With Chris Gordon On What It Means To Be Born Again (Part 1)

“I was saved in…” or “I was born again in…” are both sentiments regularly expressed by well-meaning evangelicals. They mean to testify to the power of the Lord to save and to the reality of salvation in our time. We should affirm that both statements are mistaken. First, all believers were saved when Jesus died and was raised from the dead. That is the decisive accomplishment of salvation. What people mean by the expression “I was saved in…” is “I was given new life in such and such a year” or “the Holy Spirit applied to me Christ’s work for me in such and such a year.” Now these expressions are more accurate but they remain somewhat problematic. The same applies to the expression, “I was born again in such and such a year.” Again, we trust that believers are affirming that they were given new life by the sovereign grace and power of the Holy Spirit. We should affirm this but the idea that a believer knows precisely when the Holy Spirit did his mysterious applying work is still a bit presumptuous. According to our Lord Jesus in John 3 and the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:1–4, we know that the Holy Spirit has worked sovereignly, powerfully, wonderfully to raise us from spiritual death to spiritual life (to use the imagery to Ephesians 2), we know that the Holy Spirit has given us life from above or again (ἄνωθεν). The word our Lord uses in John 3 can mean both things and John regularly writes in a way that requires us to consider two senses at the same time. This may well be one of those cases.

My pastor, Chris Gordon, is host of Abounding Grace Radio and recently we sat down to discuss these issues.

AGR airs daily on KARI in the Pacific Northwest (4:30 PM), in San Diego on KPRZ (1:30 PM and 4:00 PM), in KRDU in Fresno (4:00 PM), KPDQ in Portland (1:30 PM and 4:00 PM), GraceRadio 107.9FM in Modesto (7:00 AM and 7:00 PM), and weekly on CJFW in Terrace, B.C. Canada (7:30 PM Sundays), and 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM (Sundays) on CFIS 93.1 FM (Prince George, B.C.). AGR also airs on KVOH out of Zambia into the larger African continent.

Here is part 1 of our discussion:

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  1. And although the Lord Jesus said we cannot predict when and where the Spirit will perform His gracious regenerating miracle (John 3), yet presumptuous evangelists will assure their audience that they may experience that sovereign event simply upon following their instructions. Thus they are likely to be sowing tares in the Master’s field. It is not in man to populate the Kingdom of God. Of His own will, not the will of preacher or respondent, begat He us.

  2. The danger is that we will confuse our subjective response with the work of the Spirit, and trust in that rather than in Christ alone.

  3. Many years ago, around the time when came faith, I had a very intense emotional reaction. When I was asked to give my testimony, people would be very impressed and convinced that I was truly born again when I described my experience. To tell the truth, I would look back and feel assured, by my experience, that at that moment I was born again. Then one day it dawned on me that I was trusting, at least in part, on that experience, for my assurance of salvation, rather than in Christ alone. I was shocked and horrified at the realization that in as much as I was looking to that experience as confirmation of my conversion, I was not looking to Christ! Since then, I deeply regret that I ever gave others a testimony of my experience because I fear it may have encouraged them to look for a subjective experience as confirmation of having been born again rather than looking only to Christ. Our “witnessing” should focus only on Christ, and only on what He has done. I fear that Satan can use our preoccupation with, “my experience, of when I was born again,” to tempt us to look away from Christ.

  4. The danger at the other end of the spectrum from trusting in a past experience rather than the sovereign grace of God, is to not allow the event of being given new life from above to have occurred apart from today’s experience. Paul doesn’t just say “you are alive,” but “you he, (God) made alive. Not “you he makes alive” turning into “you he (possibly) makes alive, depending on how you seem to be doing today.” Christ is my Savior, not today’s faith, and He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever, even if tomorrow I have Alzheimer’s. I’m not saved by my current state.

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