision. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
"Regeneration" means the same thing as being "born again," and that, along with repentance and faith, are the works of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man.
In John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus he needed to be born again. The sinner in his natural state is spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. Itís by the new birth that the sinner is justified and forgiven of every sin and becomes a new creation. I repeat, 2 Corinthians 5:17. ďTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation...Ē
Regeneration, like justification, is immediate and is a one time act of the Holy Spirit. The person who is "born again" might, or might not, be conscious of that fact. The Holy Spirit regenerates us and this new life comes to the soul from Christ through the Holy Spirit.
In John 3:8, Jesus said that the new birth is "a mystery." He used the illustration of the wind blowing. We can feel its effects but we canít see where it comes from or where it is going. Being born again is like that. It takes place within the individualís heart and may not be visible immediately to other people, but the result of the new birth is one of the greatest of miracles.
Sooner or later the new birth will manifest itself in godly living and the new life will abide forever and the "new man" will possesses the kingdom of God.
I need to emphasize the importance of personal faith in salvation. We canít just sit back and wait for the Holy Spirit to do His work for us to come to Christ. We have this promise of God, in Jeremiah 29:13; "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.Ē
Scripture also tells us that even our faith to trust in Christ is a gift of God's grace. Ephesians 2:8. ďFor by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,Ē
The Holy Spirit makes everything known to us that we need to decide for Christ, but we still have the responsibility of responding to the call and conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Being born again is not a complicated process. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring sinners to salvation through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. At the very moment of decision, the sinner receives eternal life and the Holy Spirit enters into that person.
The new birth is through sincere repentance and genuine faith, and, as I said before, is God's gift to a person. A visible change in a personís life assures us the Holy Spirit lives in that heart. Romans. 5:5. ďthe love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.Ē
You canít obtain the new birth by baptism. Confirmation in a church doesnít produce it. No good works can meet the requirements for the new birth. Titus 3:5. ďnot by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.Ē
A good moral life wonít do it. Isaiah 64:6. ďAll our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;Ē Itís only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we can obtain the free gift of salvation.
In Acts, where we read about the apostles preaching and seeing many souls saved, the one condition for fellowship in the early church was that each person had accepted Christ as his Savior first, and God hasnít changed that. Acts 2:47. "The Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved." What they now had was a new, eternal life, and that could only be brought about by the Holy Spirit.
God sent His Son into the world to give the sinner new life. He has given us His Holy Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit can take it and help us understand it and bring spiritual rebirth to us through faith in the shed blood of Christ. It brings about a change in our relationship with God and a change in our relationship with ourselves.
After we receive Christ as our Savior, we may be confused at times as to why we still have many of the old temptations. Certain sins may still crop up from time to time and this is discouraging because we canít seem to get rid of them. We try, but they keep cropping up.
We who are born again have two natures. The old nature from our first birth and the new nature from our new birth. We are children of the flesh by the old birth and we are children of God by the new birth. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that he "must be born again."
Whenever the old nature asserts itself, no matter what the problem is, a new believer may begin to doubt whether or not he has really been born again. Satan wants us to doubt the reality of our salvation, but that would really be doubting God's Word. Satan caused Eve to doubt Godís Word in the Garden of Eden when he tempted her by mis-quoting God. Eve had the option of rejecting Satanís lies but she gave in to the temptation. A Christian also has the power to over-rule Satan whenever he is tempted. The Holy Spirit gives us assurance that we have been born again and have become members of the family of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can refuse Satanís temptation. After all, the believer is a child of God, no longer a child of this world. Romans 8:16. ďThe Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."
I want to go over how to be born again. I believe that many who do get saved are of the opinion that their decision is entirely of their own doing. This is not entirely accurate. The Holy Spirit is very much involved in that decision and itís by the written Word of God, and by the quiet work of the Spirit in our hearts, that we know we have been born again, regardless of the accusations of Satan.
First, the Holy Spirit will bring you face to face with the fact that you are a sinner in God's eyes. You may not consider yourself a bad person, and you may not be. You may have lived a fairly decent life. On the other hand, you may have a feeling of guilt over some sins committed in the past. Whatever your background, the Bible tells us, in Romans 3:10, "there is none righteous, no, not one." We donít need to commit a sin to be a sinner, we were born sinners, but we have also committed sins and deserve nothing but God's judgment and wrath.
Second, the Holy Spirit makes it known to you that God loves you and sent His Son to die for you. God has always demanded a blood sacrifice for sin and you deserve to die for your sins, but Christ shed His sinless blood and died in your place. 1 Peter 3:1. "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God." Thatís the wonder of the gospel, that God loves every one of us so much that He sacrificed His Only Son to bring us to Him!
God wants you to repent of your sins. Repentance means "a change of mind." It means to admit you are a sinner, and that you are sorry for the fact you have sinned.
A deeper meaning of repentance is to turn your back on your sins and reject them, and determine by God's grace to live the way He wants you to live.
Jesus said, "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). Repentance means that you are willing to leave sin behind, and turn your life over to Jesus as Lord of your life. When you see yourself as God sees you, your prayer may well be that of the publican in Luke 18, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
Salvation is a free gift, but a gift isnít of any value until you accept it as your own. Romans 6:23. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
When the sinner comes to this point, the Holy Spirit has done His part. He has prepared you to be saved by making you aware of your standing before God and of your need of salvation. Then, it is up to you. By a simple act of faith you can say "yes" to Jesus and accept this gift.
If you have never accepted Christ into your life, do it right now before another minute passes. Simply tell God you know you are a sinner and you are sorry for your sins. Tell Him you believe Jesus Christ died for you, and that you want to give your life to Him right now. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
When you do this with a sincere heart, God will forgive all your sins. Itís a wonderful thing to know that every sin you ever committed, even the things you didnít realize were sins, are all washed away by the blood of Jesus, "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14). A wonderful part of salvation is that the Holy Spirit of God now lives in your heart. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus.
In their conversation in John 3, verse 14, Jesus reminded Nicodemus of an incident in the wilderness journey of the Israelites. God had sent poison serpents among them as a judgment for their sinning. A bite from one of those serpents was fatal and a lot of the Israelites were dying from those bites. Then God told Moses to make a serpent of brass and lift it up on a pole where everyone in camp could see it.
Everyone who had been bitten and looked on that serpent, believing that God would heal them, would live. That sounded like an insult to their intelligence. There was no way brass could heal a snakebite. There were too many serpents to kill them all. Offering a lamb or other animal to the serpent on the pole wouldn't help. Praying to the brass likeness of a serpent on a pole wouldnít save them. Even Moses, the prophet of God, couldnít help them.
All they had to do was look to the serpent of brass in childlike faith and God would save them totally by His grace.
When they looked to the serpent, they were looking beyond the serpent to Jesus on a Roman cross as the supreme sacrifice for their sins. Itís as if Jesus were saying, "Iím going to be lifted up, look unto me and be saved." His "lifting up" was to take place centuries later when He was nailed to the cross. No one can come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit draws him to the cross. Thatís where Jesusí blood cleanses away the sin of each person who places his faith in Him.
God won't insult your intelligence any more than He did the Israelites in the wilderness, but if you havenít put your faith in Christ, your mind has been blinded spiritually by the devil. The apostle Paul said, in I Corinthians 1:21, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through it's wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe."
It may appear foolish to believe that Jesus Christ, who died on a cross and was buried and rose again from the dead 2,000 years ago, can transform your life today by way of the Holy Spirit, yet millions of Christians on every continent can testify that He has transformed their lives. I claimed this so great a salvation as my own some sixty years ago. You can claim it today!
n some sixty years ago. You can claim it today!