“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
While some people can trace their conversion experience to an exact time, an exact place, and an exact chain of circumstances, others may not know or see the process as clearly, however the lack of remembering or seeing a time does not mean that the person is not converted. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8). We cannot see the wind, however we are able to feel it, and see the results of it moving. It is the same with God’s Spirit working on our hearts. While we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we are able to see the results of the regenerating power that brings new life into our hearts.
While the working of the Spirit is silent and invisible, the effects are seen clearly. When the Spirit of God has renewed our hearts, our lives will show it. We cannot change our hearts to make them right with God, and we cannot trust in ourselves or in any good that we accomplish, however, our lives will show others whether the Holy Spirit is living in us. Others will be able to see a change in our character, our habits, and our goals. They will remember how we lived before and will be able to see the change. The true nature of our character is shown, not by simply occasionally doing nice things for others while doing selfish things on the side, but by living a life where God is present whether or not anyone else is around.
It is possible to live life with good behavior without being renewed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The desire for fame and the approval of others can push some to live honestly. Self-respect and self-confidence may lead us to avoid any evil from showing up in our lives, but a selfish heart can still perform generous actions. How then can we tell which side we are on—the side of Christ’s selflessness or the world’s selfishness?
First, we must look at who has our heart. Also, we must look at where our thoughts are. We also can reflect on who we talk to and who our friends are. What it comes down to is where the focus of our life is. If we are on Christ’s selfless side, we see life and everything that we do as being dedicated to Him. We desire to become like Him and to show His character to the world. We want to do what He has called us to do, and we want to live our lives in a way that brings honor to His Name.
Lives that have been transformed and renewed through Jesus and the Holy Spirit working will display what we call ‘the fruits of the Spirit’, and these are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). What this means is that we no longer act according to our former desires, but instead, using God’s strength—through faith and trust in Jesus—choose to follow His plan for our lives, to reflect His character to others and when no one else is around, and to keep ourselves as pure as we believe God is.
This also means that things we use to hate are now things we love, and the things we use to love are now things we hate. We do a ‘U-turn’ in our lives. Those who were proud and forceful before become humble and gentle. Those who were conceited and arrogant before become modest and humble. Those who were alcoholics become sober, and the immoral become pure. With truly transformed lives because the power of God is working in us, we leave behind all ineffective habits and traditions that we picked up from this world. True Christians will not “be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
The mark of genuine repentance is transformed, reorganized life that is now aligned with God’s will and character. If we as sinners fall, and then recommit ourselves to God by turning away from sin and humbly confessing how we have failed and how we still need Christ, we can again claim the promise that Jesus has saved us. By coming to Jesus and accepting his forgiveness and grace, love reenters our hearts. Joy fills our spirit and we find it easy to follow the requirements of Christianity. Our Christian responsibility becomes something that is enjoyable and we gain satisfaction from helping others. What seemed before as something that would be too hard and demanding instead is easy and strangely satisfying.
Jesus’ followers will display His character and love. Jesus’ life shows us how to have true love for God, passion for His glory, and a desire to follow God will. Love filled and strengthened everything that Jesus said and did. True love is only possible with God. The sin-damaged and sin-filled heart cannot produce or create it. It is only found in hearts where Jesus lives. “We love each other because He loved us first.” (1 John 4:19). In hearts that are renewed by God’s grace, love is the underlying principle behind all actions. This love changes our character, limits our impulses, controls our passions, calms and relaxes our hostility, and enhances our friendliness. This love is contagious, and it improves our lives and of everyone we meet.
Over the next two weeks, we will continue and our discussion about discipleship and what it really means.
P.S. As always, if I missed something, or if you would like to respond on this topic, join the conversation below!