Eternal life

Regeneration means “to be made alive.” It is spiritual birth.

The Old Testament contains imagery that depicts salvation as regeneration. God gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), writes his law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), and gives his people a heart for himself (Jeremiah 32:39). 

The New Testament describes regeneration as being born again (John 1:13; 3:3; 1 John 2:29; 4:7, 5:1), made new (2 Corinthians 5:17), and made alive when we were dead (Ephesians 2:5). 

To be regenerated is a work of God that brings spiritual life to those who were spiritually dead. 

The importance of regeneration as an aspect of salvation is that it emphasizes the glorious necessity of the work of God in our salvation. We are not saved by works, but by God’s grace through faith. Spiritually dead people cannot work, and therefore cannot earn God’s salvation. 

A number of years ago, Jeremy Bentham, British philosopher, willed his entire estate to the University Hospital of London. Bentham promoted Utilitarianism, an ideology teaching that anything that is painful is evil and anything that is pleasurable is good. Bentham longed for his life to mean something more, so his will included provision for the physical preservation of his body/skin. The condition for his estate going to the University Hospital was that his preserved body would be rolled by wheelchair to all board meetings. A sign was placed on his corpse, “Mr. Bentham, present but not voting.” Dead in every way, Bentham wanted to be present at the board meetings for the hospital in his will. 

We may sneer at such hubris. While Bentham’s wealth may have outlasted him, he longed for significance past death. All he accomplished was something creepy. He was and is still dead. 

Bentham’s act is an illustration for humanity. Without God’s work of regeneration, mankind is “dead in trespasses and sins.” We are in need of spiritual resurrection. That’s what happens when God regenerates us.

Regeneration is the hope that God offers us life. In the gospel and through Christ’s regenerating work, we can have new life, real life, and eternal life. 

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been made alive. Through regeneration, you are no longer spiritually dead, but you can know Jesus and be known by Jesus. This is good news. 

  • Regeneration should result in us praising the One who gave us life. 
  • Regeneration should result in us living our lives for the One who raised us from the dead. 
  • Regeneration should result in us walking in the good works God created us for. 

Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash

Originally published as an op-ed here for the Wilkes Journal-Patriot.

Stay at home orders. Social distancing. MerleFest cancelled. Social gatherings banned. Schools and businesses closed. Church meetings cancelled.

The last few weeks have certainly been eventful. Our current experiences cause concern. Our anticipated experiences in the days, weeks and months ahead could cause fear and anxiety.

COVID-19 has arrived in Wilkes, but how many will be infected? How long will it take before the economy recovers? Will the economy recover? Will our lives ever go back to normal?

These questions permeate our thoughts. As a pastor, I feel it is my duty to have answers and bring hope. But let me offer a confession.

I’ve had plenty of moments in the last several weeks where I’ve felt a mixture of uncertainty, fear, and worry. I don’t offer my perspective from a place where I’ve conquered my anxieties but from a platform of hope and peace.

Solomon, Israel’s wisest king, wrote nearly 3,000 years ago, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25). Solomon’s words could not be more prescient today.

Government bans, the panic-inducing news over COVID-19, and subsequent worries breed anxiety, often at a more exponential rate than the virus itself.

Fear and anxiety are enemies that weigh us down. When we are weighed down, we are more likely to live in fear, become depressed, or wallow in negativity. Like Solomon’s original readers, we need a good word. Let me offer three good words that might help make us glad.

Perspective. While these days are certainly unique, they are not universally unprecedented. Humanity has already overcome the bubonic plague outbreaks of the Middle Ages, the Spanish flu of 1918, world wars, and countless natural disasters. This pandemic will pass.

We need to evaluate our perspective. Instead of seeing our situation through the lens of all we are missing, we need to see it through the lens of all we are gaining.

Many of us have been too busy, too frazzled, and too distant from those closest to us. The next month (or longer) will afford us time to pause, rest, pray, and make the most of the days with our families. There may be a lot we will miss during this ban, but we will never forget the time we have with those closest to us.

Connection. People in my church tell me nearly every day how much they miss gathering together. God made us social beings who need each other.

Many of you are missing your normal social interactions. I am as well. But the lack of being in the same space need not keep us from connecting to one another.

Social media, text messaging, phone calls, FaceTime, Skype, emails, notes, and media like the Wilkes Journal-Patriot are all means by which we can connect with others. Make an extra phone call. Send another text message. Facetime a friend or family member. Find ways to connect with other people.

Our connections during isolated days will make our face to face connections that much more meaningful when these days are over.

Gospel. Solomon used the phrase “good word.” In the New Testament the good news is the gospel. The good news that the Bible offers is predicated on some bad news.

The bad news is that we live in a fallen, sinful world. This is one reason why viruses, pandemics, and natural disasters happen. But more importantly, the Bible teaches us that we are sinners. Sin is anything less than what God desires.

Our sin is the bad news, but the good news is that God sent Jesus to die for our sins to offer us forgiveness and eternal life. While our current situation is uncertain, our future does not have to be. The forgiveness offered through Jesus cleanses our sin, eases our anxiety, and offers us eternal life.

My hope and prayer through all of this uncertainty is that these good words: perspective, connection, gospel, will bring us gladness, now and forever.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash