Section 6: Salvation – Part 1
Week 3: Conversion – Turning to Christ in Faith
Day 5: Saving Faith Is the Result of the Holy Spirit’s Work within Us
1 Peter 1:3-8, 23-25
Jeni and I went vegan a few years ago. There was a time when I couldn’t have imagined that. We had once tried a vegan restaurant and couldn’t bring ourselves to eat anything. Everything on the menu had quotation marks. For example, what in the world is “Chikn”? I had no idea and didn’t care to find out. Veganism had no appeal for me whatsoever. I mean who eats tofu when bacon is an option, right? More fundamentally, though, I thought, “Animals aren’t humans; they’re animals. So what’s all the fuss about?”
Then Jeni watched a film on the food industry’s treatment of animals. The film documented horrible living conditions, calves being taken from their mother’s right after birth, and screaming pigs being slaughtered while they were still conscious. The film had a profound effect on Jeni. She wasn’t the same person afterwards. Something deep within her changed. As a result, she no longer looked at food in the same way. Bacon was no longer a salty, delicious treat. It was a symbol of animal cruelty. That’s why she has absolutely no desire to eat meat. It’s also why I don’t let her watch documentaries anymore.
I don’t bring up Jeni’s experience to try to get you to convert to veganism. I bring it up because a similar change has to happen within us before we are willing to turn to Christ in faith. We’ve already discussed the fact that we are born with a sin nature. Because of that, we don’t really want to turn to Christ, at least not the Christ revealed in the Bible. As we noted yesterday, Christ wants to restore the image of God within us. We don’t naturally have any desire to be part of that restoration project. We don’t see any need for it. We’re not that bad. A Christ who tells us our sin deserves God’s wrath, a Christ who says he is the only way to salvation, a Christ who tells us to give up the sin we love so much, doesn’t seem particularly attractive.
That’s why something needs to change before we will turn to Christ in faith. And a documentary isn’t going to be enough. Because our resistance is woven into the fabric of our sinful nature, we need a supernatural source of change. We don’t understand exactly how the Holy Spirit does it, but in some way he works within us to change our hearts and break down our natural resistance. When that happens, all of a sudden we see our sin differently. It’s no longer something attractive because we see sin for what it really is. More importantly, though, we begin to see Christ for who he is. As a result, we want to not only turn to him for salvation, but to follow him.
This inner change is called regeneration or being born again because, in a real sense, when the Holy Spirit gets done with us we’re new people with new hearts and new hope. Our turning to Christ in faith is what saves us, but that can only happen if the Holy Spirit changes us first.
Think of one or two people you know who haven’t yet put their faith in Christ.
What do you think the biggest stumbling block is for them? What do you think it would take for them to overcome that? Do you think the Holy Spirit’s work is necessary to make that happen?