Appropriating God's Plan


By Colleen Donahue

We enter into God's Kingdom through a process that Jesus referred to as being "born again". And it's through the new birth that we come into the right relationship with God.

So what is the New Birth? We might best start to answer this question by stating what it is not. The New Birth is NOT church membership, confirmation, baptism, taking sacraments, an intellectual knowledge of God, going to church, doing good deeds, doing your best, saying prayers, reading the Bible, being moral or anything else that men might trust in to save themselves.

Consider Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee (and therefore followed the law of God carefully). He came to Jesus one night to talk a few things out. Nicodemus had many of the qualities mentioned in the above paragraph. Yet, Jesus still said to this upright Pharisee that he needed to be born again. (See John 3:1-3).

Now consider the thief that died on the cross next to Jesus. He had no time to go to church, do good deeds, or anything else on the list above. Yet, Jesus said to him, "today you will be with me in paradise."

So what did the thief do to deserve this that the other did not? That thief did the ONE THING NECESSARY. He changed his mind (i.e. repented) and he turned to Jesus like a child. In doing so Jesus became his Saviour and Lord.

Let's look now into the New Birth and how we are born again. If you already consider yourself born again it's an opportunity to understand it afresh so that you can better share it with others.


Rev. Ernest O'Neill puts it this way in one of his sermons, "Because there is a tragic and radical flaw in our personalities. There's a crookedness in us that we all feel and we feel it should be straight. There's a disintegration that we are all aware of and we feel there should be integration instead. That's why we need to be born again. The answer is almost the same as for anything that comes from a factory and is in some way damaged. It has to be sent back to the factory and made again. That's why we need to be born again."

1. The new birth is the means by which we change families. We are all born "in Adam". Because Adam chose the way of independence from God, he chose a life of sin and developed a "sin nature". This sin nature has been inherited by every human ever born on earth.
Romans 5:12 / 1 Corinthians 15:22a

This is the reason that the Bible says that, "ALL have sinned...."
Romans 3:23

The only way out of this dysfunctional family is through death. But how do we do that? Is suicide our answer? No. In a cosmic miracle, God put us into His Son on the cross.
Hebrew 9:26b

Notice in this verse that the word SIN is singular and therefore refers to the "sin nature" in man rather than the sins (plural) that we commit. God reached down through the centuries and put all of us into His Son at Calvary so he could destroy our old sin nature and offer us the chance to be "reborn". Therefore when Jesus died, we died -- i.e. the sin nature that we inherited died or as the Greek says, "was rendered inoperative".
Romans 6:6 / 2 Corinthians 5:14

Our old sin nature was crucified with Christ so that we are now free to receive Christ's Spirit (called the Holy Spirit) to dwell within us. God put us "in Christ" (past) and when we receive His Holy Spirit to dwell within us (present) we have changed families and are now part of the Kingdom of God. The "reset button" has been pressed so to speak and we can become who God originally meant us to be -- walking through life in partnership with himself.
Galatians 2:20

No longer are we in Adam's family. We are "new creations in Christ". The New Birth is the rebirth of the human spirit which is the "real man" -- the true YOU.
2 Corinthians 5:17

2. The New Birth is the means by which we pass from death to life. Death was not part of God's original plan. It was not part of creation. It came when man chose to sin and God had to keep his promise.
Genesis 2:15-17 (especially verse 17)

Spiritual death occurred when Adam and Eve sinned and the Holy Spirit left man's spirit. When the Holy Spirit left, our relationship with God was severed. Spiritual death means separation from God and this leaves a vacuum in man's spirit. It soon becomes open ground for Satan to work and he soon becomes our master. We in turn become slaves to sin.
John 8:34 / Romans 6:16/ 1 Peter 5:8

No "natural man" can stand in the presence of God because we have a nature influenced by an unholy spirit. A "natural man" is anyone -- indeed all of us --- who have yet to be "born again". We are literally incapable of living for God and powerless to overcome sin.
Romans 7:18-19

We can try all we want to be good and please God, but we can't succeed. Why?
Romans 8:7-8 / Galatians 5:17

If man had not died spiritually, he would not have died physically. One led to another.
Galatians 6:8

The Bible speaks of three deaths: We have mentioned two so far -- spiritual death and physical death. There is finally "eternal death" which is sometimes called "the second death". It is eternal separation from God after a lifetime of rejecting Him and his provision for us in Jesus, or after a lifetime of ignoring Him and doing our own thing.
Revelation 21:8

3. Death still seems to be a part of life. So how is it that we are delivered from death?

Jesus came to deliver us from spiritual death and here is how he did that:
First, his blood flowed to atone for our sins (plural) -- known or unknown-- and to cleanse us from a guilty conscience.
Second, our crucifixion with Him renders our old sin nature dead so that......
Third , we can receive Christ's own Holy Spirit within us and walk into the future as new creations in Christ.

Physical death will be finished when Jesus Christ comes again after the establishment of a new heaven and earth.
1 Corinthians 15:25-26

Eternal death will become eternal life for all who partake in Christ's redemptive work.
John 3:15, 36

4. Does the New Birth happen over a period of time?

No, it doesn't take place gradually. It is instantaneous.
1 John 5:1a

It is the gift of God the moment that we believe.

Ephesians 2:1-3 makes it clear that we were dead in our sins and trespasses. That's spiritual death.

Then, in Ephesians 2:4-7 we find out that God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ. Notice WHEN he did that.

Finally, in Ephesians 2:8-9 we are told how it all came about. List three important points from these verses that are important for us to take hold of.

Every Christian should memorize Ephesians 2:1-10. It is the summation of what the new birth is all about.

5. Does this mean that we don't do anything?

Essentially yes. Man always wants to do something to have a part in redemption -- but he can't. All glory for this work does to God.
Reread Ephesians 2:8

Everyone of us is a masterpiece that God has made to do a work on this earth. After he made you he "broke the mold". There is nobody else exactly like you in the whole world. By his work of redemption on your behalf he offers you a place again at his table and you can start walking again in partnership with Him doing what you were created to do.
Ephesians 2:10

I said that we essentially don't do anything because our part is simply to admit that we are hopeless and helpless to ever change ourselves and get right with God.

Question: Do I need to pray a certain prayer to make all this happen?

Answer: No. The Bible has no reference to what is commonly called "the sinner's prayer". However, once you recognize all that God in Christ has done for you it will lead you to your knees to ask God for his gift of salvation. It can be expressed from your heart as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray. It need not be long for Jesus to accept your prayer. Notice the conversation of the two thieves that were crucified with Jesus and the final prayer of the penitent thief.
Luke 23:39-43 (especially verse 42).

It was a short prayer from his heart and Jesus assured him that they would be in paradise together that very day.

6. If I can't do anything to "get" the new birth how will it come about?

Becoming a "new creation in Christ" is brought about in the following manner:

A. We must recognize that we were born with an inherited sin nature and therefore we sin and are a sinner. We are not a "basically good person" with a few flaws.
Psalm 51:5 / Psalm 53:3 / Romans 3:23 / 1 John 1:8

There are many consequences to being a sinner but what is the worst?
Isaiah 59:2

And without a relationship with God you are lost and without hope.

B. We must accept three facts (that are true for everyone). Jesus died on the cross to:

1- Atone for your past sins so that God can forgive those sins and your conscience can be cleansed from its guilt and shame.
Matthew 26:28 / 1 John 1:7

2- Destroy your old sin nature that you inherited and keeps you sinning.
Romans 6:6

3- Take upon himself the punishment that you deserved.
Isaiah 53:4-6

C. Once you realize that you are a sinner and that Jesus has specifically died for you, then you REPENT. To repent is to change your thinking. You turn from sin and head towards God. When you are convicted of some sin (usually through your conscience) then you agree with that and turn from it.
Isaiah 55:7 / Acts 3:19 / Acts 17:30

D. Receive the Holy Spirit (which is the Spirit of Jesus Himself) into your spirit for He is the one who makes you a new creation in Christ. How do we do that?
Matthew 7:8 / Luke 11:13

Note: This is the part of the New Birth that many "so-called Christians" never get told. If your old sin nature has been destroyed (or "rendered inoperative") in Christ and you don't ask God to fill your spirit with His Holy Spirit, then you'll have no power within to withstand Satan when he tempts you yet again to do the very thing you don't want to do. It's the Holy Spirit filling your cleansed spirit that enables you to overcome the power of sin in your life.

