Robert Jeffress - Developing a Regenerate Heart - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. 2 Corinthians 5:17 promises that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. And while that transformation may take place internally, the Bible instructs us to demonstrate that transformation externally as well. We call that physical expression baptism. Today, I want to share with you the model, the mode, and the meaning of baptism. My message is titled, "Developing a Regenerate Heart", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Now today, we are going to finish the last message in our series 7 Marks of a Disciple. You know, we've talked about the fact that when God calls us, he calls us not to be converts, he calls us to be disciples, people who follow Jesus' way in every part of their lives. There are a lot of definitions of discipleship. Some people say a disciple is somebody who lives my life as Jesus would live my life if he were i. Other people say to be a disciple means to love what Jesus loved, think like Jesus thought, behave like Jesus would behave in every situation. But however you define it, discipleship is about a changed way of living. In fact, I said at the beginning of this series the essence of discipleship is a changed life that comes from a transformed heart.
You know, the Bible says in Proverbs 4:23, "Watch over your heart with all diligence. For out of it flows the issues of life". Everything about us, every choice we make in life, comes from our heart. And the Bible, the heart, is not just the emotion. It's the mind, the will, the emotion. Every decision we make comes out of the heart. And therefore, if we want to live like Jesus would have us to live, we have to change our heart. We have to have a transformed heart. And that's why I say the essence of discipleship is a changed life that comes from a transformed heart. How do we transform our heart? Listen to me. Salvation is something God does for us we can't do for ourselves. That is completely an act of God. "For by grace you have been saved through faith not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast".
Salvation is God's work alone. But the transformation of our heart is a joint work between God and us after we're saved. Without God, we cannot transform our hearts. Without us, God will not transform our hearts. Somebody said it this way: "When it comes to transforming our heart, God supplies the grace, we have to supply the grit". It takes effort on our part, and it's a partnership. And over these last weeks, we've been talking about what a transformed or renovated heart looks like. In fact, I've summarized it in your outline, this picture of the heart. Imagine different chambers of your heart. What does it mean to have a transformed heart that will produce a changed life? We talked about working to produce a praying heart. We've got to train our heart, our lives, to pray regularly. Trusting heart, a content heart, a serving heart, a forgiving heart, an obeying heart, these are different areas of our life that have to change if we're going to have that changed life.
Now, today I saved the first mark of a disciple for the last message, because the first mark of a disciple is something, again, only God can do for us. All of these other six chambers are renovated in a joint project between God and us, but the first thing God has to do for our heart is something he alone can do, and that is to give us a regenerate heart, a regenerate or regenerated heart, a heart that is spiritually alive. And did you know that's what God does for you? When you trust in Christ as your Savior, he gives you a regenerate heart. I've used this illustration before. You know, you've seen this played out on television a dozen times, where there's a patient in the hospital who is clinically dead, the heart stops beating, the buzzer goes off on the mechanism. You know, they are dead.
And what does the doctor do? He yells, "Get me the paddles!" and they bring in these electric paddles and they rip open the patient's shirt. And they put those electric paddles on the patient's chest. And somebody yells out, "Stat, stat," and that's the signal to send the juice through those paddles. And that jolt comes and that patient's heart begins to beat again. They were dead, clinically dead, and they have been brought back to life with that electrical surge. Well, did you know that is what God does for us when he gives us a regenerated heart? We are born into this world spiritually dead. We are dead men walking. We don't have a life that wants to please God. We have no interest in God. The Bible says in Romans 3 when we are born into this world, there's not one person righteous among us. No, not even one. There's not even one who seeks for God.
You say, "I don't believe that. There are a lot of non-Christians who are looking for God". Well, they're looking for the God of their imagination. They're looking for the God they want to be God. They're not looking for the real God. The Bible says nobody seeks God on his own. We have to have a regenerated heart. We have to have a heart that comes to life to even want to know God. Look at Ephesians 2, what the apostle Paul says about how we are transformed from death unto life. Paul writes, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formally walked according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them, we too formerly lived in the lust of the flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest".
Have you ever heard people say, "Oh, we're all children of God. All of us are children of God. Everybody on this planet is a child of God". No, we're not. We're born into this world not children of God, but children of wrath, children of the devil. We are born not friends of God, but enemies of God. When we were born, "We were children of wrath, even as the rest". Verse four, "But God". But God. Amen. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions," he got the electric paddles out and he "Made us alive together". That's what he's talking about. God reached down and he took that which was spiritually dead and made it spiritually alive with Christ, "For by grace you have been saved". "And he raised us up with him, and he seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus".
