A few years ago I wrote a book on the nature of the "glory of God" especially as seen in the creation event of Genesis 1. This was volume 1 of what I intended to be a 3 volume set. The second volume was to explore the nature of the "glory of God" in the Old Testament events. The third volume would focus on the "glory of God" as seen in the New Testament, especially in the life of Christ. Here is the link to the pdf file of the original document in case any have an interest in reading the first volume.
Psalm 51:12-13 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.
Restoring Joy, the Glorious Work of God
God is a God of relationships. And just as strong human relationships produce joy, joy functions within the framework of our relationship with God. God created the universe for His glory. God created us for His glory. God saves us through faith in Christ for His glory. All of these works of God provide the means to bring glory to His own name. These works also allow us to be in a relationship with Him. Since God is a God of relationship, one of the byproducts of His works is joy. Joy spills out of the Creator’s heart and into humanity. Joy has always existed because the Triune God has always been in joyful relationship with Himself, a relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Love between the members of the Trinity produces joy within the Trinity. This is also true for us. God’s love, spilling out of the Trinity and into our lives, produces joy within us. When we sin against God, it mutes or dampens the joy of our relationship with God. This is not surprising. In our human relationships we experience the same thing. When a child rebels against a parent, the joy of the relationship is strained as the parent has to discipline the child and as the child battles with the consequences of that rebellion. Joy dissipates when the relationship is under stress.
David understood the joy of the relationship. God had saved David on the basis of faith. We don’t know exactly when David trusted in God for His salvation, but David looks back on that joyful moment in this psalm. As David confessed his sin and sought God’s forgiveness, David also longed for the restoration of joy. “Restore to me the joy of my salvation.” This request in the psalm comes after the request for forgiveness. Grace and mercy from God restore our relationship with God. Joy is a critical byproduct of that grace and mercy. David understood this. He sought it out. He pursued the joy of the relationship. So too with us, because God is a God of relationships and joy is a natural extension of our relationship to Him. What is your joy level in your walk with God right now? Is the relationship purely external action like church attendance? Is the relationship purely theological knowledge? If we are in a close relationship with God, we should have a life of joy. Yes, we should confess our sins and seek God’s forgiveness. But the forgiveness is not just an ends to itself, to get us out of trouble with God. The forgiveness is a means to an end, the restoration of a joyful relationship.
Help me dear Lord seek You for Who You are and not just what I can get from You. Restore the joy that I knew and experienced when I first put my faith in You. Give me joy as only You can give. Forgive me for seeking joy in so many other things. Set my mind on my relationship with You for in You is true lasting joy. Amen.
Sermon by John Wesley, The New Birth
“Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
The new birth is not the same with sanctification. This is indeed taken for granted by many; particularly by an eminent writer, in his late treatise on “The Nature and Grounds of Christian Regeneration.” To wave several other weighty objections which might be made to that tract, this is a palpable one: It all along speaks of regeneration as a progressive work, carried on in the soul by slow degrees, from the time of our first turning to God. This is undeniably true of sanctification; but of regeneration, the new birth, it is not true. This is a part of sanctification, not the whole; it is the gate to it, the entrance into it. When we are born again, then our sanctification, our inward and outward holiness, begins; and henceforth we are gradually to “grow up in Him who is our Head.” This expression of the Apostle admirably illustrates the difference between one and the other, and farther points out the exact analogy there is between natural and spiritual things. A child is born of a woman in a moment, or at least in a very short time: Afterward he gradually and slowly grows, till he attains to the stature of a man. In like manner, a child is born of God in a short time, if not in a moment. But it is by slow degrees that he afterward grows up to the measure of the full stature of Christ. The same relation, therefore, which there is between our natural birth and our growth, there is also between our new birth and our sanctification. One point more we may learn from the preceding observations. But it is a point of so great importance, as my excuse the considering it the more carefully, and prosecuting it at some length. What must one who loves the souls of men, and is grieved that any of them should perish, say to one whom he sees living in drunkenness, or any other willful sin? What can he say, if the foregoing observations are true, but, “You must be born again?” “No,” says a zealous man, “that cannot be. How can you talk so uncharitably to the man? Has he not been baptized already? He cannot be born again now.” Can he not