The New Birth

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 22, 1933


Sermon by Dr. J. Frank Norris
(Stenographically Reported)

John 3 and 7: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” I want to emphasize this morning the words of our Lord: “Ye must be born again.” I realized many years ago, a truth that we are in danger of overlooking, namely, that every generation must be taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith, not once, not twice, but line upon line and precept upon precept, and then again. Never before, perhaps, in the history of Christianity is such a necessity confronting us in this day of babel of voices and confusion. How supremely important it is, especially for the youth of today that we come back to first base and listen to what God’s Word says concerning the New Birth, and concerning all fundamental or basic truths. It would be a great mistake if we should assume that people know these things, and to those who know, the word of the Apostle Peter is that we stir up your minds by way of remembrance. There isn’t anything that can challenge the faith of Christian people more than that their memories be stirred on the great truths, and especially of that day, concerning which they can sing

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!”

The first thing I want us to notice is, the necessity of the New Birth. He doesn’t say “You may,” “You ought,” “You should,” but He says, “Ye must,” and when God’s Word says a thing must be done that ends all argument. I have no message to the man that denies the Bible. I’m not going to argue whether the Bible is Divine in its origin or character. I leave that to others. My business, as all other ministers, is to set forth the word of the sacred Scriptures themselves – Paul writing doesn’t say “I prove the Gospel.” No. He doesn’t say “I am writing to prove the Divine character of the Word.” No. He doesn’t say “I am writing to prove that Jesus was the Christ.” No. But he says: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel.” That’s our business. Jesus giving the last Commission, says: “And ye shall be witnesses.” We are not to go out and prove these things. We are to go out and declare these things. “I believed, therefore have I spoken.”

Now, Jesus said in the same discourse with Nicodemus, in John 3:3: “Verily, verily” – and “verily” means “emphatically” – “I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

At first thought it would appear that Jesus was hardly courteous to Nicodemus. Note the question which this lawyer, who occupied the highest official position in the gift of his nation, the Supreme Court of his nation, asked. His question went un-noticed and unanswered. Nicodemus wanted to discuss the source, the authority of “these miracles,” but Jesus hurled at him the necessity of the new birth. What a wonderful example of how to deal with the unsaved. They ply us with ten thousand irrelevant questions when we talk to them on the necessity of the new birth. Just the other day a man, a lost soul, wanted to argue with me on who made the devil. In the meeting in San Antonio a woman came to me and wanted to argue on the justice of God because she had lost her only child. Then I have had repeatedly the argument, “How can a man be a Christian because there are so many denominations.” Then the old chestnut, There are so many hypocrites in the church.” Cast all these issues and questions aside and follow the method of Jesus, stick to the one all important question, the necessity of the new birth.

I could give you many Scriptures showing the necessity of the New Birth. The last verse of the same wonderful chapter says: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Again, “I tell you, Nay:” says Jesus, “but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Again, says the Word, by the Apostle Peter: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord”; and again, “Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away” – that’s what conversion is, that’s repentance – “in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” By the way, I had better stop here – you see the words, “repent,” “believe,” “be born again.” What is the difference? Now the New Birth, the Regeneration act, is not a human act, it is a Divine act. That’s God side. Now, repentance and faith are graces given of God, and they are an act of the human will. Repentance means turning around, faith means putting your trust in Him. That is why the Apostle Paul says: “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now, don’t be worried, if you get one of the two you will have the other. They are both from the human side. The Divine side is the New Birth. I saw John Rice come in a minute ago – I thought I did. Yes, there is John Rice – now which came into the tabernacle first, John or Rice? When John got in, Rice was in too. So it is, which do you have first, repentance or faith? If you have one you have the other. Both are-let me emphasize, both are gifts from God. Now I have shown you the necessity – further – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” and all this false teaching going around that it doesn’t make any difference what you believe; doesn’t make any difference what religion you have, Buddhist or what, just so you are sincere, my friends, that is contrary to the teaching of the Word of God, and at last you will be disillusioned, but I am afraid it will be too late then: “And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.”

Now the New Birth means, first, being clothed in righteousness, not in righteousness which is our own, but in the righteousness which God gives us through Jesus Christ; the wedding garment; that garment of righteousness.

The necessity of the New Birth is seen in the second chapter of Ephesians: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins”; My friends, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Only the power of God can raise the dead. Friends, you take a dead man, you can place all the diplomas in his dead hand and it will not bring him to life; you can dress him with all the fine clothes of the tailors, and it won’t bring him to life; you can sprinkle all the perfumes of Arabia on him and he will still be dead; you may put a tiara of diamonds on his head and he will still be dead. A woman said to me one day concerning her husband who was not a Christian: “But I have an ideal husband.” I said to her: “You are to be congratulated, but if your husband is not a Christian he is a dead man.” Therefore, the Word of God says: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

In this day of cultural regeneration; in this day of regeneration by character, so-called; in this day when they are putting in the Sunday School literature that you can so train the child that he will never know sin, oh, how we need to preach again that the soul outside of Jesus Christ is dead! “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” That’s why mothers and fathers need to wake up, wake up to the fact that their children outside of Jesus Christ are dead, and that loved ones outside of Christ are dead. In these days we hear a good deal about the Fatherhood of God. There is no such thing as the Fatherhood of God outside of Jesus Christ.

Now let me emphasize this – the necessity of the New Birth. Nicodemus was greatly concerned. He says: “How can I be born again, that took place years ago?” Jesus takes him into the kindergarten. He tells him: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Let me help you – no man ever came into this world except by natural parents, born of the flesh, and no man can enter into the Kingdom of God except by the second birth, the birth of the spirit. That’s why the Apostle Peter writing says: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,” – in your first birth you partake of the nature of your father and mother, and sometimes you partake more than they want you to. So, as in the first birth we partake of the human nature, in the second birth, we become partakers of God’s nature. Somebody asked me the other day: “Can a soul fall away from grace and be lost?” Here is one thing that forever settles that question. When you are born of the Spirit, you partake of God’s nature and if you went to hell God himself would go to hell. If you can make it any stronger than that come on. (Voices, amen.)

The Mystery of the New Birth Made Plain

The next thing Jesus discusses with Nicodemus is the mystery of the New Birth. He says: “The wind bloweth where it listeth – where it pleases – 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.” You see it is an individual birth. You are not born by families. Yes, it is an individual, personal question, of individual faith. Now men say: “How can this be done?” Friends, we walk by faith in everything in the world, so why stumble when it comes to the all-important question of the New Birth. You get on a train by faith, you don’t even know the conductor, and most times you don’t know what the engineer’s name is. You are riding by faith. Everything from creation’s morning to the Resurrection hour is by faith. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” In the Resurrection hour, by faith we understand that, “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” By faith we understand that “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” And out of darkness came light; out of death came life; out of chaos came order. Tell me what are the processes of Divine impact, of Divine Spirit on dead matter; tell me what are the Divine processes of the Spirit of God when He speaks and a new body comes forth, and I can tell you what is the power, the process that takes place when the Spirit of God touches the soul that is dead in trespasses and sins and quickens it. Tell me what are the processes of Divine power that touches the cold grain of corn in the springtime, and it dies and lives again, and I will tell you what the Divine process is that takes place in a soul that comes to life, born again.

