I have a new nephew. Liam Steven Clayton Dibbley was born a few days ago. I am looking forward to being able to meet Liam and if he is anything like his two sisters, he will be a good looking and bright addition to our family.
One of the things that inevitably happens when a child is born is that people begin to look for family resemblances. "He has got his mom's nose" or "he's got that dimple in his chin just like his brother or sister." Even when people experience the blessing of adoption, it isn't long before you start to recognize phrases and behaviours that definitely reflect the parents.
In this blog post, I want to consider the biblical teaching on the "new birth". In particular, I want to look at observable characteristics that indicate that a person has truly experienced the new birth. They have been "born again" into the family of God. That is why I entitled this page, "birth marks". What are the marks that demonstrate that a person has genuinely been "born again" or "born anew" or to use the language of the apostle John in his first epistle "born of God"?
Simply speaking, the new birth is an act of God whereby a person is transformed from being dead in his or her sins and indifferent and rebellious to God and the things of God, to being awakened and made alive to God. God, by His Spirit, births us into His family through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and makes us someone completely new. We are "born again" to use the language of Jesus in the gospel of John 3.
If we have experienced this powerful change in our lives, we ought to bear certain identifying marks that show that we are born again. We should have birth marks. According to 1 Peter 1:3, one of the great truths of the Christian life is that we have been "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead." Peter blesses the name of God for doing this in the life of the true Christian. The letter proceeds to encourage Christians to live out this new reality in our lives. Here are some of the marks of someone whom God has made new from the first few chapters of Peter's letter:
1. Joy in Trials - You genuinely rejoice in your eternal inheritance even though your present trials are distressing. (1:6)
2. Love for Jesus - You truly love Jesus and rejoice in Him even though you don't see Him now. You are so glad and thankful for what He has done for you (1:8-9).
3. Desire to Live a Godly Life - You deeply desire to honour your heavenly Father with a God-pleasing life knowing the price that He paid to rescue you from your former futile life. (1:14-18)
4. Sincerity in your Determination to Love Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ - You sincerely and earnestly love your Christian brethren from the heart because this change in you is a real and eternal work of God through His Word.
5. Craving God's Word - Your taste of the goodness of God has created a craving to experience more and more of His presence and power in your life. Since you initially experienced this through the Word of God (1:22-25), you crave the Word like a baby craves milk. (2:1-2).
6. Concern to Honourably Represent God in an often anti-God world (2:9-12). You are now part of the royal family of God. Representing God well by behaving the way a Christian should becomes the desire of every grateful child of God. What people say or think about you now isn't what matters. What they ultimately think of God because of you is what concerns you. You want to point people to the God of grace, forgiveness, mercy, and justice who made you His child. This includes:
Good Citizenship - The freedom that you have as a citizen of God's kingdom and a member of the Royal Family is never used as an excuse for disrespect to others, including governing officials. It is our goal to honour the servant King by being loving servants to all people, including the "Emperor" whether he behaves honourably or not. (2:13-17)
Good Employees - We are to be willing to serve well even if our employers are not just. It is too easy to justify bad attitudes and rebellious behaviour on account of the failings of those above us. Our desire is to be like Jesus who suffered injustice by trusting God. Again, our desire is to honour our ultimate Master. (2:28-25)
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. Neither ought we to read this and expect to be perfect at any of these things. However, if you are born of God, you will sincerely desire these attributes. You will find yourself happiest when you are pursuing them and most miserable when you live any other way.
How about you? Do you have these birth marks? Have you been "born again"?