That's what regeneration is: God taking a heart that is spiritually dead and making it spiritually alive. And that's why I say the very first mark of a disciple is a regenerated heart, a heart that is alive for God. That is something that God does for us. Now, the Bible says to show, to demonstrate to others, that we've had that experience, that we are new creations in Christ, that we have received the Holy Spirit of God into our lives who not only jolts us to spiritual life, but he is a continuing presence in our life who leads us into a whole new way of living. To symbolize that, we go through a ritual, an ordinance called baptism. Baptism is a physical sign of a spiritual truth that we have been immersed, covered with the Holy Spirit of God. We have become spiritually alive and we have been raised to a whole new way of living.
And that's why in Matthew 28:19-20, the great commission, Jesus said, "Go therefore into all the world and make" what? Disciples. And how do you do that? Doing what? "Baptizing them in the name of the father, son, and Holy Spirit". Baptism is a physical symbol of a spiritual reality that the Holy Spirit indwells my life. I have a regenerate heart and I'm living a whole new way of life. Now, one of the things I have been so pleased about in our church over these years has been the people from all kind of denominations coming into our church, Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodist, Episcopalians, Assembly of God. And I'm so glad that this church is not defined by denomination. You've heard me say a million times I couldn't care less what Baptists believe about anything. What I want to know is what does the Bible say? This is a church for 150 years that has been founded on the Bible, which is why God blesses this church.
So what I'm going to ask you to do this morning, since being baptized is a sign of our regeneration, is the first mark of a disciple, I want you to put aside everything you've ever heard or believed about baptism, everything you've heard, whatever denomination you've been a part of, including the Baptist church, forget what pastor so-and-so said. Forget what father so-and-so said. Forget what the catechism taught you. And what I want us to do this morning is see what the Bible says about baptism. What does the Bible say I'm supposed to do if I've had this regenerate heart? And we're going to do three things in the few minutes we have today. We're going to talk about the model of baptism. Secondly, we're going to talk about the mode of baptism. And finally, we're going to look at the meaning of baptism. And I encourage you who are watching this broadcast or on iCampus to follow along with us here in this church.
First of all, the model of baptism. There is a pattern that is never contradicted in the scripture, and it is simply this: people always believe before their baptism. Belief always precedes baptism. There is never a case in the Bible where you have somebody who is baptized or sprinkled first and then they later came to a personal faith in Christ. Never happened once in the Bible. It's always the pattern, believe and then you're baptized. You see that, for example, in Acts 8, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Look at Acts 8, beginning of verse 26. "But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, 'arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza'. And Philip arose and he went: and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all of her treasure: and he had come to Jerusalem to worship".
Here is somebody who doesn't know much about the scripture, but he wants to know God. So he comes to Jerusalem to worship. "And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the spirit, meanwhile said to Philip, 'go up and join this chariot'. And when Philip had run up, he heard the eunuch reading Isaiah the prophet, and he said to him, 'do you understand what you are reading'"? And the eunuch said, "I don't have a clue". Well, that's basically what he said. He said, verse 31, "'how could I understand this unless somebody guides me'? And so he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now, the passage that the eunuch was reading was this".
It's a quotation from Isaiah the prophet talking about the Messiah. "'And he was led as a sheep to the slaughter: and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth. In humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall relate his generation? For his life is removed from the earth'. And the eunuch answered Philip and said, 'please tell me of whom does the prophet say this? Is he speaking of himself or someone else'? And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this scripture he preached Jesus to him".
Isn't that interesting? Here is a man, a eunuch who wants to know God. He's sincere in wanting to know God. He comes to Jerusalem to worship God, but that's not enough. And most people, even evangelical thinking today, that would be enough for somebody to go to heaven. They love God, they want to worship God. Even if they haven't heard of Jesus, they can get to heaven, right? Wrong. No man comes to the father except through the son. No man comes to God without knowing God's son. You can't be right with God and wrong about Jesus. You have to have a personal relationship with Christ. Now, notice what happened. God looks down, he sees somebody who wants to know him, and he supernaturally arranges for Philip to be there to preach to him Jesus. I see that all the time today. We get letters every day of the week from all over the world.
People are saying, "I heard your broadcast on this station or on this internet or on this television station". All over the world, they hear the name of Jesus coming from this church. God is going to make sure if somebody wants to know about Jesus, that person hears about Jesus. We are the means that God uses to spread that word about Jesus. That's why I'm so grateful for a church like this that has a worldwide vision for being that instrument God uses to point people not just to one way to heaven, but the only way to heaven. That's what happened to the eunuch here. He wanted to know Jesus, so Philip preached Jesus to him. Look at verse 36. "And as they went along the road they came to some water: and the eunuch said, 'look, water! What prevents me from being baptized'"?
