“You must be born again.”
In John 3:1-8, Jesus is clear with Nicodemus about what a person must do in order to be saved. When a person is born they are completely new. They have a fresh start, a new beginning. They are a new creation. Spiritual things can only be discerned through the Spirit, and thus Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water (baptism) and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Scripture makes a clear distinction between the natural man and the spiritual man. 1 Corinthians 2:10, 13, and 14 says that “God reveals (spiritually discerned things) through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” and that the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” In our natural state, we cannot discern the spiritual things of God.
Discerning the things of God requires rebirth. Two selves cannot exist within one person so, by very definition, your natural self must die in order for a new creature to emerge. True spiritual revival requires a desire for a complete change in us. We us must be made new through repentance and prayer.
Although this seems like a daunting task, there is good news. Christ only asks us for one thing in exchange for access to His infinite power: that we give ourselves fully to Him. As soon as we are willing to completely relinquish control of our lives, the illimitable Creator of the universe takes over.
But what does this new creation look like in our day-to-day lives? Let’s break it down into 3 relational categories.
Attitude Towards Self
In his daily devotional, Neil T. Anderson writes that in our old lives, our natural selves “trained and conditioned our actions, reactions, emotional responses, and habits in a part of our brains called “the flesh.” The flesh is that tendency within each person to operate independently of God and to center his interest on himself. An unsaved person functions totally in the flesh (Romans 8:7, 8), worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).”
We are born sinful into a sinful world. Not one of us could have avoided the condition of the human race. It’s only when we make our decision to give our lives to God that we can set aside our natural tendency to focus on self.
We are important because we’re children of God. We’re valuable because He values us. It’s God’s gift for us. We should love ourselves and place ourselves in high esteem, looking at ourselves through the lens of His infinite greatness, but live in a spirit of humility, self denial, and self reflection, analyzing our actions daily, forever seeking the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Attitude Towards Others
These examples, taken right from the mouth of Christ, are only a few of the many instances in scripture where we are commanded to love one another. If we are to draw people closer to Him as He commanded us in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), then we need to feel geniune love for our brothers and sisters and care for them. Only by this will “all men will know that (we) are His disciples.”
But we’re not merely instructed to love friends, strangers, and family. In Matthew 5:43-48 we’re commanded to love our enemies and “pray for those who spitefully use and persecute (us) that (we) may be sons of (our) Father in heaven.” Jesus goes so far as to say that if we speak ill of our brothers and sisters it’s as if we had murdered them (Matthew 5:21-26). This principle is embedded in the very core of Scripture. If Jesus is our ultimate example then we must strive to be like Him always and in all ways.
Attitude Towards God
God only requires our love, our surrender, our allegiance, and for us to love for one another to begin His work in us. He wants us to trust in His wisdom, not in our own. He only asks that we not live our lives independently of Him but in constant communion with the eternal One who created us, longed for and loved us, and numbered the hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30).
This week, ask yourself, “Who can I help this week? What can I do to show God’s character through me? What can I do to serve?” Let’s start thinking about how we can better love our God, ourselves, and our fellow man, this week, and every week hereafter. ■
“Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8