I received a free copy of Finally Alive last month at the Death to Performance Conference in Nashville. Finally Alive is a new book (published in 2009) by John Piper that is all about regeneration. Regeneration is the technical (but still Biblical) term used to describe what the Bible calls “being born again.”
Piper’s aim is to return to a true, biblical understanding about the new birth. In the first chapter he offers a scathing rebuke to those who misuse the term “born again,” as well as an example of true regeneration by examining the conversions of C. S. Lewis and Augustine. Building upon the argument that Christians must truly understand regeneration, Piper then spends the next fifteen chapters unpacking the biblical teaching about the new birth. In typical Piper fashion, the exposition of Scripture is precise, the writing is technical, and the truths are glorious. Piper ends the book by spending two chapters urging believers to spread the message of the gospel. Christians must proclaim the message of Jesus. As he says, “God’s role in bringing about the new birth is decisive, and our role in bringing about the new birth is essential” (166). Piper is a Calvinist, but a biblical Calvinist who realizes that humans are the agency that God has appointed to proclaim the gospel to the world.
I found this book really encouraging. Piper’s balance in explaining the doctrine of regeneration is spot-on. He studies the work of regeneration from both God’s perspective and man’s perspective. The new birth is unashamedly God’s work, but it is always accompanied immediately by faith in the life of a believer. As Piper says on page 33, “When answering the question What happens in the new birth? never separate these two sayings of Jesus in John 3: ‘Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (v. 3), and, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life’ (v. 36).” Equally important in Finally Alive is Piper’s explanation of grace and work in the life of a believer. The new birth occurs by grace alone, but by grace Christians become irreversibly linked with Christ and his life. This union with Jesus always results in love and good deeds, and the good deeds are evidence of true saving faith in the life of a believer. The most compelling part of the book for me was definitely the last two chapters. In chapters fourteen and fifteen, Piper encourages believers to return to good old-fashioned evangelism. As he says, “We’re ending with personal evangelism – an old-fashioned commitment in new contexts for the sake of the new birth in thousands of spiritually dead people for the glory of Jesus Christ” (177). He urges believers to “Tell people the good news of Christ from a heart of love and life of service” (166).
Having read this book, I’m more compelled than ever to embrace God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation, and my absolute need to share Jesus to those around me. Christians must never bow to a fatalistic mindset that ignores the necessity of sharing the gospel. While I know this to be true, I still struggle to be bold with my faith. But as Paul said, “the gospel…is the power of salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).