Friday, March 29, 2024

The Gift of New Life (Ezekiel 36:16-38)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26).

The technical term for “receiving a new heart” or being “born again” is regeneration. This is the first step in the order of salvation: regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification. Contrary to conversion, which involves our acts of faith and repentance, regeneration is entirely an act of God. “It is not simply referred to Him as its giver, and in that sense, its author, as He is the giver of faith and repentance,” Hodge wrote. “It is not an act which, by argument and persuasion, or by moral power, He induces the sinner to perform. But it is an act of which He is the agent. It is God who regenerates. The soul is regenerated. In this sense the soul is passive in regeneration, which (subjectively considered) is a change wrought in us, and not an act performed by us.” Like Jesus said, it is like the wind, which blows where it will. We see its effects, but we do not discern where it is coming from.

Regeneration is a thorough change of the soul, the communication of a new principle of life. A.H. Strong wrote, “Regeneration is essentially a changing of the fundamental state of the soul. By state we mean the direction of man’s love, the bent of his affections, the trend of his will.” It is not simply an intellectual enlightenment. Our feelings and wills are also changed. Instead of loving sin, we love and live unto holiness. We see, understand, embrace, and adore the excellency of Christ and the glory of God.

“This new life, therefore, manifests itself in new views of God, of Christ, of sin, of holiness, of the world, of the gospel, and of the life to come,” Hodge wrote. “In short, of all those truths which God has revealed as necessary to salvation. This spiritual illumination is so important and so necessary and such an immediate effect of regeneration, that spiritual knowledge is not only represented in the Bible as the end of regeneration (Col. 3:10; 1 Tim. 2:4), but the whole of conversion (which is the effect of regeneration) is summed up in knowledge.”

Unlike sanctification, which is a life-long process, regeneration is an immediate, instantaneous act of God upon our soul. He raises our souls, which are dead in sin, to spiritual life. And just as any other form of life, this spiritual life grows and produces fruit.

Read aloud Ezekiel 36:26–27. What’s the inevitable consequence of having a new heart? Read Matthew 7:17–20. What does Jesus say about the good tree? Read Galatians 5:16–26. What kind of fruit do you bear in your life? Fruit of the flesh or of the Spirit? Examine your life to see whether you have truly been born again.