2 Sept 2020
We have considered “being born again”, which involves “union with Christ”, effected by the Holy Spirit in the eternal plan of the trinitarian God who have chosen us before the foundation of the world.
We noted also the need for the constant discipline of “repentance” as a lifelong process, which requires us “by the Spirit” to put off the old self and to put on the new self in the pursuit of holiness as the ‘new creation’ in Christ and adopted children of the living God. Our pilgrimage on earth is the ‘preparation’ for the ‘new heavens and new earth’ in the ‘age to come’.
We need now to focus on another aspect of the life of those ‘born again’ – perseverance is the only path to the goal of the final glory in Christ. The life of Christian perseverance and endurance is like a marathon, a long- distance race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1). It requires a sustained effort (in dependence on God’s Spirit) daily, a wholehearted self-denying single-minded commitment, in worshipping and pleasing the Father through the Son as long as we surjourn on this earth until we see Him face-to-face.
In one sense we can say that we are “born again to run”, putting all our energy and effort (again in dependence on the Spirit) into steady godliness, keeping up the winning rhythm to endure in this race, even though it may be agonising and demanding to press on. This sustained effort, with the energy and gifts God has given us, is one major and central aspect of holiness God has called us to. Without this holiness, we would degenerate into self-indulgence and ‘worldliness’ with no progress in the transformation into the likeness of Christ. Taking hold of the “disciplines of grace” (which include time with God, studying the BIble, fellowshipping with and edifying the brethren in love, holy communion, worship, prayer) with a passion for God’s glory and honour is part and parcel of running this race, not individually, but together with God’s people, looking for the finishing line as we plod on in the ‘home stretch’ into the arms of our Lord and Saviour who is waiting for us at the end.
It is paramount to realise that God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are taught by the Bible at the same time and we may not, in our human finiteness, be able to reconcile these two seemingly contradictory teachings – it is a mystery as some theologians put it. Realising this, we cannot go about living our Christian life, after being ‘born again’, with the concept that we leave everything to God and forget our role to ‘work out our salvation’ with fear and trembling. Laziness is the ‘workshop’ of the devil – if we allow ourselves to be spiritually indolent, let us not mourn when we end up as ‘soft’ disappointing believers in the eyes of God. Let us therefore affirm that we are ‘born again’ to run this race God has assigned to us and to finish it with perseverance and endurance.
Patience is the passive mode of endurance, whereby suffering, pain and disappointment are handled without collapsing spiritually. Patient endurance is manifested when we stand steady under pain and duress, without crumbling in our run. What is central and integral to our maturity, holiness and Christlikeness is the ‘ability’ to endure and not to lose it; it is a necessary discipline for Christians which we cannot afford to lose. Remember that we have a formidable enemy who seeks constantly to cause us to be side-tracked from the path we are running on and to ensure that we collapse before the finishing line. We must therefore “keep our eyes on Jesus”, the founder and perfecter of our faith and to lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely so that we can run with endurance the race set before us (Hebrews 121-2).