It has been said that by the time a person reaches the age of eighteen, the foundation for their personality has been fully formed. And by their thirtieth birthday, there is little to no deviate from that persons basic personality traits. An individual’s temperament, their likes and dislikes, view points on how the world operates have fully been formulated and integrated by adulthood. The older we get, the more set in our ways become. Change becomes more difficult, and to some, down right terrifying. This fact alone is what makes salvation in Christ so amazing.
When a person comes to truly know the Lord Jesus, (and more than that, Jesus knows them) a radical change takes place. The scales of the old person that have been ingrained for years begin to supernaturally fall off, as a nature that had formerly been foreign to us overtake our soul.
You see, a man cannot change who he is by his own will. The great Puritan writer John Bunyan described this best in his infamous literary work, Pilgrims Progress. Bunyan wrote that an empty room is like a man’s heart. And the great amounts of dust on the floor of that room represent a man’s sin. The dusty floor is our hearts without Christ. The man can attempt to sweep the room with all his might, trying to clean it up on his own. But the dust, or sin, is merely stirred up, and in time will settle back down upon the floor. But the servant who brings clean water to the man’s room cleanses the filthy floor by washing the dust that the man could not get rid of himself permanently. The servant with the water is representative of Christ.
That is what makes the gospel of Christ such a supernatural work. Because it is not something we can do ourselves. We dont have the power to clean ourselves up from our black stains of sin. Sure, we may try at times, but outside of the atoning work of Christ on the cross and our faith being placed in Him, its only a matter of time before the sins we tried to sweep away settle back onto the floor of our hearts. We do not have access to the living water that washes away sins unless we are in relationship with the Messiah who came as our servant, ever ready to cleanse the dust of sin that we could not.
In the book of Ezekiel, the Lord tells of the supernatural work that He is going to do in the sinful nation of Israel, whom is at that time profaning his Holy name.
“I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.” Ezekiel 36:23.
The Lord God says that he is going to show the Holiness of his great name by doing something great that even the surrounding, pagan nations will look at the nation of Israel and marvel at the supernatural work that was done before their eyes. What will be done? Will God call-fire down from the sky or make the rivers run with blood? To accomplish this, the Lord does something even more amazing. The Lord does something that even the unbelieving nations cannot explain.
God takes the nation of Israel, who were known among other nations to be an evil, rebellious nation….and he will completely change their hearts. God will clean the floor that they could not. Look at the verse that follow and see how God describes this process of completely changing the heart of the nation of Israel.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:25-27.
Notice God doesnt say, “Ill sprinkle clean water, and I will pray that you stay clean.” The Lord says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you WILL be clean.” And God doesnt say, “I will put my Spirit in you, and hopefully it will change you enough so that you will follow in my ways.” That would make God appear weak and at the mercy of our will! God declares as an emphatic, concrete, absolute statement, “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” There is no wiggle room for maybe being changed. God says if he cleanses you, you WILL be changed! Because the old sin nature has been discarded and you no longer are the same, but now possess the righteous nature of another in the person and work of Christ.
If a person is not changed with a new nature, then as CS Lewis once said, it is highly probable that the salvation in which they boast is imaginary. Because as we see in Ezekiel, when the Lord saves a man, he rips out the old heart of stone and replaces it with a Heavenly heart of flesh. One that is sensitive to the will of the Father, and keenly aware at the rustling of approaching sin. This is without a doubt, a work that no man can accomplish. Although William Jensen Reynolds meant well when he penned the hymn ‘I Have Decided To Follow Jesus‘, he was theologically incorrect. God doesnt wait for mans invitation. The nation of Israel was not in search of salvation and satisfied to live in their sins. But God himself made the sovereign decision to change them. Because again, man cannot change himself.
“…there is no one who understand, there is no one who seeks God.” Romans 3:11.
No one seeks God without the drawing of the Holy Spirit. Because to seek God is no more in the nature of a man than flying is in the nature of a dog. That is why salvation is a supernatural work of God in man.
