LIVING THINGS GROW -ARE YOU AND I GROWING SPIRITUALLY?

You’ve probably had the experience of planting a tree or shrub, watering it, and coming back in a day or two to examine for growth. Instead, you see the leaves withered. Sadly, you have to admit that it died and you must remove it and plant another.

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Not all those who profess faith in Christ, grow. Too many wither and spiritually die. The parable of the soils explains the sad reality. (See Matt. 13 for parable of soils or sower.) For if there is no ongoing spiritual growth after profession of faith, there is no real conversion. The salvation of too many is stillborn. Throughout Scripture it is clear by the growth images used that no growth means no life in God. “Blessed is the man…[who] has delight in the law of the LORD. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1) No water of the Spirit, no life. Jesus said of his followers; “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit…if anyone does not remain in me and I in him, he is like a branch that is thr4won away and withers, such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:5,6). No connection to Christ producing fruit, no life but the fire.

Every genuinely converted man or woman, grows and produces spiritual fruit. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [the holy one]” (2Peter 3:18).

How then can we ensure that we grow more like Christ? In this 17th post on redemption, I’ll begin to discuss the importance of faithfully using the means of grace. God pours grace into our lives through the Word of God, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and suffering. But wait, there is something more vital!

First we need to acknowledge that we are utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit to maintain our connection with Jesus Christ and apply these means of grace to our lives so we can gradually change. In John 14-16 Jesus talks about sending the Spirit to continue his work in believers. In Romans 8 we read that disciples are those who “do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit [we are to be] “controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (vs. 4,5) The Spirit gives us life. The Spirit produces in us the fruit of the Spirit. Growth in Christ cannot happen without the energizing of the Spirit. Why? Although we are forgiven, we still have the old, sinful nature warring against the new nature created in us. It is the Spirit that enables us to overcome the old, sinful tendencies in us. Every victory over temptation helps us become stronger in faith. And thus we grow.

Thus, although we must employ the means of grace to grow, they will be sterile—dead—unless the Holy Spirit uses them to produce growth. So, we should always be praying, Lord, blessed Spirit help me understand and apply this passage of Scripture. Blessed Spirit hear my prayer. Spirit of Christ, help me to overcome this sin. We desperately need the Holy Spirit’s work. If we would grow, we must be open to the Spirit. We need to cry, “Holy Spirit, come do you work in me. I submit to you.” Are we open to the Spirit’s work? Are we growing?

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Does Talk of Holiness Make You Uncomfortable?

In times past, Christians have been called holy-rollers or holy-joes. Downright weird. Generally, those who openly profess Christ are assumed to think of themselves as holier than thou. The very term, holiness¸ seems not only archaic but a word that makes people feel uncomfortable.

But in this 16th in my series about celebrating redemption, we come to holiness, a vital aspect of sanctification. According to 2 Corinthians 7:1 if we are to progress in sanctification, we must grow in holiness. “Dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” According to Hebrews 12:14; ”Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” And in Hebrews 10:14, sanctification is “being made holy.”

In essence, holiness is separation from all sin, from everything that morally contaminates, from everything that would anger the thrice-holy God of Isaiah 6. In a vision Isaiah saw two seraphs crying to each other as they flew; “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty” (Is. 6:3). This vision of God’s holiness made Isaiah cry out “Woe is me…I am a man of unclean lips” (6:5).

In a non-moral sense, God, is in essence, holy in being completely separate from all His creation. In a moral sense, he is holy in being separate from all that is evil. The laws he has given us define evil negatively and holiness positively. Disobedience to God’s laws either in act or thought makes us unholy.

It is crystal clear that the goal of every follower of this Holy God, is to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Having been born again, we are to put off the old sinful self and “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD…Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees…I seek you with all my heart, do not let me stray from your commands” (Ps. 119:1, 5,10) Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

If holiness is our goal, we won’t go around projecting an image that we are “holier than thou”, for holiness is an attitude as well as an action. The beatitudes define holiness as humility, meekness, mercy, compassion, etc. (See. Matt. 5:3-12) Galatians 5 defines holiness as love, joy, peace, longsuffering… (Gal. 5:22,23). Or in the Jesus’ response to a lawyer’s question, the essence of the law is love for God and love for one’s neighbour. Clearly, then, holiness is not a one-dimensional quality, it is not just the absence of sin but the presence of those qualities of life that reflect love.

But how to we grow in holiness? For grow we must. The very essence of sanctification is growth. No growth—no life. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [the holy one]” (2Peter 3:18). What are the means that pour the grace of holiness into our lives? I’ll tackle that in a following post.

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OK, your body is Free but what about your Soul?

A few decades ago, the tag line of an insurance company was “Freedom 55,” indicating that if we embraced their plan we would be able to retire at age 55. No longer. Of course some may still fantasize about an early retirement spent relaxing—free of any goals except golf and fishing. But in actuality most do not find that really satisfying, especially as health deteriorates. Most of us like to have goals, even if they are simple—something we can say we accomplished as we go to sleep at night. Cleaning up the garage. Cutting the grass. Weeding the flower beds. Paying the bills. Some have even more complicated goals; seeing Antarctica, building that dream house, serving in a short-term mission cause, running 5 miles a day.

Those of us who are Christians have a clear goal each day until God calls us home. It is called, SANCTIFICATION, the 15th post in this series. In Sanctification, the goal is to get rid of all evil tendencies and become like Christ. “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). “How is that possible?” you ask. Scripture answers, “through the Spirit”.

Our guiding motto could be “Freedom Forever!” For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17) and everyone who is redeemed has the Holy Spirit dwelling within. The Spirit’s work within us is to free us from all that besmirches the name of Christ and conform us to the image of Christ. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

The most essential fact of sanctification is that the yoke is broken; we have been set free from bondage to the sin nature within us. We are no longer slaves to our sinful tendencies to sexual lust or to losing our temper or to greed or prideful self-righteousness. The power of our old sin nature is broken. We are free!

Why then do we still sin? The old nature is still there within us. It wars with the new nature we have in Christ. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do no use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.…Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law [of bondage]” (Gal. 5:13, 16-18). Paul then goes on to list the acts of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace….etc.” (See. Gal. 5:19-26.)

In each of the Paul’s prison epistles he discusses this internal war and urges us to put to death the deeds of the flesh, to fight the good fight of faith, to let the Spirit work out within us the freedom that is our heritage.

We daily face the goal of becoming more like Christ by fulfilling the potential of the new nature within us. The old nature battles against this goal. Since we can’t fight on all fronts at once, we should take it step by step. This great goal can be broken down into specific objectives such as emulating Christ’s kindness and compassion, his patience and love, his meekness and strength, his tranquility in turmoil and anger with hypocrisy, his wisdom and discernment. We should not be discouraged if we miss the mark in many areas. Fight on by asking the Spirit to give us practical, current targets. Right now, for example, I’m seeking to grow in patience. Unfortunately, I still have a long way to go.

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Sanctification is a broad subject. It means being set apart from sin. It includes the idea of growing in grace, becoming holy, being sanctified through the Word of God, the importance of prayer, etc. I’ll consider these matters in other post.

Let’s celebrate Freedom Forever in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Are you being sanctified? If not, you may not be a real Christian. Give diligence to ensure you are redeemed!

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Peace in a Covid-19 World

Here in the west, we are suffering through the most intense period of uncertainty that I can remember. We’ve been 18 months dealing with Covid-19. And just when we thought the virus was licked, we hear of new variants. Anxiety is a plague among us. Even the ‘experts’ who tell us the latest findings have creases across their foreheads. Emotional problems have increased exponentially. Clearly there is a dearth of the deep peace of heart that enables a person to relax, enjoy life and sleep well.

In this 14th post in a series celebrating redemption, I want to discuss peace as a component of redemption. There are personality traits and circumstances that make peace fleeting for some people in certain situations. However, the main source of our lack of peace can be traced to something wrong in our relationship to God.

Paul begins his great treatise on redemption by explaining that the “wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth” by denying what is clear about God from the creation and what is innately known about good and bad in the conscience. (See Rom. 1:18 -12.) The guilt that festers in the human conscience destroys peace. “’The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” (Isaiah 57:20,21). (See also Is. 48:22.)

How can one have peace if one’s conscience is troubled? The only thing to do besides turning to God in repentance and faith is either to drown the conscience with alcohol, drugs, sex or some kind of indulgence or convince oneself of the lie that all morality is relative. God doesn’t exist. That there will never be a judgement. That we all evolved from blobs of matter and morality is a figment of imagination. Good luck with that kind of doomed attempt.

But peace with God and peace of conscience waits for those who repent of their sins, confess them to God and believe in the death of Christ for their sins. As we’ve seen in previous posts, God forgives them for Jesus’ sake, justifies them, adopts them into his family and gives them a new heart. God’s wrath is turned away. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God throughout our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

To all the redeemed, Jesus promises, “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give onto you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let our hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Isn’t this amazing? He promises us the kind of peace that he had when he was asleep in the storm-tossed boat on Galilee.

Of course, we are all tempted to worry and doubt. We may wonder at times if God really loves us. We may not have assurance of salvation, another topic in this series. To maintain the peace and tranquility of heart that is our heritage, we need to feed our souls with copious doses of Scripture. “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4; See also 2 Tim. 3:16,17).

So when we are assailed with anxiety, “let us put on the full armour of God” (See Eph. 6:10-18). May the peace of God rest upon you brother and sister!

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Hey Dad! Are you sure you didn’t adopt me?

Have you ever wondered if you are adopted? If you were, would that make your parents love you less or more? What if they searched the world for you and found you? What if they went through reams of bureaucratic red tape? What if they paid an adoption agency a million bucks because they loved you at first sight? What if even though you hated them, stole from them, and swore at them, their love remained steadfast and sure?

Well, in this 13th post on redemption, that’s what God has done for sinners like you and me—except for the bureaucracy and much more! The cost was astronomical and the time involved in arranging our adoption was infinitely more. From eternity past, he saw those he would love and redeem through Jesus Christ. Then, he paid for our adoption with the blood of his only Son.

“When the time was fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law that we might receive the full rights of sons. [That we might be adopted.] Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father…and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Gal. 4:4-7). Because of our adoption, the Holy Spirit prompts us to call God, Abba which means, Daddy. As God’s adopted children we inherit all the rights and privileges of being in his family. No wonder then, that in prayer we can bring our requests to God and cry out, “our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name”.

As John writes of Jesus, “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Those who receive Christ by genuinely believing in what his name stands for, they are adopted into God’s family. They become children of God.

As Ephesians declares, “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph. 1:5). This adoption was in spite of the fact that we were dead to God, lost in our transgressions and sins…following the ways of the world and the devil…and living to gratify our lusts…as children of wrath. (See Eph. 2:1-3).

Romans reiterates this glorious truth. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba,’ Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:15-17). No longer lonely, we have a family that extends throughout the world and into the realms of glory. No longer afraid, we have a big brother Jesus and an all-powerful Father. No longer in doubt, but assured by the Holy Spirit that we are God’s children. No longer paupers, but joint-heirs with Christ of incalculable wealth. No longer defenseless, but indwelt by the dynamite of the Spirit and connected to all the resources of the universe. No longer fearful of disaster, we are confident because we are on the glory-side. Victory in Jesus is assured. Of course, like those in any family we share the sufferings and troubles endured by the family.

Are you, am I, redeemed—then we are also adopted! Lord help us not to live like insecure paupers but as children of the King.

