Articles

Death and the Origin of our Species

Did Adam's parents and grandparents die? Was he the product of natural selection? Have theistic evolutionists really thought through the implications of their views as they deal with the Bible's explanation of the origin of sin and death?

Is theistic evolution a logical compromise between Darwinism and Christianity? Can we make friends, as it were, with modern science by saying that the Bible’s explanation of our origins and the theory of evolution can be married together successfully by simply adding God to the mix?

Is it reasonable to suggest that the enormous diversity of life on earth is the product of God creating the universe and the basic life forms and then allowing death and natural selection under the guidance of time + chance to do the rest, as many are now saying, especially among the high Anglicans.

Is this the way God ended up with people whom he tells us were created in his very own image? Does this make sense when we are also told that death, is the result of the sin of Adam?

Here you have two quite different views of death. In Darwin’s world, death is one of the essential ingredients in the process that brings us to the level of complexity we now experience as humans. But in God’s story, death is the result of evil coming into his world through the rebellion of a complex creature he purposely created with the ability to make moral choices.

In Darwin’s world death is just a natural part of life, having no moral implications whatsoever. In God’s world it is the most absolute proof that we have broken away from our creator, that we are sinful and in desperate need of redemption. “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned–“(Rom 5:12)

Darwinism is facing its toughest trial ever, thanks to the work of some very eminent scientists who have had the courage to re-examine all the claims made and shown them to be nothing more than ‘Just-so Stories’. Some are Christians some are not, but the one thing they all agree on is that you don’t get life in all its amazing forms without a designer who has been very exacting and involved in the in the outcome of all living things.

Recent research by the intelligent design group has shown that every one of Darwin’s assumptions fails when examined correctly under rigorous scientific principles. Those, like Richard Dawkins, wanting to defend Darwin of recent times have abandoned scientific arguments altogether in favour of insult and abuse of those that refuse to agree with them.

This should be good news for Christians who have long felt the need to compromise with the so called Science of Evolution to be taken seriously in their witness to the world.

While I have great respect for many fine Christians who support a God-guided evolutionary framework I still find myself having to disagree with their conclusions. That’s because I find the moral implications of theistic evolution to be quite horrendous.

I struggle to see how God could talk about death as a consequence of evil while at the same time use death in some ‘tooth and claw’ process to bring us into being. I also have to ask why God who seems to love creating amazingly beautiful things would be content to let time and chance do his work for him.

I recognise that the first two chapters of Genesis are full of symbols and it’s hard at times to distinguish between what’s literary construct and what’s literal, “that’s how it would have looked if you’d been there” history, but the idea that God created adult living organisms and sent them off to multiply, I think fits a lot more comfortably with the way things are and the way God works.

God telling the residents of that idylic garden that rebellion would lead to death, would make no sense if Adam’s mother and father were some prehuman species of ape who had already experienced death as part of a natural process to bring him into being.

God only uses ‘good’ to describe three things: The world before the fall, his Son Jesus, and the New Heavens and the New Earth waiting for the elect. One of the essentials of that goodness is the absence of the death of man which God calls the last enemy.

“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death”. (1 Cor 15:24-26)

The paradox of the Do-Gooders

You can be killed by kindness and by complaining when someone has just done you a favour.

A little bird had not quite learned to fly but he managed, by flapping around madly in the nest, to dislodge himself and fall onto the ground a few yards from his nice big tree. It was tremendously cold and unable to fly to where it might get warmer, the little bird did what all little birds and little humans do he made a lot of noise hoping to attract the attention of a sympathetic passer by.

A nice brown cow was grazing nearby and hearing the pitiful cries went over to the little bird and seeing the little bird turning blue soon ascertained that the bird was cold.

The birds plight was now beyond any dignified solutions, so the nice brown cow planted a nice warm pad of nicely processed clover, she had no further use for, on the little cold bird covering him from head to claw.

The bird was now instantly warm and the loud cheeping stopped. He thanked the brown cow who walked contentedly back to the paddock to chew the nice green grass.

The little bird now nice and warm, began to feel hungry and the cheeping returned – in fact it became urgent, more urgent than the cheeping for warmth. Just then a nasty red fox hearing the noise came by to investigate. He too was hungry and pulled the warm little bird out of the cow pad and ate him.

The moral to this story is that those who want to drop it on you are not always out to hurt you, while those who pull you out of it are not necessarily out to save you. Also when you’re up to your head in it, it pays to keep your mouth shut. Life in this broken world is not entirely unlike the story of the little bird.

The psalmist said “All men are liars” and no doubt he was speaking from personal experience. Truth is the first casualty of humans doing anything. Those that take up arms are not always men of violence while those who demonstrate against war are not always men of peace.

Likewise those who see the human race as rotten to the core often have a great passion for people, while those who think we are basically good can’t stand them at all.

The reason that life is full of paradoxes is because the world has been turned upside down and inside out by the distortion of sin. That means that people who have both good intentions and Godly wisdom will inevitably be misunderstood. Such men and women are motivated not by what looks good but what’s best in the long run. If you are one of those be sure God knows and that’s all that matters.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8)

“The LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

When True Love Fades

You can get it all right yet get it all wrong if you aren't driven by love

Tacitus tells us that in 60 AD, during the reign of Nero, the city of Laodicea was ‘overturned by an earthquake’. Without any request for help from Rome her citizens went about rebuilding the city, making it even more impressive than it was before. Rome responded by rewarding her with the title of “Free City” and made her the Conventus (capital city) of the province. The Laodiceans were wealthy, had a great taste for the arts and much talent for commerce.

Two thousand Jewish families were transported to this city by Antiochus III (241-187 BC). They grew into a thriving community whose wealth is best illustrated by it’s ability to ship around 9 kg of Gold annually to the temple in Jerusalem.

We believe that it was Epaphras who first took the Gospel to the Synagogues of Laodicea and as a result, planted a thriving Christian community.

There seems not to have been much in the way of persecution or great opposition to the Gospel in the city except for the subtle persecution of wealth and worldly success.

So when Jesus inspires John to address his thoughts in a letter to the angel of their church he condemns them for their lukewarm attitudes.

Their wealth, of which they were proud, had actually made them “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”. It had given them the delusion of self sufficiency very impressive in the eyes of the Emperor of Rome, but not so in the eyes of the King of the universe.

The small, but reliable river Lycos, upon which the city was built, meandered slowly over the plains and was easily warmed by the sun. The water also had a very high calcium content so it’s likely that a desperate gulp to quench one’s thirst in the midst of summer brought not refreshment, but an instant desire to puke.

Such was the feeling of Jesus when he looked upon the congregations in Laodicea. They suffered from a growing indifference towards the things of God. They may have been honest, respectable, well dressed and maintained a high reputation among the people of their city, but to Jesus they were a sham.

Thankfully their situation was not completely hopeless. As much as they made his stomach wrench, he was not prepared to vomit them out of his mouth just yet. He reminded them that true wealth and sartorial excellence was theirs for the asking; all they had to do was recover their devotion to God.

He was knocking at their door, desiring to enter into their lives and have genuine, intimate fellowship with them if only they would open the door and let him in. To those who overcome their drift towards mediocrity there was the promise of a warm spot next to Jesus on his throne.

How is your devotion to God? Are you hot cold or terribly tepid? Do you feel that you have drifted so far as to be beyond redemption?

Be comforted in the knowledge that his arm is not to short to save you there is nowhere in this universe you can hide. He loves you more than you love yourself and is more passionate about your salvation than you are.

So give up the self sufficiency and lukewarm devotion and invite him back home into your life where he belongs.

Hating The Enemy

We sometimes find expressions of hate for the enemy in the Psalms difficult to reconcile with Jesus' command to love one another. Here are some thoughts to consider.

Many find the Psalms disturbing because in them we discover a lot of expressed hatred and curses against the enemy. How does this stack up against Jesus’ clear teaching that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us?

As with many apparent inconsistencies in scripture there are several factors one must consider:

Firstly, the psalms are not simply theological treatise, so while they provide some very wonderful truths, they are also prayers and songs that express the full range of genuine feelings and emotions experienced by real people, living under God in a fallen world. For example; one day the psalmist laments God’s apparent distance (Ps 43, 88), on another he celebrates his inescapable presence (Ps 23,139).

So the expression of hatred and the desire to see the destruction of his and God’s enemies must be seen as genuine, but not necessarily ideal feelings. We can control what we do and say, but not always what we feel and God wants our honesty, not our pious pretentions.

Secondly, the psalms were written by those who belonged to God’s nation living in God’s place under God’s rule. Canaan was a kind of Heaven on earth struggling to survive in a very unfriendly world. Their concern was not so much to evangelise the world but to defend what they already had. The psalms were often an appeal to a champion for military protection.

