Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Hey, me and tobie, you must be born again!

I was watching a famous TV commentator the other day as he opined on what ails our nation. He had some good ideas about personal responsibility, but he ended with this statement: “We each have the ability to change ourselves.” That statement bothered me. First, there was a tinge of pride in it, the implication that we could all benefit by being like him, who had done such a grand job of self-improvement. Second, though I can see the benefit of reading and working to improve my knowledge or my habits, my own experience has been that any fundamental change has to come from somewhere else. How many times did I swear I would never drink again? How many “last cigarettes” did I smoke? And then there was my temper: How many resolutions to hold my tongue? And every single time, I wanted to be sincere… I needed to be sincere. The sad truth is that nothing worked until I completely gave up. I was simply not strong enough or good enough to stay the course. Then I came to Christ and something fundamental changed on the inside of me. I was born again.

Therein lies the problem with self-improvement: It just puts the proverbial lipstick on a pig. The pig is still a pig. No matter how many bad habits I try to reform, I am still the wrong kind of person. I cannot change my fundamental nature. Only God can do that. That is the meaning of being born again – I am a new kind of creature with a new nature. The new creature in Christ is not perfect in performance from the first day, but he now has a genuine desire to be right and do right. The surprise for me was that even after I was born again, I still couldn’t change myself! I had to learn to depend on the One who now dwelt within me. As with any newborn, I had to grow up, grow stronger, and grow wiser from the inside out. Now, more than 30 years later, I am still discovering who I am because of the new birth. As I see myself more clearly, I can then cooperate with the Spirit of God in changing my outsides to reflect my new insides. The process is ongoing. I seek Him, I feed on His Word, and He changes me.

Scripture Reading: Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:23-24 NLT)

Somebody Said: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. Billy Sunday

Jesus didn’t just die to forgive your bad deeds. He was raised again to provide you with a new identity. You were born again, born of the Spirit. Now you will spend the rest of your life learning who this new person is, living a life that reflects the new nature, not struggling to overcome the old. You can’t change yourself; you have to find yourself, and then put on yourself and act like yourself.


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