What It Means To Be A Christian # 7
What Happens When We Become Christians?
That brings us to a very practical point in approaching this question: What exactly happens when we become Christians? There are two fragments of New Testament Scripture which I think sum this up for us very concisely and very fully. The one is that statement, so familiar and yet so little understood even by Christians, the statement made to the man to whom I referred just now, who came with his big question - his multiple "How ...?" Jesus simply looked at him, and did not try to answer his question at all, because He knew how hopeless a thing it is to talk to a dead man. He looked at him, and said: "Ye must be born anew," or "Ye must be born from above" (John 3:7). The other passage, from one of Paul's letters, is also very well known: "Wherefore if any man is in Christ, there is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Those two words sum up what happens: "born anew", "a new creation."
I said I would keep off negative ground and on positive, but let me say here in parenthesis that it is NOT becoming a Christian just to accept, or give a mental assent to, the tenets of the Christian religion, or to join some society which has the name of being a Christian institution, even though it may go by the name of 'church.' That is NOT becoming a Christian in the New Testament sense. The only true 'becoming a Christian' is by way of being born anew, becoming a new creation: which means you become a different species from what you were before, and from what all other people are who have not had that experience.
But when we so become Christians, what happens? Our state of death gives place to a state of life. This other life, this resurrection life, which no man by nature has ever yet had, excepting Jesus Christ; this life - which we will not even refer to in the New Testament terminology - is given in the day of our faith-exercise toward the Lord Jesus as Lord and Saviour. A new aliveness takes place. It is the first wonderful basic experience of the Christian. The Christian at that time leaps into life: he immediately begins to talk a new language about now knowing what it is to live, knowing the meaning of life, and so on. What happens when we become Christians? Well, we are alive from the dead! We become alive.
But it is not just the resuscitation of something. It is the impartation of what was never there before - a new life, belonging to a new creation: that is, a new order, which is a heavenly order. For this is birth "from above." Jesus never said a truer thing than that. "Ye must be born again." If there is someone reading these lines who has not had that experience, you know, after what we have said about the natural condition, that, if you are going to see God and hear God and feel and sense God, in the way of which we have spoken, something has got to happen to you which is as radical as being born all over again in another realm. Jesus is right at any rate on that, is He not? It is true. "You must ..." - it is not just an imperative of command, it is not just a declaration that you have got to become a Christian to be accepted with God. It is the statement of a fundamental and inescapable fact: that you can never, never know God in a real way,far less have living fellowship with God, until something has happened in you that is absolutely constitutional. You have got to have a new life, which, is God's own life, to enable you to understand what God is, to know Him.
(b) A New Consciousness of God
This new life immediately introduces a new consciousness of God. Immediately you are alive to God - you sense God. God becomes a reality, a living reality: no longer remote, far off, indefinite, but now very dear, very real, very wonderful, indeed the greatest reality in your whole life. You know God in a new way, you have a new consciousness of God.
(c) A New Consciousness of the Meaning of Our Existence
And then you find you have a new consciousness of the meaning of your own existence. Every Christian who is truly founded upon this basis of beginning, of resurrection, almost immediately leaps into this consciousness: 'Now I have got the explanation of life, I have got the key to life. I know that I was born for something! I never before knew that I was really born for something, but I know now. There is a sense of meaning in my being here, and of destiny, wrapped up with this new experience. It gives an explanation to my own life.' Is that not true, Christians? It is - it is just like that. 'Now we know why we are here!'
(d) A New Consciousness of Purpose and Vocation
And to carry that one step further - it is a new consciousness of purpose and vocation. It is not only that there is a meaning in our being alive, but that a purpose has come in with this new life, a sense of vocation. We are called for something. You do not have to have a lot of instruction about that. You do not even have to wait for it. The truly born again child of God spontaneously, instinctively, begins to talk to other people about it. You can test your Christian life by that. You just must tell them, you must talk about it, you must let them know. That is vocation coming out. You feel you are called for something, that there is business on hand. And that can develop, as we know, to specific vocations. But this consciousness of purpose, meaning and vocation springs up with new life.
(e) A New Set of Relationships, Interests, and Desires
And then we find we have a new set of relationships, of interests, of desires. We know that; it happens. It is no use talking to anybody who has not had the experience about these things. They have their relationships, their interests, their desires, and they just despise you for not doing what they do and going where they go and engaging in the things which are everything to them. They do not understand you. They think you have missed the way, that you have lost everything that is worth having. But you know quite well that it is just the other way round. You do not despise them, but you pity them, are sorry for them. This is a transcendent, superlative set of relationships. Christians know the meaning of a little phrase that was used about some early servants of God who were arrested because they were doing this very thing - fulfilling, expressing, the sense of vocation, and not keeping it in and keeping it to themselves. They were arrested and brought before the authorities and threatened. 'And being let go, they went to their own company' - instinctively to their own company' (Acts 4:23). We know what that means. There is a new "company" - a new relationship, a new fellowship, a new set of desires and interests. No one else can understand or appreciate it, but the Christian knows.
(continued with # 8)