Except A Man be Born Again, by D.L. Moody

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embellishment

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The following article is a précis of Chapter 2, The Gateway Into The Kingdom from the book: The Way To God and How to Find It by Dwight Lyman Moody.

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“Except a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
(John 3. 3.)

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There is no portion of the Word of God, perhaps, with which we are more familiar than this passage. I suppose if I were to ask those in any audience if they believed that Jesus Christ taught the Doctrine of the New Birth, nine tenths of them would say: “Yes, I believe He did.”

Now if the words of this text are true, they embody one of the most solemn questions that can come before us. We can afford to be deceived about many things rather than about this one thing.

Jesus makes it very plain. He says, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”—much less inherit it.

This Doctrine of the New Birth is therefore the foundation of all our hopes for the world to come.

My experience has been this—that if a man is unsound on this doctrine he will be unsound on almost every other fundamental doctrine in the Bible. The doctrine of the New Birth upsets all false religions—all false views about the Bible and about God.

To be “born again” is the greatest blessing that will ever come to us in this world.

Jesus said “Except a man be born again…”

There are a number of other passages in scripture where we find the word except.

I will name three:

1. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13: 3, 5.)

2. “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18: 3.)

3. “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5. 20.)

They all really mean the same thing.

I think it is scarcely necessary for me to prove that we need to be born again before we are ready for heaven.

I venture to say that there is no candid man but would say he is not fit for the kingdom of God, until he is born of the Spirit.

The Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Man, by nature, is lost and guilty of sin before a pure and holy God. Our personal experience confirms this.

We know also that the best and holiest man, if he turn away from God, will very soon fall into sin.

Now, let me say what regeneration (being born again of the Holy Spirit) is not.

It is not going to church. Very often I see people, and ask them if they are Christians. “Yes, of course I am; at least, I think I am–I go to church every Sunday.”

Ah, but this is not regeneration.

Others say, “I am trying to do what is right—am I not a Christian? Is not that a new birth?” No. What has that to do with being born again?

There is yet another class—those who have “turned over a new leaf,” and think they are regenerated. No, forming a new resolution is not being born again.

Nor will being baptized do you any good.

Yet you hear people say, “Why, I have been baptized; and I was born again when I was baptized.”

They believe that because they were baptized into the church, they were baptized into the kingdom of God.

I tell you that it is utterly impossible.

You may be baptized into the church, and yet not be baptized into the Son of God.

Baptism is all right in its place. God forbid that I should say anything against it.

But if you put baptism in the place of the new birth, it is a terrible mistake!

You cannot be baptized into the Kingdom of God.

Scripture states: “…Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

If any one reading this rests his hopes on anything else—on any other foundation—I pray that God may sweep it away.

Church-goers say, “I go to the Lord’s Supper; I partake uniformly of the Sacrament.” Blessed ordinance! Jesus hath said that as often as ye do it ye commemorate His death.

Another man comes up and says, “I say my prayers regularly.” Still I say that is not being born of the Spirit. That is not being “born again;” that is not passing from death unto life.

Jesus says plainly—and so plainly that there need not be any mistake about it:

“Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

What has a sacrament to do with that? What has going to church to do with being born again?

It is a very solemn question, then, that comes up before us, and oh! that every reader would ask himself earnestly and faithfully:

“Have I been born again?

Have I been born of the Spirit?

Have I passed from death unto life?”

There is a class of men who say that special religious meetings are very good for a certain class of people. They would be very good if you could get the drunkard there, or get the gambler there, or get other vicious people there—that would do a great deal of good. But “we do not need to be converted.”

To whom did Christ utter these words of wisdom? It was to Nicodemus.

Who was Nicodemus? Was he a drunkard, a gambler, or a thief?

No!

Nicodemus was one of the very best men in Jerusalem. He was an honorable councillor; he belonged to the Sanhedrim; he held a very high position; he was an orthodox man. Nicodemus was one of the very soundest men. And yet what did Christ say to him? “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

But I can imagine some one saying, “What am I to do? I cannot create life. I certainly cannot save myself.”

You certainly cannot; and we do not claim that you can.

It is utterly impossible to make a man better without Christ—but that is what men are trying to do.

They are trying to patch up this “old Adam” nature.

That is impossible to do.

There must be a new creation.

Regeneration is a new creation; and if it is a new creation it must be the work of God.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3. 6.)

The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, and the leopard cannot change his spots. You might as well try to make yourselves pure and holy without the help of God. It would be just as easy for you to do that as for the black man to wash himself white. A man might just as well try to leap over the moon as to serve God in the flesh.

Now God tells us how we are to enter into His kingdom.

We are not to work our way in—not but that salvation is worth working for. We admit all that. If there were rivers and mountains in the way, it would be well worth while to swim those rivers, and climb those mountains. There is no doubt that salvation is worth all that effort; but we do not obtain it by our works.

Salvation is given “to him that worketh not, but believeth” (Rom. 4: 5).

We work because we are saved; we do not work to be saved. We work from the cross–but not towards it.

It is written, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2: 12). You must have your salvation before you can work it out.

Suppose I say to my little boy, “I want you to spend that hundred dollars carefully.” “Well,” he says, “let me have the hundred dollars and I will be careful how I spend it.”

When Jesus cried out on the Cross, “It is finished!” He meant what He said.

All that men have to do now is just to accept of the work of Jesus Christ.

There is no hope for man or woman so long as they are trying to work out salvation for themselves.

I can imagine there are some people who will say, as Nicodemus possibly did, “This is a very mysterious thing.”

I see the scowl on that Pharisee’s brow as he says, “How can these things be?” It sounds very strange to his ear. “Born again; born of the Spirit! How can these things be?”

A great many people say, “You must reason it out. But if you do not reason it out, do not ask us to believe it.”

I can imagine a great many people saying that. When you ask me to reason it out, I tell you frankly I cannot do it.

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 8.)

I do not understand everything about the wind. You ask me to reason it out. I cannot. It may blow due north here, and a hundred miles away due south. I may go up a few hundred feet, and find it blowing in an entirely opposite direction from what it is down here.

You ask me to explain these currents of wind. But suppose that because I cannot explain them, and do not understand them, I were to take my stand and assert, “Oh, there is no such thing as wind.”

I can imagine some little girl saying, “I know more about it than that man does; often have I heard the wind, and felt it blowing against my face;” and she might say, “Did not the wind blow my umbrella out of my hands the other day? And did I not see it blow a man’s hat off in the street? Have I not seen it blow the trees in the forest, and the growing corn in the country?”

You might just as well tell me that there is no such thing as wind as tell me there is no such thing as a man being born of the Spirit.

I have felt the spirit of God working in my heart just as really and as truly as I have felt the wind blowing in my face. I cannot reason it out. There are a great many things I cannot reason out, but which I believe. I never could reason out the creation. I can see the world, but I cannot tell how God made it out of nothing.

The only way to get into the kingdom of God is to be “born” into it.

The law of The United States of America requires that the President should be born in the country.

When foreigners come to our shores they have no right to complain against such a law, which forbids them from ever becoming Presidents.

Now, has not God a right to make a law that all those who become heirs of eternal life must be “born” into His kingdom?

An un-regenerated man would rather be in hell than in heaven.

Take a man whose heart is full of corruption and wickedness, and place him in heaven among the pure, the holy and the redeemed; and he would not want to stay there. Certainly, if we are to be happy in heaven we must begin to make a heaven here on earth.

Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.

If a gambler or a blasphemer were taken out of the streets of New York and placed on the crystal pavement of heaven and under the shadow of the tree of life, he would say, “I do not want to stay here.”

If men were taken to heaven just as they are by nature, without having their hearts regenerated, there would be another rebellion in heaven.

Heaven is filled with a company of those who have been twice born.

Scripture states: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

“WHOSOEVER!”

Mark that!

Let me tell you who are unsaved what God has done for you.

He has done everything that He could do toward your salvation.

You need not wait for God to do anything more.

In one place he asks the question, what more could he have done (Isaiah 5: 4). He sent His prophets, and they killed them; then He sent His beloved Son, and they murdered Him. Now He has sent His Holy Spirit to convince us of sin, and to show how we are to be saved and we ignore Him.

We are told how men are to be saved, namely, by Him who was lifted up on the cross.

Just as Moses lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Some men complain and say that it is very unreasonable that they should be held responsible for the sin of a man thousands of years ago.

It was not long ago that a man was talking to me about this injustice, as he called it.

If a man thinks he is going to answer God in that way, I tell you it will not do him any good. If you are lost, it will not be on account of Adam’s sin.

Let me illustrate this and perhaps you will be better able to understand it:

Suppose I am dying of a disease which I inherited from my father or mother. I did not get the disease by any fault of my own, by any neglect of my health; I inherited it. A friend happens to come along. He looks at me and says: “Moody, you are very ill.” I reply, “I know it very well. I do not need any one to tell me that.” “But,” he says, “there is a remedy.” “But, sir, I do not believe it. I have tried the leading physicians in this country and in Europe. They tell me there is no hope.” “But you know me, Moody; you have known me for years.” “Yes, sir.” “Do you think, then, I would tell you a falsehood?” “No.” “Well, ten years ago I was as far gone. I was given up by the physicians to die; but I took this medicine and it cured me. I am perfectly well: look at me.”

I say that it is “a very strange case.”

“Yes, it may be strange; but it is a fact. This medicine cured me: take this medicine, and it will cure you. Although it has cost me a great deal, it shall not cost you anything. Do not make light of it, I beg of you.”

“Well,” I say, “I should like to believe you, but this is contrary to my reason.”

Hearing this, my friend goes away and returns with another friend, and that one testifies to the same thing.

I am still disbelieving; so he goes away, and brings in another friend, and another, and another, and another; and they all testify to the same thing. They say they were as bad as myself; that they took the same medicine that has been offered to me and that it has cured them.

My friend then hands me the medicine. I dash it to the ground! I do not believe in its saving power! I die!

The reason I die is that I spurned the remedy.

So, if you perish, it will not be because Adam fell, but because you spurned the remedy offered to save you.

You will choose darkness rather than light.

“How then shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation?”

God has provided a remedy; and it is offered to all.

The trouble is, a great many people are looking at the pole. Do not look at the pole; the pole is the church. You need not look at the church; the church is all right, but the church cannot save you.

Look beyond the church. Look at the Crucified One.

Look to Calvary. Bear in mind, sinner, that Jesus died for all.

You need not look at ministers; they are just God’s chosen instruments to hold up the remedy, which is Jesus.

My friends, take your eyes off of men. Take your eyes off from the church.

Lift them up to Jesus, who took away the sin of the world, and there will be life for you from this hour onwards.

Thank God we do not require an education to teach us how to look.

That little girl, that little boy, only four years old, who cannot read, can look. When the father is coming home, the mother says to her little boy, “Look! look! look!” and the little child learns to look long before he is a year old.

And that is the way to be saved. It is to look at the Lamb of God “who taketh away the sin of the world.”

There is life this moment for every one who is willing to look.

When I was in Belfast I knew a doctor who had a friend, a leading surgeon there. He told me that the surgeon’s custom was, before performing any operation, to say to the patient, “Take a good look at the wound, and then fix your eyes on me. Do not take them off till I get through.” I thought at the time that was a good illustration.

Sinner, take a good look at your wound; and then fix your eyes on Christ, and do not take them off.

It is better to look at the remedy than at the wound.

See what a poor wretched sinner you are; then look at the Lamb of God who “taketh away the sin of the world.”

He died for the ungodly and the sinner.

Say “I will take Him!”

And may God help you to lift your eye to the Man on Calvary.

And as the Israelites looked upon the serpent and were healed, so may you look and live.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

You may see many kingdoms; but there is one kingdom you shall never behold, unless you are born again–and that is the Kingdom of Heaven.

We all have a Saviour there. Nearly two thousand years ago He crossed over, and from the heavenly shores He is calling you to heaven.

Let us turn our backs upon the world. Let us give a deaf ear to the world.

Let us look to Jesus on the Cross and be saved.

Then we shall one day see the King in His glory!

embellishment

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The above article is a précis of the Chapter 2, entitled: THE GATEWAY INTO THE KINGDOM from the book: The Way To God and How to Find It by D.L. Moody. Published in 1884.

You can read the full, unedited chapter online at: The Evangelical Christian Library: The Gateway Into the Kingdom

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All of Dwight Moody’s works are now in the public domain. You can download his books from Gutenberg.org: Books by D.L. Moody

Read Dwight Lyman Moody’s biography on the Moody Bible Institute website at: The D.L. Moody Story

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embellishment

For your reference, here is the scripture that Moody is discussing in this article. (Taken from the King James Bible, which is now in the public domain.)

John 3:1-21

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

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