Isn't that interesting that the first thing he wanted to do after he knew Jesus was to be baptized? "And Philip said, 'if you believe with all of your heart, you may'. And he said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God'". And as we'll see in just a moment, he then went down into the water and came up out of the water. What I want you to see, though, here is the pattern. He believed first and then he was baptized. Believe and be baptized. Same thing you see in Acts 2. Remember Peter's sermon on the southern steps in the temple in Jerusalem, the sermon we call the sermon at Pentecost? Remember how he preached that message to Jews who had come from all over Israel to worship?
And when they heard the message, the Bible says they were cut. Their heart was cut to the core. And they cried out to Peter, "What shall we do? Peter, what are we supposed to do in response to this message"? Acts 2:38. "And Peter said to them, 'repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'". And those who received the word were baptized, verse 41. "So then, those who had received his word were baptized: and there were added that day about 3.000 souls".
You know, people get hung up on that verse and say, "Oh, then that must be teaching you have to be baptized in order to be saved. Water baptism plays some part in your salvation". Not at all. That's not what Peter is saying. If water baptism can wash away your sins or plays any role in your salvation, then the apostle Paul made a colossal mistake. Because in Acts 16:30-31, when the Philippian jailer said to Paul, "What must I do to be saved"? You know what Paul said? "Believe on the Lord. Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved". He didn't save believe and be baptized and keep the Ten Commandments and join the church. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved". And we'll see, later then the Philippian jailer was saved as a sign, not a prerequisite for baptism.
Why did Peter say, "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins"? Because he was answering the question. The people wanted to know, "Peter, what does God want us to do"? And Peter answered correctly. He wants you to repent, to believe, and be baptized. That's God's plan for every follower of Christ, to be baptized. If he had just answered the question, "All God wants of you is to believe," then he would've been wrong because God wants every follower to believe and be baptized.
Now, listen to this and never forget it. You can be saved without being baptized. You cannot be a disciple without being baptized. You can be saved without being baptized, but you can never be a disciple without being baptized. That is God's plan, believe and be baptized. Acts 9:18, after Paul was saved, notice what happened. "And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales. He regained his sight, he arose, and he was baptized". Or Acts 10, Cornelius the Roman centurion after he believed, look at verse 47 of Acts 10. "'surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he'? And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ".
Acts 16:15, we don't have time to look at it, but Lydia, the businesswoman in Philippi, when she was saved, she was baptized. And then in Acts 16, I talked about the Philippian jailer. "What shall I do to be saved, Paul"? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved". Look at verse 33. "And he took them that very hour of the night," that is the jailer, "And washed their wounds, and immediately the jailer was baptized, he and his household". Notice that word immediately. As soon as the jailer believed, he was baptized. He didn't enroll in a six-month course to learn what baptism meant. He didn't wait for two years to see if it was real or not. The Bible says the moment you are saved is when you ought to be baptized. Believe and be baptized. That is God's command.
Matthew 28:19, the Bible says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and son and the Holy Spirit". What is the model of baptism? Belief followed by baptism. Now, you know, when I am talking to people about baptism, especially if I am talking to a child, I often use the illustration of a wedding ring. This is 40 years stuck on this ring here. Let's see if I can get it off. Anybody have any butter? You know, it came off. Is this ring getting smaller or is my finger getting fatter? Here we go.
You know, when I'm talking to children, I always talk about this ring. And I'll say, "What does this ring mean? Do you know what this ring means"? And they say, "Oh, it means you're married". I said, "That's right, this ring is a sign that I belong to somebody else". When people look and they see this ring on my finger, they say, "Well, Dr. Jeffress belongs to somebody. He's married". And I say, "Now, could I be married without this ring"?
Of course I could. It's not the ring that makes me married, it's the commitment that I've made in my heart to my wife. This ring is a symbol. I could be married without it. In fact, I'm grateful I could because I've lost this ring three times. This is number four, I think, of my wedding rings and so forth. The ring is a symbol. It's a sign of a commitment I've made in my life. And then I'll take the ring and I'll ask the child to put their finger out. And I'll put this ring on them. And I'll say, "Now, does this ring on your finger mean you're married"? And they'll giggle and they'll say, "Oh no, no, no, no, no, no". I say, "Right, this ring doesn't mean anything if you haven't made a commitment in your heart to another person".
Now, it's the same way with baptism. Baptism is like this ring. When people see you baptized, they know you belong to Jesus Christ. But if you haven't made that commitment in your own heart, then baptism is meaningless. It is absolutely nothing more than getting wet. And that's why the Bible says the pattern is always believe and then be baptized.