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Conviction Of Sin And New Birth

Darkness... Light (Gen. 1:2,3)

"And the earth was waste and void

darkness was upon the face of the

deep... God said, Let there be light:

and there was light". Darkness

light. What a glorious transformation! It was achieved through the Spirit's moving, brooding upon "the face of the waters" and the Word of God in unrestrainable power, "Let there be light". The Spirit's vital work, inaudible, unseen; the command of God, instant, harmonized. By this combined work and word, the earth was re-born. Large birds of prey, like eagles, are equally impressive while fluttering with gentle strength over their nest (Deu~ 32:11, where the word "fluttereth" is the same in Hebrew as the word "brooding upon", Gen. 1:2 RVM), as when soaring high at their Creator's command (Job 39:27). Interestingly, both aspects of an eagle's power are seen in Genesis 1 as, consequent upon the Spirit's gentle hovering, the towering Word of God accomplished the earth's re-birth.

The human race lies in darkness too, preferring it to the light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). But the same gracious Spirit "hovers" over sin-benighted souls and by the same Word of God, there is light.

In the grime and cold of the trenches of the second world war, Tom vowed that if he got out alive he would "make up for lost time". He did come out alive and, like many others sickened by the horrors of the war, "made up for lost time" by spending as long as he could in the public houses near his home. He maried a barmaid and finished up breal~g up house and home to pay for his drinking bouts. Darkness reigned. One Lord's Day evening, his niece persuaded him to go into a gospel hall which he passed on his way from home to the public house. Through the Word of God, under the Spirit's gentle prompting, Tom was "born anew" (John 3:7). Quietly, unseen, the Spirit was at work in Tom's heart, operating on the incorruptible Word of God (1 Peter 1:23), changing him from a wild drunhad into a committed Christian. Glorious light! His work-mates could not understand the dramatic change and when, subsequently, he preached at open-air gospel meetings, they jeered at him, "You've got a tile missing", which, in their broad Pottery dialect, meant that they thought he was out of his mind. Quick as a flash, Tom retorted publicly, "That's where the light shone in". He was righL Tom's dark life was flooded with light. "Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). Tom was "in Christ", "a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17 RYM), his whole life from then onwards bearing testimony to the truth of the Scripture, "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).

Can man "by searching find out God?" (Job 11:7)

Originally, God made man in His own image. He made him to have communion with him (Gen. 1:27, 3:8). Interestingly, when God came to speak with Adam and Eve, it was in "the cool of the day" (Gen. 3:8). The Hebrew word translated "cool" is translated "Spirit" in Genesis 1:2, suggesting communion through the Spirit. But the onset of sin had spoiled that, breaking the fellowship. It alienated man and he became a fugitive, left to his own devices, he never could know God. Knowledge is advancing at a phenomenal pace, as Scripture said it would ([)an. 12:4), but no matter how much knowledge increases, the finest intellect is incapable unaided of knowing God; that comes by divine revelation. Significantly, in the fulness of the time, when God sent the Son (Gal. 4:4), Greek philosophy had had its opportunity, doing its utmost to find out and know God. All such endeavours were futile. All the philosophical heights achieved by the finest Greek thinkers left them worshipping the "unknown God" (Acts 17:23). "The world through its wisdom knew not God" (1 Cor. 1:21) because His is a hidden wisdom (1 Cor. 2:8) which concerns the deep things of God, things past tracing out.

Born of the Spirit (John 3:8)

God is Spirit (John 4:24) and therefore all truth concerning God is spiritual. The natural mind cannot even begin to comprehend spiritual truths, nor can man begin to please God while yet "in the flesh" ~om. 8:8). Natural intellect, or the lack of it, is quite immaterial. Thankfully, not even the finest intellect has any advantage. We all begin from the same starting point, a complete inability to know God by any natural means. No matter how a person may strive to improve his knowledge or educate his mind, he is quite incapable of spiritual knowledge. It was to Nicodemus, a man of intellect and learning, that the Lord said, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). Although he was a learned teacher (John 3:10), he could not start from where he was. He needed a new beginning, a new Spirit-given birth. "I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in Him," but mysteriously as the wind (John 3:8), He worked in Nicodemus' heart, giving him new birth and enabling him to see and understand truths which, previously, had baifled him.

Convicting of sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16:8)

Saul, too, with his high intellect, failed to recognize the Lord's identity, thinking with himseff that he ought "to do many things contrary to the Name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9).

Later, in converted days, he wrote, "We speak God's wisdom in a mystery which noue of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:7,8). By simply looking at Jesus and trying to aaalyse Him, they drew totally the wrong conclusions. "We know that this Man is a smner" (John 9:24). Though the Lord is the Righteous One (Acts 3:14), the Jews condemned Him to death. But "this same Jesus" has been shown by God to be righteous because He raised Him from the dead, loosing the pangs of death (Acts 2:24). Emboldened by the Spirit, Peter pointed the finger at his listeners, "Jesus of Nazareth ... ye did crucify and slay ... Ye killed the Prince of Life". Then, time and again, Peter emphasized the truth of the resuerection, "Whom God raised up" (Acts 2:22-24, 32 & 3:14,15). The Lord had come to do God's will, culminating in the Cross, but God had raised Him, not only from death, but to the glory of heaven. "God which raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory" (1 Peter 1:21). "Jesus Christ the righteous" had left the world that scorned and rejected Him and returned to His "righteous Father" with whom He had dwelt from all eternity (John 17:25), and the coming of the Holy Spirit was proof of His exaltation (John 14:26 & 16:7). This was unmistakable demonstration of God's righteousness and also a clear vindication of Christ's personal righteousness. The Spirit's work would be to convince men of this, as is shown in Acts 2 when, by the Spirit's empowering, Peter's witness to Christ's death and resurrection had such a powerful effect on his hearers that they were "pricked in their heart" and about three thousand souls "received his word" (2:37, 41). They were convicted, by the Spirit, of both sin and righteousness.

Additionally, the Spirit convicts of judgement. Through modem media, we are probably more aware than ever before of Satan's relentless power to enslave. But the Lord has judged him when, in His death and resurrection, He fulfilled His own prediction, "Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12:31). He brought the Devil, who had the power of death, to nought, proving Himself stronger (Heb. 2:14). Since the Lord has overcome Satan, no other power can withstand Him. All who "are in Christ Jesus" are given, by the Spirit, this sense of freedom from Satan's bondage.

Ye shall he My witnesses (Acts 1:8)

Though the work of conviction and new birth is entirely of the Spirit, acting upon the sown Word of God (1 Peter 1:23), He still uses human agency. The commands are still as applicable today as the days on which they were spoken, "Ye shall be My witnesses", and again "Preach the Word" (2 Tim 4:2). Our part is to witness by word and work, by lip and life.