Answers to the Sin Problem

In my quest through the Bible I have been searching for a faith that really works. As a recovering sinner (much like an alcoholic) I used to believe it was just a matter of time before I sinned again (had another drink) and so I never was free.

How could I pretend to love God if I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) obey him? It felt like I was Judas, constantly stabbing Jesus in the back. This haunted me. I was never free to simply just love Jesus and be me. The looming threat of sin weighed me down.

How would any of us like to be married to a spouse who said, “I love you and all but it’s really only a matter of time before I cheat on you again.”

I think we can all agree, that relationship is doomed. Yet this is the attitude many Christians have toward God. I have heard many Christians say, “but we’re only human” to explain away our sinfulness. Apparently being “human” means being prone to and destined to betrayal and backstabbing, selfishness and strife, adultery and idolatry, drunkenness and failure.

Is this really what it is to be human? Is this what God had in mind when he started this whole thing and made humans and said, “It is good”? Wouldn’t he know more about what it means to be human since he authored us all? And wouldn’t he, through his marvelous plan of redemption, also make provision for us to be restored completely to our intended state as “good” humans?

I know that he has.

I don’t know about you but I want to obey God and be faithful in my heart to him and be good. My infidelity to God has plagued me over the years and I thought, “There must be a cure!”

Indeed there is.

Jesus didn’t leave Paul forever stuck in Romans 7. Romans 7 describes the universal plight of every fallen human that even though we agree with the truth and want to do good we inevitably do the wrong that we hate instead. This is slavery to sin. Paul grew in faith into the salvation described in Romans 8 – life by the Spirit of God. The Spirit’s activity in our lives is paramount and absolutely vital to the salvation experience.

I have come to see through my reading of the Bible that the Holy Spirit essentially is the Christian life. His presence in our lives is our eternal life. All Holy Spirit-less forms of Christianity are counterfeits. Thankfully the Spirit of God is freely given to everyone who believes in Jesus, to all who look to him for salvation.

Snakebit!

Numbers chapter 21 describes a time when the Israelites grumble against God and against Moses and even despise the manna God had been providing for them. So God sends poisonous snakes into the camp. Many were bitten by these snakes and some died. The Israelites came to Moses and confessed their sin and pleaded for releif from the snakes. God then instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and attach it to a pole. All those who had been bitten then need only to look at the bronze serpent and be healed.

Jesus references this very story as an illustration of the cross. Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” John 3:14-15 NIV

Every last one of us has been bitten by the deadly snake of sin. We could decide then, and many do, to sit around and moan and complain of our snakebites. We can choose to fixate on our snakebite and watch it fester and ooze puss.

We can look on as it discolors our lives an ugly shade of black and blue and feel within ourselves the absolute bitterness and misery that sin inflicts upon us. We could then look for help in therapy and counseling or in self help books. We could seek the answer at the bottom of a bottle of alcohol, and then, in turn, seek the answer by getting sober. We could search for our healing by eating healthy or by working out in the gym.

OR, we can get on with the business of salvation and find real healing in Jesus. The only answer, the only healing that can be found for all of sin’s poisonous effects – both for those sins that you have done and including all the sins done against you – is to look to Jesus. Look no further. The search is over. If you have found Christ, you have found everything you need.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 NIV

I don’t know about you, but as for me, I am tired of showing off my ugly snakebite. Instead, I will choose to look to Christ and find my healing and salvation and I encourage you to do the same.

Getting Practical:

How do we look to Christ or fix our eyes on him?

Faith: First things first. We need to put our faith in Jesus. If you don’t have faith in Christ, you don’t have the Holy Spirit which is the only cure for the sin that ails you and who is the only power over sin. Sincerely ask Jesus to save you! The Bible tells us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). It is truly amazing how he responds to and rescues those who will humble themselves enough to simply ask for help.

Word of God: Are you reading the Bible? God’s word does a work in our lives, exposing the pride and sin which is our greatest enemy.  We can be set free as we confess and repent of our pride and sin.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV

Talk with God: Don’t talk to God, talk with him! Do you talk with him everyday? How is your conversation with God coming along? Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so keep the conversation going!

Obey: Once you have the Holy Spirit, you now have the power to say no to ungodliness and worldly lusts.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14 NIV

Do you obey him and by the Holy Spirit put to death the misdeeds of the body? God promises to never give us more than we can handle, you have his word on that:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

Start seeking the Lord earnestly. He will be found by all who seek him with all their heart.

“…You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD…” Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV

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Cracked to the Core, Yet Not Without Hope

I found myself thinking about the scales again today. I wrote about this idea awhile ago. This kind of thinking that somehow we will be alright on judgement day when we stand before God if our good deeds outweigh the bad on his scales of justice. Those who are concerned about this spend a great deal of time trying feverishly to please God, appease God, to somehow win his favor by good deeds.

And while this thinking forms the basis for every other world religion, this is the antithesis to the good news (Gospel) of Jesus.

What if I was 51% good and 49% wicked. This would work just fine if talking about owning shares of the kingdom of God. However, this would be a failing grade in school… unless God graded on a curve. As I thought more about this I realized that according to God’s way of reckoning I would have to be 100% good to inherit the kingdom of God. Even if I somehow managed to be 99% good, he would still call me to account for the 1% – and the price to pay for my sin would be more than I could bear.

(When the bible talks about being good it isn’t just talking about an avoidance of evil but of a very actively loving life – pure altruism.)

I came to the conclusion from my last excursion through the Bible that God doesn’t even give us a 1% chance of being good. We are indeed evil through and through – cracked to the core.

“As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NIV)

Cracked to the Core, Yet Not Without Hope

I have a confession to make. I lied to someone the other day. They had been reading my blog and they were worried about me. I told them that my blog is “delayed” and that it reflects things I used to think and where I used to be (albeit just a few short weeks ago). But, to say that I am “all better now” or that I have somehow “arrived” is simply not true… nor will it ever be… until God perfects all believers together one day in glory.

The simple and yet profound truth is that I will never be able to glory or boast in my flesh. As a Christian mentor once told me, we are cracked to the core. But this need not lead to hopelessness and here is why: because, as believers, we don’t for a moment depend on ourselves or our own merits for salvation. We are not our saviour – Jesus is.

If I did depend on myself as my saviour, I would live in absolute stark terror at any given moment (as I did for seven long years of severe depression). But as it is, I no longer give way to fear, but instead, I depend on Christ’s mercies. I no longer grasp for control… I just simply trust. This lack of control is deeply unsettling for the ego and this is precisely why many still suffer from anxiety. We must let the ego go. I have been saying again and again throughout this blog that the ego must be put to death. It must die just as Jesus said it must.

I focus on this problem of ego in most of my blogs because I still deal with this on a daily basis. Don’t we all? Isn’t this same ego in everyone? Paul writes that this is the sin that lives within us (Romans 7). The way I see it is that everyone seems to be attempting to glory in their flesh and inciting others to do the same. We flatter one another and we flatter ourselves. The Scriptures, however, are designed to expose this pride and set us free from the sin within us. Psalm 36:1-2 says:

“I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” (NIV)

Yet God envisions a life for each and every one of us that is free from sin. This is the life of faith! Now instead of blindly following the commands of the old master of sin, we have a new master – Christ! We now get to be slaves to love’s impulses. We get to do whatever love prompts us to do! We get to be slaves of righteousness, slaves to God, and finally free! (Does it seem odd to anyone else that slavery to God leads to freedom?)

Fortunately, for believers in Jesus Christ, the ego (sin) has already been crucified with Christ. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV)

It may seem that I am too hard on myself as I often use myself as an example in my blog. It would be unkind to use anyone else. But I cannot emphasize enough how profoundly sick and broken I am as a human being… but nevertheless, I have hope. Can you explain that? I have a hope in Jesus and this pulls me forward. It causes me to grow in Christ and in love. It also gives me the courage to forgive myself and find grace.

The Christian life is simply this: Christ in us, the hope of glory. (see Colosians 1:27)

When we find this hope at work in us this shows us that God’s love is at work in our life – for love always hopes. Hope calms our fears, tenderly forgiving and cleansing us from every wrong. Hope picks us up, dusts us off, and puts us back on the path to life.

It’s all about Christ now – Christ in us! Christ, who alone is holy perfect love, who alone never sins (always loves).  So we have a choice to make. We can choose to cling to our own righteousness (which is on par with filthy rags – menstruel cloths) and perish forever seperated from God and love and hope and all things good. Or we can cling to Christ who is our righteousness and so be saved in the fullest sense of the word. Clinging to Christ is the essence of true faith.

Jesus didn’t come to sell us fire insurance. Salvation is not about God distributing “get out of hell free” cards. No, salvation is a transformed and Spirit led life. And THIS is glory!

Prayer:

God, teach us again to die to ourselves and to submit to your Holy Spirit’s leading. We trust that you, who began a good work in us, will be faithful to complete it. Thank you that salvation is all your doing.  We give ourselves to you. We give ourselves to love in Jesus name.

Eat His Flesh, Drink His Blood… What?

I woke this morning with Jesus words on my mind.

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 NIV)

Let me tell you that first of all, Jesus is not talking about some bread and some wine, or “communion” as we commonly misunderstand it. He is talking about a whole different level of communion – a real communion – with him. To think he is talking about wafers and wine actually becoming his flesh and blood is only a sad distraction that only serves to rob Jesus words of their real power.

Jesus uses this hyperbolic language to powerfully drive home a point. One of the most important points that we need to hear is in this statement. Jesus intent is to shock his Jewish listeners  – with this talk of eating flesh and drinking blood – into really paying attention… into adopting a whole new mindset and worldview… or not.

As it was, most who had been following Jesus stopped following Jesus after this teaching. It was hard to “swallow”. He explains later that these words are spirit and they are life.

Here is a link to a really good and very insightful presentation of what it means to eat his flesh and drink his blood: http://loveintruth.com/amf-docs/flesh1.htm

In the above article (the link) he says at one point: “Jesus is teaching us that we need to depend on Him utterly, moment by moment, in order to survive.”

Just as Jesus taught in John 15 that He is the vine and we are the branches. He supplies our life, moment by moment dependence and trust. It isn’t like gas in a car, as if we just stop in every once in a while to get refueled, but a plant. We all know the moment you sever a branch it is dead. It may look alive for a while – like a rose in a vase, or a christmas tree – but it is dead. It is cut off from it’s source of life. So, two things are important:

  1. To be connected to our source of life – Jesus.
  2. To stay connected to our source of life – Jesus.

What connects us to the vine – to Jesus – our source of life? What can we do to stay connected? Leave a comment below!

More Than I Dreamed Of

Zechariah 3 tells of a man named Joshua who was the high priest. He is standing before the LORD dressed in filthy clothes (representing his sin) and Satan is there to accuse Joshua. What is the LORD’s response? He rebukes Satan and refuses to listen to his accusations. He removes Joshua’s filthy clothes and provides him with clean garments.

Was Joshua guilty of all Satan was accusing him of? No doubt he was, but the LORD overrules Satan anyway and says, “Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Have you ever felt like that? Like a stick snatched from the fire?

A long time ago this passage of Scripture was shared with me by two separate people within the same week. I was the “firebrand”. Not exactly flattering to be called a firebrand, but yet, it is still hopeful. I am worthy of the flames, but instead I am rescued from the flames. Not only that but God takes this dried up worthless scorched stick and grafts it into the vine and causes it to bear fruit. Because he can. Because he’s good. Because redeeming and restoring is just what he does.

I just read how Paul said he was the chief of sinners and God chose to show his grace to him so that the very worst sinners could be encouraged and say, “Perhaps there’s hope for me too.” And indeed there is. But we must still take hold of that hope and do something with hope, don’t we?

My question is, do we want to continue living varying degrees of ruined lives? Or do we want to finally discover what Christ was talking about with offer of an abundant life?

He says, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10)

Do we really want this? To what lengths will we go to get it? To what lengths must we go? These are all questions I am asking of myself.

The following song is one I wrote inspired by the Scripture in Zechariah 3:

 

Born Again, Again

Be-Born-Again

I don’t want to handle the word of God lightly or deceitfully – trying to manipulate the text to say what I want it to say – but to simply try to let the word of God speak for itself. I also want to finally get some solid answers to this question, “can we lose our salvation?”

Many believe that we can lose our faith and ability to repent. Does losing ability to repent mean we lose our salvation and seal our fate in hell? Or is it pointing to something else, that we might actually recover from?

Exploring this issue over the past week has become a watershed moment for me that changed the way I think about God, sin, and his discipline vs. his judgement. In my mind the difference between these two blurred and it colored my view and relationship with God with mistrust and suspicion and affected how I lived in the world. Fear still lurked in my heart and dampened my love for others (and myself), my freedom, and most especially my joy. (Joy, as a believer, is our strength and Paul writes that to rejoice in God keeps us safe).

My thinking has changed over the last few days of study and prayer. I took a look at many Scriptures that deal with this issue of “losing salvation” and found that many of them were speaking about a discipline from the Lord that people (may) eventually recover from. This was encouraging to me personally because I had gone through an experience of severe discipline from the Lord. At the time, I did mistake his discipline to mean everlasting eternal condemnation when I shouldn’t have.

God’s discipline is a very good thing! As Hebrews 12:6 says (NLT):

“For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

Hebrews is a book that talks about the discipline and judgement of God. I came to realize that whatever the discipline may be that God gives us, he does it because of his love for us for our good, to save us from our pride, and to bring us to a place of brokenness and humility – where we can receive grace. James writes:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:4-10 NIV)

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

When we are particularly proud and rebellious, as I have been, though it doesn’t please him to do so, our loving heavenly Father must use more extreme forms of discipline to break our stubborn pride and humble us.

When God did this in my own life eleven years ago, I became convinced that He had left me for good. I was doomed. Lost. An object of his wrath and loathing. I feared talking to pastors or others about this lest they simply confirm my worst fears that I was indeed going to hell.

It is a common belief for many to think that if you sin and die before you confess your sin, you will go to hell. But is this the truth? Does his grace only cover confessed sin?

For me, it wasn’t so much that I believed that I had out-sinned God’s grace, but that I felt that I was sin. I could never shake the feelings of self-loathing and guilt and shame about who I was. As I thought about this, a profound Scripture came to mind that talked about how God, in Jesus Christ, became sin on our behalf! God condemned sin in sinful flesh (Jesus) on the cross, so that every last one of us could be free from sin and the eternal wrath that sin brings with it.

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NIV)

Besides all that, Paul writes in Romans chapter seven that when we sin, it isn’t us that does it but sin that lives in us. He draws the distinction right there between us and sin and frees our identity from being bound to sin. Check it out here. How awesome is that?

I found that what really happens in most of our lives is that if we persist in disobeying God and chasing after sin when we know better, we are disciplined (sometimes very severely) for it, but that doesn’t mean that he ever takes his love away from us.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)

If God has given us his salvation, is it then ours to lose?

Being Born Again

God “gives birth to you” as his child when we believe in Jesus. You then become “born again” into the family of God, as Jesus spoke of in John 1:12 and John 3:3. If God is the one who makes us his children, then who or what could ever take that away? He makes, he saves, and he keeps us safe till the day of redemption. How could we ever cease being his children?

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12 NIV

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3, 5-8 NIV)

Once we are born again and firmly established on the foundation of Jesus Christ, who can take that away? For Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”” (John 10:28-30 NIV)

For those of us who have embraced Jesus Christ, and are born again, we will one day have to give an account for what we have done with our lives. Paul writes that everyone’s work will be tested with fire:

10 “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.” (I Corinthians 3: 10-17 NIV)

Who of us want to barely escape through the flames into “heaven”? Who of us wants to completely miss our purpose in life and have all of heaven shaking their heads saying, “What a waste! They could have had it all but instead they squandered their inheritance on some cheap thrills”.

As Jonah once said, “Those who cling to worthless idols, forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” And the bible is clear, all sinful pursuits are idolatry.

Consider the story of the Prodigal Son. He squandered all his Father’s inheritance on partying and prostitutes. But when he has a change of mind and returns, the father throws a huge celebration and gladly welcomes him home. Jesus says that “all of heaven rejoices when one sinner repents”. (This includes you too – not just sinners out there, somewhere).

Hebrews 6 and 10 are difficult passages to wrestle with and I still don’t pretend to fully understand them. Yet, I think we ought not to hinder the intended effect and working of God by just explaining them away, as some do. Let them speak for themselves. I believe that the Holy Spirit will be faithful to shape our character and lead us into all truth and into the good news of the saving power of Jesus. We must not be cowards and just avoid it all until we die, (pretending it isn’t there until it is too late, and so possibly suffer enormous loss) but grapple with the truth, pray through it, discover the truth, pursue Jesus, faith, and righteousness. And like Jacob, WRESTLE WITH GOD!

We don’t need to somehow fear that God really jinxed himself and the cause of his Kingdom by what he chose to include in this holy book he wrote. Jesus tells us that all God’s words lead us to eternal life. Should we avoid difficult or hard passages altogether because someone might come away thinking that they lost their salvation?

I read today of 42 youths being mauled by a bear when the prophet Elisha called down a curse on them for mocking him. I had a friend who pointed to that story as the reason why he rejects God. “I can’t trust in a God who does that,” he would say.

Why did God include that story and thousands of others that cause us such discomfort? Why didn’t he portray himself in a better light so that my friend wouldn’t have refused to believe in him?

My wife and I were talking about how we seem to have more loyalty to other humans, no matter how wicked they are, than to the God who made humans. And think about it – he makes them pure every time, doesn’t he? Ever met a wicked baby? So if these humans grow up to be utterly corrupt and wicked and the God who made them says they are worthy of judgement and judges them, then who are we to judge God for that? Rather, it ought to cause us alarm that we permit things in our lives that are also worthy of judgement. But history shows us that a great many people we thought irredeemable, God redeems and makes them a trophy of grace. Take the Apostle Paul for example – murderer of God’s people to greatest Evangelist who ever lived!

I wonder if the author of Hebrews writes what he writes in chapter six to expose and weed out the rebels at heart… I don’t know. Whatever the case may be, he does offer some hope and he doesn’t seem to think that what he is writing applies to you the reader:

4 “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

The author of Hebrews has higher hopes for them than this! As his next words reveal:

9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Do you see what is going on here? He says to you the reader, I have high hopes for you because of the love in your lives that display the activity of God in your life.  Love is the evidence he points to. This is the evidence of God in our lives that we truly have been born again and the Holy Spirit is at work in us! After all, love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said that the world will know that we are his followers if we love each other. Which leads us to the question:

Do we have that “love for others” in our lives to point to as evidence of being born again and that God is in our lives?

Test Yourselves

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:

5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.

If we are his children, born of God, then the Holy Spirit’s job is to work in us to will and do of his good pleasure. (Philipians 2:13) The Spirit is the one conforming us to the image of Christ and there ought to be the evidence of love in our lives because he is the love poured out into our hearts when we truly believe in Jesus.

“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:4 NIV)

But what if there isn’t any evidence?

Perhaps, then, you need to be born again just as Jesus said to the religious leader Nicodemus. Perhaps your even a pastor of an evangelical church and you need to be born again and have God’s love implanted in your heart by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps as a Christian, you need to be born again, again. God is a God of fresh starts and new beginnings!

Born Again, Again

(this is an article I wrote a while ago)

I was something of a daredevil when I was a kid. I would swing from ropes, make my own zip lines from old wires and ride down them hanging on a pulley 30 feet up into a tree, I would scale dangerous cliffs and race down mountains jumping from rock to rock – that sort of thing. One of my earliest daredevil misadventures happened when I was seven years old.

One day I was riding my banana seat bicycle, trying to do tricks on my bike while standing on the seat. I was not looking where I was going and happened to look up just in time to see the back end of a boat parked on the street. The ensuing collision knocked me unconscious. The next thing I knew I was at my front door held by some strange man as he was ringing the doorbell. My mom opened the door and the man asked, “Is this your kid?” My mom freaked, asking me how many fingers she was holding up and if I knew my name. All I knew is that I was feeling queasy and was secretly enjoying all the attention.

Later at the emergency room I was still feeling nauseous and I puked – which they say is a good response after a concussion. I felt so good after vomiting that I told my mom, “I feel like I’ve been born again, again.” She was quite amused by that.

Jesus once said, “You must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

If I am being honest, from time to time throughout my life I have found myself asking whether I still need to be born again. When I find it difficult to impossible to love even the most loveable people in my life and my heart and actions are saying, “You’re so selfish!” That is when I reevaluate, and ask the most basic questions:

“Am I even “saved”? Have I yet to experience what Jesus was talking about? Have I been born again?”

If this is the case, then I am ready to start over. To be born again. Because honestly, if what I thought I knew for the last 25 years isn’t really working for me, it’s time to abandon that and find out what does work. Most times I hardly feel like a “new creation” and it would be impossible to say that my life is one that is marked by love. It takes courage to say this… especially for someone who has “been in ministry” for the last 13 years.

Last Sunday, the pastor was talking about receiving a new heart from God. He mentioned the time when King David prayed in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit in me.”

Was David “not saved” when he prayed this? Clearly he had been on a journey with God for some time. And as I look at my own life I too can say that, yes, I have clearly been on a journey with God for some time.

So what is going on here?

I believe that for some of us, we need to be “born again, again”. We need a fresh start and a clean slate to move forward on our journey with God. We need to pray what David prayed and get back on track with the life God intends.

But what if you have been in ministry or even have been a pastor most of your life (like Nicodemas was) but you know deep in your heart that all you think you know about God isn’t producing the love of God in your life? You need to humble yourself and realize that you must be born again – start from scratch and live by God’s Spirit living in you with His love becoming the source of the love flowing from your life.

In other words start depending on God at work in you and forget about depending on yourself. It’s not the end of the world to realize you need a fresh beginning – how refreshing to know this is available? All that will suffer is a bit of your pride, but you will have so much to gain.

So as I took communion that Sunday, I paused for a moment saying to God, “I receive my new heart.” And now I simply trust God to work it out in me. That seems to work pretty good I have found.

Prayer:

Lord Heavenly Jesus, Give me a fresh start today. Fill me with your love. May my life be marked by your love.

Take some time to talk to God about this. Ask him to change your heart if you are lacking love in your heart and to fill you with his Holy Spirit and then wait in His presence expectantly for his reply.

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