2019-12-04 What A Story!

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
John 3:3

I have an interesting story to share. It’s of a woman I met three years ago. She would respond to my posts from time to time. She and Melissa have gotten to know each other as well. Recently, she revealed to me that she had just recently been born again. Let me share that conversation with you:

Woman: Oh just working out my salvation with fear and trembling. 🙂 It’s true! God’s grace is becoming more real to me all the time and the Holy Spirit is really helping me understand the legal transaction that took place at my conversion. Which, I might add, was this past June (like 5 months ago). Believe it or not I was a false convert for about a year and a half. I didn’t know it but I certainly do now…

Me: I’m interested to hear more about this conversion. I would have guessed you to have already been a true Christian. Why do I say that? Because your ears and mind were receptive to the gospel. Could it be that God has boosted you to a new level?

Woman: Well…it’s a long story and a bit hard to explain because I don’t have words adequate for what has taken place. Wait…maybe I do…it’s called repentance. I may have been receptive to the gospel but outwardly, in my head. But my heart was not new – I had not been born again. I guess that’s the best way to describe it. I was born again – finally! It took a pastor showing me my sin again and again and me seeing my sin so clearly and crying out to God to save me because I realized I couldn’t do it (or stop sinning) on my own. I saw my wickedness and then…my eyes were opened to the Truth. I saw deception in the church for the first time, I hated my sin for the first time, I saw grace and forgiveness and mercy for the first time and I just knew I was different. For the first time. 🙂 I may have heard bits and pieces of the Word and maybe the gospel, BUT it didn’t occur to me how guilty and condemned I was until I saw that it was my sin nature – me – who was helpless to change myself, save myself. And that HE is mighty to save and make a sinner into a new creation. It is a miracle!!! It was like a switch flipped – perhaps it was being flipped for a while but had not competed the full 180. Something had been missing. And I think it was repentance…a word that I never heard in the church I belonged to for nearly two years. I claimed Christ but I was a false convert. Now I’m at awe of God. It’s like seeing everything for the first time – it’s all so different! My hunger for the Word exploded and I couldn’t/can’t get enough. There has been a peace like I’ve never known. I’m saved. 🙂 God chose me…a wretched sinner…at times I just cry because I can’t believe it. I’m dumbfounded. The cross means everything to me now.

What do you think about this?

Here’s what I think. First, God has determined his elect before creation. Not my creation or your creation, but before any rock or atom or any galaxy was ever created (see, for example, Ephesians 1:4). However, we are no different from the entirety of mankind in that we deliberately sin and have no excuse (Romans 1:20). Then we hear the gospel, which is the only hope we have to be saved (1 Cor. 15:1-2) and it either hardens our hearts or it softens it, depending on God’s intention towards us. (Romans 9:18). Some need to hear it only once, like the woman at the well. Others, like me, need to hear it many, many times over many years before God flips the switch, like in the story above.

What does the bible say about being born again? When does it happen? Romans 10 is a place we can look.

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This is basically what the Sinner’s Prayer is all about. Someone shares the gospel with you and asks if you are ready to have a relationship with Jesus. You then repeat a prayer that they say. Don’t get me wrong, there have been LOTS of people saved with this prayer, but certainly not everyone. It’s not just head knowledge, but rather heart knowledge as we see in Romans 2:28-29.

Is repentance also a requirement? We typically think of John the Baptist when we think of someone commanding us to repent, but Jesus did the same as well. A lot. As did all the prophets. We know that the human mind won’t allow us to truly go to true repentance, because it is a gift from God.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

What happens when God does grant us repentance? Well, read the story above. It will change you. It will make you a new person, as in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Maybe you have head knowledge and do lots of Christian stuff, but you can’t relate to this woman’s story. I recommend you seek out this gift. Mind you, it won’t be fun. No, it won’t be fun at all. However, it is a requirement to enter heaven. Listen to what John the Baptist says:

Matthew 3:7-12 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

This is no small issue. Now, for those of you who have undergone the transformation of repentance, do you see professing Christians around you that might not have experienced repentance? We’re commanded to test the spirits, so you should be aware of these things (1 John 4:1-6). Do you have leaders or influential people guiding your church that show no evidence of repentance? My recommendation? Ask them! If they are indeed true Christians, they were bought by Jesus for a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Their story belongs to Jesus. Ask them. Be convinced. Otherwise, they might not be truly saved. Do you want the unsaved in leadership of your church? I should think not! What about your pastor? What’s his story? What’s his sin? What is the besetting sin that he still struggles with? You don’t know? Really? Is this private information? I think not! Who better to teach repentance than someone who is open about his own? Seriously, folks, there are Evangelical pastors who never share their full stories. Why not? Are they ashamed? Is there no good that can come out of repentance worthy to share? An unrepentant pastor is an unsaved pastor. An unrepentant elder is an unsaved elder. An unsaved Sunday School teacher is unsaved.

Folks, my friend was saved before the foundation of the world, but it took some time for God to radically transform her through repentance. How did it happen? Someone kept prodding her. Might there be a lesson here for us? I think so.

James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Unrepentant people are not saved. Look around.

Father, I pray that people will open their eyes to the leadership of their churches, to see if they see the fruit of repentance. Give them courage to force the issue by either pruning saved branches or by exposing frauds. Either way, you command us to purge evil from our midst. Let us do just that so that we might not be influenced by those who are not of us. You have shown us plenty of examples in the Old Testament that mixing faith with unbelievers doesn’t work. Let us not make that error. Amen.

Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers

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