He was quite a specimen: over 3 inches long and almost an inch wide. Some cockroach! And he was just the way I liked to find them - dead. I carefully laid him in a small jewelry box lined with cotton batting and took him to my Sunday school class.
I asked what we should do with him, feed him? "He is dead!" Bethany said. How about water? "Miss Burns, he can't drink it; he's dead!" Cory replied. We went through other scenarios and concluded there wasn't a lot we could do for a dead cockroach, but everyone agreed that Jesus could make the poor bug alive again.
Jesus was the cockroach's only hope. We discussed what being "dead in trespasses and sin" means. It means that we are actually dead in our trespasses and sin and cannot please Jesus while in this state.
Fortunately, there is a cure for this condition. Regeneration. Regeneration is a supernatural miracle whereby God sends forth His Holy Spirit to make alive one who is spiritually dead so that he can embrace the salvation of Jesus Christ and live in terms of His holy will. Jesus spoke of this to Nicodemus in John 3. He pointed out that just as man has no control over his natural birth (when it will occur or who his parents will be), he has no control over his supernatural birth from unbelief to belief. It is an act of God and according to His will. Man remains passive.
Sometimes the experience is dramatic, as with Paul and others in the New Testament. Sometimes it is one at a time, other times in mass (as at Pentecost). In Christian children, the experience often occurs while they are very young, and they live a lifetime of loving the Lord, never recalling a time when they did not love Him.
In explaining Christ's conversation with Nicodemus, R.J. Rushdoony said, "Generation simply reproduces man's fallen nature. It leads to no moral progression. Only 'that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.' A supernatural rebirth breaks the evil cycle of the Fall, the endless reproduction of sin and death. Apart from the Spirit, man's work is self-destructive. In the Spirit, man changes and grows."1
A person given the gift of regeneration looks to Christ for salvation, becomes knowledgeable of the teachings of the Scriptures, and tries to live a life that will please his Lord and Savior. Over time (sometimes a lot of time) the Christian will become more Christ-like in attitude and will increasingly try to serve Him by obeying His law: loving God and his neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40). God gives many helps and aids to the new believer: the intercession of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, His Holy Word to learn and obey, pastors, churches, the sacraments, etc., all strengthening and training the believer in his walk of faith and practice.
Rush often spoke of this new creation in Christ as the new humanity of Jesus Christ. This new humanity has a specific calling as representatives of the Kingdom of God on earth. Rush explains, "In terms of God's law, true reform begins with regeneration and then the submission of the believer to the whole law-word of God. The degenerate pretenders to reform want to reform the world by beginning with their opponents, with any and everyone save themselves. True reform begins with the submission of our own lives, homes, and callings to God's law-word. The world is then recaptured step by step as men institute true reform in their realms."2
At Chalcedon, we believe that God uses regeneration to change the world. By changing the heart of man, God strikes at the fundamental problem of cultures and societies.
1 Rousas John Rushdoony, The Gospel of John (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2000), 29.
2 Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Co., 1973), 627.