The decision to make “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” () is taken by the Creator Himself. It is because He is needing to end the dark, sin-stained history in the universe.
It is interesting that all of God’s creation, though affected by sin, will be renewed by the power and absolute will of our Creator. Yet mankind, having chosen to sin, is invited to accept in advance a special renewal performed by God through the Holy Spirit, because in the city of God “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth” ().
The warning given to Nicodemus is still valid for all beings affected by sin: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” ().
Such an approach is given because God wants everyone to be saved. For, He declares: “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye” (). At the same time, God respects the will of every man.
He is using all possible ways to make man conscious of his need and presents him with opportunities to accept the offer of salvation.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (). Here the term “transformed” means changed.
“When Jesus speaks of the new heart, he means the mind, the life, the whole being. To have a change of heart is to withdraw the affections from the world, and fasten them upon Christ. To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives. What is the sign of a new heart?—A changed life. There is a daily, hourly dying to selfishness and pride.”1
“The mind is the capital of the body.”2
“The mind controls the whole man. All our actions, good or bad, have their source in the mind. It is the mind that worships God and allies us to heavenly beings.”3
So, the place where genuine renewal begins is the mind.
After the Lord has spoken to our mind and His offer impresses—becomes attractive to—us, He asks for our consent saying: “If thou wilt” ().
God never forces our will, but whenever possible, He meets us in the way with the appeals of the Holy Spirit to remind us of the only chance of salvation.
“Your will is the spring of all your actions. This will, that forms so important a factor in the character of man, was at the Fall given into the control of Satan; and he has ever since been working in man to will and to do of his own pleasure, but to the utter ruin and misery of man.
“But the infinite sacrifice of God in giving Jesus, His beloved Son, to become a sacrifice for sin, enables Him to say, without violating one principle of His government: ‘Yield yourself up to Me; give Me that will; take it from the control of Satan, and I will take possession of it; then I can work in you to will and to do of My good pleasure.’ When He gives you the mind of Christ, your will becomes as His will, and your character is transformed to be like Christ’s character.”4
“The Spirit of God does not propose to do our part, either in the willing or the doing. This is the work of the human agent in cooperating with the divine agencies. As soon as we incline our will to harmonize with God’s will, the grace of Christ stands to cooperate with the human agent; but it will not be the substitute to do our work independent of our resolving and decidedly acting. Therefore it is not the abundance of light, and evidence piled upon evidence, that will convert the soul it is only the human agent accepting the light, arousing the energies of the will, realizing and acknowledging that which he knows is righteousness and truth, and thus cooperating with the heavenly ministrations appointed to God in the saving of the soul.”5
To say “I believe, I want” is fundamental, but that is not enough.
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” ().
“Through the cultivation of righteous principles, man may gain the victory over the bias to evil. If he is obedient to the law of God, the senses are no longer warped and twisted; the faculties are no longer perverted and wasted by being exercised on objects that are of a character to lead away from God. In and through the grace bestowed by Heaven, the words, the thoughts, and the energies may be purified; a new character may be formed, and the debasement of sin overcome.”6
Even though we did not ask for our existence, we still enjoy the life given by God, a period in which we are subjected to the most important examination that has eternal consequences. The Holy Spirit wants us to realize what that means today.
“As the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice” (). [Emphasis added.]
The Bible abounds in examples of people who have received the invitation of grace and have been transformed, renewed, and prepared to live with sinless beings. But many are those who have rejected and disregarded the appeal of the Holy Spirit, letting the time for a change, for their new birth, to pass by.
“Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed” ().
Let us observe an essential aspect of the second plague that fell upon Egypt. Pharaoh had called Moses and Aaron, saying:
“Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the Lord, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord. And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only? And he said, To morrow” ().
“He set the next day, secretly hoping that in the interval the frogs might disappear of themselves, and thus save him from the bitter humiliation of submitting to the God of Israel.”7
In other words, “tomorrow” is Satan’s working policy, and is one of the most effective for destruction. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit says “today” because we do not have the guarantee of tomorrow.
“God speaks to men through His servants, giving cautions and warnings, and rebuking sin. He gives to each an opportunity to correct his errors before they become fixed in the character; but if one refuses to be corrected, divine power does not interpose to counteract the tendency of his own action. He finds it more easy to repeat the same course. He is hardening the heart against the influence of the Holy Spirit.”8
“Those who are quieting a guilty conscience with the thought that they can change a course of evil when they choose, that they can trifle with the invitations of mercy, and yet be again and again impressed, take this course at their peril. They think that after casting all their influence on the side of the great rebel, in a moment of utmost extremity, when danger compasses them about, they will change leaders. But this is not so easily done. The experience, the education, the discipline of a life of sinful indulgence, has so thoroughly molded the character that they cannot then receive the image of Jesus. Had no light shone upon their pathway, the case would have been different. Mercy might interpose, and give them an opportunity to accept her overtures; but after light has been long rejected and despised, it will be finally withdrawn.”9
How impressive and uplifting are the changes made by the work of the Holy Spirit! After his renewal, Nebuchadnezzar recounts his experience of change:
“At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (, ).
“The once proud monarch had become a humble child of God; the tyrannical, overbearing ruler, a wise and compassionate king. He who had defied and blasphemed the God of heaven, now acknowledged the power of the Most High and earnestly sought to promote the fear of Jehovah and the happiness of his subjects.”10
Being one of the most zealous persecutors of the church of Christ, caring not how much blood was shed as long as he achieved his purpose, Saul wrote: “I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” ().
Saul’s unbelief was honest, but not excusable. “The mind that resists the truth will see everything in a perverted light. It will be fastened in the sure toils of the enemy, and view things in the light of the enemy.”11
“Always the Lord gives the human agent his work. Here is the divine and the human cooperation. There is man working in obedience to divine light given. If Saul had said, Lord, I am not at all inclined to follow your specified directions to work out my own salvation, then should the Lord have let ten times the light shine upon Saul, it would have been useless. It is man’s work to cooperate with the divine. And it is the very hardest, sternest conflict which comes with the purpose and hour of great resolve and decision of the human to incline the will and way to God’s will and God’s way. . . . The character will determine the nature of the resolve and the action. The doing is not in accordance with the feeling or the inclination, but with the known will of our Father which is in heaven. Follow and obey the leadings of the Holy Spirit.”12
As soon as Saul understood and accepted the truth, he began to work for the cause of Christ tirelessly, saying: “I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” () for Christ.
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (, ).
“When the sinner reaches the cross, and looks up to the One who died to save him, he may rejoice with fullness of joy; for his sins are pardoned. Kneeling at the cross, he has reached the highest place to which man can attain. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ; and the words of pardon are spoken: Live, O ye guilty sinners, live. Your repentance is accepted; for I have found a ransom.”13
“The youth especially stumble over this phrase, ‘a new heart.’ They do not know what it means. They look for a special change to take place in their feelings. This they term conversion. Over this error thousands have stumbled to ruin, not understanding the expression, ‘Ye must be born again.’ ”14
“One of the most earnest prayers recorded in the Word of God is that of David when he plead, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God.’ God’s response to such a prayer is, A new heart will I give you. This is a work that no finite man can do. Men and women are to begin at the beginning, seeking God most earnestly for a true Christian experience. They are to feel the creative power of the Holy Spirit. They are to receive the new heart, that is kept soft and tender by the grace of heaven. The selfish spirit is to be cleansed from the soul. They are to labor earnestly and with humility of heart, each one looking to Jesus for guidance and encouragement. Then the building, fitly framed together, will grow into a holy temple in the Lord.”15
“Sincere Christians have no doubtful piety. They have put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and have made no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. They are constantly looking to Jesus for His orders, as a servant looks to His master, or as a maid looks to her mistress. Wheresoever God’s providence may lead, they stand ready to go. They take no glory to themselves. They do not call anything they have—learning, talents, property—their own, but regard themselves as only stewards of the manifold grace of Christ, and servants to the church for Christ’s sake. These are messengers of the Lord, a light amid the darkness. Their hearts throb in unison with the great heart of Christ.”16
Since the chance to receive salvation is only when we surrender the whole being to Christ so that He may recreate us in His image, let us not be ignorant of such great salvation. This offer is made only in this short life, which we do not know how long will last. So, there is only one option for the one who wants eternal life—renewing—and not tomorrow, but today.
God expects this from us, for our eternal good and happiness.
The Lord is near. Amen.