Jeremiah 31.19 & Ezekiel 36.31
1. Turn to John chapter 3. I begin reading at verse 1:
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 motherís 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?
2. By the Lord Jesus asking Nicodemus if he was a master of Israel, a teacher of Israel, we are shown that this matter of being born again is a subject that is found in the Old Testament. This is because a master of Israel was a man who taught things from the Hebrew Bible. So, itís to the Old Testament that we go.
3. Now turn to Ezekiel chapter 36:
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
4. This passage corresponds to the Lord Jesus Christís reference in John 3.5 to being born of water and of the Spirit. But thereís another verse I want you to look at, Ezekiel 36.31: ďThen shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.Ē
5. Though itís a truth that is unrecognized by most pastors and evangelists these days, especially those who are a part of the so-called ďsouthern California ChristianityĒ culture, in the Bible there is always a close association between being born again and remembering your evil ways, your doings that are not good, and loathing yourself (which means hating yourself) in your own sight because of your iniquities and your abominations. If you did not feel this way about yourself prior to your conversion then perhaps you didnít get converted after all.
6. Now turn to Jeremiah chapter 31:
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
7. This passage, too, deals with being born again, and we see emphasized two facts: When a person gets born again he thereby knows the LORD. As well, when a person gets born again the LORD forgives his iniquity and remembers his sin no more. What a tremendous blessing it is to know the LORD and to be forgiven. Amen?
8. But thereís a verse I want you to see in connection with this passage, too. Look up to Jeremiah 31.19: ďSurely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.Ē
9. So, here, too, closely associated with being born again is being ashamed of your sin, so much so that you slap your thigh in disgust with yourself. And bearing the reproach of your youth refers to being disgraced and shamed by your youthful sins.
10. Were you ashamed of yourself when you were supposedly converted, Christian? Being ashamed is associated with conversion, according to this passage. Was shame associated with your conversion? It ought to have been.
11. Please close your Bible and set it aside so I can have your undivided attention. In John chapter 3 the Lord Jesus Christ talked to a Bible scholar about the need to be born again. The Bible scholarís name was Nicodemus.
12. Though he was a master of Israel, the number one teacher of the Hebrew Scriptures to the Jewish people, he was completely in the dark about being born again. And this is not so unusual. We find the same situation existing in our modern world. People, do you realize that men who study the Bible for hours on end, who pastor huge Churches, frequently do not grasp some of the most basic truths taught in the Bible?
13. One of the things Nicodemus did not grasp was the need to be born again. Yet, so important is the new birth that without being born again you cannot see the kingdom of God, much less enter in. And though some men talk about being born again these days, they do not understand that associated with being born again, as we saw in Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31, is a heart that is broken over sin.
14. All across America and around the world you will find men urging folks to trust Christ and be born again, but not one of them in a hundred, I will venture to say, will mention anything about the need for a heart that is broken for sin.
15. But your heart must be broken for sin if you want to be born again. We saw it 3 weeks ago when I pointed out that those men who heard Peter preach on the day of Pentecost had their hearts pricked by God. And weíve seen it in both of the passages in Jeremiah and Ezekiel that weíve just read.
16. But I fear that unless you get a true sight of your own sin, unless you really see your sinís sinfulness, youíre heart wonít be broken. Unless you see your sins the way God sees your sins your heart wonít be broken and you wonít get converted.
1A. Let Me Show You WHAT A TRUE SIGHT OF SIN IS
To really see your sins for what they are you have to see sin more clearly than you do now, and you have to see your sins in such a way that youíre convicted by what you see, ashamed of yourself. Just looking at your sins and thinking to yourself, ďOh, so thatís what sin is,Ē isnít nearly enough.
1B. The question is, Do you see your sins clearly for what they really are?
1C. In Psalm 119.59, David wrote, ďI thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.Ē In Hebrew this refers to David turning his sins upside down. Like a jeweler looking at a flawed diamond with his magnifying glass, David carefully and fully examined his sins. Do you examine your sins? Or do you think about your sins superficially, in a shallow way, and find that I can see the sinfulness of your sins more clearly in a minute or two than you can see in a week? You need to think on your ways the way David thought on his ways.
2C. In another psalm he wrote, ďmy sin is ever before me.Ē Do you look at your sins that way? Do you keep them ever before you? Or do you quickly glance at them, and then only when you are forced to, and then quickly look away? Unless your sins are ever before you it is not likely that you will ever see your sins for what they really are; deadly, disgusting and defiling.
3C. My friend, for you to be converted you have to see your own sins clearly. And to see your own sins clearly you have to look at them with your eyes wide open. And to look at them with your eyes wide open you canít always be looking at everything else, or at other peopleís sins.
4C. Do you see what your sins have done? David saw that his sins were committed against God: ďAgainst thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.Ē Do you see that when you sin you sin against God?
5C. And do you see what your sins have done? Zechariah 12.10 shows what your sins have done: ďAnd I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.Ē
6C. Your sins placed the crown of thorns upon Christís head. Your sins ripped His clothes from Him and flogged His back. Your sins hammered the nails into His hands and feet. Your sins thrust the spear into His side. Have you, by Godís grace, yet seen and felt what your sins have done?
7C. Some of you cling to your sins. You hold on to your sins for a variety of reasons, ranging from familiarity to pleasure. But you need to ask yourself, What good will my sins do me when I die? If you had a peep hole into Hell and could see the torment and the suffering that awaits you, then perhaps youíd think more seriously about your sins.
8C. But as bad as Hell is going to be for you when you die, I want you to understand that sin is far worse for you right now than Hell will ever be then. Think about this:
9C. That which deprives you of the greatest good is the greatest evil. Thatís an old Puritan theme thatís not mentioned very frequently these days. And sin deprives you of heaven. Sin deprives you of fellowship with God and communion with Christ. So sin, which separates between you and your God, is the greatest of evils, Isaiah 59.2. Thereís nothing worse than sin.
10C. Second, there is nothing more opposed or contrary to God than sin. This is why God is the One Who inflicts upon the unconverted all the torments of Hell. He is holy, sin is unholy. He is righteous, sin is unrighteous. He is good, sin is evil. He is true, sin is a lie. So sin must be punished as that which is most against God, and God in His goodness and righteousness and justice will punish sin in Hell forever. So sin, which earns for you the punishment of Hell, is the greatest of evils.
11C. Third, no man suffers except because of sin. Sin is the cause of all pain, the cause of all suffering, the cause of all plagues, the cause of all that is evil, and is the source from which all that ails mankind flows. Everything unpleasant to your condition and hurtful to your destiny is caused by sin. If you would blame anything for your pain and suffering and discomfort in life then blame sin, because thatís the root of it.
12C. You may ask yourself, ďIf sin is so bad, why doesnít it seem so bad to me?Ē There are two reasons why sin, so bad as Godís Word says that it is, is not seen as bad by you:
1D. First, because you do not judge sin according to the Word of God. You judge the rightness or wrongness of something according to how you feel about it right now. But sin is a lie that makes a person feel good about it, all the while poisoning his soul and killing him. ďThe wages of sin is death,Ē the Bible declares. If you would depend upon Godís truthful Word, God Who cannot lie, then you would judge sin correctly.
2D. The second reason sin is not seen by you as being as bad as it is is because you misunderstand Godís attitude toward sin. God has not lashed out against your sin with wrathful fury. So you donít think He is angry at your sin and you donít think your sin is so bad.
3D. But we read in Ecclesiastes 8.11, ďBecause sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.Ē Just because God doesnít punish your sins right now you think itís all right to commit them. But what you misunderstand is that God is being long suffering toward you. He is giving you space to repent before He unleashes His fury and pours out His wrath upon you.
2B. As well as looking at your sins clearly, does your look at your sins convict you?
1C. Of course, if you get convicted by your sins when you look at them, when you consider them, when you carefully examine them for what they really are, the Holy Spirit will always be at work. And His convicting ministry is defined as exposing, convicting, cross-examining for the purpose of convicting or refuting an opponent.
2C. Are you, then, persuaded of sinís danger? Are you persuaded of sinís damage? There are many who see sin to be a danger to others, who see sin to be damaging and hurtful to others. But do you see the sins you commit to be dangerous and damaging to you?
3C. Listen to Proverbs 2.19: ďNone that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.Ē Do you understand that sin takes you farther than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay? And some sins so affect you that you never recover from them.
4C. Itís common for sinners to become quite upset at the sins of others. You look at what damage another personís sins have caused and what danger anotherís sins have placed him in. Or you see innocents ruined by the sins of their mothers and fathers and you are enraged. But you tend to ignore your own sins.
5C. Consider king Davidís example: He was told by the prophet Nathan of a rich man who stole the one lamb owned by a poor man, that was like a pet to him. As Nathan proceeded with the story David became more and more angry. He thought about that poor lamb. He sympathized with that poor shepherd. He became enraged toward that wicked rich man who had done such a despicable thing. And he pronounced a severe penalty upon the rich man for his crimes.
6C. Then the prophet Nathan said, ďThou art the man!Ē Little had David realized at the time that the man of God had been describing to David his own sins. My friends, itís when your own sins crush you, when your own sins burden down your soul, when your own sins are seen by you to be deserving of Godís harshest punishments, that you have a true sight of your sins.
2A. Next, Let Me Show You WHY THERE MUST BE A TRUE SIGHT OF SIN
1B. The first reason there must be a true sight of sin is because you wrongly believe that you are not guilty of what you are ignorant of. But youíre wrong.
