Three signs of being born again
Today’s post is adapted from A Christmas Question by Charles Spurgeon, which is now available as a free eBook from The Gospel Project. Get your free your copy here.
If this child who now lies before the eyes of your faith, wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem’s manger, is born to you, then you are born again! If any man tells me that Christ is his Redeemer, although he has never experienced regeneration, that man utters what he does not know; his religion is vain, and his hope is a delusion.
Only those who are born again can claim the babe in Bethlehem as being theirs. “But,” says one, “how am I to know whether I am born again or not?”
An Inward Renewal
Answer this question also by another:
- Has there been a change effected by divine grace within you?
- Are your loves the very opposite of what they were?
- Do you now hate the vain things you once admired, and do you seek after that precious pearl which you at one time despised?
- Is your heart thoroughly renewed in its object?
- Can you say that the bent of your desire is changed?
- That your face is Zionward, and your feet set upon the path of grace?
- That where your heart once longed for deep draughts of sin, it now longs to be holy?
- Where you once loved the pleasures of the world, they have now become as draff and dross to you, for you only love the pleasures of heavenly things, and are longing to enjoy more of them on earth, that you may be prepared to enjoy a fullness of them hereafter?
Are you renewed within?
The new birth does not consist in washing the outside of the cup and platter, but in cleansing the inner man. It is all in vain to put up the stone upon the sepulcher, wash it extremely white, and garnish it with the flowers of the season; the sepulcher itself must be cleansed. The dead man’s bones that lie in that charnel house of the human heart must be cleansed away. No, they must be made to live. The heart must no longer be a tomb of death, but a temple of life.
Is it so with you? For recollect, you may be very different in the outward, but if you are not changed in the inward, this child is not born to you.
An Outward Transformation
Although the main matter of regeneration lies within, yet it manifests itself without. Say, then, has there been a change in you in the exterior? Do you think that others who look at you would be compelled to say, “This man is not what he used to be?”
- Do not your companions observe a change?
- Have they not laughed at you for what they think to be your hypocrisy, your prudishness, or your sternness?
- If an angel should follow you into your secret life, should track you to your closet and see you on your knees, do you think that he would detect something in you that he could never have seen before?
For, mark, my dear hearer, there must be a change in the outward life, or else there is no change within. In vain you bring me to the tree, and say that the tree’s nature is changed. If I still see it bringing forth wild grapes, it is a wild vine still. And if I mark upon you the apples of Sodom and the grapes of Gomorrah you are still a tree accursed and doomed, notwithstanding all your fancied experience. The proof of the Christian is in the living. To other men, the proof of our conversion is not what you feel, but what you do. To yourself your feelings may be good enough evidence, but to the minister and others who judge of you, the outward walk is the main guide.
At the same time, let me observe that a man’s outward life may be very much like that of a Christian, and yet there may be no religion in him at all. Have you ever seen two jugglers in the street with swords, pretending to fight with one another? See how they cut, and slash, and hack at one another, till you are half afraid there will soon be murder done. They seem to be so very much in earnest that you are half in the mind to call in the police to part them. See with what violence that one has aimed a terrific blow at the other one’s head, which his comrade dexterously warded off by keeping a well-timed guard. Just watch them a minute, and you will see that all these cuts and thrusts come in a prearranged order. There is no heart in the fighting after all. They do not fight so roughly as they would if they were real enemies.
A New Root and Principle of Your Life
If you have been born again, not only is your inward self altered, and your outward self too, but the very root and principle of your life must become totally new. When we are in sin we live to self, but when we are renewed we live to God. While we are unregenerate, our principle is to seek our own pleasure, our own advancement. But that man is not truly born again who does not live with a far different aim from this. Change a man’s principles, and you change his feelings. You change his actions.
Now, grace changes the principles of man. It lays the axe at the root of the tree. It does not saw away at some big limb, it does not try to alter the sap, but it gives a new root and plants us in fresh soil. The man’s inmost self, the deep rocks of his principles upon which the topsoil of his actions rest, the soul of his manhood is thoroughly changed, and he is a new creature in Christ.