How much time have we invested since our salvation to understand what all transpired the moment we were saved and to consider our possessions by virtue of our relationship with the Lord? Possessions that when lived out serve as the very evidence of our salvation, possessions they characterize the genuine believer in Christ.
Each one of us will receive and process what I share here from one of two differing places. Either as a true Christian, as one who can distinguish those possessions to varying degrees in his or her life, though still growing and maturing. Or as one who is not in an experiential relationship with Jesus Christ, one who cannot truly discern these possessions in his or her life. At best, all you have is an intellectual knowledge of Christ, but your heart is not truly where He has taken up residence.
True believers are characterized and possess:
A New Mind About God – Repentance
“I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). Before our salvation, we had to have an encounter with Him and see Him for who He is, which in turn led us to do a turn-about. Charles Swindoll states, “the basic formula turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus is the bedrock message upon which everything else in Christian theology and practice builds.”1 To the Jew this meant a turn-about from seeking God’s favor by keeping the law to recognizing Jesus Christ as Messiah. To the Gentiles it meant a turn-about from the worship of idols to the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins.
In the Greek, the words repentance and faith are joined by one article. This seems to imply that these two words stress two aspects of trust in Jesus Christ. In Acts 2:38 Peter said, “repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It speaks of or describes the changing of one’s mind resulting in the changing of one’s behavior; it is the sinner making a conscious deliberate choice to turn from his sins to God.
The point here is that in our salvific encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, we turned from what we believed in, we repented, because our mind was changed, to Him. As individuals who have been justified by faith, we now possess a new mind about God because He has revealed Himself to us, leading to faith in the revelation of Him.
A New Attitude Towards God – Conversion
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, notice His response, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted [unless you change] and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:1-4 NASB). The Lord uses an analogy to illustrate what it means to be a Christian.
The disciples were still anticipating an earthly kingdom and wondering what great positions they would have. The Lord responds by taking a child who, according to the Law, had no rights, and stood him in their midst. The point He is making is that there needs to be a new attitude regarding status and the kingdom. Greatness in the kingdom is based on childlike humility in spirit. Michael G. Vanlaningham writes, “Jesus’ answer focused not on rank, but on the more critical issue of how to enter the kingdom—that is, by being converted (“change one’s ways, to turn to God”) and becoming like children.”2 Christ is pointing to the necessity of conversion. Clearly the language of turning and becoming like a child is a call by Christ to a fundamental change. If a sinner is going to become a citizen of the kingdom, that sinner must turn from self and trust in God.
As believers, we possess a new attitude towards God, understanding that humility in spirit, which comes through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, gains us entrance into the kingdom of heaven and makes us great in the eyes of God.
A New Life from God – Regeneration
“He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
God saved us by the washing of regeneration [rebirth]. The new creation is the result of conversion which is the result of repentance and faith, “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). It is a moral cleansing by the Word of God, “you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
We are literally born-again, born-anew and given a new life through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings about this miraculous transformation—not putting new clothes on the old man but putting a new man in the clothes.
It is said that this may very well be the greatest verse in Scripture on the doctrine of regeneration, the new birth experienced by those who repented and placed their trust entirely and exclusively in Jesus Christ. Paul begins by first explaining that works of righteousness had nothing to do with our regeneration, a notion that has plagued humanity since the fall. There is nothing we can give God and as long as a person continues to believe that he does, in some way, shape, or form, contribute to his salvation, then that person has never been saved. There is no working oneself into heaven. I am reminded of Isa. 64:6, “all of us have become like something unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment.”
Regeneration consists negatively of removal of filth and positively of a renewing, both of which are brought about by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration washes us, makes us clean through the new birth.
We possess a new life from God. The Holy Spirit is the agent of regeneration, the instrument of regeneration is the Word of God. When we are regenerated, when He washes away our sin, we gain new life and all that comes with it. We live a new life because of the Holy Spirit (see Rom. 8:9-17), whom He generously poured out upon us because of what our Savior did.
A New State before God – Justification
“He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Justification is a judicial declaration made by the sovereign Judge regarding a saved person. The text says that Jesus was delivered over to death, not because He had sinned, but for our sins. He died a substitutionary death, He died in our place. My sin was imputed to Him while He was on the cross, and when He died and rose again, He paid for my sin once for all, He completely settled my debt.