be born again? Do you affirm this? Then he cannot be saved. Though he be as old as Nicodemus was, yet “except he be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Therefore, in saying, “He cannot be born again,” you in effect deliver him over to damnation. And herein lies the uncharitableness now? — on my side, or on yours? I say, he may be born again, and so become an heir of salvation. You say, “He cannot be born again:” And if so, he must inevitably perish! So you utterly block up his way to salvation, and send him to hell, out of mere charity! But perhaps the sinner himself, to whom in real charity we say, “You must be born again,” has been taught to say, “I defy your new doctrine; I need not be born again: I was born again when I was baptized. What! Would you have me deny my baptism?” I answer, there is nothing under heaven which can excuse a lie; otherwise I should say to an open sinner, if you have been baptized, do not own it. For how highly does this aggravate your guilt! Were you devoted to God at eight days old, and have you been all these years devoting yourself to the devil? Were you, even before you had the use of reason, consecrated to God the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit? And have you, ever since you had the use of it, been flying in the face of God, and consecrating yourself to Satan? Does the abomination of desolation — the love of the word, pride, anger, lust, foolish desire, and a whole train of vile affections — stand where it ought not? Have you set up all the accursed things in that soul which was once a temple of the Holy Spirit; set apart for an “habitation of God, through the Spirit;” yea, solemnly given up to him? And do you glory in this, that you once belonged to God? O be ashamed! Blush! Hide yourself in the earth! Never boast more of what ought to fill you with confusion, to make you ashamed before God and man! You have already denied your baptism; and that in the most effectual manner. You have denied it a thousand and a thousand times; and you do so still, day by day. For in your baptism you renounced the devil and all his works. Whenever, therefore, you give place to him again, whenever you do any of the works of the devil, then you deny your baptism. Therefore, you deny it by every willful sin; by every act of uncleanness, drunkenness, or revenge; by every obscene or profane word; by every oath that comes out of your mouth. Every time you profane the day of the Lord, you thereby deny your baptism; every time you do anything to another which you would not he should do to you. Whether you be baptized or unbaptized, “you must be born again;” otherwise it is not possible you should be inwardly holy; and without inward as well as outward holiness, you cannot be happy, even in this world, much less in the world to come. Do you say, “No, but I do no harm to any man; I am honest and just in all my dealings; I do not curse, or take the Lord’s name in vain; I do not profane the Lord’s day; I am no drunkard; I do not slander my neighbor, nor live in any willful sin?” If this be so, it were much to be wished that all men went as far as you do. But you must go farther yet, or you cannot be saved: Still, “you must be born again.” Do you add, “I do go farther yet; for I not only do no harm, but do all the good I can?” I doubt that fact; I fear you have had a thousand opportunities of doing good which you have suffered to pass by unimproved, and for which therefore you are accountable to God. But if you had improved them all, if you really had done all the good you possibly could to all men, yet this does not at all alter the case; still, “you must be born again.” Without this nothing will do any good to your poor, sinful, polluted soul. “Nay, but I constantly attend all the ordinances of God: I keep to my church and sacrament.” It is well you do: But all this will not keep you from hell, except you be born again. Go to church twice a day; go to the Lord’s table every week; say ever so many prayers in private; hear ever so many good sermons; read ever so many good books; still, “you must be born again:” None of these things will stand in the place of the new birth; no, nor any thing under heaven. Let this therefore, if you have not already experienced this inward work of God, be your continual prayer: “Lord, add this to all your blessings, — let me be born again! Deny whatever you please, but do not deny this; let me be ‘born from above!’ Take away whatsoever seems to be good, — reputation, fortune, friends, health, — only give me this, to be born of the Spirit, to be received among the children of God! Let me be born, ‘not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever;’ and then let be daily ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!’”
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:10-11
God the Creator and the Re-creator
God is in the creating business. God created the universe. At the end of time God will recreate the heavens and the earth. Between the beginning of the initial creation and the new creation of heaven and earth, God still creates. He creates each person in His image. He also recreates each person that puts their faith in Christ Jesus. He breathes spiritual life into us. He makes us a new creation in Christ Jesus. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Paul told the church, “Anyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation.” What David requested, God has done for anyone who puts their faith in Christ. God, in Christ, continues His incredible creative touch.