The Israelites also saw God as a judge in two courts. In the criminal court he dispensed justice against malefactors for crimes against the crown (Himself), whilst in the equity court he dispensed justice on behalf of his people. Those psalms that are full of cursing and hatred are the pleadings of a plaintiff desiring the harshest penalty be imposed on defendants who have caused much personal harm.

Thirdly, the cursing were only ever called down upon the recalcitrant – those determined to undermine the work of God. The repentant were always welcome. David himself realized that he was a recipient of incredible grace (Ps 32,51) and wrote of his own experiences to encourage others to avail themselves of that grace through repentance. Incidentally nearly every treaty offered by David to the enemy nations in Canaan was rejected.

Fourthly, we do not find encouragements in the psalms to take matters into one’s own hands. David may have been guilty of doing that on occasions, but he never considered it a virtue. Rather his prayers were to a God who had the right to decide such matters and who would always act justly.

We who have the luxury of hindsight and the greater revelation of Jesus know that it is no longer necessary for us to worry about the defense of our promised land. We can rely on God to ensure that his opponents will be excluded without any pleading from us.

We are now free to reach out to our enemies and totally disarm them by turning them into friends. We may not feel loving towards them but we can actually love them in practice we can do good to them, we can pray for them and we can be generous and kind to them without fear, knowing that God will reward us for doing so.

Finally, before we rise up in self righteous indignation against the saints of old you would do well to remember that the opposite to love is not hate, but indifference.

The Theatre of the Absurd

If you're searching for paradise in this world be warned! The moral and physical laws will be working against you.

William Shakespeare wrote (in As You Like it) that “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”. If that’s true we are the cast of the theatre of the absurd.

The world is full of things that are contrary to reason and common sense, things that just should not be in a universe of order and meaning, things that are hopelessly contradictory, incongruent, incomprehensible, frustrating and just plain ridiculous. But for the love and sovereignty of God, our universe would have slipped into chaos thousands of years ago and we would not be here to talk about it.

One of the reasons I believe that moral laws come from the same source as the physical laws of the universe is that we do ourselves as much harm by breaking one as we do the other. Telling a lie is just as fatal as jumping off a cliff, the only difference is the time gap between the action and the consequence.

God communicated this truth to us in the way he treated our first parents when he kicked them out of the garden. Not only were they to suffer death for their moral failure, they would leave a world of perfect harmony into one of frustration and futility. Thankfully it was not one of chaos. The laws that controlled the universe may have been changed, distorted even, but they were not removed altogether. Humans still had the possibility of finding purpose and meaning, even in their fallen state, if they were prepared to acknowledge God and respect his moral and physical laws.

So, in our world nothing works quite the way it should, but it still works better when we don’t try to live without God. This is the point that Solomon seeks to make in his proverbs. Living according to the wisdom of God will not guarantee a perfect outcome but it will improve your chances of living a better life.

In the absence of perfection we can still find joy and contentment if we live in harmony with the Word of God. We will never achieve exactly what we want in this world but being content with what’s available is far better than pining over what’s not.

Welfare economist John Nash illustrated this beautifully by showing that if every man’s exclusive choice for a wife is a gorgeous blonde, the short supply of gorgeous blondes will leave a lot of men and non-blonde women dissatisfied. However if men ignored gorgeous blondes, and went for nice redheads and brunettes instead, the only ones totally dissatisfied would be the blondes and the overall happiness of the community would be higher. You can sometimes do better when you make do with what you can get rather than hold out for what you can’t.

Jesus said much the same thing when he advised us not to go chasing after the things of this world. Doing this will make you so obsessed that you will not only live in perpetual frustration but you will also blind yourself to the reality of real joy and satisfaction that comes from seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness.

So do you still want to try for perfection in a world whose fundamental laws are against it, or would you rather find contentment with what God has given you now, in the knowledge that perfection is waiting; just one world away?

Better to be an usher in the playhouse of the Lord than a star in the Theatre of the Absurd.

Marriage 101

Marriage is boot camp for Heaven so don't expect it to be easy. Here are three rules that might help you to succeed where others have failed.

Taking on a marriage partner is a bit like going on a long bush walk with a heavy, uncomfortable pack on your back full of essential supplies. At times you’d like to dump it but you know you’d be worse off if you did. Marriage is a particularly difficult relationship because it is an incredibly intimate one.

Learning to live within a marriage is amazing training for heaven because heaven is a place of such intense intimacy that without understanding the fundamentals of relationships you might as well sign up for the other place. If you don’t like being with people, the other place would suit you better because there are no relationships to burden you there.

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are, when examined closely, nothing more than the things you need to live in harmony with your brothers and sisters and if you married a human being then those gifts will also help you to live in harmony with the human you married.

One might summarise these fruits under three headings:loyalty, kindness and forgiveness.

To be loyal is to throw your lot in with your partner for better or worse against all temptation to stray and against the criticism of the world around you. Those that publically denigrate their partner are in fact denigrating themselves – they are indicating two things: firstly that they have made an incredibly unwise choice of partner and secondly, that their influence in the partnership has done little to improve that choice.

Loyalty is about dependability and a commitment not only to one’s partner but also to the quality of the relationship that holds the partnership together. It is hard to walk away from a relationship that has experienced years of loyalty, especially when that loyalty has been at some cost, as it usually is.

It has been trendy of recent times for people to do random acts of kindness. It’s a cute idea but kindness is meant to be more than an occasional random act it’s meant to be an intentional way of life. One will never be successful in relationships unless they have a kind nature. Even in times of tension when we find ourselves saying negative things, kindness is incredibly important. Verbal abuse is as bad as physical abuse when it comes to destroying trust and love in a relationship. Words are like arrows once fired they can never be retrieved. They will go forth and do their work for good or for evil depending on what kind of words they are. Your partner may annoy you, frustrate you and disappoint you but nothing can justify unkindness.

Since perfect loyalty and kindness are impossible for us to achieve we need forgiveness and we need to be forgiving.

I might get the idea that you love me if you are loyal and kind but I am even more convinced when you forgive me when I have failed to show loyalty and kindness to you.

So no matter how difficult your marriage may be at times keep being loyal, kind and forgiving because that is how God is to you.

The Message From the Victorian fires

A critique of the Media Release from Danny Dallia of Catch the Fire ministries

Pastor Danny Dalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries has drawn considerable flak this week over his interpretation of God’s will in the Victorian fires.

He’s claimed to have received a special word from God in a dream telling him that the recent fires represent God’s condemnation against Australia generally and Victoria in particular for having recently decriminalized Abortion.

He suggests we can stop the fires by responding to God’s command found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).

We should have no problems with the idea of wanting people to repent and pray, God allows disasters like this for that very reason, but I am deeply troubled by the way Pastor Danny has gone about this:

Firstly, Australia in 2009 is not equivalent to Israel in 960 BC. Australia is not God’s nation nor are we living in the promised land. Therefore the words found in the above passage, given to Solomon at the inauguration of the Temple, cannot be applied directly to Australians without some qualification.

There are members of God’s kingdom here but no land will not be allocated to them until Jesus returns. In the meantime, Christians are to see themselves as ambassadors and strangers in a foreign country in the same way as Daniel and his friends did during their time as servants in the Babylonian palace.

Encouraging Christians to return to God is one thing, but telling Australians generally to turn back to God with the promise of the renewal of their land, makes no sense unless they were once God’s chosen people, living on God’s chosen land to start with.

In any case there is no suggestion in the New Testament that God has any plans for renewing the earth until the arrival of the New Jerusalem from heaven. If anything, we are to expect further death and destruction. Our hope is not to be found in this world but in the new heavens and the new earth being prepared for God’s elect when Jesus returns as King.

Many who lived in that part of Victoria did so because, in their own words, “It was as close as you could get to Heaven”. The one clear message from God in these fires has to be that Heaven is not available here. To promise people that God would heal their land if they repent is a very unhelpful distortion of the truth.

Secondly, it was incredibly insensitive to suggest that those who lost their homes, lives and loved ones were being singled out by God for what the Victorian Government did. Furthermore, there is no evidence suggesting the communities who suffered were heavily into aborting their unborn children.

Suffering and tragedy is allowed by God so that people might turn to his church to find salvation. When they turn up you hope they’ll find people of understanding and compassion rather than arbitrary condemnation for laws they did not pass, nor crimes they may not have committed. I recognise that Danny and his church has supported the victims in practical ways but compassion should come from our mouths as well.

Thirdly, to demonstrate the absurdity of his position: if the worst natural disaster we have ever experienced has killed less than 300 people, Pastor Danny would have to conclude, when comparing our record in natural disasters, to the rest of the world, that we are one of the most godly nations on earth.

Fourthly, Jesus in Luke 13:1-5 indicates very clearly how we are to interpret such events in these last days. When disasters occur we are not to make the dangerous assumption that the victims were any more guilty than anyone else.

Rather, such tragedies should be powerful reminders that none of us can predict the day of our death. Since everyone is in danger of judgment and condemnation, it’s essential that all people repent immediately and avail themselves of the offer of forgiveness provided by Jesus in his dying on the cross for sin.

We can have no idea how soon we’ll be standing in the courthouse of God, so it’s vital we all go for an out of court settlement while we can. (Lk 12:57-59)

Finally, we need to be very wary of people who claim to hear God speak in dreams. Not one preacher or evangelist in the New Testament received messages destined for others this way and only rarely did God speak to people while they were asleep in the Old Testament.

None of the books of prophecy were the product of dreams. On the rare occasions God communicated this way in the Old Testament it was invariably to increase the credibility and authority of his messengers in the eyes of gentiles in a world that once placed great store in such things. God’s preference was to commicate to his people while they were well and truly awake.

When a high profile pastor claims to hear God in dreams he inadvertently gives license to every self appointed prophet and spiritual crackpot to claim authenticity for all kinds of spiritual experiences, allowing them to make it up as they go. This kind of thing also increases the level of incredulity among non-chritians in Australia who are already very cynical about the church today.

If the content of a dream seems to disagree with the Word of God as this one does, we should avoid taking the dreamer seriously in anything he says.

The Governments We Deserve

The whole world is focussed on Barack Obama and the promise of hope and change he represents. One man is expected to save, not only his own country, but the world. How plausible is our reasoning? What does God say?

Almost everyone is exited about the election of Barack Obama – the world is expecting a lot from him.

“Barack Obama truly is the hope of our time” – Kevin Rudd

“We are eager for him to get to work so that with him we can change the world” – French President Nicolas Sarkozy

“Your election to this high office has inspired people as few other events in recent times have done” – Nelson Mandela

“Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven” – Rev. Rick Warren

How do you feel, how do you rate his chances of reforming the States and changing the world? Perhaps we can learn something from the events of the sixth century BC in Jerusalem. (2 Kings 21-24, 2 Chronicles 33-35).

The people of Judah barely survived under fifty five years of Manasseh who had profaned everything that was holy and “filled Jerusalem with blood from end to end”. His son, Amon, would seek to outdo his father in tyranny until he fell, assassinated by his own officials. The people rose up, slaughtered the officials and installed Josiah, Aman’s eight year old son, as king.

At 16 Josiah would seek the Lord with great determination and at 20 he began to reform the nation and bring it back to God. Pulling down the Asherah poles and breaking up the carved images and statues of Baal, he purged the nation of all its symbols of pagan worship. He got rid of the mediums, spiritualists and diviners and slaughtered the pagan priests – burning their bones on their own alters. His campaign of cleansing extended beyond the borders of Judah into the lands once held by the northern kingdom of Israel as far as the region of Galillee.

He then set about to put the temple back to order. In the cleaning out process the long lost book of the Law was found. Josiah would discover in reading it, just how far the nation has transgressed. The discovery increased his zeal for reform and so successful was he that, by his eighteenth year in office, the people were ready once more as a nation to celebrate the Passover.

The author of Kings would describe this Passover held that year as the greatest in the nation’s history. He would also proclaim Josiah to be the godliest king they ever had.

“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the lord like he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the law of Moses”. (2 Kings 23:25)

Sadly the same author would also record that God’s anger towards his people was not about to change, he knew their hearts and within a short time after Josiah’s death they would be led back into their old evil ways by Josiah’s successor.

No leader can truly change a nation unless he begins at the heart of every individual in that nation.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, no fan of the United States, may nevertheless have been prophetic in his response to the election of Obama: “I am deeply convinced that the biggest disappointments are born out of big expectations”.

The only king that can truly reform the human race is the one who has the power and authority to rule over us and the intimacy to rule in us. While even one heart refuses to have Him as Lord no nation is safe.

When Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world he meant, among other things, that we are not to put too much hope in human leaders. We are to obey them, pray for them and where possible encourage them, but we are to be careful not to expect too much from them.

Our best leaders don’t save us – they prove beyond doubt that without Christ we are beyond salvation.

Connected Through the Trinity

Christians are members of God's family, a family that existed even before humans came into being.

Doris Day once had a hit called “Everybody loves a lover”. The point made by the song was that people in love become more loveable because the love they feel in having found someone to love them, is both contagious and uplifting. Finding a soul-mate is part of what completes and fulfils us as human beings.

God said it was not good for the man to be alone because we were not created to live in isolation. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have never been alone, the three eternal persons we call God have always been in a perfect, loving relationship. So when we say that God is love we don’t mean that he is made of a substance called love but that he has always existed as a loving relationship. The unitity expressed in this relationship is so perfect, that if you know one it’s the same as knowing all three.

