This 'thought' comes from a message entitled: "Are You Born Again?" Ryle asks the question because many who claim to be born again, are not, and such a delusion can lead to a false sense of security regarding one's eternal destiny, a heart and conscience numbed to the proddings of the Holy Spirit, and a misleading profession or Christian testimony.
I send it out for your consideration under the assumption that some of the 300+ people who receive this thought each week, or some that you know, may benefit from considering what he has to say. I am never more conscious of how important it is that one be born again, until I come face to face with death. For apart from that gracious, effectual, life-changing work of the Spirit of God in the heart, there can be no salvation. As Jesus said, "You MUST be born again." I give it for your self-examination.
"Are you born again? This is one of life's most important questions. Jesus Christ said: 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' (John 3:3). It is not enough to reply, 'I belong to a church; I suppose I am a Christian.' Thousands of nominal Christians show none of the signs of being born again which the Scriptures have given us. These are listed in the First Epistle of John.
NO HABITUAL SINNING
1.) John wrote: 'No one who is born of God will continue to sin; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God' (I John 3:9). 'We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin' (I John 5:18). A person who has been born again (or regenerated) does not habitually commit sin... There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did no always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin. They were friends. But the true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it. Sin no longer pleases him; it has become a horrible thing which he hates. However, he cannot eliminate its presence within him. If he said that he had no sin, he would be lying (I John 1:8). But he can say that he hates sin and that the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannot prevent bad thoughts from entering his mind, or shortcomings and defects from appearing in both his words and his actions... But he can truly say, in the sight of God, that these things cause him grief and sorrow... Are YOU born again?
BELIEVING IN CHRIST
2.) John wrote: 'Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God' (I John 5:1). A person who is born again (or regenerated) believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour who can pardon his soul, that He is the divine person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and that besides Him there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness. But he has full confidence in Christ, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are forgiven. He believes that, because he has accepted Christ's finished work and death on the cross, he is considered righteous in God's sight, and he may look forward to death and judgment without alarm. He may have fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you that he feels as if he had no faith at all. But ask him if he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ, and see what he will say. Ask him if he will rest his hope of eternal life on his own goodness, his own works, his prayers, his minister, or his church, and listen to his reply. Are YOU born again?
3.) John wrote: 'You know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him' (I John 2:29). The person who has been born again (or regenerated) is a holy person. He endeavors to live according to God's will, to do the things that please God and to avoid the things God hates. He wishes to continually look to Christ as his example as well as his Saviour and to prove himself to be Christ's friend by doing whatever He commands. He knows he is not perfect. He is painfully aware of his indwelling corruption. He finds an evil principle within himself that is constantly warring against grace and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence. Though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether or not he is a Christian at all, he will be able to say with John Newton (writer of "Amazing Grace") 'I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.' Are YOU born again?
LOVING OTHER CHRISTIANS
4.) John wrote: 'We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren' (I John 3:14). A person who is born again has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all people with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who share his faith in Christ. Like his Lord and Saviour, he loves the worst of sinners and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home as when he is in their company... They may be very different from himself in many ways -- in rank, station and wealth. But that does not matter. They are his Father's sons and daughters and he cannot help loving them. Are YOU born again?
OVERCOMING THE WORLD
5.) John wrote: 'Everyone who is born of God overcomes the world' (I John 5:4). A person who is born again does not use the world's opinion as his standard of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the world's ways, ideas and customs. What men think or say no longer concerns him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which seem to bring happiness to most people. To him they seem foolish... He loves God's praise more than man's praise. He fears offending God more than offending man. It is unimportant to him whether he is blamed or praised -- his first aim is to please God. Are YOU born again?
6.) John says, "The one who is born again keeps himself' (I John 5:18). The person who is born again is careful to watch over his own soul. He tries not only to avoid sin but also to avoid everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He knows that evil conversations corrupt the heart and that evil is more catching than good, just as a disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the use of his time; his cheif desire is to spend it profitably. He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy country -- to wear his armor continually and to be prepared for temptation. He is diligent to be a watchful, humble, prayerful man. Are YOU born again?
There is a vast difference in the depth and disctinctness of these marks in different people. In some they are faint and hardly noticable. Some of the marks may be more visible in one individual than another. Seldom are all equally evident in any one person. But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six of the marks of being born of God. How should we react to these things? We can logically come to only one conclusion -- only those who are born again have these 6 characteristics, and those who do not have these marks (admitting there is a difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks in each person) are not born again. This seems to be the conclusion the apostle intended us to come to. Are YOU born again?"
If you have taken these things to heart and found yourself lacking; if the Holy Spirit has made you distinctly aware of your need for salvation, and the only Savior, then heed the words of the apostle Paul: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." (Acts 16:30-31).
Or Peter's words on Pentecost: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, and your children, and all who are far off -- for all whom the Lord our God will call."
When God calls, respond and do not delay. "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near." (Isaiah 55:6) "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." (Hebrews 3:7-8). Come by faith and trust Christ now.
In the Service of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff