Saturday, January 22, 2011

Born again? One man's influence

I am mid-flow sermon editing and writing but take a break to share one thing.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know that it started largely out of my search for Tim Keller resources on the web. I happened upon a blogger who had collected together some rich Keller resources and he then introduced me to blogging and the joy of sharing things.

This week a Keller interview was published and watching it was truly fascinating. It has made me ponder one particular question.

When did I become a Christian?

Or to put it slightly differently, when was I born of God? (this was a crucial 'lights going on' sermon for me)

Given that both Keller and I thought we were Christians when we probably were not, it might be a good one for all of us to ponder.

Tim Keller thinks that to be born of God is to be born experientially into the revelation of the gospel of grace. Lots of people know about justification by faith, the gospel, the bible, the church, communion and grace but have not actually experienced Jesus upon their hearts.

Here is my take on what happens when you are born of God. Christianity is not a set of facts we believe but the revelation of the place in which we stand, as justified sinners. To be born of God is to be moved (entirely at God's initiative) from standing in one place under death and wrath (denied by some but an unavoidable and stark reality laid out in the gospels and Romans 1-3), through the cross, to stand anew in the place of life, now justified. Grace is literally a place in which we stand (Romans 5 v 2) and being born is realising this. It is as though the eyes of your heart awaken by the Spirit, look all around in utter amazement, see Jesus and say 'wow'.

This happened to Keller in a class taught by Richard Lovelace ( N. B his essay on Evangelical Spirituality is an interesting read) at Gordon-Conwell seminary having already been selected for Ordination. Some people it seems can be ordained whether 'reformed', 'Charismatic', 'Catholic', 'Anglican', 'Baptist' and numerous other descriptors man has come up with and not be born again- what a thought...... For what it's worth, I think my season of birth was driving to and from work down the A3 (not quite as worthy as saying it happened while I was at theological college in Oxford as Keller can say but such is election:) It occurred over a couple of months listening to these 30 talks in 2002. At some point on these journeys the gospel landed on my heart and changed me. I have not been the same since. How to change is one of the 30 and here is the Jonathan Edwards sermon 'Justification by faith alone'.

This issue of the necessity (a 'must' to quote Jesus exactly) of being born of God is absolutely fascinating to me- theologically, doctrinally, evangelistically, missionally, pastorally and so many other sorts of 'alley's' (forgive the pun). Keller's story of his Gordon-Conwell conversion is the most blisteringly thought-pondering thing that I have heard in quite some time.

Do clear 45 minutes to watch the interview which is also packed with other treasures. I also commend Part 2 about his excellent book 'Generous Justice-how grace makes you just'.

Thoughts or comments?

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