Yesterday I wrote on the change that must take place within a person in order to truly be saved. In the beginnings of Colossians chapter 3, the apostle Paul in great detail describes things that we must ‘put to death’ in order to change. It is to be a literally taking off of the old nature, so that the new nature may be put on in its exchange. But Paul goes further after he lists the vices that we must strip ourselves of for the glory of Christ. Paul rounds out his instruction with what must be now put on.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14.
Right away, we are again made aware that it was not our choice nor our doing in the process of changing our hearts. Those that are His are ‘God’s chosen people.‘ Here is the reason that I want this reality to be grasped. Because when we begin to realize that it was God who saved us from the sin that filled our hearts rather than of our own doing, gratitude and thankfulness and brokenness before the foot of the cross start to flood our very soul.
The prince of preachers Charles Haddon Spurgeon opened an orphanage in the mid to late 1800’s for boys. During this time, it was not uncommon for children to be cast out of families due to financial troubles, and to see these children living by themselves on the streets. Eating garbage, and sleeping in slums. These children had no future to look forward to. Many of them fell into a life of crime due to never knowing any different circumstances in their lives. But Spurgeon opened this orphanage and took a great many of them off the street, sometimes even against their own wishes. But in time, many of these boys grew into respectable young men under the influence of Spurgeon. And through this preaching, a great many more professed faith in Christ and went on to become exceptional preachers as well. Spurgeon did not wait for these children to invite him into their lives. He knew that they were lost and without a future. So he waited not for them, because they would have never come to him. He acted first out of love that he first had for them.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.
As the old sin nature of such things as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk are cast aside through the God ordained process of regeneration. As a result, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are God-given fruits of a heart of flesh that take the place of the old personality traits. All of these being characteristics of Jesus. Because just as an earthly father passes on personality traits to his son, so it is when our Heavenly Father adopts a child into his family. Thus, upon Jesus taking away our sins, we in exchange take on the righteousness of our new Father in Christ.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Paul goes on to mention that we are to put on a forgiving nature. This is something that is a huge struggle in the flesh. We as a people hold grudges. And even when we say we forgive, we at times find it hard not to gossip behind our offender’s back. But again, when we put the death sentence of sin into perspective, and realize that it was us who should have hung on that cross, we see that Christ forgave the unforgivable sins of humanity to the point of death. How dare we even contemplate harboring unforgiveness towards, or gossiping about a person, when we have committed far worse crimes against the creator of the universe! How can we be so bold as to cast judgement upon others when we deserve divine judgement! As one of my favorite Casting Crowns songs says, “Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers.”
And above all, Paul says that in Christ, we are to take on the nature of love. Our world today has no clue what love is outside of Christ. Secular society associates love with tingly feelings and sex. That is why it apparently is so easy for our culture to profess love at the wedding altar and then claim to fall out of love when we dont get what we want.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
The implication of this verse could not be any clearer. If someone does not know Jesus…truly know him as Lord of their lives, then they cannot love or even know what love is. Our world does not know love. It is driven by selfish lusts and personal wants. And God will not bless this. In fact, His Holy wrath abides on these actions. In Romans chapter 1, Paul writes that the Lord gave people up to the lusts of their flesh. He gave them up to sexual immorality and a depraved mind. It was the Lord’s way of saying that if they wanted a life separated from God, then they could have it, and He would see them on judgement day. Gods passive wrath. In our world today, we see sexual immorality running rampant, and people with depraved minds committing the most heinous acts against other people and even the unborn. Our country is not under God’s blessing right now. Read Romans 1, and then turn on the news. You will have a hard time denying that we are now under God’s passive wrath as a nation.
So now is the time we pray for God to reenact his supernatural work of regeneration upon our nation. Just as God supernaturally changed the hearts of the nation of Israel, we need to be on our faces daily praying for revival. But it starts with you. Have your heart been broken to the point of knowing that you can’t save yourself? Have you cried out to God and feverantly asked for him to give you a new nature? What does the floor of your heart look like? You cant disperse the sinful dust, you can only displace it. But Jesus makes all things new. He changes hearts of stone to that of flesh. We cannot cling to our own works, but only to Christ crucified.
“Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.” -Augustus M. Toplady