It was 23 years ago today that I was born again. Literally, I was “born from above.” This is what is known as the new birth—the life of God entering into the soul of man. Spiritually, I was dead in my trespasses and sins; and transformed to a newness of life in Jesus Christ. God gave me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and a new heart to believe His glorious gospel. Amazing grace, indeed.
This occurred back in 1993 while working in a New York radio station. A disc jockey named Barbara had quickly earned the reputation as our resident “Jesus freak.” I can remember being warned by co-workers not to engage her in truth-seeking debates. That only encouraged me to do so.
As I share this—I am so grateful that she politely and firmly challenged me in our conversations. Barbara never backed away from the terse words I had become so accustomed to delivering as insults. They were defense mechanisms that I would throw out as half-truths about the Bible, presenting them as whole truths. But she wouldn’t let me get away with that. Instead, I was challenged to look up the real answers for myself.
For example, I love history and was astounded to learn that the Bible was not translated by “a bunch of old men” (as I had asserted), but rather it has more manuscript evidence than any of the classical works I was required to read in school! Homer’s Iilad and Plato’s Tetralogies aren’t even in the same ball park when compared with the number of New Testament manuscripts.
Another I had learned, from an evidential perspective, deals with the apostle Peter and the death sentence he received for sharing the gospel. Tradition tells us that Peter, before being crucified, was forced to watch the crucifixion of his wife. Fourth-century church historian Eusebius wrote, “he stood at the foot of his wife’s cross and kept repeating to her, “Remember the Lord, remember the Lord.” And after she had died, he himself was crucified and pleaded to be crucified upside down because he was unworthy to die like his Lord” (cf. John 21:18).
Once my eyes, ears, and heart had been opened to the Truth, I had come to realize that the Bible is the Word of God. Its own claims of veracity and infallibility, as well as centuries of evidence, reject any and all claims that it is false. The God who inspired the Bible preserved it. Jesus said, “My words shall not pass away,” (Matt. 24:35). Part of the fulfillment of that prophecy is in His keeping the manuscripts accurate over these many years. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever” (Isa 40:8).
And so it was in that radio station during a commercial break that I placed my faith in Christ alone. Jesus is Who He said He is: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).
A book that has helped me over the years to savor the transforming power of the Savior is Milton Vincent’s A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love. I pull this off of the bookshelf each spiritual birthday to be reminded of the need to preach the gospel to myself every day. Too often, I take for granted His unrelenting grace towards me.
Below is an excerpt of what I have received from God. In this passage Vincent recalls for us what it means to be “saved.”
Now when my time came and I placed my faith in Jesus, God instantly granted me a great salvation (Rom 10:9-10). He forgave me of all of my sins, past, present, and future (Col 2:13). He made me His child, adopting me into His family (Eph 1:5; John 1:12). He gave me the gift of the Holy Spirit, who gives me God’s power (Acts 1:8, Eph 3:16), who pours out God’s love within my heart (Eph 1:13-14; Rom 5:5), and who tenderly communicates to my spirit that I am a child of God and an heir of eternal glory in heaven (Rom 8:16-17).
In saving me, God also freed me from slavery to any and all sins (Rom 6:6-7, 14). I no longer have to sin again, for sin’s mastery over me has been broken (Rom 6:14)! In saving me, God also justified me (Rom 5:1), and being justified through Christ, I have a peace with God that will endure forever. In justifying me God declared me innocent of my sins and pronounced me righteous with the very righteousness of Jesus (Rom 5:18). God also allowed His future and present wrath against me to be completely propitiated by Jesus, who bore it upon Himself while on the cross (1 John 2:2). Consequently, God now has only love, compassion, and deepest affection for me, and this love is without any mixing in of wrath whatsoever. God always looks upon me and treats me with gracious favor, always working all things together for my ultimate and eternal good (Rom 8:28). God’s grace abounds to me even through trials (2 Cor 9:8). Because I am a justified one, He subjugates every trial and forces it to do good unto me (Rom 5:1-5). When I sin, God’s grace abounds to me all the more as He graciously maintains my justified status as described above (Rom 5:20-21).
When I sin, God feels no wrath in His heart against me (1 Thess 5:9-10; 1 John 2:2). His heart is filled with nothing but love for me, and He longs for me to repent and confess my sins to Him, so that He might show me the gracious and forgiving love that has been in His heart all along (1 John 1:9). God does not require my confession before He desires to forgive me. In His heart He already has forgiven me; and when I come to Him to confess my sins to Him, He runs to me (as it were) and is repeatedly embracing and kissing me even before I get the words of my confession out of my mouth (Luke 15:20-24)!
God does see my sins, and He is grieved by my sins (Eph 4:30). His grief comes partly from the fact that in my moments of sin, I am not receiving the fullness of His love for me. He even sends chastisement into my life (Heb 12:7-9); but He does so because He is for me (Rom 8:31), and He loves me (Heb 12:6); and He disciplines me for my ultimate good (Heb 12:10). I don’t deserve any of this, even on my best day; but this is my salvation, and herein I stand (1 Pet 5:12; 1 Cor 16:13; Col 1:23).
Thank You, Jesus.
1 Vincent, Milton. A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love. (Bemidji: Focus Publishing, 2008). 61-65.