My new birth in Christ came, appropriately, after a gestation which lasted nine months.
To begin the process, the Holy Spirit prompted me to get out of bed one Sunday, in March, in Maine, and to cross our country road to the Baptist church just up the way.
I was a Jew. My wife Channa and our four children were Jews. Of all things, why was I crossing this road?
Next, at that first Baptist service, the Holy Spirit opened my ears. That Jesus guy was able to get in under my guard.
Since Jesus was able to get in under my guard, I began talking with the pastor about Jesus and about all else Christian. We talked and we talked and we talked. For months! For so many months that the months counted up to nine.
Channa talked with the pastor, too, and she and I talked with one another, testing our temperature, as we put it—were we hot, or were we not?
Almost always we were hot.
Last, after nine months, the Holy Spirit placed me in the pastor’s office, for keeps. It was December, and the pastor’s and my conversation occupied its usual long time until, finally, he asked me, “Ready for some questions?”
He asked me four questions.
I answered each question with yes, without hesitation, without any of the constant struggle I had encountered during the first five or six months of the previous nine.
I answered yes.
I was reborn!
By answering yes, I had forsworn!
What had I forsworn? I had forsworn the stubbornness of my intellect.
My intellect had not wanted to give up. It had demanded that it understand. It had demanded that I not distract it with poetry and metaphor, and that it be provided hard proof.
Yet what I had needed during the five or six months was to get out from under the boulder of my intellect—to push it aside so that I my heart could breathe.
After nine months of gestation, I was reborn. I had forsworn. I walked out of the church that day and across the snow with what might be the same wonder as a new born baby feels when it perceives--light!
Three months later, the same happened for Channa, and, during the following four months, for two of our children as well.
And we were baptized.
All hail, Holy Spirit!
Newbies think that everything changes, and, in fact, they are right. Everything does change. However—as in the famous cliché—while everything changes, everything remains the same.
Except for that one detail.
Ah! That detail!
That detail is the Jesus detail.
Newbies assume that everything will get easier. No.
At least for me as a newbie, dealing with the things of the world got harder, not easier.
It took me a long time to understand why dealing with the things of the world should get harder, not easier. It’s because of that one detail I mentioned above, the Jesus detail. It’s because, for the first time, the things of the world became known to me for what they really are.
As a newbie, suddenly I had perspective which I had not had before. By means of my new perspective, I knew that the things of the world—formerly everything—were in fact lesser. They were base, profane.
Now, it was God things that were—and remain--everything.
While I was a Jew, God things were not everything. I regret this, but it was true. They were important, yes indeed. Even vital. But some God things were products of my intellect, hand in glove with my sense of poetic and metaphorical delight.
Many God things while I was a Jew had neither the reality nor the puissance that they acquired upon my rebirth.
Upon rebirth, I was annoyed that my struggles with worldliness continued to abrade me. The world was too much with me, even then, when I had wanted its troubles to fade away.
I wasn’t alone in this. Other newbies discovered the same thing. Even a very early newbie.
One biblical book was written by Jesus’ older half-brother sometime during the period 44 to 49 A.D. James is the name of Jesus’ half-brother. James’ letter is the earliest written document to have been included in the biblical canon.
The letter is written to members of the contemporary church…which, in one way of understanding, is to us, now, who suffer under the burden of the things of the world, as was the case for newbies two thousand years ago.
The letter is an exhortation, coming from a man who, at first, was an unbeliever in his half-brother’s divinity and then came to Christ—dynamically in the same way I did, although obviously with a profound difference since he knew the Lord personally.
I am fond of reading James’ letter. That’s because it is addressed to me.
My re-birth has not removed the world and my sins away from me. My sins, which mirror the world’s fallen nature, must be fought all the time.
And what does James, formerly a newbie, have to say in exhortation to me?
Does James write a lofty theology? No. James’ time of writing was too early for that. Theology had not yet had time to develop loftiness. Instead of being lofty, he’s practical, James is. In his letter, he asserts the real, the daily struggle.
“Gird your loins,” James seems to say.
I suffer from all the attacks James enumerates. Particularly one of them is my oppressor at the moment I write this post.
James admonishes us to fight. He shows us our weapons.
Possibly you, reader—newbie or otherwise—possibly you suffer from one or more of the attacks, as I do.
A gift of my new birth is that now I can speak directly to the Lord, when I am wretched. Here goes.
It shames me that you, Lord, should see each lapse of mine.
That’s what I say. That’s the core of my confession. But sometimes I add this--
You know my weakness and yet you have drawn me to yourself. For this reason, I am grateful, and for this reason, I continue to ask for your protection. If it is your will, may I fight successfully and may my soul be returned to you, as promised by your infinite love.
Then there’s nothing else to say, so I conclude--
What about you, reader?