In his book “Finally Alive” John Piper writes these sobering words, “Instead of moving from a profession of faith, to the label born again, to the worldliness of so-called born again people, to the conclusion that the new birth does not radically change people, the New Testament moves in the other direction. It moves from the absolute certainty that the new birth radically changes people, to the observation that many profession Christians are indeed not radically changed, to the conclusion that they are not born again.” (‘Finally Alive’, Piper, John pg. 14,15)
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:6, “We know that our old man [self] was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” It is now a terrifying thought to look back at the assurance in which i operated; certain of my right standing with God and daily becoming effortlessly better at looking the part when i needed to. After i graduated from high school, i did a year of university and then followed the family tradition of a Bible school education which (i see now) only made things worse for me. Now i had a theological education to “back up” my unfounded certainty of my salvation, which also allowed me to be much more adept at navigating the Scriptures to justify whatever sinful behaviour other might see. I could enter in to theological discussions and even point out the sinful behaviour of others (all the while ignoring the spiritual deadness in my own soul.) The ‘old man’ was still very much alive in me.
In his own testimony, the great preacher Charles H Spurgeon wrote, “Long before i began with Christ, He began with me.” This echos much of what i see in my own life looking back: the obvious hand of God leading me, working in me, preparing me for the day when He would reveal Himself to me and utterly blow up the paper walls hiding the true nature of my heart. This came through much pain and struggle (that ‘old man’ can still put up quite a fight) – Paul wasn’t kidding when he wrote, “through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) – and, also, the ‘machines’ do not go quietly into the night when one is woken up from the Matrix.
My testimony today is one where i know i have now been transformed only by looking back at my life and comparing it to my life now – i don’t have a ‘spiritual birthday’ that i know of. The transformation that Christ makes is total and complete, not a moral conformity or a religious exercise to perfect. In Ezekiel 36, we see that what God has in mind is a complete heart transplant, not a makeover. Along with that, His desire is that His very Spirit would dwell within us “causing us to walk in His statutes and obey all his commands.” All that time before, i had been content to make God a ‘part of my life’, never realizing that He wanted to be my life. My very desires are changed now so that i no longer serve myself but i desire to serve God in all things; He has become my treasure where i once treasured only myself; and i now make war with my sin where i once tolerated it (even loved it). As II Cor. 5:17 says, i know i have now become a new creation; that the old [man] has gone and the new has come. As Paul also says in Philippians 3, i know i have not attained to perfection: either in being free from sin or the knowledge of Christ, but “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” (Phil. 3:12)
Thanks be to God for this inexpressible gift! (II Cor. 9:15)