1C. Years ago on television there was a program called ďHoganís Heroes,Ē a silly comedy about a German prisoner of war camp with a German sergeant named Shultz, who would see or hear something against the rules and say, ďI know nothing. I know nothing.Ē What he didnít see or hear he wasnít responsible for, he thought. And thatís how you feel about your sin.
2C. If you donít see sin clearly for what it is, if you remain ignorant of its offense, of its criminality, of its ugliness, of its wretchedness, of its defilement, of its danger, then your corrupt heart convinces itself that itís not fair for you to be held responsible. So you think youíre getting away with something by playing dumb about spiritual things.
3C. But no sinner gets away with such nonsense with God. Ignorance is no excuse with God. Listen to Isaiah 27.11: ďIt is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour.Ē
4C. Do you not understand because you are ignorant? Do you not quite understand because you are young? Do you not understand because youíve never read the Bible before? Do you not understand because youíve never paid much attention?
5C. Listen to what God says about those who for whatever reason do not understand: ďTherefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour.Ē Do you not understand? What you do not understand is that God will cut you no slack because you do not understand.
6C. No mercy and no favor for those who donít get it, for those whoíve never heard it, for those who think they are too young to be responsible, or who think the issues are too complicated. No mercy and no favor. No mercy and no favor. So youíd better start paying attention because there is no advantage in playing dumb or being ignorant.
2B. The second reason there must be a true sight of sin is because you cannot be set free from sin until you first see your bondage in sin.
1C. In Romans 8.15 we see that the Holy Spirit must first be the Spirit of bondage before He can be the Spirit of adoption. So, until you see that you are bound, hand and foot, by sin you cannot be saved from sin.
2C. And this is a terrible shortcoming of contemporary Christianity. Everywhere you go these days they will preach ďCome to Jesus, come to Jesus, come to Jesus.Ē And if a sinner comes to Jesus he will be saved by Jesus. But until a man is cut off from hope, until a man has a true sight of his sin, until the Spirit of God has done His heart preparing work to show the man his bondage to sin, he wonít come to Christ.
3C. And until you have a true sight of your own sins you wonít come to Christ. And your own sinfulness and wickedness of heart is the reason you wonít come to Christ. You are convinced you are a Christian, even though Christianity just doesnít seem to work for you. Want to know why? You never came to Christ, because you never really saw the sinfulness of your sins and the wickedness of your heart. You are not converted!
3A. Finally, Let Me Show You SOME OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SIN
1B. It is characteristic of sin that what your mind does not understand your heart will never be sorry for. In Acts 3.17, Peter declared that the men of Israel and their rulers had killed the Prince of life, had denied the Holy One and the Just, because of their ignorance. Now, that doesnít in any way excuse their terrible sin, but it is Peterís explanation of it. Sinners commit sins because of ignorance.
2B. Because a man doesnít clearly see his sin, and therefore isnít sorry for his sin, is why he commits the sin. So, if you will get a true sight of sin, come to understand the nature of your sins, figure out the essence of your sins, then perhaps God will break your heart over your sins.
3B. And why is it that your heart must be broken over your sins? Because with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. If you will believe in Jesus you will believe in Him with your heart. But your heart will never believe in Jesus until itís broken by God over your sins. And your heart will never be broken over your sins until you see your sins for what they really are.
1. Do you want to be converted? You can be converted, you know. Anyone whose heart can be broken can be converted, and God can break the most stubborn sinnerís heart. We saw that the last time I preached.
2. But in order to see a sinnerís heart broken that sinner has to see sin clearly and to see sin convictingly. Will you look at your own sins? Will you examine your sins like David did, like a jeweler looks at a diamond with a magnifying eye piece?
3. And when you look at your sins, donít think of them the way everyone else thinks of them. Think of them the way God thinks of them, the way they are described in the Bible. So that when I preach against your sins you will not think of the sins of other people, but your own sins.
4. How tragic it is when people who attend Church are so foolish that they spend their time hoping and wishing that visitors will get converted, while they themselves wallow in their unbelief. This preaching isnít for him, itís for you.
5. ďTake heed unto thyself,Ē Paul told the Ephesians. Itís not selfish to take the preaching to your own heart first. Itís Godís will.
6. And why should you? Because you are responsible to God even if you donít understand whatís going on. And until you do understand whatís going on, until you see yourself in bondage to sin, you will not be converted.
7. See your sins clearly. See sin as something a bit more than ďI do these things because Iím depraved.Ē So shallow. So ignorant. See your sins and your mind will understand. Then, perhaps, God will break your heart and you will come to Christ.
Thomas Hooker, The Soulís Preparation For Christ, (Ames, IA: International Outreach, Inc., 1994), page 10.
Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 254.
Second Samuel 12.7