Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 39
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.