If we don't go on to receive the Holy Spirit to indwell our own spirit then what does Paul tell us is a fact?
Romans 8:9 (especially verse 9b)

And if we don't belong to Christ then we are not truly Christians. We may call ourselves Christians because we have had our sins forgiven but without the Holy Spirit indwelling our life we soon look like everyone else and wonder, "what's wrong!".

E. Finally, because you believe this with your heart you must "confess with your mouth" that the Lord Jesus has done a thorough work and deserves to be called Lord. He has pressed the "reset button" and we begin again in a new family and in a new kingdom (i.e. under God's rule). We are born again.
Romans 10:9-10

If you have truly asked for and received the Holy Spirit to indwell your life then He will fill you with the courage and words to speak out boldly for Jesus. You might "feel fear" as you share with family and friends what God has done for you but you'll be able to get beyond the fear because the Holy Spirit will rise up within you and enable you to do and say whatever is needed. If you don't have the indwelling Spirit of Jesus you'll find yourself becoming a "closet Christian". You know that God did a great work for you with the death of Jesus but you will be powerless to speak and walk like a Christian because you'll have no power within you to carry it out.

Ask God simply and directly for the Holy Spirit. He has promised to give the Holy Spirit to all who ask and therefore you can ask and expect God to keep his promise to you. This will then lead you to thank God for giving you his Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead you from there. As one simple country farmer said, "I just listen to the resident boss inside me and walk accordingly."

7. Will I completely change once I have become a new creation in Christ?

While the new birth is instantaneous, the process of sanctification (growing in grace and being set apart for God's use) is ongoing. Here are some changes that you'll begin to see.

A. You'll look to God again as your Father and like Jesus, the Holy Spirit within you will call him, "Abba Father".
Romans 8:15 / Galatians 4:6

Notice carefully that because we are back in a right relationship with God he calls us his "sons" or his children again. We asked him for the Holy Spirit and Galatians 4:6 tells us that without a doubt he sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts and it's the Holy Spirit that is calling out "Abba Father" from within us. Abba is a term of endearment for Father -- like if we called him "Papa". When you find yourself calling out for Papa you know the Holy Spirit is indwelling your own spirit.

B. You'll have a real hunger and thirst to grow in your relationship with God. The Bible becomes alive to you. It's God himself speaking to you and you love to hear his voice through His word.
Psalm 119:47,72,97,111 / Jeremiah 15:16

C. In fact, you will find yourself becoming a student of the Bible and like the Bereans what will you be looking for?
Acts 17:11

What will the Bible become in your life?
Psalm 119:105

D. You'll start to test the promises that God has made to see if He will indeed keep his word. And like David you will find God faithful.
Psalm 119:140

E. You will become a real seeker.
The more you know of God the more you'll want to know. And that yearning for more of God will be with you all your life for God is infinite.
Psalm 105:4 / Proverbs 18:15 / Luke 11:10

F. In your love of God's word you'll find prayer spontaneously arising. For all prayer is just talking with your "papa". Life is constantly throwing you curve balls but now you have someone to bring them to. You are not alone living your life!

Notice in the verses below that King David is literally crying out to God because of his circumstances and then affirming to himself that God is faithful, he is near, everything he says is true and therefore he will be rescued and protected and revived. It's a very real, almost disorganized kind of prayer -- but the kind that God loves.
Psalm 119:145-160

G. Being born again does not mean that we become sinless. In this life Satan will always be at our doors to tempt and try us. But you'll find sin becomes abhorrent to you. Once you may have enjoyed doing an activity but now you find it repulsive.
Psalm 119:104 / Proverbs 8:13 / Romans 7:15

You see that there is only one way to live.
Psalm 119:9-11

And if you do sin you are quick to run back to God to get right with Him. You can't stand being separated from your Papa and Jesus is there to be your advocate.
1 John 1:9 / 1 John 2:1-2

H. There may have been a time when you were critical of other believers and the church in general. But now, you are anxious to learn from your brothers and sisters and share "real life" with them.
Acts 2:42 / 1 John 1:7

They are now your family -- just as real as your physical family and you stand with them.
Romans 16:4 / 2 Timothy 1:16

I. Finally, the Holy Spirit indwelling your spirit is always wanting to "get out" of you -- to reach out to others. You'll find yourself wanting to tell others about what Jesus has done for you so that He can change their lives too. That desire is the Holy Spirit in you.
Acts 1:8 / Ephesians 6:19 / 2 Timothy 1:8 / 1 Peter 3:15

8. Once I have been born again have I "arrived"?

NO! God didn't make us so he could save us. Sin was a tragic break in his plan for us. His plan of redemption is like hitting a reset button. "The new birth let's you "get back on track."

We were meant to be a "God-man" race of people --God's spirit indwelling man -- so that we could fulfill the purpose God had for our lives. Being born again is just the doorway to get back on track. Many new Christians make a big mistake and camp out in the doorway. They think being born again is all there is. NO! There is a big world to walk into. God has a purpose for each of us that only we can fulfill.
Reread Ephesians 2:10

Being born again allows us to get on with our place in the will of God. Don't camp out in the doorway! Entering the door through the new birth is only the beginning of your walk in the spirit. You are now part of the Kingdom of God and that is what we study in part two of this course. What will that mean for you? It's a promise of adventure for sure!


The Gospel is God's plan to get us back on track. If Adam and Eve had not sinned there would have been no need for a new birth because man would not have died spiritually. Without spiritual death there would not have been physical death either.

Because of Satan's work of deception, Adam and Eve sinned. Every person since Adam and Eve have inherited their sin nature, and therefore we are all sinners and separated from God. That's the starting place for every person born.

The new birth is the means by which we change families. We are "born in Adam" but the new birth enables us to become "new creations in Christ" and to literally start over.

The new birth is the way man can pass from death to life. We were not born to die but to live forever in partnership with God developing his universe.

God did two things for every one of us. He sent his sinless son Jesus in the likeness of man to take the wrath we deserved for all the sins we have ever committed or will commit. Jesus is the only reason God can forgive us. Jesus became the perfect lamb of sacrifice on our behalf and was the one and only sacrifice acceptable to God for all time. That's the first thing God did.

Second, in a cosmic miracle, God put our sin nature (the one we inherited from Adam and Eve) into Jesus on the cross to destroy it. When Jesus died we died (the sin nature in us). God did these two things for every one of us whether we believe it or not. This opens up a reprieve or space of time for us to acknowledge what God has done in Jesus, repent of our independence from him and then receive the Spirit of Jesus into our lives to indwell us as when God first made Adam and Eve.

God will not force himself on us. We must ask for Christ's Spirit (also called the Holy Spirit) to come and dwell with us again. Then we must believe God has given him to us because God tells us he will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and God always keeps his word.

The new birth means that the "reset button" of your life has been pressed:

1. Our past sins have been forgiven and our consciences cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

2. Our sin nature has been crucified with Christ.

3. We have received Christ's Spirit to indwell our own.

4. We have changed our citizenship and are now part of God's kingdom, in God's family, and back on track to be used by God as he originally planned.

God has a big plan for his universe using each and every one of us. The new birth is the doorway by which we get back on track to do what God originally planned for us to accomplish WITH HIM.

The new birth is God's gift to us instantaneously when we believe. But it's only the start of a greater adventure of walking in partnership with the indwelling Spirit. It is a walk of sanctification or of being set aside for God's purposes. It is a walk with the Spirit and an ongoing learning of what with it means to live and work in the kingdom of God.

Next study: MP#9

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