Thus when Philip said to Jesus “Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” Jesus replied by saying “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (John 14:8-9). Hebrews explains this by saying “Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”, so any one who has seen Jesus has seen the Father because the Son fully represents the Father. He can only do it if he is of the same nature and fully unified with the Father. Not being able to see the Son is no disadvantage because the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit who is sent by both the Father and the Son, resides in us and connects us to both the Father and the Son.

This is part of what it means to be born again. To be born again is to be supernaturally connected to the creator of the universe at a level of intimacy that makes one aware that he is a child of God. That is why Jesus instructs Christians to refer to God as ‘Father’. The Bible also refers to this process as Spiritual adoption, which is similar to human adoption except for two things: firstly, instead of being adopted by surrogate parents you are adopted by your real Father and secondly, your adoption can never be nullified by death or separation (Romans 8:35).

So one who is born again becomes a child of God the Father (John 1:12), a brother of Jesus his Son (Hebrew 2:11-12) and a future co-ruler of the redeemed universe (Romans 8:21)

We who are born again can be sure of this, not because we deserve it but because he has redeemed us through the death of his Son who became a man and died, taking the blame and punishment for all our sins.

Everyone is born once. The Bible calls that being born of the flesh (John 3:6) but flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:16) so we need to be reborn of something more suitable for the eternal, indestructible world God is preparing us for and that means being born of the Spirit.

Being born of the Spirit also means being transferred from the condemned kingdom of this world to the eternal Kingdom of God. Though we remain here to work for the Kingdom of God until we die, death means an immediate transfer into the eternal Kingdom where there is no death, crying, mourning or pain (Rev 21).

Jesus said that those who are born again will experience a real permanent change in their lives transcends human understanding. He describes this in John 3:8 as being like the mysterious wind that we can hear but know little about. Those that are born again not only know about God, they actually know him personally and what’s more they know that it is God that they know. This knowledge of God is not made possible by water baptism but by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The experience of being born again comes to all who genuinely trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus – there is no other way one can be connected to God. The connection one has with his or her heavenly Father is far more important than any other connection a person may have. It is like falling in love with God and knowing for certain that he is deeply in love with you. This is the most contagious love of all because when a person is loved by God, he is loved indeed.

Crossing over

After becoming a Christian your whole life changes. What once was very important now takes second place.

I remember well the bad old days, driving to Melbourne down that goat track called the Hume Highway. It used to be regarded as one of the great motoring adventures of our time. Even if, as a passenger, you had managed to fall asleep through Albury-Wodonga you would have no doubt that you had crossed the border once you woke up.

In place of the horror strech was a dual-carriage motorway capable of carrying any number of vehicles at high speed without the slightest danger of breaking an axle or your back.

In many ways the Christian life is like that – not everyone has an obvious religious experience as they cross the border from death to life, but one thong is certain, once you are in the kingdom of God everything looks different.

Unmistakable

You will notice differences in yourself as well. In place of selfishness you will discover a growing desire to love and serve others. Instead of indifference or proud arrogance towards God, you will experience a desire to please him, even at great cost to yourself. Andrew and Peter would not be the last people to walk away from a lucrative business to follow Jesus.

You’ll also experience a growing desire to know more about the things of God and as your relationship with him grows you will develop a dislike for some of the things you used to love on the other side.

You will also find yourself growing closer to Christians – the very people you once tried to avoid.

Where once you came to church out of a sense of duty, if you came at all, you now find real joy in being with your Christian brothers and sisters and can’t wait to share your life with them. You may well have felt everyone at church was judging you but now you feel comfort in the presence of forgiven sinners.

You will find that God’s Word will make sense to you and even when it is difficult you will experience the joy of hearing your master speak through the Bible – what was once a mere book will become the living word. You will also get a great joy out of hearing the Word preached.

You will discover a changed attitude towards prayer and find yourself spontaneously thanking God, confessing your sins and praying for others. You will discover that the real joy of prayer is not simply asking for things but simply knowing that he hears you.

Finally, the eternal destiny of family and friends will become a real concern for you because, having crossed from death to life, you will see so much more clearly just how dead death is.

The basis for certainty

The certainty of your salvation is not based on emotions, evidence or experience but on a deep knowing that transcends these things. This deep knowing is called faith and it is strengthened and made reasonable through emotions, experiences and evidence but only because faith, being a gift from God, enables the Christian to correctly interpret the multimedia messages he gets from God and the world he lives in. It’s all about an eternal transformation.