Regeneration

Here is a word we don’t hear often–“regeneration.”  I was surprised to come across it in my devotions. I saw it in the writings of A. W. Tozer (1897-1963).  The book I’m reading is called My Daily Pursuit.  The forward is by Ravi Zacharias, and he says this about Tozer:

The profound realization that God could be known personally drew me, with sincerity and determination, to plumb the depths of that claim…A few short years later, I encountered, through the writings, the distinctive pastoral voice of A. W. Tozer, who expounded on the grandest of all themes to which the human mind could ascend and the heart could embrace:  the study of God Himself.  Tozer’s voice was unique in his era, and I read and reread many of his books.  Works such as The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy opened up vistas that were life-transforming.  Those truths were timely for me and timeless for anyone hungry to know God.  So, his words still speak with power and tenderness today, leaving me with the twin passions of fulfillment and legitimate hunger…Tozer gives us the right kind of pause to learn the value of deep reflection on noble truths.  –Ravi Zacharias, quoted in A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 7-8

So now let’s look at this word “regeneration” that is heard so seldom today.  I think there are great truths to be considered here and this first quote is very touching to consider:

A new father goes to the hospital to see his first baby.  He goes to the window to look at all of the babies, but what he is looking for is one that looks like him.  The babies may be cute, but he has no interest in any of them except his own.  When he sees his own baby, what he is looking for is himself.  The little baby has his ears, his nose, his eyes and so forth.  The thing that drove him to that little baby is his own image in that baby.  The thing to draw God to us is His image in us.  Sin has destroyed it.  Regeneration puts it back in.  Now that man in Christ can have communion and fellowship with the Father of whose image he is.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 188

Now, if the word “regeneration” isn’t enough of an unfamiliar word, take a look now at “compatibility,” “communion,” “congruity,” “atonement,” and a word that I think Tozer made up–“feelingly!”  It all makes complete sense when you put them together and understand his point:

One of the great Bible truths we should revel in is that the newest convert born again today, has a degree of moral likeness to God, which gives him a measure of compatibility.  Heaven is a place of complete compatibility.  Sin introduced an incompatibility between God and the sinner.  Sin disrupts the communion between God and man.  Sin introduces that quality which throws men and God out of accord with each other.  As it is, there is no accord, no congruity.  But when that sinner believes in the blood atonement, which is trust in Christ, and is justified in heaven and regenerated on earth, there is complete compatibility and communion…That compatibility allows God to draw feelingly near to the man or women, and it makes communion morally consistent.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 186

Abba Father, through regeneration I have come back to the place where Thee can see in me Thy blessed divine image.  How I praise Thee through Jesus Christ my Savior!  Amen.  –A. W. Tozer,  My Daily Pursuit, pg. 188

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Innocent

Here is the last set of quotes this week.  As promised, the first quote is a continuation of the previous quote I mentioned.  We don’t behave perfectly all the time, but nevertheless we can be certain we are innocent before our Heavenly Judge:

Justification declares the sinner righteous, but it is external to the man.  That is, the justified man may be no better off for his justification if that is all that happened to him.  Justification is a judicial thing.  Just as a man may stand before the court and be declared innocent of a crime — not guilty, and yet it does not change the man inside.  He weighs exactly the same as he weighed before; stands at the same height, with the same color of hair and eyes as before. He has the same relationships and in every way is the same man he was before.  The only difference, he is judicially free, declared not guilty before the law.  — A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 184

Of course he doesn’t leave us that way if we truly seek Him in repentance and offer Him our hearts:

In the history lesson of Psalm 78, we find the Israelites following the Lord “only with their words.”  They knew what to say, but they didn’t know how to live.  They would come to God’s Temple with sacrifices but they would not offer him their hearts.  “I want you to be merciful,” God said,  “I don’t want your sacrifices.”  The people were going through the motions, but not letting God’s emotions go through them.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/21

Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction.  The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.”  As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return.”  — A. W. Tozer

The atonement (the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, and died a perfect judgment for us on the cross, and truly did rise again from the dead as proof) makes all the difference in the world and can even change the inside of a man, though we will never be perfect until Christ returns.  How do I know Jesus did rise from the dead?  See my previous “God is Real” posts — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3!

