Regeneration and Spiritual Growth

by Mike Ratliff

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18 ESV)

Works righteousness has taken over most of the visible church. In this article by my friend Christine Pack, we learn what the bondage of works righteousness has done in the visible church through things like Rick Warren’s  “deeds not creeds” stance and the “innovation” Monvee. In this article by my friend Daniel Neades, we see the link between Monvee, pragmatism, and Pelagianism. We should be quite taken aback that these so-called “Christian leaders” would attempt to pragmatically discern the spiritual depth of a Christian then design the right spiritual “program” to increase their spiritual “productivity” as if Christians are products of some man-made, man-controlled, and man-defined process. In this article, we saw the methods God uses to perfect those who are His. When I see things like Monvee I wonder if these people ever read their Bibles or, if they do, if they take seriously what it says. Of course, a lot of the deception in this is a product of the lack of understanding of what true spiritual maturity is and what it looks like. Be assured my brethren, God understands these things and has been bringing His children to spiritual maturity for as long as there have been believers in this world.

God’s people, Christians, are called to be Holy.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV)

The phrase, “preparing your minds for action…” is the Greek phrase, “αναζωσαμενοι τας οσφυας της διανοιας υμων,” which, literally, says, “having bound up the hips of the intelligence of you.” The KJV translates this as, “gird up the loins of your mind.” Peter is telling believers that before we can correctly obey God in His plan for our spiritual growth into holiness, we must begin by preparing our minds for action. This is forsaking the temporal stuff all around us like the distractions of entertainment, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life as we turn our focus on God, His Holiness, and His will. The words “sober-minded” are actually one Greek word, νηφοντες, which is in the grammatical form of a present active participle. This means that Peter is telling us to be sober-minded continually, but this action is relative to the main verb, which would refer to the phrase, “set your hope fully on the grace,” τελειως ελπισατε επι την φερομενην υμιν χαριν. The verb here is ελπισατε, which means, “you hope.” It is in aorist tense, imperative mood, and active voice. That means that this is a command. What do we have here so far? We start by preparing our minds for action by turning from the distractions all around us then we must, with a sober-minded focus, hope fully on God’s grace. This grace, this χαριν, came to us at our new birth, our regeneration, as God made our dead faith alive and we believed the Gospel as the revelation of Jesus Christ was made manifest to our hearts.

Our spiritual maturity begins here and this is how we remain in God’s plan for us in this. Our part is to be the obedient children who refuse to be conformed to the passions of our past, fleshly lives. Instead, we grow in holiness as our Lord is Holy. The words “do not be conformed” in v14 are the words, μη συσχηματιζομενοι, which is literally saying, “not being fashioned with.” This should sound familiar to you if you have studied Romans 12:1-2, which we will look at next. This is key. Spiritual maturity is marked by the believer moving away from conformity or being fashioned after this present evil age. We do not remain fashioned after the world and grow in holiness. They are mutually exclusive. The grammar structure of μη συσχηματιζομενοι is as a present passive/middle participle. That means this is expressing continuous or repeated action relative to the main verb, which is “be holy” in this grammar structure. So, to be holy we are to continually not be conformed or fashioned after this present evil age. What does this tell us about over-contextualization of our ministries my brethren?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

1παρακαλω ουν υμας αδελφοι δια των οικτιρμων του θεου παραστησαι τα σωματα υμων θυσιαν ζωσαν αγιαν τω θεω ευαρεστον την λογικην λατρειαν υμων  2και μη συσχηματιζεσθε τω αιωνι τουτω αλλα μεταμορφουσθε τη ανακαινωσει του νοος εις το δοκιμαζειν υμας τι το θελημα του θεου το αγαθον και ευαρεστον και τελειον (Romans 12:1-2 WHNU)

When we prepare our minds for action, turn from what our flesh wants to God and His will we are presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. Notice that we are able to do this, “by the mercies of God.” We are able to do this because of God’s grace working in us. We are not dead in our trespasses and sins, but have been made alive in Christ through regeneration so we are living (ζωσαν) sacrifices (θυσιαν). Notice how v2 begins. We are not to be conformed to this world, “μη συσχηματιζεσθε τω αιωνι τουτω.” This litteraly says, “not be fashioned together to the age this.” Paul is telling us the same thing Peter did in 1 Peter 1:14. Peter used μη συσχηματιζομενοι, which means, “not being fashioned with.” Paul used a form of the same verb saying, “μη συσχηματιζεσθε,” or “not be fashioned together.” Both point to the believer not being conformed or fashioned with or together with our former passions before regeneration (1 Peter 1:14) and this world or age (Romans 12:2), to which our former passions before regeneration would be linked. These are present tense grammar structures in both cases so we should understand that God is clear that for us to obey Him as we become His obedient, holy, bondservants, we are to continually become separate from this world and its lusts. This is describing the pattern of our daily walks. We know that this is by God’s grace (v1), but what is our part?

We are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, μεταμορφουσθε τη ανακαινωσει του νοος. This literally says, “be transformed in the renewal of the mind.” In this context, μεταμορφουσθε refers to an invisible process of change in Christians, which takes place or begins to take place already during their life in this age. This is the metamorphosis from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity for the believer. What does God do in our lives to cause this? He renews our minds through the processes He does in us as we learn more about Him and His ways. We study the Bible and God changes our hearts as we submit to His Truth. We listen to godly, expository preaching of the Word of God and He changes our hearts, He renews our minds. This is how we grow spiritually. Pragmatism has nothing to do with this.

Those who are transformed by the renewing of their minds are tested, perfected, or matured and, through this, they are able to discern what is the will of God. They will know the Truth and will be able to know what direction to go in order to stay on the narrow path that is the only way to God, which way is good and acceptable and perfect. This is not Monvee, which is a product of man, but the way in which God has designed our Spiritual Growth.

Soli Deo Gloria!