Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Kingdom of God and the New Birth

Here are the notes and discussion questions from last Sunday's lesson on 'the kingdom of God and the new birth'....

Lesson summary: The kingdom of God is the realm where God rules over his people (those who have turned to Him in repentance and faith, submitting to His rule) in saving grace and power, with kingdom blessings (forgiveness, new life, peace, provision, empowering for obedience, service, witness).

All people are born, by nature, into the ‘kingdom of darkness’ and are “children of disobedience” (Col. 1:13; Eph.2:2).

To enter God’s kingdom, we just be saved/rescued by God’s grace and power (Col.1:13).

Q. In order to see (understand, comprehend) and enter the kingdom of God, what must happen to a person?
A: He or she must be 'born again.' (Jn. 3:35) The divine side of salvation is ‘regeneration’ – God’s Spirit causes us to be ‘born again.’ On the human side, we repent and believe the Gospel. (Jn. 3:16; Acts 16:31; 20:21; 1 Pet. 1:22-25)

Along with ‘new birth,’ the Bible describes becoming a Christian in terms of new creation, passing from death to life, receiving a new heart and a new spirit, being renewed, changing from being in the ‘flesh’ to being in the Spirit, being transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s Son, etc. What do all these metaphors and descriptions have in common?

Q. What are the characteristics of a person who has truly been born again?

--Love for God (Rom. 8:28; Eph.6:24)
--Love for God’s people (1 Jn. 3:14-18; 1 Pet.1:22-23

--Love for God’s Word (Ps. 119:97; 1 Pet. 2:2)
--Love for the Lord’s return (2 Tim.4:8, where the Greek word for ‘long for’ is the word normally translated ‘love’) What does it mean to love the appearing (second coming) of Christ?
--No longer loving the world and worldly things (1 Jn.2:15f.)
--Obedience – 1 Jn. 2:29; 3:9-10
--Believing the truth (1 Jn.5:1; 2 Thess.2:13)
--Commitment to calling on God as Father in prayer (Rom.8:15-16)
--Bearing “fruit” – e.g., the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22ff.; Jn.15:1-17)

What is a person’s spiritual condition before being born again? (Eph.2:1; 2 Tim.3:2-4; Rom.1:30; 8:7-8; Col.1:13)

Why, then, is it so important that a church’s membership only include born-again people? What would happen to a church influenced by a lot of ‘unregenerate’ (= not born again) people?

What does it mean for a church to require ‘evidence of having been born again’ as a requirement for membership? What would count as ‘evidence’?

For further study: recommended ready -- "Finally Alive" by John Piper


AK Pastor Blog said...

Doug, found your blog through Justin Taylor earlier this year; and saw it again today as I added Kevin DeYoung's blog to my home page. You may not remember me but we were at GRBS together.

I have fond memories of South. Tom Harms, the college pastor when I was at MSU, led me to Christ and pastor Sugden was a model of a man who was passionate about Christ. I remember being a young christian in this Baptist church wanting to bust out in worship with all my being and seeing him lift his hands and arms ever so slightly in worship and adoration (I was a Christian Hedonist even before I knew the term). Better yet seeing him walking down a hall during the week, hands fully raised as he worshipped his Lord.

As for what characterizes one who has been born again, what about the affections of the heart being awakened to God? Desire and appetite are essential indicators of saving faith. Does one feel a need for Jesus daily as the Bread of Life or Living Water? If not do they fight for that desire? All too often evangelicals define love too narrowly as choices or in terms of actions. Yet one can do the right thing without the right motivation all their life and never be born again!

Blessings to you and the body you serve.

Douglas Phillips said...

Hey Dave,

Thanks for the very insightful comment -- I definitely agree. I tried to get at part of what you allude to in terms of the affections of the heart being wakened to God when I spoke of love for God, love for God's Word, the instinct to pray, etc. But your comment makes the point even more clearly.

I definitely agree with the perspective of Piper, following Edwards and Augustine, on the central place of renewed affections/desirings when it comes to authentic Christian spirituality.

I'm glad you 'got in touch' and I only wish the Google profile pictures were a little bigger to help jog my memory of you, but I definitely remember your name....