The Power of the New Birth and the Problem of the Flesh
The Apostle John’s description of Christmas was quite different than Matthew’s and Luke’s. John told the complex, theological version of the Christmas story but he did it in simple, short sentences. One of my favorites is, “In him (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) John understood the power of the new birth. It was the power of God himself. Jesus was the light that delivered people out of darkness and the life that delivered people out of death. The new birth had such a drastic effect on John that it transformed him from a “son of thunder” into the Apostle of love.
John was fully aware that being born again did not instantly turn someone into a perfect Christian. He wrote his first letter to help Christians learn to battle against sin, darkness, hatred, the devil, lust and the world. Jesus took John’s thunderous personality and formed it into a man who could artfully speak words of direct truth saturated with love. It was imperative for John that his readers understand the reality and the power of being born of God. He reasoned with them this way: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves had been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:7-8)
The life of God will make itself known in the life of the person who has been born again. It is an impossiblity for this not to occur. John was confronting hypocrits and challenging true believers.
If you are a true believer I am sure you wonder why you do not love God and the people of God more. John actually gives some Apostolic counsel in how to deal with this issue. There are two central points to his directions. If you will trust the Word of God and follow John’s instruction, you will find your love increase in your heart and in your habits.
First, you must know yourself to be loved of God. This is not a natural thing to the human mind. It takes the power of the Spirit of God and the truth of Scripture to enable our minds to receive the love of God. John said, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us . . . There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:16,18) Once you know that you are loved of God you are freed from fear and freed to love others as God loves. That is power!
Second, the evidence that you have experienced this love of God in your soul is that you express it with your life. John teaches us that if there is no expression of love from our lives that there has been no experience of God’s love in our lives. So, we must be born again! “Whoever loves has been born of God.” (I John 4:7) Love is the natural expression of the Christian, but it must be cultivated.
Christmas is the expression of God’s character. “God is love!” (I John 4:8) It was the love of God that sent Christ to the earth. It took the life and light of Christ for us to be born again. That is the power of the new birth! Sing it once again, “Mild He lays His glory by, Born that men no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth!”
As long as we live on this earth we will struggle with the problem of the flesh. We carry in us the desires of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. But, those are overcome by the power of the new birth as we purposefully take into our souls the love that God has for us and then purposefully express that love by the life of Christ that is in us.