How do you define “born again”? Do you know people who claim to be born again, but don’t live like it? Do you ever question the authenticity of your own conversion experience?
John Piper wrote Finally Alive because understanding “born again” is vitally important. And because those who have been born again need to realize “it is far more glorious than many think it is.”
[And because of its importance, know this short review here won’t do it justice.]
Why do you need to know what happened to you when you were saved?
- Because your fellowship with God will be sweeter and your assurance that he’s your Father will be deeper
- Because you will treasure God, Jesus, and His Spirit more than you ever have, and this glorifies the Lord
- Because you’ll be wider awake to authentically love everyone around you
So what does (and does not) happen in the new birth?
- You get new life (not new religion)
- You experience the supernatural in yourself (not just affirm the supernatural in Jesus)
- You get a new nature (not an improvement of your old nature)
How does it come about?
Not on your own. You don’t control it.
We don’t decide to make it happen any more than a baby decides to make his birth happen— or, more accurately, make his conception happen. Or even more accurately: We don’t decide to make it happen any more than dead men decide to give themselves life.
We are so rebellious at the root of our fallen human nature that we can’t find it in ourselves to humbly see and savor Jesus Christ above all things.
So how does it happen?
It’s the call of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. He says to a dead man: “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). And the call creates what it commands.
Then what’s your part?
…exercise faith—faith in the crucified and risen Son of God, Jesus Christ, as the Savior and Lord and Treasure of your life.
Piper lists some effects of the new birth as
- Overcoming the world
- Regeneration, faith, love
- Freedom from the practice of sinning
- Loving others with the love of God [this section was particularly insightful to me]
Two ways to love others (there are many):
1. Humbly rejoice in the goodness of others
Everywhere you see some growth, some virtue, some spiritual discipline, some good habit, or good attitude, rejoice in it. Give thanks for it. Compliment it. Don’t resent it. Don’t be like Cain. Respond the opposite from Cain. Be inspired by other people’s goodness.
2. Meet the needs of others
The main way John has in mind for us to lay down our lives for each other is that we share what we have. Love doesn’t think possessively. Love knows that everything belongs to God. We are only managers of his possessions.
To meet the needs of unbelievers, help them be born again. Piper lists
Ten Encouragements for Gospel-Telling:
- Know this: God uses clay pots
- Get resources to share
- Know that God may use many influences
- Be a lavish giver
- Find people interesting
- Invite people to church
- Fill the city with gospel teaching
- Use your giftings
- Read books on evangelism
- Pray for boldness
As is typical of Piper, he writes plainly and passionately in this book. He also uses an abundance of scripture to back what he believes. So even if you don’t agree with something, you’re at least required to think it through based on your own interpretation of scripture. Then if you still disagree, at least you know why.
Piper first preached much of this material in his sermon series at Bethlehem Baptist. (I listened first; read the book second.) The book is accompanied by a study guide (free online) which links to even more material on-line to coordinate with each particular lesson.
I recommend new Christians and older Christians alike read this book, along with interested unbelievers, even if you think you’ve already got the new birth already figured out. You will come away with a clearer understanding and appreciation of your salvation and your Savior.
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More reviews on Piper books I love: