Each person who responds to God’s grace (Titus 2:11) and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:8; 1 John 2:2) by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience instantly receives the great gift of salvation. This gift includes but is not limited to the following:
- Redemption (Rom 3:24; 8:23) - You are freed from the bondage of sin for the first time in your life.
- Forgiveness (Mat 6:9-15; 1 John 1:8-10) – You are forgiven your sins by God.
- Justification (Rom 3:21-26) – You are declared righteous by God; this legal declaration is valid because Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin and lived a life of perfect righteousness that can in turn be imputed to you.
- Adoption (Rom 3:23; Gal 3:26; 1 John 3:2) – You are a joint heir with Jesus to the Kingdom of God.
- Regeneration (John 3:1-21) - The Holy Spirit makes known to you the will of God and helps you discern truth from lie. He occupies and purifies all the rooms of your heart into which He is invited. For the first time in your life you are not a prisoner of sin. You are free to pursue the path of righteousness. This is the first day of your Christian life and you are a new creature in Christ. This is the mechanism of your redemption.
- Sanctification (Heb 6:1; 1 Pet 1:13-16) - You are led by the Holy Spirit along the path toward holiness; this is a lifetime journey.
- Reconciliation (Eph 2:11-22) - You are reconciled with all other believers.
- Unification (Eph 3:1-11) – You are united with all believers in the Church of Jesus Christ.
- Glorification (Rom 8:30) – You will complete the journey along the path of sanctification when your mission in this life is done.
The actual word for regeneration occurs only twice in the New Testament (Mat 19:28; Titus 3:5). It means “to be again” and could therefore be used to describe a rebirth as in John 3:3, 5, 7 and 1 Peter 1:23. Regeneration is the change which God works in the soul when He brings it to life, when He raises it from the death of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness. Regeneration is the starting point in the pursuit of holiness; to be regenerated means to be born again.
My personal journey along the path of holiness begins when God convicts me that my heart is as black as a lump of coal and when that realization causes me to feel great remorse. I then request an audience with God and say something like: “Almighty God, I come into Your presence confessing my sin nature and behavior; having remorse in my heart; wanting to repent; asking your forgiveness; forgiving those who have sinned against me; asking for Your mercy; receiving from You the far greater gift of salvation; believing I am saved by faith, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ and promising to be obedient.” God responds by giving me the great gift of salvation. Part of this gift is the regeneration or initial sanctification of my soul. By this gift, the Holy Spirit begins to reveal the will of God and helps me discern truth from lie. He occupies and purifies all the rooms of my heart into which He is invited. For the first time in my life I am not a prisoner of sin. I am free to pursue the path of righteousness. This is the first day of my Christian life. This new life is a daily dying to sin and living to pursue righteousness; it constitutes a life of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed. It means allowing my will and intellect to become increasingly aligned with the will and intellect of God. It means letting the Holy Spirit occupy and purify an increasing number of rooms in my heart. It means works of Christian love flow increasingly from a heart that loves God and loves my neighbor.
Regeneration is a change wrought in the deep recesses of your soul; it is a cleansing of your heart, your intellect and your will. You are redeemed from the bondage of sin. It is an event between you and God. But what about your outward demeanor to those around you? What about all the strangers with whom you cross paths every day? Do these people see a ‘different person’ or do you save the ‘different person’ for church? Is there much in the way of external evidence that you have been born again? Scripture is not silent on this issue.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18).
Subsequent to your salvation, if those around you cannot see a different person, you need to re-examine your salvation experience. (See also Sections 1.3, 3.1, 3.5, 3.13, 4.2, 4.9, 4.10, 10.8, 11.7 and 13.20 of Theology Corner)