by Mike Ratliff
6 That which has been born of the flesh is flesh, and that which has been born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who has been born of the Spirit.”John 3:6-8 (LSB)
I grew up as a Southern Baptist. Much of the memories from my childhood have something to do with being at church each and every Sunday morning and evening. One thing I remember was an annual event in our church called a ‘Revival.’ The Pastor and his staff would plan it for a certain date, put that date in every church bulletin leading up to it, put signs up in front of the church advertising it, and make announcement after announcement from the pulpit to remember the upcoming ‘Revival.’ The speaker for these revival meetings was usually some evangelist I had never seen before or a Pastor from another SBC church. One time we had a group of brothers come in and ‘do the revival.’ One preached, one played various instruments, while the other sang solos. That was my concept of ‘Revival.’ Is it possible for people in one place to plan for a certain date and time on the calendar to be the time and place God moves, pouring out His spirit on a local body of believers? The emphasis in those ‘Revivals’ I witnessed were on evangelism instead of a moving of God to bring about repentance and a rededication of a group of people to live for God instead of self.
I experienced dozens of these ‘Revivals’ until I became old enough to leave home and live my own life the way I wanted. I was not a believer. Oh, I had ‘gone forward’ during one of those ‘Revivals’ when I was in the 4th grade, but by my teen years I knew that I was not really a Christian. As soon as I could, I left church behind. Of course, living my life my way was not so hot. I ‘experienced life’ and found it wanting. Nothing satisfied. Through it all until my mid 30’s, I knew that I was ‘not right with God.’ No matter what fleshly pursuit I was after, I never crossed certain lines. I refused to participate in anything I considered blasphemous. Could it be that God was protecting me or keeping me from destruction? I have thought much about this. If I had gone further into my rebellion I may have not have survived! I have learned to look at my salvation as a miracle. It most certainly was not according to what I wanted.
If you read my testimony please understand that it was written back in 2007 and much has changed in regards to our church membership and such. Much of that has to do with my retirement and relocating back to OKC from the Kansas City area and becoming part of the church we were part of in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
11 He came to what was His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13 (LSB)
The children of God are born of the Spirit. These are born again or regenenerated or quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit. They were once spiritually dead, as I was until the age of 34. Each of them were quickened not according to who their parents are or their own will, or the will of any other person, but by the will and power of God. The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus that this new birth is as the wind blowing where it wishes. Men hear it, but have no control or perception of where it came from or where it goes. No preacher, or evangelist, can control this moving of the Spirit. Neither can the one who is Born Again. This does not happen according to the will of Man, but by the will of God. This is the divine side of salvation. It is not man’s will that produces salvation, but God’s Will.
4 But when the kindness and affection of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not by works which we did in righteousness, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that having been justified by His grace, we would become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.Titus 3:4-7 (LSB)
Does this mean that we don’t have to preach the Gospel? No! We must preach it (1 Corinthians 1:21-25)! This is the general call of the Gospel that God uses in the hearts of those whom He is saving. We are not saved by hearing the Gospel and then deciding. No, we are saved when the Holy Spirit regenerates us and then we believe and repent. It is then that God justifies us. We are saved by grace through faith.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (LSB)
If we were saved by hearing and believing on our own then it would be a work of the flesh or a work of Man. As we have seen, we are not saved because of works done by us in righteousness. No, we are saved according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Are you in Christ? If so, you are there solely according to the work of God. You are the product of the mysterious moving of the Holy Spirit not because of who your family is or according to any works of righteousness on your part or because you willed it. No, you are in Christ because of the will and work of God. Praise Him my brethren from a grateful heart. Serve Him with your all by His grace.
Soli Deo Gloria!