Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Most Severe Remedy

You can tell a lot about how serious a disease is by the severity of the treatment. You would never consider amputation for a broken wrist, but for a gangrenous arm that threatens your life, it's a distinct possibility. Some chemotherapy drugs are so dangerous that if a few drops are spilled a hazmat unit must clean it up. Yet people willingly have them injected into their veins, because it's the only chance they have to stop the cancer. But if you just have a cold? No thanks, I'll take my chances with the illness. The severity of the remedy you're willing to undergo is proportional to the threat of the disease.

So then, what does it say about us and how sick we are when Jesus tells us that "You must be born again"?

There is no cure for our disease other than complete renewal. Each of us is so completely sinful to the very core of our being, nothing short of total regeneration will save us. No moral program, no good that we can do, no accomplishments or philosophy or religion or intellect or wealth or power, none of it can purify us from our sin and make us righteous before a holy God. We are so desperately sinful, there is nothing - nothing! - we can do to get better. The only remedy is to be born again, completely made new by the grace of God.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

Have you been born again to faith in Jesus Christ? There is no question more vital, more urgent than this. The stakes are eternal - on one side is the hope of eternal life, on the other is eternal damnation. There is no other way. Which side are you on?

Are you sure? Tragically, there are many who are under the delusion that they are genuinely born again simply by claiming to be, despite all evidence to the contrary. Few things could be more tragic than having false assurance. So how do you know? What does it actually mean to be born again, and evidence could there be that you are - or aren't? Check out this short but powerful book (available free online) about what it means to be born again. Dig into scripture to see what it says about those who are God's children and those who aren't - 1 John or Ephesians are great places to start. And examine yourself for the signs of the newness of life which regeneration brings. If you truly are born again, boldly proclaim the gospel in word and deed. If not, repent and believe. Nothing you can do could ever be more important than this.


Buz said...

A pretty strong message (in the book listed). There seems to be a real fuzziness between "backslidden" and unregenerate. Even St. Paul struggled with the flesh ("I don't what I want to do, and do what I don't want to do" Romans 7). So, if St. Paul admitted that he had a problem with sinning while trying to live the Christian life, can we expect to do it without a real struggle?


trogdor said...

I don't think the book, or anyone besides a few "Brother Jed" types, are suggesting sinless perfectionism or that the life of a believer is easy. Obviously a lot of scripture is devoted to the struggle and the need to persevere in the fight, and at least one chapter in the book (12, starting on page 143) deals in detail with the question of how new birth relates to ongoing sin.

In fact, I'd actually say that the key point is that if we're actually born again, we will struggle with sin. That is, we fight to put it to death and live in a manner worthy of our calling.

The real warning is to those who do not struggle, who are content to live under sin's mastery and are completely unconcerned with holiness. Those who live no differently from the obviously-reprobate, who are making no progress in the fight to mortify the flesh, who are not even really trying - they have to seriously question whether they are genuinely born again, whether they are a new creation, whether they can legitimately claim to know Christ.

No doubt that's a strong message. But it's no stronger than the warnings Jesus issued (Matthew 7, Sardis/Laodicea, etc).