Transformation…

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“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Too often in the minds of many Christians, having the experience of being born again is it. Once they accept Jesus and proclaim Him as their Savior, they feel cleansed of their sins, they accept His forgiveness and are ready to move forward into life, a new person.
For many it stops right there and that is so sad because it should not stop there.

Being born again is just the beginning of a lifelong transformation.

Twenty-two years ago I had a born again experience. I have written about it before, the tearful admission of my sins, the cleansing experience and the hunger for God’s Word, the serious search for answers. All this happened in the midst of one of the worst chapters in my life, when I was so low that I had to have help. The despair was only relieved by God. Thank God, I asked Him for help instead of trying to work through my problems on my own. He helped and he sent legions of Christians to help and I eventually made it to a better place.

Was I cleaned up and ready to go?

No, I was not.

Some of the same serious sins I had committed before my confession I still committed. I also was very focused on myself. I remember a good friend explaining to me that after giving your life to Christ, life is all about choices. I recall examining my choices for the first time in my life, even small choices. “What was the best thing to do?” I would ask myself all day long.

Sadly, this process was all about me—self-centered. My examination was pretty self-centered.

Mark Labberton’s book* calls all of us to a much more other-centered Christian life. “We live in a world where the human heart is bent in on itself; external, public and systemic structures must be brought in service of the most vulnerable.” When I found Jesus, I could not see further than the nose on my face.

Labberton calls us out and says that in our “complicated world of profound injustice, the crisis of the human heart is crucial to social transformation. Changing our world depends on changing our hearts, how we perceive, name and act in the world” [Labberton, 23].

It is not an overnight phenomenon. It takes time to become more tuned into the needs of others, especially those who have much less than we do, you know the people we don’t run around with in our little social clique. To be honest, if we are leading a self-centered life, we don’t notice others much; we are too concerned about ourselves. We need to name others who have needs and if we don’t perceive them, we certainly don’t name them. Last but not least, we need to act. We need to engage others and offer assistance, assistance that fulfills some of their needs. That is a true commitment.

It is all about loving the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and strength and all your mind and this extends to loving your neighbor as yourself.

It is the difference between the private Christian life and the public Christian life for many of us. I believe that God wants us to be consistent in our approach to life. God tells us to be of assistance to those who suffer; therefore we should offer assistance to those who suffer. “The human heart that must be made new so that the world might be made new. People suffer daily around the world because human hearts are unchanged. The practical and tragic consequences continue endlessly [Labberton, 24].

Truly the change of heart is dramatic; when one is born again, the world begins to take on a very different perspective. If we are working to make the change, we may actually impede the process of transformation. If we allow God to do the work, eventually God will make a comprehensive change. You see, the “underneath systems and structures, laws and habits” must change. This is a personal transformation that occurs over time and it is reflected in the choices we make. We discover our vocation in the needs of others, rather than our own personal needs.

Labberton says that real transformation is possible and “The litmus test is not how we respond to those who love us, but how we respond to the poor and needy and, even beyond that, to our enemies” [ 25].

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Verily, verily allow God to change your heart, to make you into a person who meets the needs of the less fortunate, to perceive the needy, name the needy and act to help the needy.

*The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor

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