Basics of the Christian Faith
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
THORN SIX: BEING BORN AGAIN
Jesus said a relationship with God requires being born again. The idea of a radical, sudden transformation in life scares some away from considering Christianity.
When contemplating the notion of a new birth, some have visions of being struck by lightning, or expect fantastic signs in nature, or fear fireworks might go off. They imagine sudden changes similar to those that resulted in the mutant creating of Spiderman and Incredible Hulk.
Since believers often are viewed as uptight and unable to relax, some unbelievers avoid being born again due to fear they will become some kind of a freak. They think they will become boring, weird, start chanting Gregorian chants, and wear pocket protectors.
Let’s face it. Believers do often come across as strange, weird, social misfits. Unbelievers often think we speak in King James English, listen to no secular music, watch no sports, attend only children’s movies, and our annual social highlights are roller skating and hayrides.
I have to admit it is possibly true an inordinately high percentage of church attenders are weak in social skills. Many with personality problems have nowhere else they can go and be accepted.
Churches are supposed to be safe havens for the lonely. The Bible says God sets the solitary in families (Psalm 68:6). Thus, we often attract the odd.
Before Ruth and I married, we befriended a young man who was ostracized by others. He had serious personality problems. He looked exactly like his birth dad, a fact that led his cruel step-dad to often beat the boy’s head against the wall. Ruth and I may have been the only close friends he ever had.
Unbelievers fear if they become born again, family and friends will no longer recognize them, and if they do, they won’t want to have anything to do with them.
No doubt, becoming a believer requires a born again experience, a changed life, and often results in some persecution. In most cases the transition is not as radical as feared.
Being born again is a matter of deciding to change one’s direction in life. It entails repenting, turning from sin to God, asking His forgiveness, and yielding oneself in absolute unconditional surrender to Jesus.
The result of this is a change of will. The decision-making process becomes henceforth under new management. Many things in life will be different, but you will still be you. No change will occur in your DNA. You will in certain settings act differently, but your essential personality will remain the same.
If you become a Christ-follower, friends and family may scoff at you. Some may write you off their list, but others will be positive toward you, and may be influenced toward belief in God by your change.
THE STEM: FAITHFUL BELIEVERS’ LIVES
The stem of the Christian Rose, the stalk that holds it together and provides continuity through the centuries, is faithful believers, holy men and women of God who pass the torch from one generation of Christians to the next, and who seek to bridge the gap between Christians and Prechristians.
These consistent believers are the true heroes of the faith, the countless millions who through the ages believe the story, love the Christ, live the life, talk the talk, walk the walk, and try to answer the hard questions unendingly thrown their way.
They are, as Jesus called them, the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), preservatives in a decaying world, and the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), beacons in the midst of an otherwise dark world
THE ROOT: A BELIEVING HEART
Christianity must be received by faith. The Christian Rose must be implanted in a believer’s heart. When a person becomes a Christ-follower, the seed of God’s very life is transplanted into the believer’s heart. This is the born again experience (see John 3:3).
The Christian faith contains many outward trappings, including rituals, customs, traditions, creeds, churches, and denominations. These are helpful and ancillary, but not essential or essence. None of these is the kernel of our faith.
Christianity is at its core a heart concern, a one-on-one personal relationship between an individual believer and the Lord Jesus. Christ must be received on the basis of individual repentance and faith. When there is unconditional surrender to Jesus in people’s lives, their believing hearts allow the Christian Rose to take root and grow.