This week we see what must happen to be a true believer and two scenarios for life as described by Paul in Romans
It’s all about regeneration…
“No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” – Romans 2.29 (NLT)
We all know the term “born-again.” This term, taken from Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3, means to have a second birth of the Spirit. While many of us may consider ourselves born-again, I have to ask, do we all truly know what that means? Regeneration is the true test of true conversion: do you have a new heart that desires God and desires to be like Christ? This is the a core doctrine to our faith, without regeneration, we’re merely dead people going to church on Sunday morning after Sunday morning. John Piper, in his new book Finally Alive, tells us this about regeneration:
“The new birth…is not a work of man. No human makes the new birth happen. No preacher and no writer can make it happen. You can’t make it happen to yourself. God makes it happen. It happens to us, not by us…Until we realize that we must be born again, and why we must be born again, we probably will not realize what our condition really is without salvation.” – p. 18, 20
Paul tells us in Romans 2 that there is no external sign that can make us right with God, rather, it is the internal act of the Spirit that has changed our hearts to desire Him and do His will. Romans 2 also shows us the way of two paths, one of calamity and one of glory. These paths, described by Jesus as the narrow and wide gate and as the way of light and the way of darkness by the early church, reveal to us the only options available to us in this world. Let’s take a look at what life is like on each path.
Scenario #1: What does it look like when we follow our own path?
“There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil-for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.” – Romans 2.9 (NLT)
Scripture clearly states that the way of the ungodly leads to destruction. Period. Let’s look at this practically, here’s whats at stake for those who go their own way. You will lose…
- community – the opportunity to be surrounded by people who care about you, rather than people who just want to use you
- purpose – if we are made to give God glory, and we go away from God, then our purpose in life disappears
- identity – similar to purpose but when we cease to know who we are as God’s creation if we turn to find our identity in anything else
- fulfillment – similar to identity but because we no longer have God, then our heart is empty and needs to be filled with something; something temporary and oftentimes destructive
- joy – similar to fulfillment in the fact that God filling us provides the most joy despite the circumstances of our life. If we go the other way, those circumstances will kill any joy we may receive from this life
- real friends – similar to community but real friends in Christ will want the best for you, will call you out when your wrong and help you do what is right, rather than use you to get what they need out of life
It is a guarantee. When we choose to go our own way, the path will lead to calamity and trouble. There is no way around it! How does this happen? Listen to what Paul says, “But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2.5 NLT). Being stubborn about the sin in your life, unwilling to turn from it, will set you on that path away from God. This can’t be our attitude! Recognize the sin in your life, deal with it, trust in God’s grace, turn to Jesus and follow Him. It may be easier said than done, but it’s easier done when we drop the stubbornness and recognize the sovereignty of God. This lonely path carved by our own desires leads to misery and ruin. Always. Guaranteed. So this is the bleak outlook available to those who choose their own path. Sounds great, doesn’t it? What does God’s desired path for us look like?
Scenario #2: What does it look like when we choose to follow God?
“He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers … there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good – for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.” – Romans 2.7,10 (NLT)
Scripture clearly states that the way of the righteous leads to eternal life. Let’s look at this practically, here’s what we gain along the path of the righteous. You will gain…
community – the opportunity to be surrounded by people who care about you, who want to build you up and see you succeed
purpose – if we are made to give God glory, and we stay on His path, then we will know and have confidence of our purpose in this life
identity – similar to purpose but when we recognize that we are God’s creation, then our identity is in Him rather than in the created things in this world
fulfillment – similar to identity but when we continue on the narrow path, then we are perpetually being fulfilled by His goodness, even in the midst of trial
joy – similar to fulfillment in the fact that God filling us provides the most joy despite the circumstances of our life. If we continue on the path, we continue to experience God’s faithfulness and consistently find increasing amounts of joy
real friends – similar to community but real friends in Christ will want the best for you, will call you out when your wrong and help you do what is right. They will love you above their own interests and challenge you to grow deep
Yes life is not perfect. Yes, people, even faithful Christian friends, will make mistakes and let us down. But that’s the beauty of being on the narrow path! It’s a team effort. We build each other up as we strive for holiness in the pursuit of giving God glory. It’s such a beautiful picture that this world cannot compare to. There is a path of darkness, and a path of light. Yes, I know it sounds rather Star Wars-ish, but this is the truth. There is no middle ground. Jesus tells us that we are either on the path that enters into the narrow gate, or on the path that goes through the wide gate of death (Matthew 7.13-14). Which one are you on? How do you know? The real question here is, do you have a new heart that draws you to the narrow path? Has God regenerated your heart and life to desire Him and the path He calls His people to.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” – Titus 3.4-6 (ESV)
Without a new heart, the true circumcision, then everything I have said here is just empty words. You’re either extremely put off at everything I said, or at best, you will take it and try to make your life of sin a little cleaner looking on the outside. Adding religion and good principles to a dead life is not going to make a darn bit of difference. You will just be a zombie with some good ideas. We must have a new heart, gifted by the grace of God, to do His will and love His Word! If you don’t have that heart, I pray you are stirred to reflect upon your life and pray for that regeneration. Look inside and analyze the fruit in your life. If there is no new heart, then nothing else matters! Please hear me on this. Baptism, bible reading, church attendance and Sunday school teaching is not the mark of a believer. It is a new heart that desires God, loves Christ, and longs to follow the Holy Spirit and from that new heart you will desire to do all those things and then more. Take care and have a great week in the Lord!
Peace in Him,