One of my favorite books is John Piper’s Finally Alive book. In fact, it is THE book I recommend for those interested in reformed soteriology (aka calvinism). I like it because Piper doesn’t address Calvinism in it per se, but the topics arises naturally from the exposition of scripture. Finally Alive is about being born again and all that the New Testament intended it to be. Because the book flows out of a sermon series he preached, the book reads technical but very heart felt. So forget the jargon of “reformed” and “isms” for a bit, and simply dive into the word of God and wrestle with the issue of being born again.
Here’s a great sample:
I want to say loud and clear that when the Barna Group uses the term born again to describe American church-goers whose lives are indistinguishable from the world, and who sin as much as the world, and sacrifice for others as little as the world, and embrace injustice as readily as the world, and covet things as greedily as the world, and enjoy God-ignoring entertainment as enthusiastically as the world—when the term born again is used to describe these professing Christians, the Barna Group is making a profound mistake. It is using the biblical term born again in a way that would make it unrecognizable by Jesus and the biblical writers. Here is the way the researchers defined born again in their research:
— “Born again Christians” were defined in these surveys as people who said they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “born again.” Being classified as “born again” is not dependent upon church or denominational affiliation or involvement. —-
In other words, in this research the term born again refers to people who say things. They say, “I have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It’s important to me.” They say, “I believe that I will go to Heaven when I die. I have confessed my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.” Then the Barna Group takes them at their word, ascribes to them the infinitely important reality of the new birth, and then slanders that precious biblical reality by saying that regenerate hearts have no more victory over sin than unregenerate hearts.
I’m not saying their research is wrong. It appears to be appallingly right. I am not saying that the church is not as worldly as they say it is. I am saying that the writers of the New Testament think in exactly the opposite direction about being born again. Instead of moving from a profession of faith, to the label born again, to the worldliness of these so-called born again people, to the conclusion that the new birth does not radically change people, the New Testament moves in the other direction. It moves from the absolute certainty that the new birth radically changes people, to the observation that many professing Christians are indeed (as the Barna Group says) not radically changed, to the conclusion that they are not born again. The New Testament, unlike the Barna Group, does not defile the new birth with the worldliness of unregenerate, professing Christians.
1 John 2:29: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
1 John 3:9: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”
1 John 4:7: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is
from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
1 John 5:4: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
1 John 5:18: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”