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Converting Junk

We spent 16 odd years in Pakistan. One of the skills I most admired among the craftsmen of Pakistan was their ability to convert cast-off items into useful objects. For example, they could take a pop can and turn it into a tiny lamp. Or they might take discarded, worn-out tires and turn them into soles for long-lasting sandals.

But who can convert a self-righteous lustful, bigoted person into a thoughtful, compassionate and humble man or woman? That is the question Jeremiah posed about the deep-seated depravity of Israel. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil” (Jer. 13:23). While Hollywood shows describe the transformation of villains into saints, in the real world such change is superficial. Fortunately, Jeremiah held out hope by prophesying about God giving them new hearts; that is, they would be regenerated from top to bottom.

Genuine conversion is an aspect of true regeneration that includes a change of mind, of will and of emotions. In our nature, we resist such a change. “To those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him…they are unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:15,16).

Conversion then involves, “Gently instruct[ing rebellious sinners] in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and they will come to their senses…” 2 Tim. 2:25,26). Without conversion people are alienated from the truth. They cannot see God’s hand behind the operation of the universe. They have no hunger for the Word of God. They need a change of mental attitude, so that like David, they can say, “Oh, how I love thy law!” As we can see, both faith in God’s revelation and repentance toward false ideas and actions is involved.

Conversion also involves a turning from self to God. Peter challenged Simon, the sorcerer who wanted to buy the Holy Spirit to use for his own ends. “Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought” (Acts 8:22). Like all who come to faith in Christ, Simon needed do a 180, have a complete change in his motivations, his desires, his goals—his will.

Conversion also transforms our emotions. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Cor. 7:10). A flood of emotions accompanies one’s genuine sorrow at grieving God. Joy floods the forgiven soul. Gratefulness begins to rise in the soul for all the blessings of grace. Hope for the future is born. Confidence in our present position in Christ dispels insecurity and anxiety.

Conversion then involves a radical change of mind, emotions and will. Clearly, such a change is not superficial nor temporary. Sadly, there are apparent conversions that obviously do not effect total change in a person. Professing faith is not enough. Going forward in a meeting is not a guarantee of conversion. Attending church or performing ritual is not conversion unless it is an external expression of a new heart.

Conversion is a term that is used to mark the beginning of a person’s new life in Christ. We can look at a person and say “he is conveted!” Or we can bear testimony that “I was converted in 1955”. Such a claim is not to say that conversion is always sudden and revolutionary. In many cases God works slowly in a person converting their mind, emotions and will over a period of time.

In all genuine redemption, conversion will be present. Are you converted? Am I?

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Who Are Your Blood Relations?

I recently received a trove of old photos from the widow of a cousin. Unlike a random bunch of photos from the mid-twentieth century, these had personal relevance. I could point to a figure in one or the other and say that’s my Uncle Ray and there’s my Uncle Dave. Why look there’s that mischievous cousin Bob and his brother Doug. Bob’s the one who threatened to make my dog Frisky into a hot dog! And there’s my dad and my brother David. Look that’s Norm and his bride Evelyn. With most of them I have a blood connection. Our DNA could be matched. We are part of the larger Hall/Wright family.

Isn’t it incredible that, if we are redeemed, we are blood relations with Jesus Christ, the Lord. It’s unbelievable that the Creator of the universe would come down to earth, shed his blood to secure an eternal blood connection with us! In celebrating the wonders of redemption we come to the 11th post, the believer’s mystical union with Christ.

One of the most repeated phrases in the New Testament is, “in Christ”. We are in Christ. That is, we are in some mystical way united to Jesus Christ. And thus, his righteousness is put to our account. Indeed, all the blessings of salvation flow to us through this union with Christ.