The Means of the New Birth

He tells us in the next place the means of the New Birth. Here is how. How simple it is. He says: “Nicodemus, you are a man who is well acquainted with Jewish history” – he was so familiar with it that he stumbled over it. “You remember back in the wilderness, the people murmured against God.” We are not Jews, but we certainly are close kin to them. Jesus says, “You remember how they said, ‘If we can only get out of Egypt!’ but they had no more than got on the other side when they began complaining – ‘Oh, if we only had a drink,’ and God gave them rivers, but they murmured again, ‘We can’t raise anything here,’ and God rained manna from the sky. They said, ‘We can’t live under this hot sun,’ and God spread out a cloud over them. “Oh, they said, ‘we have no light,’ and God gave them a pillar of fire – He gave them everything, but all the time they murmured.” God forgive us for our complaints! You thought sometimes, if you could get a certain blessing, how happy you would be-you no sooner got it than you began complaining against God, murmuring. Murmuring and complaining is a greater sin than getting drunk. The poor fellow who gets drunk, doesn’t stay drunk – but Christian people who go around murmuring and complaining-frankly, personally, I have less use for the grumbling and complaining Christian than I have for all the drunkards and gamblers in the world, you can do something with them. God’s grace can save them, but there is no hope in the world for people who have the spirit of ingratitude, always going around grumbling about something. Don’t come to see me. I don’t want to see you. No. Quit your grumbling. Thank your God for what you have. He is not dead. Jesus Christ rose from the grave and He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory! Suppose the worst comes! “Oh,” but you say, “You don’t know how much pain I’m in. You don’t know what I have to go through.” Well turn loose and die and wake up in Heaven. “Oh,” you say, “times are so hard, don’t know what we are going to do for next year.” The Lord may come before next year. Go on to the grave yard, go on home to heaven, and take it with you, but for heaven’s sake don’t grumble, don’t complain about everything. That is the most natural disease of the human race. Adam had it, and blamed his wife for all his troubles and man has been doing that ever since.

“And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.” Now it’s time for judgment, “And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.” God was bringing Israel to her knees. “Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.” And Moses became their intercessor with God, just as Christ intercedes for us at the right hand of God. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” “That everyone… when he looketh upon, it shall live.” The rich man? Yes. The poor man? Yes. The old man ? Yes. The young man? Yes. All ages and classes? Yes. What is the condition, Moses? “Just look!” “Just look!” What is the result? “Shall live!” And when God says “Shall” the devil had as well take a vacation.

What else? “And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass he lived.” “He lived!”

Now here is what He says: “And as Moses lifted up” – “Lifted up!” “Lifted up!” – “Lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so” – “Even so!” – “Must” – “Ye must be born” – “even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” “Lifted up!” “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” What is the result? “That whosoever” – “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” I will not define eternal life, for one reason, I cannot define it. You have to live for an eternity before you know what it is.

Why was it a serpent of brass? It wasn’t a serpent of gold. It wasn’t a serpent of silver. I imagine some old Jew said: “Why didn’t God give us a gold serpent with diamonds on it? What did He give us a brass serpent for?” Why didn’t He? I will tell you why: Because the brass represents Christ’s sufferings. That’s why. The Word of God says: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also” – Christ – “himself likewise took part of the same”;-0h, the troubles, and tears, and blood, and disappointments, and trials of this old flesh and blood! Thank God He partook of it – “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”; He had to go down into the depths of the tomb and of hell in order to rob hell of power and death of its sting, “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Listen to this: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels.” We’d love to have an angel in the world. No we have something better than that – “but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore” – now He is going to tell you why it was a serpent of brass – “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” That’s why John, on the Isle of Patmos, describing Him, said: “And his feet” – “His feet.” He had seen His head white as snow; he had seen the golden girdle around him, the emblem of royalty; he saw His eyes like flames of fire, and now, this time he sees “His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.” “His feet.” “His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace.” What does it mean, beloved? Come on, you have sorrow, you have trials, your life is shipwreck, then know this, that as the Son of man walked through the fiery furnace of Babylon with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, thank God, our Saviour, walks through the same fire with us. That’s what it means. That’s the answer. That’s the answer to the fourth saying of the cross’: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ? that is to say, My God, my God, why. hast thou forsaken me?” That’s the answer. Isaiah saw it when he said: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”

Look and live! Behold and live! Believe, saved! That’s exactly what happened as the first trophy of the bloody cross, when Jesus’ Spirit went back through the gates of Paradise – Jesus didn’t take a crowned head from the thrones of the world; He didn’t take a multi-millionaire; He didn’t take any prince; He took a nameless, penniless thief. What did he do? One cursed and reviled, the other one turned his face in that dying hour and said, “Lord! Lord!” and Jesus looked at him and said to him: “This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise,” and Jesus took before the wondering angels, and archangels, and cherubims and seraphims, and all the hosts of heaven, the first blood-bought, sin-forgiven soul of the redeeming power of the cross. When He heard the cry, “Lord remember me,”

“As on the cross the Saviour hung,
And pour’d salvation on a wretch
He pour’d salvation on a wretch
That languished by His side.

