Two things are absolutely essential in order to salvation: deliverance from the guilt and penalty of sin, and deliverance from the power and presence of sin. The one is secured by the mediatorial work of Christ, the other is accomplished by the effectual operations of the Holy Spirit. The one is the blessed result of what the Lord Jesus did for God’s people, the other is the glorious consequence of what the Holy Spirit does in God’s people. The one takes place when, having been brought to lie in the dust as an empty-handed begger, faith is enabled to lay hold of Christ, God then justifying from all things, and the trembling, penitent, but believing sinner receiving a full and free pardon. The other takes place gradually, in distinct stages under the divine blessing of regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.
In regeneration, sin receives its death-wound, though not its death. In sanctification, the regenerated soul is shown the sink of corruption that dwells within, and is taught to loath and hate himself. At glorification, both soul and body will be forever delivered from every vestige and effect of sin.
Regeneration is indispensably necessary before any soul can enter Heaven. In order to love spiritual things a man must be made spiritual. The natural man may hear about them, and have a correct idea of the doctrine of them, but he cannot love them (2 Thess 2:10), nor find his joy in them. None can dwell with God and be eternally happy in His presence until a radical change has been wrought in him, a change from sin to holiness; and this change must take place on earth.
How could one possibly enter a world of ineffable holiness who has spent all of his time in sin, i.e., pleasing self? How could he possibly sing the song of the Lamb if his heart had never been tuned unto it? How could he endure to behold the awful majesty of God face to face who never before so much as saw Him ‘through a glass darkly’ by the eye of faith? As it is excruciating torture for eyes that have long been confined to dismal darkness to suddenly gaze upon the bright beams of the midday sun, so will it be when the unregenerate behold Him who is light. Instead of welcoming such a sight, ‘all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him’ (Rev 1:7); yea, so overwhelming will be their anguish, they will call to the mountains and rocks, ‘fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb’ (Rev 6:16). And my reader that will be your experience, unless God regenerates you.
That which takes place at regeneration is the reversal of what happened at the fall. The one born again is, through Christ, and by the Spirit’s operation, restored to union and communion with God: the one who before was spiritually dead, is now spiritually alive (John 5:24). Just as spiritual death was brought about by the entrance into man’s being of a principle of evil, so spiritual life is the introduction of a principle of holiness. God communicates a new principle, as real and as potent as sin. Divine grace is now imparted. A holy disposition is wrought in the soul. A new temper of spirit is bestowed upon the inner man. But no new faculties are created within him, rather are his original faculties enriched, enobled, and empowered.
A regenerated person is a ‘new creature in Christ Jesus’ (2 Cor 5:17). Is this true of you? Let each one of us test and search himself in the presence of God by these questions. How stands my heart affected towards sin? Is there a deep humiliation and godly sorrow after I have yielded thereto? Is there a genuine detestation of it? Is my conscience tender, so that my peace is disturbed by what the world calls ‘trifling faults’ or ‘little things’? Am I humbled when conscious of the risings of pride and self-will? Do I loathe my inward corruptions? Are my affections dead toward the world and alive toward God? What engages my mind in seasons of recreation? Do I find spiritual exercises pleasant and joyous, or irksome and burden-some? Can I truthfully say, ‘How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth’ (Psalm 119:103). Is communion with God my highest joy? Is the glory of God dearer to me than all the world contains?