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Posts Tagged ‘born-again’

When Christianity misses the New Covenant GOOD NEWS by teaching moralism and methods, it also fails to see repentance in the light of relationship instead of behavior.   Actually, it fails to teach repentance at all because in this paradigm you only need to change your thoughts and actions, rather than die and be birthed by God.

Too often people are told to “trust Jesus” to save them from hell, but you have to work out the rest of this life on your own.  To them “repent” means, “I’m sorry I was bad.  Jesus forgive me.  Now I will try my hardest to be good and keep my Christian “to do list” checked off daily.”

In the story of the prodigal son, the picture does not focus on the debauchery of the son, but shows how his path led to his brokenness and desire to RETURN to his father, a father he knew had no obligation to even accept him as a son any longer. The scene of the return demonstrates the love of a Father who rejoices over his son who was lost, and “dead” but is now alive.  Repentance is to return to our Father from our own pathetic devices and desires.  Do we come home and party like we did when we were out in the world?  Does our Father have to demand that we don’t or do we stand amazed in his mercy as he takes away our shame?  Is this not the most transformational relationship you can imagine?

I want to share a statement from a friend of mine whose journey has led her to a similar conclusion.  I am always overjoyed to find fellow travelers who have seen the inner core of LIFE.

The cry of my heart is to try to focus on Jesus … because for me I came from a watered-down nothing church, to a good, Bible-centered church that had somehow or other, in spite of all the wonderful Biblical correctness, missed the New Covenant completely.  When a person is truly introduced to Jesus, he will never stand for a counterfeit, and cannot stand to be without Him.  Although that person becomes Christ-centered, rather than behavior-centered, he is more sensitive to sin or the slightest unkind thought or action than he could have ever been while concentrating on behavior.”

This echos the statement of Paul here in 2 Corinthians:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

And what John proclaimed in his gospel.

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

I have probably said this before… but we don’t need a balance of Law and Grace as so many teach.  I know these teachers mean well, but are motivated by fear that if you let go of the law, all hell (literally) will break loose.  Ironically, when you focus on the law, you will find something similar to that result.  If you observe most of the children raised in this environment, you will see the fruit of rebellion and disillusionment.

Grace has a law built in, (Romans 8:2) one that renews and gives life and REAL change, not condemnation.  Paul tells Timothy that the Law (previously given) is for the unbeliever, the wicked man.  When we are born into Christ, we are no longer under that law.  The New Covenant never gives us a list like the Old Covenant had.  We find two defining principles which encompass all of life; our First Love – God alone, Who then passes His love through us to each other.

As I wrote in “Our First Love”..

If we loved Him more, we would believe Him more fully in everything He promised.  If we believed Him, we would trust Him in all our ways.  If we trusted Him, we would follow and obey Him.  If we obeyed Him, the world would see Him through us.

This journey begins only when we come to the end of ourselves.  I would now add… if we loved Him, we would seek Him.  As we seek Him, we know, love and trust Him more.  Trust, faith, belief, whatever you name it, produces fruit as surely as a rose bush will bloom a flower given the right soil and fertilization.  This is why James says, “Show me your faith”.    But we can’t get the fruit by using the fruit as the root… which is what we do when we focus on ourselves and our own performance.

Was I sorry for my sin when God drew me to return to Him?  You’d better believe I was sorry… grieved to the core.  In the moment I saw Him, I became aware of so many ways I had betrayed His love to me and given Him my rebellion in return.  I became keenly aware of my sin as the rejection of His love and sacrifice for me, not that I had broken a list of rules.  While the new birth is a one-time event, repentance may be necessary often in the sense of retracing our steps when we lose sight of Him and go our own way.  I have grieved deeply for this as well, not just when I was first saved.  While He is faithful to show me the truth about myself (which is often painful), He is also faithful to give me hope and to take my hand and move forward.  In Him, there is no condemnation.

Let us return to God our Father, look to Jesus without the veil, and be continually changed into His likeness though the Spirit.

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Yesterday I heard the testimony of a woman who realized she had a problem after twelve years in missions and ministry with a husband who preaches with a fire like John the Baptist.  I have seen this man preach in person and I don’t know how anyone leaves the building not saved.  The Holy Spirit is on this man like none I have ever heard.  But as hard as it is to believe, she says that in those first twelve years, she herself was not converted.  She had grown up in a Christian home and raised her hand for Jesus at a meeting once in the Christian school she attended.  She did all the churchy things, along with her friends.  They were all good kids and she married a missionary.  She says people try to tell her, “Well, you really were saved, but you have just had this experience of coming closer to God.”  Her reply was, “I live in here… and I know where I was, and I know what happened.” (paraphrased from my memory)

She goes on to describe how over the course of three years God began to deal with her about her heart.  During the “How to know if you are a Christian” sermons, she would squirm in her seat and struggle SO HARD to do the things that seemed to come naturally to others.  She performed, following the Christian “to-do list” but that was where her motivation to seek God began and ended.  She could not overcome known sins in her life and grow more like Christ.  One day God opened the door for her to spill her heart to her husband, who told her the honest truth.  (He specializes in the honest truth.)  He said, “Based on what you are telling me… I can’t tell you that you are a Christian.”  She had come clean and stopped putting on the act, an act so convincing no one around her knew the truth, deceiving even her own eyes for many years.  A pivotal moment came when she saw a prostitute on the street and she knew in her heart that even though she looked good on the outside, on the inside she was no different than her.  We are all that kind of woman (or man) if Adam is still our father.  She tearfully said she realized she did not have the strength to keep up the act and took that new honesty to God in prayer.

Does this story sober you?  Does it raise questions?  She said reading 1 John convicted her deeply.  The tone of this letter seems to be encouragement for those having their assurance threatened by a false teaching or obligation.  John is telling them, “Look, this fruit is the evidence of your true faith in Jesus, not what these other people are claiming.”   He warned them earnestly against false teachers, told them how to spot them, and affirmed, “I write to you because you know the truth.”  He was encouraging them not to waver from the foundation they had been given in Jesus.  But for someone who has not yet received a new birth from God, this book can be difficult to understand, or read.  Religion has many external tests to determine who is a Christian.  But God has always looked on the inside when men are evaluating the outside.  We can fit the outward mold while our hearts are trying to figure out how to find the point in going through the motions.

John deals with the most crucial fruits of faith, the ones we can’t fake.  God knows if we lust after the world, hate our brother, hide habitual sins, or feel little or no conviction for them.  We might be able to hide all that from others and even lie to ourselves, but God sees the real us.  The greatest gift we can receive from God is to see ourselves as we really are.  John is definitely not talking about being perfect, but he IS saying true salvation has fruit, just as James explains.  The New Creation DESIRES God, despises sin even though tripped up by it from time to time.  It loves, simply because it is an extension of God Himself in this world, a residing place of His Spirit.  It’s not about doing, but being.

The two biggest lies of false religion are:  You are okay just the way you are OR  You are not okay and it’s up to you to fix it, or keep it fixed. The TRUTH is, in your natural born state, you are NOT okay and there is NOTHING you can do to fix it.  In the absence of this revelation, we have owned a mental historical fact only, and have not entrusted our whole being into God’s hand – to die with Christ on the cross and be raised to New Life (represented by our water baptism).  If we do not at some point come to terms with both of these truths about ourselves, we will keep trusting in either our own innate “goodness” or our ability to become good, or uphold God’s work in our own efforts.  This deception can invade any heart in any pew of any Bible-teaching church.  False teachers capitalize on these two tendencies, but we don’t need them to believe these lies.  We believe them very well on our own, which explains why we so easily follow them.  We would rather go either direction than face our own helplessness and depravity.

People who leave cults often see the exodus as exchanging wrong facts for true ones, but some don’t realize what they really need – to fall helpless before God to save them and give them a brand new heart.  Thankfully most I know have also been broken by the truth they have found, but if we leave it on the intellectual level and do not “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” as Paul exhorted, we can still be terribly deceived.  This wife of a powerful preacher knew “the truth” but until she made it HER truth, she was not actually free.  I am SO thankful for the helpless brokenness God has brought me through, first to trust Him to save me, and also to continue to change me.

As you read this, if you have any doubt whatsoever, read 1 John in prayer and ask God to reveal your heart, not just doctrinal facts.  If John’s message does not bring you comfort and assurance as a child of God, then I urge you to take that honesty to God.  He knows exactly what to do about it.  Some evangelists like to use the Ten Commandments to confront people with their sin.  True confrontation goes much deeper than wrong behaviors.   The Words of Christ Himself along with this short letter both expose our true nature and desires.  The problem of Adam’s children isn’t that we do bad things, but rather at the core of our identity, we are enemies of God.  Does a tree branch strain to pop out an apple?  It simply does, as a result of being connected to the tree.  This is why you can’t try harder to be a Christian.  You are one, or you aren’t one.  No middle ground.  Is it time to find out for sure where you are abiding?

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