True Christianity is not one New Year’s Resolution away – it’s not based on your decision.
Instead, the Christian life begins with God’s choice. The evangelist John writes, “Children of God are born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)
God bears you into His kingdom according to His will, not because of your birth certificate, your church membership, how “good” you try to be, or what resolutions you make this year.
Such a concept drastically shakes the foundation of common human understanding.
“Wait a minute, are you saying I cannot decide?” Yes, the Bible speaks clearly on this matter. Faith in Jesus Christ and a relationship with God depends entirely on the work of God, not your own.
He initiates, maintains, and completes this relationship with men and women. Jesus illustrates the new birth through nature, saying, “Do not be amazed that I said you must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:7-8) God’s spirit brings new life into one’s heart. He gives us a new birth by His spirit.
Two Critical Elements
So, what happens in us to begin this new and dynamic relationship? The new birth depends upon two inseparable components. First, the word of Jesus Christ must be faithfully preached – “for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17). Then, in conjunction with the word of Christ, the Holy Spirit convicts the listener to the truth of Christ and the magnitude of their sin (John 8:16).
Both these elements combine to pierce one to the heart (Acts 2:37), causing the afflicted to cry out, “What must I do to be saved?”
Such is the response as the gospel takes root in one’s heart and God begins a relationship with them by the power of His Holy Spirit.
The Big Question
But, what actually takes place in us?
Sure the Spirit “works” (whatever that means), but how do I know if God has actually worked in me?
Great question! The convicting power of the Holy Spirit is not a far off and distant spiritual pinprick, but a real and tangible felt need of repentance or turning away from one’s sin.
The Spirit reveals your true disobedience to God and causes a type of self-disgust and personal loathing. This exceeds a guilty conscience and indicates that we have undergone an important and life altering procedure by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The prophet Ezekiel says this about the new birth defining it in terms of a spiritual operation: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26).
God takes out our old heart unfeeling to the things of God and intent on perpetuating our sinful desires, and gives us a new heart.
The Great Operation
We can no more perform this operation than an actual heart transplant on ourselves.
In the book of Jeremiah, we read more details about the specifics of the transplant, he says, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” God has given us a new heart that holds His law. Now, we are members of His household and worthy to be called “sons and daughters of the Most High God.”
Sons and daughters of God transformed according to His will and dependent upon His Spirit live a different life.
A transformed heart produces a transformed life.
Our works indicate our love for the things of God and our submission to His will.
The New You
Nothing manifests this new life better than daily demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23). Yet, we must never put good works ahead of a Godly faith.
Goodness is always a result or fruit of faith. Our good does not create our faith. Such an action would be like driving a car without gasoline.
This New Year, trust your faith to God. Only He can empower your Christian life. Only He can fuel your faith and goodness.