With Christ, everything becomes anew

By Brooke Stacia Demott

cheatersThe mechanisms of change are small, and dull to the naked eye.

Truly, it’s our collective addiction to sensationalism that leads us to believe that only a monumental event — one that brings all passions and possibilities to a heartfelt crescendo — could be the catalyst for revision.

But it’s in quarter turns of the heart that change is wrought, and not in grand leaps of public policy.

Transformation is a quiet process.

Yet humanity is undeniably emotive, craving not only an outlet for passionate demonstration, but also mutual validation in this desperate need to understand the angst that marks the human condition.

Rage, lust, jealousy, passion and revenge indwell the sin-ravaged hearts of men, erupting in a cultural outpouring that bleeds into every facet of human expression.

But change doesn’t begin in the explosion; it begins in the mind of the man who designs the detonator.

Real change happens in the dark.

An affair, for instance, doesn’t begin with a sexual encounter. It begins with a discontented sigh, a stoking of the coals of dissatisfaction with the same old spouse, day after day. It takes form when you allow the internal, secret praises of a coworker to rise above those of your own husband or wife. It progresses when you linger on those thoughts, rolling them around in private hours until you begin to seek out ways to be around that person a little more than usual.

An affair begins in the quiet places of contemplation — the act itself is the final step in a calculated journey away from your marriage bed.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23

The heart of man is described in the bible as deceitful, and beyond our ability to rightly judge, because our consciences are scorched by original sin. We are, consequently, able to convince ourselves that the wicked lusts that we pursue are somehow virtuous — because desire seeks to satisfy itself. But sin leads to death — death of our relationships, our God-given identity, and our ability to fulfill the Lord’s desired purpose for our lives.

But God does a remarkable thing in the lives of those whom he has called out of the world and draws to himself. He fashions a powerful change in our own hearts that is cultivated in veiled mystery, and does the single most impossible, miraculous work in a human life that could be imagined.

The great wonder in all of Christianity is that by the unpredictable movement of the Holy Spirit, God calls the dead spirits of fallen man to life. By the breath of this second birth, Jesus infuses the believer with desires that seek to serve God above all selfish pursuits, suffocating his former longings with good riddance.

“There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you’re from God, for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.’”

Born of the spirit

Jesus replied, “Truly, I tell you, unless one is born again, he can’t see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time?”

Jesus answered, “Don’t marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes.

“So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Portion of John 3)

The Holy Spirit is likened to the wind. Its unexpected, quiet, and invisible presence is seen only in the movements of the hearts it touches.

And while some of changes it brings into our lives are painfully subtle, others are intensely painful.

A seed planted in the ground must first die in order to bring about new life.

In the same way, when the life of Christ is born in us, it puts to death our former, sinful desires. But not all at once; the Spirit of God and the fallen flesh declare bitter war on one another — but these battles are not waged in blazes of glory.

They are fought in quiet places of decision.

You were once ruled by desire; but now, when your eyes wander toward a beautiful woman who is not your wife, your conscience is pricked, and you forsake that lingering gaze.

It’s when you hesitate before telling a lie to save face, and choose instead to tell the uncomfortable truth.  It’s finding the courage to speak out against unrighteousness, when it’s far more advantageous to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Truly, we are all dead to knowledge of the righteousness of God until his Holy Spirit moves over us, as he once moved over the surface of barren waters to bring forth life — and brings us back.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away and behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

No amount of judicial restraint on abortion, sex trafficking, or racism will fundamentally change the human condition. While we should seek laws that hold criminals accountable, we must recognize that the world has exhausted every effort to wrestle down man’s iniquity by both brute force and democratic incentive, accomplishing nothing but the verification of this solemn truth:

There is no possible way to legislate the sin out of man.

Unregenerate men are so driven by wickedness, that we couldn’t write laws fast enough to keep up with the creative depravity that waits to tear them down.

Law alone isn’t enough. Actions are born of desire — in order for actions to change, we need more than external regulation.

We need new hearts that desire to keep the law.

• Brooke Stacia DeMott is a columnist with In Good Health newspaper. Got a question for Demott? Feel free to email her at brooketo@aol.com. The beliefs and opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this newspaper or any other agency, organization, employer or company.