I’m concerned about the spirituality of the ‘Christian’ community because I rarely hear a description of being ‘born again’ accurately describing what I’ve come to believe the Bible teaches about Christianity, and it occurred again recently when I read a line from Mitch Finley’s recent ‘Ask a Catholic’ article; “Are Catholics Born Again.”
Before delving into Mitch’s post, however, let me provide a little background to my alarm.
While living in the San Francisco Bay area, my wife and I attended a church where being born again was an accepted fact of spiritual life. If someone wanted to join the church, they were asked to tell their story of becoming a Christian to an elder and a deacon. When people decided to be baptized, they were to share their faith testimony with the entire church congregation.
As a deacon and church member, I listened to over 200 people communicate how they became believers and not ONE matched what I understood it meant to be born again. With that experience, has come an increased awareness of the spiritual messages I hear. So when recently reading my counterpart’s article, something jumped off the page.
He defined “born again,” from the Evangelical perspective, to be a “single act of faith wherein one “accepts Jesus Christ as his/her personal savior.”” I don’t see it as an ‘act of faith’ but rather a ‘gift of faith.’
An act is something we do. If you had no faith that your employer was going to deliver your next pay check, it’s highly likely you’d be out looking for work and not reporting to the office. If you didn’t trust the vehicle in your garage to safely transport you, you’d jump on a bus or perhaps ride your bike. It’s this type of faith, generated by our experiences, that keeps us in many situations.
The faith that saves, made righteous in God’s eyes according to Paul in the Book of Romans, is totally opposite, even in it’s definition.
In my Bible, an older New International Version, faith is identified in chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I have worked for a lot of companies and driven a lot of cars but never could apply that definition of faith to being paid or arriving safely. I had hope more than faith.
So how can someone be sure of what they hope for? I see it as the result of an act of grace. In a recent article published here, I defined grace as that which “freely provides the good we don’t merit” and in another section of the Bible, we find an amazing revelation of just where that grace comes from.
The same Paul that wrote to the Romans, is writing to the believers in Ephesus when he tells them, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Unlike other gifts, which you can return, set aside, or ignore, the gift of faith given by God provides certainty.
The company you work for is struggling and you’re concerned for the future. The CEO comes into your office one day and gives you a gift. She not only assures you that the organization and your job are safe, but transfers a certainty, from her heart to yours, that what she has said is true. She has the authority and the knowledge to make such a transaction and while others at the firm may continue to have reservations about their future, your doubts disappear because faith has been given to you.