Part of the10 Hard Truths about Being Born Againseries.
You are either dead or alive.
If you’re reading this, I vote alive. But there’s another way in which you could still read this and be dead.
Because, in the wake of a tangle with a non-believer the truth of their condition becomes so apparent to me:
Apart from the new birth they are dead. Spiritually dead, that is.
This explains why conversations with non-believers can be so frustrating. It’s like talking to a vertical corpse. [I’m sure they feel the same way about me.]
More importantly, though, and this is my point, if I get sucked into the slipstream of argument and debate and don’t move to a graceful articulation of the good news–I’ve failed.
What Does It Mean to Be Spiritually Dead?
At a recent conference John Piper unpacked what it means to be dead apart from the new birth:
1. We are by nature children of wrath. Ephesians 2:3
2. We love darkness and hate the light. John 3:19-20
3. We have hearts that are hard like stone. Ephesians 4:18-19
4. We are hostile towards God, unable to submit or please him. Romans 8:7
5. We are unable to accept the gospel 1 Corinthians 2:14
7. We are slaves to sin. Romans 6:17
8. We are slaves of satan. Ephesians 2:1-2
9. No good thing dwells in us. Romans 7:18
To anyone who cares, this is bad news.
What the New Birth Doesn’t Mean
However, though I count myself on the side of the spiritually living, there is a work of sin that remains in me even though I have been born again.
In fact, I don’t think I go a single hour without offending God.
But here’s the deal: That can either devastate me…or it can move me to adore and embrace Christ even more…
Because as bad as the bad news is, it is glorious to get it right because there is a glorious remedy: The new birth.
So, as Tim Challies said in his summary of Piper’s new birth sermon, “when we properly understand our own badness, we see Christ more gloriously.”
And don’t miss this: I don’t feel myself becoming gloriously more holy. No. I feel myself becoming gloriously more grateful. More humble. More passionate to share the undeserved gift I’ve received.
My Shameless Articulation of the Good News
Perhaps you’ve noticed by now, but there’s a pattern to my 10 Questions with an Atheist series. It looks something like this: First interview. Second, articulation of the Gospel.
Mind you, this isn’t by design. It’s by compulsion.
The first time it happened, I rolled out an unflinching dedication to readers who care enough to share the Gospel with the spiritually blind.
The second time it erupted into a simple, but elegant confession of my boundless gratitude for the Gospel.
Bottom line: It just feels so right to follow up an atheist interview with the proclamation that Jesus is my savior. Our savior.
Unbeliever: What I Want You to Know
If you are a non-believer, I want you to know this: I have no delusions about winning you over.
I know better than that.
There’s no silver bullet in my apologetics toolbox that will take you out of your atheism. That’s one of the reasons I don’t spend much time mastering classical or current arguments.
It fundamentally comes down to this: The Holy Spirit freely gives life. And it only happens through the living and abiding word of God.
It’s that Word that brings about faith–not a sophisticated cosmological argument–and it is only through that Word that we are awakened to receive Christ and believe him.
How to Lose Readers and Subscribers
Naturally, there’s a good chance that I lose some subscribers with a post like this. A good chance I turn away some readers.
Suicide in our market-driven culture, yes. But I don’t care. It’s Christ and Christ crucified.
In Jesus’ own ministry, he didn’t widen the Gospel–he narrowed it. And trust me, I wish it were different. My task–the preacher’s task–is impossible.
That’s why it needs to be empowered by God. Not me. Yet through me. Through my articulation of the Gospel God awakens dead souls.
And that is a remarkably humbling thing to know. Don’t you think?