"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit." (John 3:6.)
There are two families on earth; one family are the children of wrath, the other are for ever justified and made one with the glorified man, Christ Jesus. As he says, "Behold me and the children God hath given me." (Heb. 2:11, 13.) Every child of Adam has the nature of Adam, fallen and utterly sinful; and every child of God has the nature of God, which cannot sin. "He that is born of God sinneth not." (1 John 5:18.)
Plain as the vast difference is betwixt the two, yet, I have met with many who know nothing of what it is to be born again; they are so blind as to think that that old Adam nature is not so bad, but that with education and training, it may be good and holy. Others again are so bat-blind as to suppose that a little water will regenerate a fallen, sinful child. We know it is not so, but that the child grows up a fallen, depraved sinner.
But there is another class who think that conversion, or being born again, is a change of the old Adam corrupt nature (called in Scripture, "the flesh"), into a holy, pure nature. Many who are taught to pray for a new heart, mean this very thing; they pray to be converted, that is, they mean to get the old Adam nature changed into the new Christ nature. This is a very perplexing mistake, and one that gives great trouble to awakened souls. I cannot find any such view of conversion in the whole New Testament. It nowhere says, that that which is flesh (that is, our fallen Adam nature) shall be changed. We shall be perfectly freed from it at the coming of Christ: "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body." (Phil. 3:21.) Until then, we who are born again, who are the children of God, who have the Spirit of adoption, who are joint-heirs with Christ — yea, the Apostle says, "Ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body." (Rom. 8:15-23.) Suppose a soul really quickened by the Holy Ghost; now, such a false view of conversion might keep that soul in doubt and bondage all his life. He who believes in Jesus, will most earnestly pray and desire to be fully freed from that evil Adam nature, which is the plague of his heart; and it is most certain that when Christ comes this will be for ever the case. "We know that when he shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is." Faith triumphs in this blest anticipation.
But now the soul really quickened by the Spirit, is told that at conversion this old vile nature is changed and made holy. Such an one is very happy for awhile but by-and-by he finds there is still the same old fallen nature with its corrupt lusts, and now owing to this wrong view of conversion, he is utterly confounded, and begins, seriously to question whether he ever was converted at all. No one can tell what misery such go through; for it is after we are born again that we know what the plague and sinfulness of sin in the flesh really is. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit;" and again "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." Does, not this prove that the regenerate believer has still an evil nature; the old man corrupt; and that if it were not that the blessed Holy Spirit dwells in him, he would doubtless fulfil its hateful lusts. The Lord, keep each believer watchful.
What then is regeneration? It is wholly of God — a new creation. "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new, and all things of God." Mark in this matter, all things of God. Nothing of poor, corrupt, fallen man: "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." In, the beginning when God created this world, that was not a making it or transforming it out of old materials; so in the new creation, it is not a remodelling or purifying of the old corrupt human nature. Never in Scripture.
Christ, having finished redemption, arose from the dead, the Head of the new creation. The Spirit of God does not begin with something in the sinner, but communicates that which is entirely without the sinner; yes, the very resurrection life and nature of Christ, who is risen and at God's right hand; and thus are we "born from above." Oh, what a life! Christ must die in heaven before this risen life can be destroyed in a single believer. Because He liveth, we live also. It must be so; it is one life in Him and in us. And what a nature to have the new nature of the risen man, Christ Jesus! "As he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:17.) What a wondrous position this is, as to the old man, the old nature of Adam, reckoned dead! Before God everything of the old nature ("old things passed away"), all new in Christ; quickened with Christ; raised with Christ; seated with Christ in heavenly places. We have not to wait until death; all is now ours in Christ the risen head.
How can these things be? How is a person converted? "The wind bloweth where it listeth, &c., so is every one that is born of the Spirit." "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." This is how, and the only how — the only means whereby sinners are converted. All else is sham and delusion. It is foolishness to men, but the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Just as the serpent was set before the death-smitten Israelite, so now Christ crucified, and risen again, is set before the lost, dead, sin-smitten, sons of men; and he that believeth is passed from death unto life, is born of God, hath everlasting life. He that looks lives.
My reader may ask, How may I know that I am born of God — that I am a child of God; how do you know that your body was ever born? Why, your very human existence proves that. So does the existence of the new nature prove that you are born of God. I do not look within or go to the glass, to see if my eyesight is good. I look out at an object; if I see it clearly, that proves I have good eyesight. Have you seen Jesus dying on the cross for your sins? Have you seen Him rise from the empty grave, for your justification? Is He your only trust? Do you see Him at the right hand of God having first purged your sins? Do you see Him interceding for you? Do you see Him clearly; glorious, yet precious, and fall of tender love to such poor, lost sinners as you? Ah! if this is your sight of Jesus, it is not the eyesight of the old man. The old corrupt human heart never thus sees and trusts in Jesus. The old nature look within, and wants to find something good for Christ. Faith, which is never of the will of the flesh, but of the Spirit of God, looks without to Christ, and sees Him to be everything from God to the poor sinner. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." "The carnal mind is enmity against God." Therefore the carnal mind, the flesh, can never trust in Christ. If therefore my reader trusts in Christ alone, you do not need ask, Am I converted? It is most certain. But do you say, "I find so much evil in my old nature?" That is just what every child of God finds and mourns daily; if you were not a child of God you would not mourn over it. But what saith the Scripture? "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace." (Rom. 5:15.) Precious promise! Happy state! Yes, if a child of God, however tempted — yea, though you may have fallen — though you still find it a hard conflict — yet, through the grace of God, sin shall not have the dominion. Bad as the flesh is, and it could not be worse, the believer is not a debtor to it; but more than conqueror, through Him that loved him. So be it with thee.