His crime, with inward grief and shame,
The penitent confess’d;
Then turn’d his dying eyes to Christ,
And thus his prayer address’d;

Jesus, thou Son and heir of heaven!
“Thou spotless Lamb of God!
I see thee bath’d in sweat and tears,
‘And weltering in thy blood.

Yet quickly, from these scenes of woe,
In triumph thou shalt rise,
Burst through the gloomy shades of death,
And shine above the skies.

Amid the glories of that world,
Dear Saviour think on me,
And in the victories of thy death,
Let me a sharer be.’

His prayer the dying Jesus hears,
And instantly replies
Today thy ‘parting soul shall be
With me in. Paradise.”

I close with this word. Now we have noticed, first, the necessity of the New Birth, the impossibility of getting into the kingdom without the New Birth–the two births, second, the mystery of the New Birth, third, the means of it, and now the basis of the New Birth, or the cause of it. The cause of it is in that great verse that has the whole Bible in it. I hesitate to quote it. I want the audience to repeat it. Please get that little word “For” – “For” there means because. Everybody repeat John 3:16: AUDIENCE: “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”

DR. NORRIS: Oh, we might talk until the end of time and eternity on God’s love – in love God created man and gave him dominion over all the earth; in His love He provides food and raiment and seasons, and homes. We might talk all day, and never get started on the love of God when He heals all manner of diseases; on the love Jesus had when He spake as never man spake, but beloved, we. do not know His 1love until we come to the cross. There is here the little word “So,” He “so” loved us, “In that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Not because we had done anything good, but because we hadn’t; not because of our righteousness, but for our unrighteousness; not because we were good for anything, but because we were good for nothing. That’s why He died. Therefore He said: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” “To-wit,” says Paul, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” Then Paul tells us the measure of God’s love. He tries, and admits he fails. “That you may know,” he says, first, “What is the breadth,” second. “What is the length,” third, “What is the depth,” fourth, What is the height,” “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” Talk about Einstein’s four dimensions – here Paul gives the four dimensions of God’s love. Come on, fathom it if you can. Go down to the deepest depth of sin, God’s love goes farther; scale to the highest heights of heaven if you can, God’s love still goes on; measure the breadth of the universe, if you can, God’s love still goes on. David strikes his harp and sings: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us”; measure the length of it, if you can, go back yonder when He said, “In the beginning God”; go back before the first star rolled in space; go back before He created the very hills, the very foundations, and you will find God pouring his love on lost sinners like you and me; go on until time shall be no more and we still find the love of God. (Voices: amen.)

John says: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath be stowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” – that means we are born again – “therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” And then He says: “It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is.” Then He tells us what His love is through Christ, whom we accept by faith: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us” – that means loosed us – “from our sins in his own blood.” Not only that beloved, but He did something else, He not only set us free and broke the bars of the prison that held us, but He “Made us kings and priests unto God and His Father.” No wonder John couldn’t stop there and had to go on and say: “To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Shouting.)

His love is manifested in the death of Christ on the cross. I want to give you an illustration. You have seen these Totem stores all over Fort Worth. I told the inventor, Mr. Green, that the thing bothered me, until 1 stopped one day and looked at it and tried to figure it out. It is a symbol of the Alaskan Indian – now I got a story in reading the history of the Alaskan Indian, that has in it an illustration of the great heart of the Gospel of the cross. This is the story: There was a war on between two tribes and they fought to exterminate each other. It looked like all the able bodied men of the tribes would be exterminated, and only women and children left. Finally the chief of one of the opposing tribes of war sent up a flag of truce, and he made this proposition: “Let’s stop the war. I will let you kill ten men of my tribe and we will have peace.” The answer went back, “That will not satisfy, we will never stop until every man in your tribe is slain.” Then the chief, who wanted peace, sent this proposition: He said, “It means extermination and our women and children will be left to mourn without husbands and fathers,” and he made this proposition: “The life of a chief is worth the life of every man in the tribe,” so he said, “I will not offer ten men, but let my life be taken, if that will bring peace,” and his proposition was accepted, and the two warring tribes drew up in battle formation, and upon a huge flat rock the chief, that loved peace more than life, was strapped and his hands and feet were tied, then with a sharp substance, made of volcanic rock, his heart was cut out, and there the quivering heart was held up between the two warring tribes, and these two opposing lines fell on their faces prostrate in front of each other, and war came to an end. I will tell you something ten thousand times greater than that. There was a war on between hell and heaven, between God and the devil, and souls immortal, were dead – Jesus Christ, heir of all things, the Prince of the kings of the earth, the only begotten Son of God, says in the Triune Counsel of God, before time began: “I will give myself to redeem the world, not in the form of an angel or archangel, not with corrupt things such as silver and gold, not all the stars and flaming worlds can pay the price and set the soul free, but I will go,” and Jesus Christ between these two worlds, between heaven and hell, between light and darkness, is nailed to the cross, crowned with a crown of thorns; His heart bleeds and breaks, and He bows His head and dies that we might live!

“Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, and glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these array’d,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

When, from the dust of death, I rise
To take my mansion in the skies;
E’en then shall this be all my plea,
Jesus hath liv’d and dy’d for me.’

Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While, through thy blood, absolv’d I am
From sin’s tremendous curse and shame.

Thus Abraham, the friend of God,
Thus all the armies bought with blood,
Saviour of sinners, thee proclaim!
Sinners, of whom the chief I am.

This spotless robe the same appears,
When ruin’d nature sinks in years:
No age can change its glorious hue;
The robe of Christ is ever new.

O, let the dead now hear thy voice!
Bid, Lord, thy banished ones rejoice;
Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, the Lord, our righteousness.”

This word briefly, four things concerning the New Birth. First, what is lost if you do not have it. Heaven is lost, eternity is lost. Second, what is gained if you have it. Heaven is gained, the Holy Spirit is gained, happy fellowship is gained and joy everlasting. Third, what cannot be lost if you have it. I will tell you what cannot be lost – the soul that is born of God cannot be lost. You are the child of your father and mother, you may black your face, cut all your ties, and go to the blackest depth of Africa and forget where you were born, but you can’t change the fact you are the child of your father and mother. If I knew how to put it stronger I would do it, but that’s what the Word of God says.

I want to give you a brief word of something that took place last week. Mrs. Harper came into my office and she said, “Here is something I think you ought to know. It is the salvation of a man we have been praying for.” He happened to an accident; the Lord had to break his jaw and knock out his teeth. Yes, sir. That’s a hard way to get converted, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some preachers these days would say give him a teacher’s training course and get a blue seal. Here is the word she brought. She didn’t know I was going to give this but it is so good I want to pass it on. His good wife is a member of this church. His name is C. A. Hogue. Here is what he says:

I am here in hospital with six teeth knocked out and a broken jaw, but am thinking of Jesus our Saviour, which I gave my soul to the other day. Now I tell you about it. I have been going to church about 15 years and there have been many times you have hit me right in the face, so I have been thinking and I knew I was a coward because I have a wife that has been a member all this time and when you would call on all who are saved to stand, my wife would stand up and I would stay down, and your workers would come and ask about my soul, so I would tell them I believe a heart should be changed before a soul could be saved, as I still believe, but thank God, I have found the way. Now, Brother Norris, I have a wife and four children, 2 boys and 2 girls, and a praying wife, thank God. I will tell you why I believe the Lord was working with me. This is the second time that scaffold has fallen with me. The little wife couldn’t stop me, your workers couldn’t and you couldn’t so God – He could. I am a steam fitter helper working with Ernest Hensley and would have a board 24 inches long and Hensley lays same into ceiling about 20 feet high and then I come along to drill them and the same board, mind you, and he outweighs me 21 pounds, so down I come and here I am with teeth out and broken jaw.

“Now, Brother Norris, I am not writing this expecting any praise from it or for you to read out, what I am wanting is praying for me and family.

“I am coming to be baptized as quick as I can – my jaws may be wired so I can’t talk but you can baptize me anyway.

“C. A. HOGUE.”

Who else wants to trust the Lord before He has to knock you down and knock your teeth out?