Louis Berkhof defines it as, that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and His people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation.” (Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof, p. 449)

It is compared to the union of the vine and the branches in John 15:5. It is the foundation and the building built on it in 1 Peter 2:4,5. It is the union of a husband and wife in Eph. 5:23-32. It is the union of the head and members of a body in Eph. 4;15,16. Since as believers we are made new creatures ‘in Christ” (2 Cor5:17) and justified “in Christ” (Acts 13:39) it follows that everything good in our redemption is mediated to us through the working of the Holy Spirit joining us to Christ.

“You are in Christ Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

As we grow in our experience of Christ, he expects there to be a reciprocal action on our part. As Berkhof writes; “the believer also unites himself to Christ by a conscious act of faith, and continues the union, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, by the constant exercise of faith ” (Ibid, 450) and I would add, obedience. “I am in my Father and you in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:22,23). (See John 15:4,5, Eph. 3:17.) “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Wonder of wonders, by redemption God has eternally united me with Jesus Christ! Of course, this also means we are one with other believers.

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Is There A Moral Delete Button?

Word processors have a delete button. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a delete program that would erase all the dumb things we said on Facebook or Twitter. All the false claims we made. All the angry retorts and grumpy reposts. We are told that everything we have ever posted is indelible, kept somewhere in cyber space to be used against us. For ever and ever and ever, amen. Grim thought.

What about all our moral failings? Our sins? Is there any way to erase them? All the lies we told, the petty thievery we engaged in, the lustful thoughts, the proud assertions, the deceitful comments, the angry words, the gossip, the jealousy, the gluttony, the laziness, the false accusations, the immorality, the covetousness, the denial of God, the swear words, and on and on it goes.

Well, in this series on celebrating redemption we come to justification. Deleting all sin is exactly what justification is all about. We have come to clean slate territory!

Unfortunately, the world’s religions teach some kind of justification through doing good works. Commonly, we are told if your good works outweigh your bad deeds you will be saved. But that is a passing grade of only 51%. That’s not even good enough for grade school! Outweighing the bad we’ve done doesn’t cancel that the record of our sins. Not even a human judge would render judgement on that basis.

God tells us that if we fail in any point we have broken the integrity of the moral law. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10, KJV). Why? Because guilt in one point shows the state of the sinner’s heart, his propensity to transgress, his pride. “The Bible tells us that “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). All we do is tainted. Would we eat tainted meat? No, well we shouldn’t be satisfied with what seems to us a little moral taint.

But hold on, is there any remedy? The good news is that, “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice…at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26, selections).

God is the Judge of all the earth. He has determined right and wrong. We stand before him, guilty of breaking his moral law [which he established for our good] and thus we are doomed to hell. But God in mercy works to forgive us. He cannot by a mere fiat statement forgive us and still be true to his character as a just judge. A punishment must be enacted on our behalf before we can be forgiven. A debt must be paid. This is where Jesus came in. He voluntarily took our place, bore the punishment for our sins upon his body on the cross. Then when we put our faith in the blood Jesus shed for our sins, God accepts his atonement on our behalf and justifies or forgives us. This radical justification is completely due to God’s grace demonstrated in the covenant made between the Father and the Son.

In justification, the righteousness of Christ is credited to our account. Our sins are blotted out. God declares us righteous for Christ’s sake. If we put our faith in Christ, God looks at us and sees not our sinfulness but the righteousness of Christ. We stand robed in the righteousness of the perfect one!

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16). “Hew saved us through the washing of rebirth…so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5,7).

No wonder Martin Luther was transformed when he discovered the truth of JUSTIFICATION. No wonder the Protestant

Reformation broke out with formerly enslaved men and women shouting for joy at their freedom from bondage to an impossible works righteousness.

Are you justified? Put on then “the breastplate of righteousness”—the righteousness of Christ. Stand in Him and be free and forgiven! As Wesley’s hymn declares:

No condemnation now I dread,

I am my Lord’s and He is mine;

Alive in Him, my living Head.

Amazing love! How can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

And clothed in righteousness divine.

Amazing love how can it be?

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What’s all this new birth stuff Christians talk about?

What is all this new birth stuff that Christians talk about? Now birth is amazing. The birth of a new baby brings great joy to a family. In the parable of the lost sheep Jesus exclaims about the rejoicing in heaven over the birth of a new Christian. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

There is not only joy but astonishment. Nicodemus, a seasoned teacher of the Old Testament came to Jesus by night to inquire about his miracles. Jesus immediately turned his attention to the central miracle. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Nicodemus exclaimed that this was impossible.

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit…you must be born again’” (John 3:5-7).

The initiating miracle that creates genuine Christians is the new birth; in theological terms, regeneration. In the new birth, the Holy Spirit comes into a sinful person and gives him a new heart to believe the gospel, hate sin and love God. Without this spiritual transformation how can rebel sinners be moved to change?

When people embrace the gospel they find it uncomplicated, just repent and believe. But then they are saved, begin to read Scripture and look back on what happened and realize that even their faith was a gift of God. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9).

This is what was predicted by Ezekiel and Jeremiah; “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). This is what Paul describes in Titus 3:5,6. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

When new Christians humbly look back on their experience they usually shake their heads in disbelief. They believed in Christ and repented of their sins, but how and why? If they are honest, they find themselves puzzled. How did this happen, they wonder?

They say, “A year ago, six months ago, a week ago, I was careless about sin, unhappy maybe, but not really convinced about the importance of pleasing Christ. Now I am different! I care deeply about any grief I cause Christ. I want to do his will. The Bible that was just a book is now my meat and drink. What happened? I was born again! Somehow God by His Spirit moved me to believe in Christ and repudiate my sins. This is the new birth. This is regeneration. Hallelujah!

[Please note, however, that many are self-deceived into thinking they are genuine Christians because they assent to the Gospel facts, because they went forward at a meeting, and made a profession of faith. If they are not born again and show the change in every aspect of their lives, they are not genuine Christians.]

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My Cracked Coffee Mug — My Aching Body

Do you enjoy coffee? I do. One of the secrets of savouring a good cup of coffee, in my opinion, is drinking it out of the right mug. Over three decades ago I found the mug. It was thick and deep with not too wide a mouth. It was a rich blue and white ceramic, able to keep coffee hot while I savoured it. Coffee should be drunk out of the right mug. And it should be relished slowly. Not for me the cardboard cup too hot to drink then quickly lukewarm.

I think it was in the early 90’s that I found my mug. It has been with me ever since. It’s followed me through three moves. One of the delights of life since that time has been brewing the first coffee of the day and retiring to my recliner with that steaming mug to enjoy reviewing one of the great hymns of the faith. And then checking out the news.

Then tragedy! The other day I found it cracked! No! I tried to keep using it but to no avail. What to do? I’ve looked but I can’t find a replacement. Groan. Maybe it’s time to accept the inevitable. Maybe that was a once in a lifetime love affair. Maybe it’s a parable of the frailty of life.

Okay, I realize it’s time for me to face my mortality. Where did my young body go? Where is the energy that had me climbing hills without stopping for a breath? Why does even the thought of running make me break out in hives. Why do my feet hurt? And what about my knees, both artificial. Forget abut kneeling in the garden to attack the weeds. Don’t even ask about my heart or the nitro patches I take to cover for a zillion blocked arteries. Why are there so many aches and pains? Teeth? Am I going to have to finally keep that dental appointment? Eyesight? Must I really see that eye surgeon?

Sigh. To be honest, I feel a lot like that cracked mug. It’s been a good run. But things are wearing out. And yet that’s natural—the normal course of life.

Fortunately, the future is not as gloomy as a cracked mug. It is as bright as the promises of God. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me., In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).

We know that we won’t settle into that celestial home with our decrepit bodies. “We will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, …the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality…Death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:51-54, selections). Isn’t the Christian hope wonderful? Will there be coffee in heaven?

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. If you appreciate this blog, please pass it on. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––)