What it means to be born again

29 Mar

A couple weeks ago, I went through this period of spiritual doubt. I had a hard time understanding why the Christian life works. Whenever I heard stories about people giving up addictions because Jesus freed them, I thought, “How is Jesus enough for them?” When I hear of people who are going through a rough time of trials and they say they’re hoping in God, I wonder, “How does the knowledge of God aid them in their despair? How is it enough that God is a stronghold? Why does it matter that God cares for me? That I’m released from the bondage of sin? If I’m having a hard day at work and pray to God for strength, how does my prayer really matter? How does it change my circumstances? Why do I need to rely on God? What does relying on God do for me? Is it even possible to do? If I say that I’m relying on God and drawing down strength from Him, does He really do anything for me? Or are those words just a human attempt to make life a little easier, to make hard times a little better, to deceive ourselves that ‘everything is going to work out for our good’ when the dice could really fall either way?”

I guess you could sum up my doubts in one question: “How does my relationship with God affect my life beyond salvation?”

As I was journaling about these thoughts on March 15th, I had been reading Romans 7 where Paul says that we are released from the Law “so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” And as I pondered that verse, I realized that the key to the Christian life, the thing that makes it “work,” is the Spirit. Without the Spirit, I am the same person before and after conversion. But with the Spirit, I am changed. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

My mind was comforted after that revelation given to me through none other than the Spirit. But what brought this again to my attention was something Pastor John Piper said in his sermon called The New Birth Produces Love. This is what he said: “As we enter Holy Week, the aspect of the new birth that I want us to focus on is the fact that new birth creates the connection between God’s love for us and our love for each other. If anyone ever asks, How does the fact that God loves you result in your loving others? The answer is: the new birth creates that connection. The new birth is the act of the Holy Spirit connecting our dead, selfish hearts with God’s living, loving heart so that his life becomes our life and his love becomes our love.”

When I heard Piper say that, it validated my personal Bible study. I wasn’t deluding myself with soothing words and vain hopes. This is true and real. My nature really is changed after conversion and I am enabled to do things I couldn’t do before. The Spirit empowers me to live for Christ, to desire God, to conquer sin, to be loving, to desire godly, eternal things over worldly, temporal things.

This is the hope that we have in Christ: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 13-14)

3 Responses to “What it means to be born again”

  1. David March 29, 2008 at 7:59 pm #

    Kathy,
    I’m glad Piper’s sermon was helpful.

    When you ask, “How does my relationship with God affect my life beyond salvation?” or “How does the knowledge of God aid them in their despair? How is it enough that God is a stronghold?” I think you are asking almost exactly what one of John Piper’s books was meant to answer. I think his book Battling Unbelief (or the longer book it is based upon, Future Grace) is very practical and helpful for the daily fight of faith, the fight to believe there is more satisfaction to be found in Jesus than what we are tempted to believe instead.

    These (biblical) things Piper has taught me have been a Godsend in my life for practical daily living. You might want to check one of them out. You can also look at the sermons online that the book was based on if you don’t want to buy a book.

    Try this link: http://www.desiringgod.org/Store/Books/701_Battling_Unbelief/
    or this link with some reviews
    http://www.amazon.com/review/product/159052960X/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_helpful?%5Fencoding=UTF8&coliid=&showViewpoints=1&colid=&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

    Blessings,
    David

  2. Katie Vanderheyden April 2, 2008 at 12:56 pm #

    Kathy,

    This was an awesome blog! So truthful- that we have doubts as Christians and often wonder if we’re all just a bunch of moralists who like Christianity because its a “quick fix” to our problems, or a way to “erase” the fact that we have sinned as badly as we have sinned. But seeing that the spirit changes us makes it real- seeing the change in our lives is evidence that we aren’t just mumbling away prayers to dead ears just to feel better, but that we, actually, do feel better because God makes us more like him through his spirit. He changes us and helps us see the riches of his forgiveness- and our changed lives are screaming of how real Jesus is. I just wanted you to know that I love this website. I have sent it to a few girlfriends and think that God is powerfully using your gift of writing and his story of redemption in your life. Keep this up! I am a regular reader!!

    Love,
    Katie

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Not just wishful thinking « Kathy Kluthe - September 14, 2008

    […] is. My questions have been more about how the truth of the Gospel affects me in my everyday life. This post in March and  this one in June explains some of what I’ve been struggling through, […]

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