Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Finally Alive!

John Piper's recent title Finally Alive [Christian Focus Publications in UK] is excellent on what it means to be born again - that strange term oft misunderstood, and abused as a socio-political referent! I was partway through reading it when someone said to me in an unrelated conversation, "After all, Jesus gave grounds for belief in reincarnation - he said you must be born again." Piper goes through John 3 and also most of 1 John, and other passages, to show what Jesus meant by being born again, and how vitally necessary it is. It won't do to not be one of those "born again" types. Otherwise, we're dead, unable to do anything for ourselves before God because we refuse to see Christ in His beauty and authority, and seek after other things which kill, steal and destroy. He has come that we may have life! I wouldn't say it's an easy read - not a tract to hand a friend, but someone who is prepared to apply themselves to understanding it. But he does a great job of showing the importance of being born again, what it is, what God does and what we must do.


RobHu said...

I read this about a month ago because I am unsure how to consider my earlier "Christian" life. If I followed Christ before then became an *atheist*, can I really consider my earlier conversion to be a real one? This is a matter of some concern not just for theoretical reasons but also because it calls in to question my current state as well.

I found the book slightly confusing, but I think that's largely because there's something about Piper's writing that I personally find hard to understand. Nevertheless I got the impression (which I can't back up as someone else has my copy and I don't have the time to find it in the PDF (assuming there is one)) that Piper doesn't think I really was a Christian previously, but IIRC when he refers to the marks of a true Christian I am left feeling that my current and former days are both marked by those things.

Perhaps (as you've just read it and have more theological insight than me!) you can provide some clarity?

étrangère said...

Rob I think that what matters is that although you hardened your heart for a time, the Holy Spirit has again given you life to see the beauty, truth and authority of Christ and to trust Him. In a way, I'm not sure you need to know what your state was at any given time - we look to ourselves at any time and see evidence that we need the righteousness of Christ, and if by God's grace we see that, we don't stay to analyse, but look to Him. And we don't trust to an experience we had (of conversion, commitment, renewal, etc.) - whether it was first, or 2nd, or now. What matters is not how much your past experience was genuine, but whether Christ is trustworthy. We do need to take care now lest our hearts be hardened by sin's deceitfulness and hold Christ in contempt. So take it as a warning of sin's deceitfulness, how easily our hearts go after other things and don't take God at His word. Take it as a reminder to hold fast to Christ with every means He gives us.

And I wouldn't say that the book was 100% easy to follow!

RobHu said...

Thanks for that, étrangère. I will add your comments to the soup of my thoughts on this subject :-)

In my own similar way a few months ago I came to the conclusion that the genuineness of my past experience was not what mattered, although I came at it from a different angle.

A few months after recomitting my life to Christ I found myself constantly struggling with a sin that led me to wonder how I could really be a Christian and yet act as I was (let's leave aside whether that's a reasonable thing to think for the moment). I spent a lot of time stressing about whether I was really born again or not, and (much like now) I couldn't come to a conclusion that satisisfied me.

Then I realised that actually what was far more important than my personal state was whether God was glorified - in my life - and in the world, and whether I wanted to follow Christ or not. I definitely did want to follow Christ, and I wanted Him to be glorified.

In a sense that lifted me from thinking about myself as I realised that Christ's glorification is more important that my personal state, but it also made me realise that only someone whose heart were softened by the Holy Spirit would want to put God before their own self interests.

So in an odd way it came as a comfort.

étrangère said...

Amen - only the heart softened by the Spirit of Christ truly loves Christ and is concerned for His priority in life. :)