Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Born Again - Part 2

            You can read Part One to see the difference between false hopes and the real deal experience of being born again.  Born again is an event to surrender control of your life to God, but it also includes an ongoing commitment to inner person change in becoming a disciple of Christ.  Being "born from above" is a journey of radical and continuous transformation that cannot be fully explained in the natural realm. 
            In the natural realm, we consider maturing into adulthood a positive thing.  In the spiritual, however, "adulthood"  becomes a hindrance to transformation.  The better off we think we are, the less open to change.  The more we think we know, the less likely to be open to renewing our minds with God's truth .  The more mature we are in our own understanding, the less likely we are to choose God's wisdom over our own.  I think Jesus had this in mind when he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter  the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3; NIV). 
            Jesus didn't say we must become better adults.  He said we must become children.  Being "born again" means we must consider ourselves babies, and continue the process of "growing" and learning the remainder of our lives.  There is no "full grown" adulthood in spiritual life.  We grow, and the spirit part of our being has a greater influence on our character, but never reach an "old age" phase in spiritual life.   Growing spiritually means we surrender more and more of our natural (physical) being over to God's control.  
            Spiritual re-birth doesn't automatically fix the problems we face in our natural world existence.  Struggles in a marriage, for example, always involve two people, and only one person changing will not automatically make the marriage better.  Relationship problems are generally complex, and may even be aggravated by oversimplifying with a weak claim of God's intervention.  If you have a bad habit before you "meet Christ," you still have the bad habit (or at least the tendency to revert) after you "come to the Lord."   A pastor friend of mine says, if you're a dummy before you "get saved," you're still a dummy after you're "saved."   "Believing in Jesus" is not a once and done thing.  Believing the message of the gospel includes entrusting your life to the Author of the message for daily application to your circumstances.  Some phrases in quotes above, often become expressions people use to hide behind their ongoing need for surrender to God.  
            Sometimes after deciding to surrender to God a particular behavior or relationship issue, it may even appear as though things are going backwards instead of forwards.  Complying with God involves re-aligning our life path with to His wishes.  If we've  stepped into a path that leads further away from God, it may mean a short backtrack to get on the right path.  The natural world principle of sowing and reaping may apply to our physical circumstances (see Galatians 6:7-9).  But if things seem to be betting worse instead of better, take heart in the promise that, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth ..." (James 1:17-18).
            For most of my life I thought of born again from the conversion "event" perspective only.  Recently, I've been challenged with "accepting Christ as Savior" to be a day to day, moment by moment context of continual surrender.  In my counseling I work with many people who have experienced great pain because of false beliefs and expectations about being born again.  I've watched many Christians flounder with lack of identity and purpose in life because they haven't fully embraced the need to surrender more and more of their heart to the Holy Spirit's work to change.  The prophet Isaiah describes them as "who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf" (Isaiah 43:8).  Spiritually opened eyes and ears are just the beginning of a journey of newly inspired action on what is seen and heard.  Born again means your vision and perspective are ever aligning more and more with an outlook from above.  When this alignment happens, seeing and hearing more clearly will produce more positive results, or at least better responses, to your natural world existence. 
            The prophet Isaiah prophecies of rebirth in his writings. Isaiah continues, "See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland" (Isaiah 43:19).  Think of your heart as the wilderness and your mind as the wasteland.  Being born again is for the purpose of restoring your connection with God at core of your being and for the refreshing waters of life to renew your thinking processes and belief systems so that your resulting actions bear "good fruit" (see Galatians 5:22-23).    The Apostle Paul reiterates this theme many times in the New Testament.  He plainly says that born from heaven into life in Christ is, "to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:23-24; NIV).  This change begins as a Holy Spirit work in your heart and continues as a Holy Spirit work throughout your life time. 
            Hell is real.  Believing in Jesus will save you from hell.  But that is the LEAST it will do.  We are put on this earth to enjoy God and worship Him by surrendering to the wonderful gift of life he gives.  Our eternal life, begins at conversion, and the "forever with God" part starts then.  The "living forever" part includes the rest of our earthly lives to give new invaluable  purpose and meaning on a daily basis. 
            Are you facing challenges that don't seem to get resolved no matter how hard you try?  It could be that you're trying TOO hard.   Or perhaps you're at the other end of the spectrum feeling powerless to do things you know are right, so you don't take any action at all in the direction of godliness.  In either case, the root issues are the same.  True change can only happen through surrender of control to God.  The messages that converts the heart is the same message that empowers the ongoing conversion.  The gospel that saves from sin is the same gospel that mends brokenness that still lies within.  Come to Jesus and keep coming.  Never stop coming.  That's what you've been born to do!  
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry