Real Salvation and Whole-hearted Service

By R. A. Torrey

Chapter 6



 “Ye must be born again.”—John iii. 7.

No one can be saved unless he is born again by the power of God's Holy Spirit. “Ye must be born again,” says Jesus. The necessity is absolute; not merely, “Ye may be born again,” but “Ye must be born again.”

Nothing else will take the place of the new birth. Neither baptism nor confirmation will take the place of the new birth. Simon, in the eighth of the Acts of the Apostles, was baptized, and whatever the right form of water baptism may be, he was baptized the right way, for he was baptized by a man sent by the Apostles, and taken into the early Church; but when Peter and John came down and saw his heart, Peter said unto him, “Thou hast neither lot nor part in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Thou art still in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” A baptized lost sinner! I go to people in these meetings and ask them to come to Christ, but they say, “I have been baptized; I have been confirmed.” Have you been born again? “Ye must be born again.”

No performance of religious duties will take the place of the new birth. A great many people are depending upon the fact that they say their prayers, read their Bibles, go to church, partake of the Sacrament, and perform other duties; but all that will not take the place of the new birth. " Ye must be born again."

Orthodoxy of faith will not take the place of the new birth. A great many people are saying, " I believe the Apostles' Creed," "I believe the Nicene Creed," "I believe in the Longer and Shorter Catechism," " I am orthodox; I hold the right views about Christ, the right views about the Bible, the right views about the Atonement." You can be orthodox upon every doctrine, and be lost for ever. I suppose the devil is as orthodox a person as there is. The devil knows the truth about the Bible. He hates it, and loves to get others to believe something else, but he believes it himself. The devil knows the truth about Christ. He believes in the Divinity of Christ. He tries to keep others from believing in it, but he believes in it himself, he knows Jesus Christ is Divine. The devil believes the truth about hell. There is no one knows better than the devil that there is an everlasting hell. The devil is perfectly orthodox, but he is lost. " Ye must be born again."

Culture, and refinement, and outward correctness of life will not take the place of the new birth. The trouble with us is not merely in our outward life. The trouble is in the heart. The corruption is in the heart, in the very deepest depths of our inner life; and merely to reform your outward life is not enough; that will not save you. It does not go deep enough. Suppose I had a rotten apple. I could take that apple to an artist and have him put a coating of wax around the rotten apple, and then paint it until it was just as beautiful in appearance as any apple you ever saw, but it would be just as rotten as ever. Take one bite into it and you bite into the decay. The trouble with you is that out of Christ you are rotten at the heart, and mere culture, mere refinement, mere respectability, mere reform, mere morality, is simply putting a coating of wax on the outside and painting it up. You must be changed down to the deepest depths of your being. What we need is the power of God going down to the deepest depths of our souls, banishing death, and bringing in life; banishing corruption, and bringing in the holiness of God. " Without holiness, no man shall see God," and it is only by the regenerating power of the Spirit of God that any man or woman can become holy. " Ye must be born again."

The necessity of the new birth is universal. There is not a man or woman on the face of the earth that shall ever see the kingdom of God, or enter the kingdom of God, except they be born again. There is no exception. There is not a woman in Birmingham, I care not how refined, how highly educated, how amiable, how beautiful in her daily life, that will ever see the kingdom of God unless she is born again. If anybody could have entered the kingdom of God without the new birth it was Nicodemus. Nicodemus was an upright man, honoured by everyone; he moved in the best society, a man of wealth and culture; he belonged to the orthodox party, a man of deep religious earnestness, sincerely desiring to know the right way, a man who prayed and studied his Bible, and went regularly to the synagogue several times a week; and the Lord Jesus looked him right in the face, and He said, " Nicodemus, you must be born again." No exceptions. Except a man be born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God. So I come to you with the question, "Have you been born again?" I do not ask if you are a church member. I do not ask you if you believe the truth. I do not ask if you say your prayers or read your Bible. I do not ask if you go to church. I do not ask if you have a liberal heart towards the poor. I do not ask if you give to foreign missions. Have you been born again?

Well, somebody says, "What does it mean to be born again?" As good a definition as I know of the new birth is given in 2 Cor. v. 17, " If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." The new birth is a new creation. A radical transformation by the power of the Spirit of God in the deepest depths of our being; a new will, new affections, new thoughts. We are born with a perverted will. We are born with corrupted affections. We are born with a blinded mind.

In regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit God transforms our will, transforms our affections and our tastes, transforms our way of looking at things. Let me go into it a little more specifically. Every man and woman by nature has a perverted will, a will that is set on pleasing self. By nature we love to please self. We do what pleases ourselves. What pleases us may not be vicious at all; we may not be pleased to get drunk, or swear, or lie, or do anything vicious or vulgar; but our minds are bent on pleasing ourselves. But when God, by His Spirit, imparts to us His nature and life, our will is changed, and the whole purpose of our life. Instead of pleasing self, it is pleasing God; the whole will is surrendered to God, and we live to please Him. "We may do a great many of the things we did before, but now we do them because they please God. Before, we did them because they pleased ourselves. Our affections are corrupt by nature. We love the things we ought not to love, and hate the things we ought to love. For example, a great many women in this room this afternoon love novels, which God hates, more than they love the Bible, which God loves. If a great many of you women were to tell the truth this afternoon, and would stand up and speak the truth, you would say, "I would rather read a storybook any day of the week than read the Bible." You love the theatre, which God hates. I don't say God hates theatrical people, mind you — He loves them; but He hates the theatre. God hates the card-table: I am sure He does. You all would, probably, if you knew as much about it as I do; but you love the card-table. God hates the dance. I should think that any intelligent, modest person would, if they would only stop to think a little; but you love the dance. You would rather go to the theatre than to the gathering of God's children. If you had your choice Thursday night or Wednesday night between going to a first-class opera or to a place where God's Spirit was present in power, you would choose the opera. You would go to a card-party rather than to a quiet gathering of God's people, where they knelt down and prayed for the outpouring of the Spirit, and very likely you are a church member. When God, through the power of the Spirit, imparts to you a new nature, you will love the Bible more than any other book in the world. You will love the place where God manifests Himself better than any place of worldly entertainment. You will love the company of God's people better than you will love the pleasures of this world; and the beautiful thing is that in a moment of time,, by the power of God's Holy Spirit, the change comes.

New tastes, new affections, take the place of the old tastes and old affections. There is not anyone here to-day that loves the theatre more than I once did, and the dance — I used to go to from four to six dances a week — or that loves the card-party more than I once did, for I played cards every day of my life except the Sabbath. (I thank God that my mother's training kept me from doing it on the Sabbath day.) You could not hire me to do these things to-day. I think there is not money enough in Birmingham to hire me to go to the theatre, unless I went there to get some poor soul out. There is not money enough in Birmingham to get me to play whist, or casino, or bridge, or anything else. I hate it. I love the things I once hated, and I hate the things. I once loved. Why, in those days I would rather have read any novel than read this book. To-day I have more joy in reading this book than in any other book on earth. I love it. My greatest intellectual joy is just to pore over the wonderful pages of this, book of God. Then you will get new thoughts. A great many of you to-day are blind to the Divine authority of this book. You believe all the nonsense that people tell you in the name of what they call " scholarship " — about the mistakes in it. When you are born again, you will get a mind so in tune with the mind of God that you will believe everything in it in spite of everybody. Some of you cannot believe the doctrine of the Atonement, that Jesus took our sins in His own body on the cross. The preaching of this doctrine is " foolishness to them that perish "; but when you are born again, the doctrine that the Son of God died on the Cross of Calvary will be one of the sweetest doctrines in all the universe. A new will set upon pleasing God instead of pleasing self, new affections to love the things that God loves and to hate the things that God hates, a new mind about the truth of God. Have you been born again? If not, you are not saved. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

How can we tell whether we have been born again or not? i John ii. 29: "Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him." If you have been born of God, you will do as God does. God does righteousness. If you are born of God righteousness will be the practice of your life. What is righteousness? To do righteousness is to do that which is right in God's sight. A man that is born of God will study the Word of God to find out what God's will is as revealed in His Word, and when he finds out, he will do it. Are you doing that? Studying the Word of God daily to find out what God wants you to do? When you find out what God wants you to do, are you doing it?

1 John iii. 9: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." That is, does not make a practice of sin. What John means by sin he tells us a few verses before this. To commit sin is to do that which you know to be contrary to God's will. The man of God will not, when he knows God's will, disobey it. He may, be mistaken. He may do something that he did not think at the time was not God's will, but he will find out it was not, and when he does he will own it up and confess it as sin. Or he may be suddenly surprised, overtaken by a sudden temptation, and fall; but as soon as he sees it he will confess it. He will not go on day after day doing that which he knows to be contrary to the will of God. Anybody that is making a practice day after day of something that they know when they do it to be contrary to the will of God has reason to doubt whether they are born again. A young man asked me on the street on Thursday, " If a man is born again and lies down in sin and dies in sin, will he be saved? " " Why," I said, " a man who is born again will not lie down in sin. He may fall into it, but he will not stay there."

Do you know the difference between a hog and a sheep? A hog will fall into the mud, and when he gets there he will stay there. A sheep may fall into the mud, but he gets up as quick as he can. A good many people that we think are Christ's sheep are only washed sows. A sow that is washed will return to the mire, but a sheep will not stay in the mud. Some of you say, " I wish Dr. Torrey would not use such inelegant language." It is not my language, it is God's. If you are only outwardly reformed, if you are simply externally converted, in a few weeks you will go back to your sin and your worldliness. You are only a washed sow. I am quoting Scripture. It is God's language (2 Pet. ii. 22). It is the person who is outwardly converted, but not inwardly transformed, who will give up after a little while; but if you have been born again you are transformed from a sow into a sheep, and you will never lie down in sin again.

In 1 John iii. 14, you find the third proof of regeneration—love of the brethren. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Love to everybody that belongs to Christ, irrespective of their social position, irrespective of their race or colour. "We love the brethren," every child of God. The nature of God is love, and if God has imparted His nature to you, you have a heart full of love, and especially love for God's children. I once went to a communion service in the city of Brooklyn, and they were receiving new members. A lady sat near me, and when the people stood up to receive the new members, I saw she did not stand up. When the meeting was over I said to her — I knew her very well — " Why didn't you stand up to receive the new members? " She replied, " I was not going to stand up for them. They are our mission people. I am not going to love and watch over and care for them." They were poor and she was rich. She loved rich Christians. She was not a child of God. The poorest old washerwoman that is born of God you will love just as much as if she were the wife of a millionaire. A woman that cannot read or write you will love just as much as if she were the most highly educated woman in the kingdom. It is a practical love, a love that shows itself by going into the pocket. People will get up in a prayer meeting sometimes and say, "I know I have passed from death unto life because I love the brethren." After the meeting a lady goes round and says, "There is Mrs. Smith; she is in trouble. She needs a little help, and we are making up a little purse for her. Won't you give something?" And she says, "I cannot do it. Christmas is coming, and I have got to get presents for my sisters, and children, and cousins, and I cannot give to everybody." You can, if you are a child of God, and have it to give.

The Bible is such a practical book, coming down to everyday life. The proof of the new birth is love, and the proof of love is, that if you have a penny left in your pocket you will go and share it with your poor brethren, your poor sisters, if you are born again.

Another test. 1 John v. 1: " Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Now, you say, " I come in on that. I believe that Jesus is the Christ." Do you? " Of course I do. I am perfectly orthodox." It is not orthodoxy, it is real belief. " Christ " means King, and if you really believe in Christ as King, it leads you to set Him up as King in your heart. Everybody that really believes in Christ as King makes Christ King. Does Christ sit upon the throne of your heart? Does Christ rule your life? If He does, you are born of God. If He doesn't, you are not.

1 John v. 4: "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." There are two classes of people in the world — those who are overcoming the world, and those who are being overcome by the world. Which class do you belong to? Are you getting the victory over the world, or is the world getting the victory over you? A great many people come to me and say, "I know this is not just right, but it is what everybody in Birmingham does, and so I do it." The world is getting the victory over you. " I don't believe in this, but all the people in our suburb, even including the church members, do it, therefore I do it." The world is getting the victory over you. If you are born of God you will get the victory over the world. You won't ask what the world does; you will ask what Christ says, and you will obey Christ, your King, and get the victory over the world, though you have to stand alone. Are you born of God? " Ye must be born again." Have you been born again?

Now, I think, a great many of you will say, " No, I haven't. Can you tell me just now what I must do to be born again?" Yes, I can. God Himself tells us.

John i. 12: "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." We are born again by God's Holy Spirit, through His Word, the moment we receive Christ. When you take Christ into your heart, you take the life of God into your heart. When you take Christ into your heart, Christ comes and reigns and transforms you through and through in a moment. Anybody in this building this afternoon, I care not how worldly you are, how sinful you are, how hard you are; I care not how unbelieving you are, anyone to-day that will throw his heart open and let Jesus come in to rule and reign, who will take Christ as his sin-bearing Saviour, as his Saviour and Deliverer from the power of sin, the moment you surrender to Him the control of your life, God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, will make you a new creature.

Some people will bring to you two persons — one who has been very carefully reared, who has been taught to observe the outward forms of Christianity, and another woman who has gone down into the deepest depths of sin, and say, " Here is this person very near the kingdom; she will surely be easily led to accept Christ. But here is this person who has gone down into the depths of sin; of course we don't expect to see that one saved right now." Why not? If that moral, refined, amiable, beautiful girl takes Christ, God by His Holy Spirit will impart His nature to her and make her a child of God the moment she does it; but, also, if the vilest woman in Birmingham takes Christ, God by His Holy Spirit will impart His nature to her, and make her a child of God the moment she does it. How often I have seen it, at the same meeting.

" Ye must be born again." Ye can be born again. There is' not a person within the hearing of my voice but who will become a child of God right now if he will take the Lord Jesus Christ. The moment he does it, God, by a creative act, by the power of His Holy Spirit, will make him a new creature. " Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

Two thoughts I wish to leave with you. First, that the most highly-educated, most upright, most amiable, most attractive man or woman who is out of Christ will never be saved but by the creative act of God, until the Holy Spirit in the inmost depths of your soul makes you a new creation in Christ. Second, the most hopeless abandoned man or woman in Birmingham can be saved in an instant, born again, made a new creature, the moment they accept Christ. We are all saved the same way. By the acceptance of Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost the instant you accept Christ. Have you been born again? If not, will you take Jesus right now and be born again?