Atonement is the basis upon which God acts toward humanity.  Atonement makes justification possible, and justification leads to regeneration.  This is the work of God outside of a man that has the potential to change the inside of a man.  Regeneration takes place at the same time justification takes place…A regenerated man is a man [or woman] who partakes of the divine nature, a man who has a new relation to God, which gives him eternal life.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 185

But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though simply testified by by both Law and prophets)–it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ.  (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan).  Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Christ Jesus.  God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith.  God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ. What happens now to human pride of achievement?  There is no more room for it.  Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it?  Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane–believing instead of achieving.  We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God’s appointed Savior and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.  — Romans 3:21-28 (PHI)

From there, we can encourage one another in our relationship with Jesus, our Savior.  The apostle Paul spent much time in prison writing to believers in various places, encouraging them in their faith.  Here is just one example of many, beautifully expressed in the J.B. Phillips translation:

I wish you could understand how deep is my anxiety for you…How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love.  How I love for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself.  May your spiritual experience become richer as you are more and more full of God’s great secret, Christ himself.  For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…in spirit I am by your side, watching like a proud father the solid steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him–in simple faith.  Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.  –Colossians 2:1-7 (PHI)

And now, if you haven’t already, go back and read my “God is Real” posts, to see why I’m so certain that all of this is true — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

 

Silent Night

Here are the lyrics to that beautiful hymn that was written (it is said) because the bellows of the organ had been destroyed by mice.  They needed something “silent” that could be performed with guitar rather than organ.  What a beautiful Christmas carol!

Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child.  Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

 

Silent night, holy night, Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;

Christ, the Savior is born!  Christ, the Savior is born!

 

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

–Joseph Mohr

 

Herald Angels

What do you suppose the word “herald” means?  Three things:

  1. An official messenger or representative of a monarch
  2. A forerunner, or person or thing that precedes or comes before
  3. A person or thing that proclaims or announces

Here is the hymn of the day:

Hark!  the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King:

Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies;

With the angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark!  the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.”

 

Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity,

Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!  Hail the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings.

Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die;

Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.

Hark!  the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

–Charles Wesley

A Midnight Clear

This week I’m sharing some of my favorite Christmas hymn lyrics. Here is one of the beautiful ones we sing every year:

It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old,

From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold:

“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, From heaven’s all-gracious King:”

The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

 

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,

Who toil along the  climbing way with painful steps and slow,

Look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing:

O rest beside the weary load, and hear the angels sing.

 

For lo, the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old,

When, with the ever circling years, shall come the time foretold,

When the new heaven and earth shall own the Prince of Peace their King,

And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

–Edmund H. Sears

 

Beaten Bloody

Here is Isaiah’s description of Jesus Christ, written 700 years before he was born:

He was beaten, he was tortured,

but he didn’t say a word.

Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered

and like a sheep being sheared,

he took it all in silence.

Justice miscarried, and he was led off–

and did anyone really know what was happening?

He died without a thought for his own welfare,

beaten bloody for the sins of my people.

They buried him with the wicked,

threw him in a grave with a rich man,

Even though he’d never hurt a soul

or said one word that wasn’t true.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,

to crush him with pain.

The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin

so that he’d see life come from it–life, life, and more life.

And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,

he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.

Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,

will make many “righteous ones,”

as he himself carries the burden of their sins.

Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly–

the best of everything, the highest honors–

Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,

because he embraced the company of the lowest.

He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,

he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Isaiah 53:7-12 (Bible Version–The Message)

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700 Years

It’s pretty amazing that the prophet Isaiah wrote this clear explanation of Easter 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ:

It Was Our Pains He Carried

Just watch my servant blossom!

Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!

But he didn’t begin that way.

At first everyone was appalled.

He didn’t even look human —

a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.

Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,

kings shocked into silence when they see him.

For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes,

what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God–a scrawny seedling,

a scrubby plant in a patched field.

There was nothing attractive about him,

nothing to cause us to take a second look.

He was looked down on and passed over,

a man who suffered, who knew pain first hand.

One look at him and people turned away.

We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried-

our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,

that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,

that ripped and tore and crushed him–our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.

Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53:6 (Bible Version — The Message)

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