“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3 (KJV)
Too many Christians have the wrong idea about conversion. They think God will just perfect their sinful natures as though he were remodeling a house: a little cleaning here, a little tinkering there. True conversion, however, isn’t renovation or remodeling. It’s demolition.
*** Expecting Jesus to add his holy nature to our sinful one is like attaching new cloth to an old garment or putting new wine in old wineskins (Matthew 9:16-17). Both will be ruined. Instead, the old garment must be replaced with a new one. Likewise, “new wine” must be put into “new wineskins” (9:17). Only then will they be preserved (9:17).
Thanks to Adam and Eve’s fall, everyone has a sinful nature (Romans 3:23, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 49). That nature produces sinful desires in the heart, which give birth to sin (James 1:15). Once the child called sin becomes an adult, it leads to death (1:15). This “old man” is destined for eternal death in hell because sin cannot enter heaven. Only the “new man” will live there eternally. If we want to live forever, then we must be born again by the Holy Spirit. Our sinful natures must die. This is true conversion. Anything else is a fraud.
Sadly, we don’t see that our sinful nature corrupts our thoughts, words, and actions – even the “good” ones (Isaiah 64:6). We don’t know that we’re misshapen in iniquity, ungodliness, evil, and everything unclean (Psalm 51:5). We don’t know that we’ve built the houses of our deceitful, wicked hearts on sand (Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 7:26). Clothed in respectability, we let fig leaves blind us to our spiritual nakedness (Genesis 3:7). So when Jesus Christ offers us salvation, we think he’s going to perfect our civilized selves. Wrong.
This spiritual blindness is the reason so few “respectable” or “civilized” people get saved. They don’t think they need to. The message of the cross, of Jesus dying for sinners, offends them. This is why many “nice” people turn away from God or transform the cross into something else. No wonder public sinners – rapists, prostitutes, homosexuals, drug addicts, murderers, thieves, etc – are more likely to heed the call of Jesus and repent! They see themselves as they really are.
If we could see ourselves as we really are, we would be disgusted. The beast lurking in our hearts would become visible and we would shrink back in horror (Ecclesiastes 3:18). Suddenly the holy, righteous perfection of Jesus Christ would outshine the sun. Only then would the message of the cross shine. “Jesus became a sinful beast like me? He died for me? He wants to replace my sinful nature with his holy one?” We would rejoice at salvation then. We would gladly accept the divine order of demolition. No longer would we clamor for respectability or decency. We would call such things the frauds that they are.
*** Most people – rich and poor, educated and illiterate, good and bad – never learn what they really are spiritually. They never discover the truth of their sinful nature and its eternal destiny in hell. Nor do they find its one remedy, the blood of Jesus Christ. Such people seek “salvation” in this life through education, fame, wealth, good deeds, and character reformation. But compared to the new nature God offers us, these things are like shifting sand. They won’t keep us out of hell either. Only through his grace can we see God as he really is and ourselves as we really are. And only through his mercy can we repent and be saved. May God open the eyes of our hearts.
When will the church rise up and preach both the sinful nature of mankind and the righteousness of Jesus Christ? When will she preach heaven, hell, and the glory of the cross? When will the church offer sinners the gospel of authentic conversion? A dying world is waiting.
*** Paragraph added 4/29/14