Following Christ as Lord and doing good works are not ultimately a result of human effort (although they involve human choices and activity), but are the product of God's work in the hearts of people. This work is called regeneration, and it gives a new nature to the one who is born "again" or "from above."
The new birth is essential for salvation, even for the most religious person. Jesus said to Nicodemus (who was a highly regarded religious leader and teacher) what may have been shocking words, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
The new birth is a gift from God. It comes from the Spirit of God, not from human efforts: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). The new birth is a mystery beyond human control: "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" (John 3:8). The apostle Paul makes the point that regeneration comes from the mercy of God, not man's effort: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).
The Bible not only speaks of the need and source of regeneration, but of its results. Regeneration results in faith and good works. A person regenerated by the will of God has faith in Christ: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). A regenerated person is a person with a new nature: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the same chapter, this is written: "he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:15). "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). A new person should live a new life.
 Phillip Johnson, executive director of John MacArthur's Grace to You radio ministry and an elder at Grace Community Church, has said that a comprehensive study on what "no-lordship" teachers have taught about regeneration would be a vital contribution to the understanding of the debate about the role of faith and works in salvation in "The Lordship Salvation Controversy" a 2006 message downloaded from www.theGraceLifePulpit.com (click to download: GL-064-000-PJ).
NEXT TIME: Justification and Sanctification