No one is born Christian. By nature we are flesh. The Christian life begins with the work of the Holy Spirit in rebirth. The term “born-again Christian” is almost a misnomer. It is a redundancy. It is a kind of theological stuttering. If one is born again, then he is a Christian. If he is a Christian, then he is born again. There are no nonborn-again Christians and no born-again non-Christians. To be reborn is to be born into Christ by the Holy Spirit. This is a prerequisite for the Christian life. It is also the genesis, the beginning of the Christian life.
Everyone starts the Christian life the same way: We all start by being born again. Our experiences of rebirth may differ, but the fact of rebirth is necessary for all of us.
It is important for us to understand that no two Christians begin their Christian walk with the same baggage. Some people are born again at five years old, some at fifty-five. Some come to faith from a well-disciplined background, others from a life of riotous and unbridled wildness. We struggle with different sins. We carry mixed and matched luggage.
Some of us know the day and the hour we were converted. Others have no distinct recollection of when we were reborn. Billy Graham speaks of a meeting held by Mordecai Ham where he met Christ. Ruth Graham can’t pinpoint within five years the date of her conversion. Some people weep at conversion, others are giddy with joy.
It is a grave mistake to insist that everybody display the same outward signs of conversion that we experienced. Those with a sudden and dramatic conversion experience tend to be suspicious of those who cannot name the day and the hour. Those whose experience is less dramatic may wonder about the emotional stability of those who cite a sudden experience.
Here we must honor the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts people in different ways at different times. The ultimate question we face is not when we were converted or where we were converted. The only real question is whether we are converted. If we are born of the Spirit, then we are brothers and sisters to all who are in Christ.
Paul tells us:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10, NASB
At this point we are all equal. None of us has converted ourselves. Rebirth is the work of God. We are the workmanship or the craftmanship of Christ. Christ is the master craftsman. His workmanship is neither dull nor monotonous. When He redeems us He does not destroy our identity nor our individuality. Each Christian is a distinctive work of art fashioned by Christ. Each redeemed person is literally a masterpiece…
Sanctification is a process. It is a gradual process. Run for your life from those who promise instant sanctification…called the doctrine of perfectionism…
Sanctification requires far more than a quick experience of the laying on of hands. Rebirth is instantaneous. Justification is instantaneous. But sanctification is a lifelong process. It involves a diligent struggle against a multitude of obstacles. It is like the journey of Bunyan’s pilgrim, filled with pitfalls and laden with perils. It is a journey that takes us through the dark night of the soul, through the valley of the shadow of death, and through the wilderness of temptation.
The journey has but one guarantee: Christ promises to go with us and to bring us out the other side. Our Lord finishes what He starts. He does not abort His handiwork in the middle of its creation. He does not leave us staring at walking trees.
No, the Lord is intensely interested in our welfare and maturing. He wants us to learn more and more about God and how to please God. He wants us to find joy in pleasing God. He wants us to change, like the healed blind man, so that our vision clears, so that we grow in how we perceive the world and how we act in it. Growth and change in such perception means learning more and more about what pleases the holy God. The growth in pleasing God is sanctification, and that is what this book is all about.
R.C. Sproul from his book, Pleasing God. It is an excellent read. He expresses beautifully what I have been trying to say so inadequately.