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Spiritual Birth and Growth

2 Cor. 5:17-21 Whoever is united with Christ is a new creation; the original has passed away and become something completely new! Yet it all comes from God, the one who reconciled us to himself by means of Christ and commissioned us to this service. God reconciled the world to himself through Christ, not holding their sins against them, and gave us the message of reconciliation. That means we are Christ’s representatives and God pleads through us. So, on behalf of Christ, we plead with you to be reconciled to God! For this one who knew no sin was made to be Sin for our sakes, so that because of him we can become right with God.

That’s the gospel, the message of salvation, the way to heaven: Be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus by faith is the only way that can happen. To put faith in someone is to have a deep conviction about them, to trust them. Merely saying the words, I believe Jesus is God who died for us and rose again isn’t the same as a personal conviction. We don’t just believe about him, we believe in him, to be reconciled to God. Once we have the personal conviction that Jesus is God who died and rose again to reconcile us, we are guaranteed to be with Jesus after this life, and there is no other requirement, no hidden fine print, no organization to join:

2 Cor. 5:5 Yet the same God who put this longing inside of us also gave us the Spirit as a down payment.

Eph. 1:13-14 Likewise for you who heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. You believed and were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment that guarantees our inheritance. Praise and honor to him!

Eph. 2:8-9 Because of God’s favor you have been saved through faith. This is all a gift of God, not something you did, so nobody can brag.

Rom. 4:4-5 A worker’s wages are not considered a gift but a debt. In contrast, the one cleared of all charges is the one who does not work but rather trusts in the One who justifies the ungodly.

A gift can only be accepted or rejected, never earned. So the gift of salvation can only be obtained by humble acceptance. That being the case, it can never be lost by failure to do enough good deeds. Please see the list at the end of this source for all the things that happen the moment we’re saved, all of which would have to be undone in order for salvation to be taken away.

Salvation is like adoption. We were all born into this orphanage and God offers to make us his legal heirs, with the promise of taking us to live in his fabulous mansion. Yet adoption is more than a change of address; it’s a change of relationship. God wants us to accept him, not just his house or possessions, and be part of his family. This offer can’t be given by force, trickery, fear, or deception, and it can’t be lost or given away.


Birth is not the end but the beginning. A baby who never grows has a serious problem but is born nonetheless. Yet this isn’t a license to sin:

Rom. 6:1-4 What should we conclude from that: that we should keep on sinning so that God’s favor will keep increasing? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Ridiculous! You don’t seem to understand that those who are immersed into Christ Jesus are immersed into his death. And just as we were buried together with him through immersion into his death, so also, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the favor of the Father, we will keep pace with him in a new life.

We wouldn’t dream of living a life that angers or insults a person we claim to have reconciled with, so neither should we do this to God. This isn’t about meeting some minimal requirement to buy our way into eternal happiness, but an honest desire to be reconciled to God; it’s all about the relationship. We have this guarantee of eternal happiness because of the love of God for all the world (John 3:16), so love is the essence of that relationship. Naturally, the next thing to do is to find out more about God, to know what pleases him and what does not. That means studying the Bible and getting instruction from the spiritually mature, who can be recognized by how well they model the life of Jesus and the disciples he chose to write the Bible.

Good deeds will follow from the truly transformed life. They can be faked by the lost, and the saved are certainly spiritually weak if they haven’t changed or have fallen back into a life of sin. But we are to focus on our own spiritual health, not on whether others meet our personal level of spirituality. Spiritual maturity is not a means to a high position of rule, but a low position of service, of being an example to others and slowly becoming like our Master and Savior. One very important factor in our spiritual growth is to spend time with other believers (Heb. 10:24-25). This is the only way we can use the spiritual gifts God gives each believer (1 Cor. 12:7), since their purpose is to help other believers and be helped in turn by them.

So again, even though the only requirement to be reconciled to God is faith in the risen Jesus, this spiritual rebirth is not the end but the beginning, the start of a new life. However, this doesn’t mean that an easy life awaits us. This life is a temporary testing ground, and the test is not always pleasant or easy while we’re taking it. Yet the reward is happiness for the rest of eternity. We live to please Jesus, in gratitude for salvation, to be his hands in this world.

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