The work of God in bringing new life to those who believe in Him comes by the power of the Spirit of God. Even in this Psalm David requested the creative power of God to provide a clean heart. Then, one verse later, David asked God, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” David linked the presence of God and the power of God’s Holy Spirit with a renewed spirit and a clean heart. Jesus connected these themes in John 3. In John Chapter 3, Nicodemus, a very religious Jewish man, approached Jesus. “Teacher, we know that You are a teacher sent from God for no one can do the things You do unless God is with Him.” Jesus responded to Nicodemus with some of the themes of David in Psalm 51:10-11. “You must be born again.” The Creator of life must recreate life in us. Just as David needed God to create a clean heart in him, we need God to use His creative power to bring about a second birth in us. The role of the Spirit of God is involved in the rebirth just as David requested the work of the Spirit of God in his clean heart. Later in John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus that the means of the rebirth comes by the work of the Spirit of God. John 3:5-8 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The necessity of the work of the Spirit
This request by David in Psalm 51 and the statements by Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3 both reflect the necessity of the work of the Spirit of God in our lives. Psalm 51 and John 3 both address the insufficiency of mere external religious life. David was the king of the nation of Israel and a regular participant in its religious life. Nicodemus was a religious leader in Israel, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. In both cases, their own religious efforts were insufficient. David came to that conclusion when confronted with His own sin through the prophet Nathan. Nicodemus was confronted with that reality when the greatest prophet ever, Jesus Christ, challenged him. We cannot achieve a right relationship with God on our own or through religious means. God must do a work in us by the power of His Holy Spirit. We must be born again. God must create in us a clean heart. God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, offers this rebirth, this clean heart, to all who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord, I know that apart from Your work of rebirth through Your Holy Spirit that I am spiritually and eternally dead. Heavenly Father, I believe that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ into the world. I believe that He lived a perfect life and died on the cross in my place. I believe that three days later He rose again from the dead, conquering sin and death. Nothing good resides in me on my own. Please forgive me of all my sins and come into my life. I receive Your gift of salvation by faith. I receive Jesus Christ as my Savior and I submit to Him as my Lord. Now, dear Lord, as You have given me spiritual life, help me to live for You. I pray all these things in the name of Jesus Christ my Savior, Amen.
Sermon by John Wesley, The New Birth
“Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
It follows, that baptism is not the new birth: They are not one and the same thing. Many indeed seem to imagine that they are just the same; at least, they speak as if they thought so; but I do not know that this opinion is publicly avowed by any denomination of Christians whatever. Certainly it is not by any within these kingdoms, whether of the established Church, or dissenting from it. The judgment of the latter is clearly declared in the large Catechism: Q. “What are the parts of a sacrament? A. The parts of a sacrament are two: The one an outward and sensible sign; the other, and inward and spiritual grace, thereby signified. — Q. What is baptism? A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water, to be a sign and seal of regeneration by his Spirit.” Here it is manifest, baptism, the sign, is spoken of as distinct from regeneration, the thing signified. In the Church Catechism likewise, the judgment of our Church is declared with the utmost clearness: Q. “What do you mean by this word, sacrament? A. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Q. What is the outward part or form in baptism? A. Water, wherein the person is baptized, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Q. What is the inward part, or thing signified? A. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” Nothing, therefore, is plainer than that, according to the Church of England, baptism is not the new birth. But indeed the reason of the thing is so clear and evident, as not to need any other authority. For what can be more plain, than the one is a visible, the and invisible thing, and therefore wholly different from each other? — the one being an act of man, purifying the body; the other a change wrought by God in the soul: So that the former is just as distinguishable from the latter, as the soul from the body, or water from the Holy Spirit. The new birth is not the same thing with baptism, so it does not always accompany baptism: They do not constantly go together. A man my possibly be “born of water,” and yet not be “born of the Spirit.” There may sometimes be the outward sign, where there is not the inward grace.