James Boice states that “the resurrection proves that every believer in Christ is justified from all sin, as Rom. 4:25 declares. In other words, it is God’s evidence to us that the penalty for our transgressions has been fully paid by Jesus. When Jesus was on earth, he said that he would die for the sins of others. The time for the crucifixion came, and he did die. But the question remained: Was his death fully acceptable to God for others’ sins? Did God accept his atonement? We know that if Jesus had sinned, however slightly, his death could not atone even for his own sin let alone the sin of others. For three days the question remained unanswered. The body of Jesus lay in the tomb. But then the hour came, Jesus rose to appear to his followers and later to ascend to the right hand of the Father. By this means God declared to the entire universe, ‘I have accepted the atonement Jesus made.’”3
R. A. Torrey writes, “When Jesus died, he died as my representative, and I died in him; when he arose, he rose as my representative, and I arose in him…. I look at the cross of Christ, and I know that atonement has been made for my sins; I look at the open sepulcher and the risen and ascended Lord, and I know that the atonement has been accepted. There no longer remains a single sin on me, no matter how many or how great my sins may have been. My sins may have been as high as the mountains, but in the light of the resurrection the atonement that covers them is as high as heaven. My sins may have been as deep as the ocean, but in the light of the resurrection the atonement that swallows them up is as deep as eternity.”4
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “The resurrection is the proclamation of the fact that God is fully and completely satisfied with the work that his Son did upon the Cross.”5
But the benefits of His substitutionary death and His resurrection are not ours until we are born-again, until we repent of our sin and by faith trust Christ alone for our salvation because of who He is and what He has done. At that moment, the sovereign Judge of the universe declares us to be righteous and acceptable, for the perfect righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us, credited to our account. Life is now the process of me becoming practically what I already am positionally.
A New Relationship with God – Sonship
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him” (1 John 3:1 NLT). When I was born-again, when I repented of my sin, and trusted Christ alone for my salvation, at that very instant I was made a child of Almighty God. He adopted me as His own; He made me a son, a member of His family. In Scripture the word calls indicate that this is what one is. Those who have been saved are called children of God because they are the born ones of the Father.
The Greek behind the English expression See how very much speaks of something that has come from another world—something beyond what has previously been experienced. God’s love comes from another world; it seems foreign to humanity. And it is the very love of God that has been poured out on all who believe, as shown by the fact that God he calls us his children.
The almighty, sovereign God has brought those of us who believe into the loving, personal and intimate relationship of children with their Father. John was emphasizing the assurance believers can have that they really are God’s children.
A New Position before God – Loved
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James:
“To those who are the called, loved by God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1).
Called is also referred to as “elected,” “chosen,” or “predestined.” The Holy Spirit calls sinners out of darkness into the light of Christ, convicts and convinces them of their sinfulness, shows them who Christ is and what He has done, and then brings them to a place where they say yes to Him.
We have been set apart by God to be His special and holy people. He also preserves us from danger, damage, defilement, and damnation until we are ushered into the presence of the King of glory!
Loved is the preferred reading over “sanctified” (KJV, NKJV). The emphasis here is that we are loved—abidingly so—by the Father.
This is the only place in Scripture where this phrase loved by God the Father appears. For those in Christ, God is now their Father, and He loves them with a Fatherly affection that is perfect and permanent, not a whimsical, fleeting, or conditional love. We can do nothing to make him love you more or to make him love you less. First John 4:10 beautifully puts it, This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
A New Place with God – Glorification
“And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). Do not miss the progression here or the tense used. Between the start and finish of God’s plan are four steps: (1) being predestined (predestination in the present context is not concerned with election to salvation, rather, it has to do with God foreordaining that believers become like Christ. Paul writes in 2 Cor 3:18, And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2) Being called (cf. Rom. 1:6; 8:28) (3) Being justified (cf. 3:24, 28; 4:2; 5:1, 9). And (4) being glorified (cf. 8:17; Col. 1:27; 3:4). No believer is lost in the process.
Glorified is in the past tense because this final step is so certain that in God’s eyes it is as good as done. To be glorified is another way of saying that God’s children will be conformed to His Son; and that is God’s ultimate purpose. No longer will we fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
1 Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary – Acts.
2 The Moody Bible Commentary.
3 Boice Expositional Commentary – Romans, Volume 1: Justification by Faith (Romans 1-4).
4 The Bible and Its Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1904-1906).
5 Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D. and published by Reasons for Faith International Ministries, Inc. by permission. No part may be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright © 2006-2021 Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.