In our “best books” series, we have been focusing on essential reading for Christian leaders. This week’s pick:
Like many, I have known and loved Dr. John Piper for many years. He is rightly appreciated for his extensive ministry of preaching, teaching, and writing.
One of my favorite books by Dr. Piper is
Chapter one answers the question, “What happens in the new birth?” Piper says:
- “What happens in the new birth is not getting new religion but getting new life” (28).
- “What happens in the new birth is not merely affirming the supernatural in Jesus but experiencing the supernatural in yourself” (28).
- “What happens in the new birth is not the improvement of your old human nature but the creation of a new human nature—a nature that is really you, and is forgiven and cleansed; and a nature that is really new, and is being formed by the indwelling Spirit of God” (28).
Additionally, Piper looks here at the new birth through Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Piper says, “What Nicodemus needs, and what you and I need, is not religion but life” (29). Put simply, the Holy Spirit “is the immediate cause of the new birth” (31).
Next Piper professes, “Jesus is the life we receive at the new birth” (31). He continues, “. . . we should never separate the new birth from faith in Jesus. From God’s side, we are united to Christ in the new birth. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. From our side, we experience this union by faith in Jesus” (32).
“The work of the Spirit in regeneration is to impart new life to us by uniting us to Christ.”
Chapter two examines “New Life Through the Holy Spirit.” Piper explains, “In
Concerning the relationship between Jesus and the new birth, Piper says, “The work of the Spirit in regeneration is to impart new life to us by uniting us to Christ. The way John Calvin says it is: ‘The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself’” (37). Therefore, “In the new birth, the Holy Spirit supernaturally gives us new spiritual life by connecting us with Jesus Christ through faith” (37).
In the section called “The Need to Be New,” Piper explains, “So in the new birth, God takes out the heart of stone and puts in a heart of flesh. The word flesh doesn’t mean ‘merely human’ as it does in
In chapters three and four, Dr. Piper provides ten aspects of life without being born again. Later in chapter four he describes the “before” and “after” states with regard to the new birth, and in the several chapters that follow he unpacks just how new birth comes about—the process God brings us through as we move from spiritual death to spiritual life.
Chapter six is about how God ransoms, raises, and calls us into new life in him. Piper says, “The new birth is something that happens in us when the Holy Spirit takes our dead hearts and unites us to Christ by faith so that his life becomes our life. So it makes sense that Jesus must be raised from the dead if we are to have new life in union with him” (83).
“The new birth is the act of the Holy Spirit connecting our dead, selfish hearts with God’s living, loving heart so that his life becomes our life and his love becomes our love.”
Chapter seven further unpacks the relationship between the Holy Spirit and regeneration, and explores how regeneration happens. Piper says, “It is an objective historical act of the Spirit of God connecting us by faith to the historical, incarnate—the appearing—Lord Jesus, so that the life he now has as the crucified and risen Savior has become our life because we are united to him. New birth happens because Jesus came into the world as the kindness and love of God and died for sins and rose again” (94).
Chapter nine is about the role of the Word of God in conjunction with the Spirit in regeneration. Dr. Piper explains, “
Chapter thirteen is about God’s love and the work of the Holy Spirit in causing us to love others with God’s love. Piper says, “The aspect of the new birth we will focus on in this chapter is the fact that the new birth creates the connection between God’s love for us and our love for each other. If anyone ever asks, how does the fact that God loves you result in your loving others? The answer is: the new birth creates that connection. The new birth is the act of the Holy Spirit connecting our dead, selfish hearts with God’s living, loving heart so that his life becomes our life and his love becomes our love” (153).
Jesus said we must be born again to enter the kingdom and so it is vital that we are born again and walk in the new life that has been provided to us through the new birth. This is a very readable book, and a great aid in helping us grow toward that end.