Our decision to follow Christ is important. Duh! 😒 Of course, it is. But making that decision is not the thing that changes us. Because, frankly, we can always change our mind. As a matter of fact, many people decide to follow Christ and then later decide not to. It is not a new thing. Paul wrote to Timothy about this very issue. He mentions those who “have wandered away,”1 and others who “have made shipwreck of their faith.”2 In the same letter he warns Timothy that “some will depart from the faith”3 and that “some have already strayed after Satan.”4 He notes that “some have wandered away from the faith”5 because of the love of money. And then he ends his letter by telling Timothy not to be influenced by those who “have swerved from the faith.”6 Jesus saw it happen among his own followers! After teaching a difficult lesson on being the bread of life “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”7🙁 His own disciples!
All of these people eventually decided that following Jesus was just not for them. They decided they did not agree with what Jesus was saying or had simply lost interested in it. So, they quit. Deciding to follow Jesus is not the same as giving our lives to him. Oh, don’t get me wrong—it’s a good decision . . . to follow Jesus. But so is deciding to lose weight or deciding to learn a trade or deciding to go to college or deciding to pay off debt. It is good to decide to go to church and read the Bible—good decisions all! But they are simply decisions. Choices. Options. Preferences. Sometimes even whims. I believe that those who decide not to follow Jesus after a season of following him—those who have “wandered away”—perhaps were never “born again”8 as Jesus told Nicodemus he must be if he wanted to “see the kingdom of God.”9
The phrase “born again” sounds a bit outdated, doesn’t it? 😒 And a little old-fashioned maybe. It fits in better with the tent revivals of the 1940s through the 1960s. But it is the most accurate description for someone who has had a genuine spiritual awakening with God. Which is why, of course, Jesus used it in his conversation with Nicodemus! Who, by the way, was baffled with the idea and responded by asking, “How can these things be?”10
It’s a good question. It is almost indescribable what happens to us when we are “born again.” It is not only a mental decision—it is an act of submission and repentance, a change in our will to not live for ourselves, admitting that we need God’s help to live in the way we want to live and were created to live! It is a starting over, not just giving our hearts to Jesus (which, by the way, Jesus never asked us to do!), but it is yielding control of our lives to God. Once we do that, the Spirit of Christ himself begins to live in us. Then as we grow in the knowledge of Christ, we “become partakers of the divine nature.”11 His nature is lived out in our bodies—which is why Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”12 It really is like we have been “born again!” 😀
Peter gives us a list of some of the qualities of Christ that we begin to exhibit in our own nature after this “born again” experience. They include virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.13 Those of us who have been “born again,” rarely go back to our old way of living because that way of living is no longer desirable.
And so. I implore you: Follow Christ. Make that decision. But more importantly, “Be born again.”8
11 Timothy 1:6 21 Timothy 1:19 31 Timothy 4:1 41 Timothy 5:15 51 Timothy 6:10 61 Timothy 6:21 7John 6:66 8John 3:7 9John 3:3 10John 3:9 111 Peter 1:4 12Galatians 2:20 131 Peter 1:5-7