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Text - 1 Peter 1:22-2:1
I think we’re through the hard part of the epistle, there were so many things smashed into the last ten verses that it was hard to really find a theme and expound on it. It is a beautiful introduction and looking back, I think we would have done better to have just read verses 13-21 and then go onto the rest of the letter which would have explained verses 13-21 better than I did. It’s a lesson learned and I apologize for the disjointed way in which I taught it; I promise there will be a better focus from here on out.
Today we are going to talk about being born-again, a fantastically important topic in the Bible.
1 Peter 1:22-2:1 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
v.22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
This is something that could be read really wrongly if it were taken out of context. It sounds like we can purify our souls through obedience, but we have to look at the next verse that says since you where born-again. The Galatian church was trying to purify themselves through works,
Galatians 3:1-3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Our purification is begun first of all through being born-again, then afterwards by one of two ways, first through affliction, second through obedience. Either God putting you to the fire, or you putting you to the holiness of God so that we are conformed to his image. For the seventh and eighth graders, do you remember what the names of the two great churches of Revelation were? Smyrna and Philadelphia, how was Smyrna purified? Through persecution, through external purification. How was Philadelphia purified? Through internal purification, by reading the Bible and doing what it says; by loving God and their neighbors. We can purify our hearts after we are born-again by loving earnestly from a purified heart. You cannot purify your heart this way if you have not been born-again and been given a new heart. So lets talk about being born-again.
v.23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God
There is a lot in this passage, but I really want to impress on you how important being born-again is.
I’m going to introduce you to two important men in history, a Rabbi named Nicodemus, and a preacher named George Whitefield. Let’s start with Nicodemus. From extrabiblical history we know that this Rabbi in the First Century was one of the four richest Jews in Jerusalem, he was also a Pharisee and had a great deal of power over people. He came to Jesus to ask him some questions for at least a few other Pharisees; probably Joseph of Arimathea was one of the Pharisees who wanted to know.
So he goes to Jesus and here is what transpires.
John 3:1-13 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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 marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
So we’ve got this really smart guy, who probably knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards, and I’m sure he sees the necessity of the New Birth, he just doesn’t understand how he can do it. He asks the great question, probably pretty sarcastically, “do I climb back in my mother’s womb? I don’t think I’m gonna fit” Jesus answered him that a person must be born of the Holy Spirit and of water. Some people have thought that this is referring to both the physical birth and the spiritual birth, but then that would condemn babies who are stillborn, and Job tells us that stillborns go to Heaven. (Job 3:16) What the water is talking about is the New Covenant, when we are washed; Nicodemus would have understood this instantly.
Being born again is an external event from us, when God supernaturally makes us alive spiritually.
John 1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
We are born of the Spirit by the will of God, and this is when we become children of God. And if you are not born-again, Jesus promises that you can’t go to Heaven. As we leave Nicodemus, lets look at something neat;
John 19:38-39 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.
It sounds like Nicodemus got saved, sounds like he was born-again; he helped Joseph to bury Jesus. Not all Pharisees were bad, just like not all people in churches are good, and we can see born-again people doing good things in every manner of church, life, and career.
That brings us to George Whitefield. He lived in the 1700’s, he got saved reading a book on the necessity of the New Birth, which is another way of saying being born-again. So few people were experiencing being born-again that it was popular to say that being born-again meant being baptized or trying to clean yourself up. As Whitefield read the book, it became apparent that something big needed to happen to his soul in order for him to go to Heaven. He sought God in prayer and repentance and finally it happened, he was born-again. He instantly set out to preaching, but nobody would let him preach in their church. So he found a stump in a field and stood on it and preached the hope of reconciliation that is available in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was preaching to coal-miners and when he had finished they had streams of tears down their cheeks where the coal dust had been washed away.
George Whitefield preached for thirty years in America and Britain and multitudes got saved. Whitefield was really the one who birthed the Revolution; Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin helped a little, but without Whitefield, there would be no United States. During his life, George Whitefield preached 18,000 times, and over 1,000 of those sermons were on John 3, specifically John 3:3 that says
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
At the end of his life he was asked, “Why do you preach on being born-again so often?” He answered, “Because you must be.”
Let’s see why it is so important to be born of imperishable seed, of the Holy Spirit, as Peter quotes from Isaiah chapter 40.
v.24-25 for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Everything that is born of flesh is passing away, it will wither, it will fall, it will die, it will not last forever. But the Word of God remains forever, it is imperishable, it is eternal, it is not corrupted by sin. It is what works in your life and makes you born-again. It’s obviously not just this paper and ink, but the Living Christ that it bears witness to, the Spirit of Christ that is sanctifying you, and the Father of Christ who is controlling it all. And in all of this, the Word has to abide in you, it's not a one time thing, but that it lives in you and works in you.
Romans 8:20-23 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Our spirit is alive, but our bodies are dying.
Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
But we’ll get a new body to match our new spirit;
1 Corinthians 15:47-49 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Now let me share with you an illustration that should really drive home the importance of the New Birth and that it is a real thing, and not just something that is superficial and can happen to you without you or someone else knowing.
On the way to church this morning I decided to get on the free-way…I don’t really know why, it took me sort of out of the way. On my way I got a flat tire, so I pulled over to the side and was changing the tire. I was in a hurry and lost hold of one of the lug-nuts and it rolled out into the freeway. I wasn’t paying attention and ran out and got it, right when I picked it up, I looked up and here comes a semi-truck going eighty-miles an hour and it was too late for me to get out of the way, and it ran me over. Long story short, I made it to church and here I am.
Would you believe this story? Why not? If I had an encounter with a semi-truck, you’d expect there to be some evidence, right? Now, let me ask you this question, which is bigger, a semi-truck, or the Living God who created the universe? (Stolen from Paul Washer)
If you claim to have had an encounter with him, that he has saved you, that he has given you a new heart and made you born-again, there should be some evidence of this. Paul says that old things will pass away, and all things will become new, and we will walk in a manner keeping with our confession. Peter says if we are born again then we must
v.2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
So beloved, you must be born-again. If you are not, then you will perish, but if you are, then you will see the kingdom of Heaven and will have everlasting life. You must be born-again.
Why is being born-again so important?
Next week Peter is going to jump off of this idea of being born-again and what we should do to grow ourselves in the faith. Being born-again mirrors a real life, and while some of you have heard this, a review won’t be a bad thing.
Conception – Seed Planted (1 Corinthians 3:5-6)
Gestation – Seed Growth/Danger of no Birth (Galatians 4:19)
Birth – Rebirth (1 Peter 1:3)
Newborn – Spiritual Babes (Hebrews 5:13, 1 Peter 2:2)
Adolescence – Maturing (Hebrews 5:14)
Maturity – Able to Minister to Souls (Hebrews 5:12)
Ask two adults, preferably your parents, how they became born-again.