Charles Revis, Executive Minister
On January 25th Karen and I welcomed our first grandchild into the world. There’s little doubt Colton Charles Siegfried is the cutest baby on the planet. Hah! Karen had predicted he would arrive on her birthday, and she was right. Colton’s arrival was a super nice birthday gift! Good timing, Colton. Now that I’ve entered that wonderful realm of “grandfatherhood” I’m finding it’s every thing that other grandfathers told me it would be.
Colton’s birth took me back to that day when his mother, Jen, our oldest, was born. Those were the days of natural birth and Lamaze and so I was there in the birthing room when Jen was born. And in that miraculous moment my life changed. As I witnessed Jen’s birth I realized that a child’s birth is perhaps the most common of miracles but no less wondrous for its commonality. That God creates physical beings infused with a soul and that He desires relationship with each one simply boggles the mind.
Later as I held Jen in my arms my beautiful little infant girl captured my heart. Speaking of miracles it’s a minor miracle that I ever let her leave home! I can only give thanks to God, the most amazing Creator of Life, for Jen’s life, then later my son’s life, their spouses’ and now the life of my grandson. The Author of Life, our God, is a prodigious life giver with all of its attendant blessings.
Colton’s birth has caused me to reflect anew on the miracle of New Life, that is, the second birth that comes when we cross the line of faith in response to Jesus’ call. Certain well-known, almost too familiar, Scriptures come to mind.
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10
“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” John 3:3, 7
Evangelical Christianity, as Bernard Ramm, used to say, is that particular form of Christianity that believes in the power of the Gospel to transform lives and bring dead people to life. At the core of the evangelical hope is the promise of God’s power to change lives. Jesus is all about imparting new life to the walking dead.
In the midst of our crazy culture I wonder if we Christ-followers have lost faith in the life changing power of Christ. We witness drug-addled individuals who seem forever ensnared by their addictions. High profile ministers, who claim to be born again, engage in immorality and destroy lives and churches. Within the church modern day Euodias & Syntiches square off against one other refusing to work out their differences (Phil 4:2). The negative transformation of an “innocent Hannah Montana” into the tongue wagging, twerking Miley Cyrus is so predictable that we just roll our eyes at the banality of yet another young adult headed towards self-destruction. (Original sin acted out can be so unoriginal.) We wonder if every young person is destined to follow suit. Our fallen culture seems to suck everyone into its vortex of brokenness. We can be fooled into believing that nothing can prevent the downward spiral of our culture, humanity and even the church.
No wonder some churches throw in the towel, hunker down and attend only to their internal concerns. They operate with the unspoken assumption that “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.” Having lost hope that people can change they no longer preach, teach or minister with an expectation that Christ transform lives. Such capitulation to the spirit of the age caused A.W. Tozer to comment, “Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people.” As we abandon belief in the life-transforming power of Christ we move towards a quasi-spiritual religiosity that accommodates humanity’s brokenness and accepts sin as normative.
For the church, one of the worst temptations is to give into the belief that nothing will change because people cannot be changed. Technically, Scripture is clear that we are helpless to change ourselves. Granted. That is why we desperately need God’s regenerative power. God is fully capable of transforming people into new creations (2 Cor 5:17). As evangelical Christians we believe the Holy Spirit does this in us as a part of coming to faith, repenting of our sin and receiving salvation. In Christ there is always the hope of New Life. This is an essential component of the Gospel and we must not abandon it. Our witness and ministry should never despair of this essential truth. To the contrary renewing our expectation that Jesus will transform lives (maybe this Sunday!) can radically shift the focus of ministry and re-energize our ministry efforts.
Just this week I heard that the elders at Cle Elum Community Church decided to fill their baptistery one Sunday out of each month in 2014. They will announce the date, fill the baptistery, even if no one has yet indicated an intention to be baptized. Amazingly, the idea wasn’t the pastor’s! Now, that’s faith! These leaders believe that in the coming months their ministries will lead to transformed lives, and thus, regular baptisms! I believe God will honor their faith.
N.T. Wright wrote, “As a newborn baby breathes and cries, so the signs of life in a newborn Christian are faith and repentance, inhaling the love of God and exhaling an initial cry of distress. And at that point what God provides, exactly as for a newborn infant, is the comfort, protection, and nurturing promise of a mother.”
I would add that an important component in this nurturing promise from God is the promise of new life, of a changed heart, of a radical course correction that comes when Jesus becomes the new power in our lives as well as the new compass that directs our paths. Oh that the primary aim and expectation of all of our preaching, prayers and programs would be so. What a difference it would make in every church if we simply believed that Jesus gives new life to all who die to their old life with the expectation of becoming a new creation in Him.