The Miracle Creating Power of the New Birth Accomplished and Applied.

The new birth is a miracle. From where does this miracle creating power come? How is one born again? Here is my answer:

The miracle creating power of the new birth explodes out of Christ’s death and resurrection and is channeled toward us by the Spirit in the preaching of the gospel of Christ.

Both answers are seen in 1 Peter. First, the explosion:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3)

Second, the channeling of that power to us by the Spirit in the preached word:

[Y]ou have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God… And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23, 25)

In other words we are born again by the gospel accomplished (the explosion) and the gospel applied (the explosion being channeled to us).

Matthew 12:38-45 & No Show On Demand

Jesus, unlike many entertainment corporations today, does not offer a show upon demand. When the Pharisees ask for a sign it further reveals their attitude toward the miracle Jesus has just performed (Matthew 12:22, 25). It reveals their attitude toward all of His miracles, their attitude toward Jesus himself. The Pharisees do not need a new sign, they need new hearts, for they cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

And yet Jesus promises them a sign. What does Jesus mean that He will give them no sign except the resurrection? He has give them many signs, and He will perform many more. If we look at some instances of the apostolic preaching of the resurrection where this “evil and adulterous generation” is also mentioned I think we will see what Jesus means (all emphases mine).

[T]his Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.  – Acts 2:23-24

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.  – Acts 3:13-15

For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead,

[B]ecause he [God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  – Acts 17:31

[Jesus] and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,  – Romans 1:4

The resurrection is the vindication of Jesus. It shows the wicked and adulterous generation to be wrong in their opinion concerning Jesus. They kill Him, God raises Him from the dead. And still today the resurrection is the sign that all doubters, skeptics, agnostics, and atheists have to deal with (toward understanding and using the apologetic strength of the resurrection I recommend beginning with The Reason for God, specifically chapter 13).

So to all who ask, “Why on earth doesn’t God do something? Why doesn’t He prove Himself?” We reply that God has indeed on earth done something; in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ and everything in between, God has indeed on earth done something. To those who ask a sign to validate our message I love the reply of Calvin. When Roman Catholics contended that their miracles authenticate their message, and then asked where the reformers miracles were, Calvin replied:

In demanding miracles of us, they act dishonestly. For we are not forging some new gospel, but are retaining that very gospel whose truth all the miracles that Jesus Christ and His Disciples ever wrought serve to confirm.

Doubters, skeptics, agnostics, and atheists don’t need new signs, they need their eyes open to the signs that are.

Matthew 12:33-37 & Evil Trees Cannot Produce Good Fruit

When Jesus asks the blaspheming Pharisees (Matthew 12:24), “How can you speak good when your hearts are evil?”, he means for us to realize that this is impossible.

But don’t fallen, unregenerate men do good? Yes, in one sense, by God’s common grace, on a horizontal plane, men do “good” things, but on a vertical plane and in the most ultimate sense, all of their acts are evil. Consider pirates.

In a gang of pirates we may find many things that are good in themselves. Though they are in wicked rebellion against the laws of the government, they have their own laws and regulations, which they obey strictly. We find among them courage and fidelity, with many other things that will recommend them as pirates. They may do many things, too, which the laws of government require, but they are not done because the government has so required, but in obedience to their own regulations.”  – W.D. Smith

As fallen, unregenerate men we are pirates, glory thieves, stealing the glory of God and giving it to other things. All of our life is one of idolatry. All behavior flows from the heart. If our actions are not springing from a heart that treasures Christ supremely, something else is being treasured. In doing “good” we are doing a greater evil. We “keep” other commandments only to break the first one (Exodus 20:2). As fallen men we are never truly good, at best we are subdued. We “obey” only when it is convenient to get what we want, only so that we can live to rebel another day.

Where then do the good trees (hearts) come from that bear good fruit; fruit that will serve as evidence of one’s justification (v. 35, 37)? Answer: Regeneration.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  – Ezekiel 36:26-27

All praise be to Jesus for the good tree that I am and the good fruit I produce.