A genuine Christian is not just someone who believes and follows certain doctrines. He is not a Christian because he has a ‘Christian’ name, was born in a ‘Christian’ family, or has changed his religion to Christianity. He was born again at some point in his life when he came to Jesus as a sinner, repented of his sins and his sinful ways, and placed his trust in Jesus as his Saviour who has given His life for him. Something supernatural began in him when God took away his old heart and gave him a new heart and a new spirit, and wrote His laws upon his heart. He is no longer just a natural person. Even if he has come from a Christian family, this is a conversion--the only type of conversion that counts with God--from being an ordinary man to a child of God.
When a man gets genuinely converted and becomes a Christian, many changes take place in him in a supernatural way as a result of the work of God (Jer.31:31-34;Ezek.36:25-27). His stony heart is replaced by a soft and pliable heart that God can further mould. God writes His laws on his heart so that he receives a love for the ways of God and a desire to walk in them. This man now has a personal relationship with God as his Father, with Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, and with the Holy Spirit as his Comforter, Teacher, Counsellor, Helper and Guide. The burden of his sins has been taken away and replaced by a secure sense of acceptance from God as His child. As a sinner he used to know only the natural life in the body and soul, and his spirit was dead in relation to God. But now his spirit is set free and this opens up an entirely new realm of life for him in fellowship with God.
It is easy to see that this is a supernatural experience compared to that of someone who just leaves one form of religion to take up another--whether it is from one religion to another or from one church to another--changing his beliefs and activities to fall in line with his newly chosen form. Unfortunately, even many who consider themselves to be ‘born again Christians’ have only experienced a superficial and not a genuine conversion in their lives. The change that they have had has nothing supernatural about it. This is because somehow they have not really understood or experienced what it means to recognise themselves as sinners before God who deserve only the punishment of hell, and then to repent and place their trust in Jesus. This is a transaction of the inner being of man with God, and not just a change of understanding.
Those who have experienced only a ‘religious’ conversion, or a conversion of their form, follow written or unwritten rules and regulations about beliefs and activities without any real change inside their spirit, even when many of their rules come from the Bible. Such people may argue with others about doctrines and try to follow them as best as they can. But they are only doing what the Pharisees used to do in the days of Jesus. God’s laws have not yet been written on their heart--which is one of the marks of a genuine conversion.
Spiritual Birth To Maturity
Even a famous or learned person in the world is only a spiritual baby when he/she is born again, and it is a mistake many Christians make to immediately treat such a person as a celebrity and leader in Christian circles. We have to feed on the Word of God, exercise our spiritual muscles through choosing between right and wrong and bringing ourselves into obedience to God, and grow into maturity (1Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:14). In the beginning we may be able to hear God only as He makes specific words in the Bible come alive and speak to us. As we get to know His voice better, He will be able to speak to us directly in our heart. For a new Christian as well as a carnal Christian, the first thought that comes up in the mind in any situation usually tends to be from the flesh, and we have to go through the discipline of learning to differentiate between God’s voice and the other voices in our mind, namely our own voice, the opinions of others and the voice of the tempter. After faithfulness leads a man to become godly over a period of time, it becomes more ‘natural’ for him to think along with God, even though he still has a struggle with the other voices. Even though he can generally know God’s mind better than before, he can still be deceived or deceive himself. He has to keep checking himself on the basis of the revealed Word of God in the Bible.
God speaks to some people through dreams and visions and prophetic words also, and in very rare cases, through what appears to be an ‘audible’ voice. This has to do many times with the type of ministry God entrusts to a person, because these may be especially useful for certain ministries. But at the same time it also requires a certain level of maturity for the people concerned in order to deal with such gifts. We are all aware of many people claiming to such supernatural activities, but whose lives do not attest to the self image that they project.
The prayer life of a truly born again Christian becomes an intimate exchange with the Father, not only for placing our requests before Him, but also for listening to Him and learning from Him. Interceding for others becomes an integral part for many. Praying without ceasing becomes ‘natural’ because of the constant exchanges that go on between the believer and God.
God may also give us special spiritual gifts and anointing to serve Him and His people in His kingdom. These are not merely extensions of natural abilities or talents, but God acting supernaturally through us to touch lives around us. A common example of this kind of supernatural activity is when a man who speaks in a meeting without knowing anyone there later comes to know that he actually ‘spoke’ to someone there according to that person’s specific need as if he knew everything about it.
Glory In Earthen Vessels
Even though we become ‘supernatural’ in a limited sense, because of God’s presence in our life, we remain as earthen vessels, creatures with limitations and fragile because of the possibility of sin. We do not become gods ourselves, but remain as beings who are totally dependent on God even for our existence. Our understanding of what God tells us through His Word or directly to us can be in error at times, and we do well to check ourselves constantly against the revealed truths of the Bible and with the opinion of other mature and experienced people.
At the same time, as we submit to God and to one another, we also have the possibility of receiving from God knowledge, ideas and ability which are beyond what is natural. We also have the possibility to pray and ask for answers to prayer which are supernatural and beyond human explanations.
Natural Vs. Supernatural
The debate among many Christians is not so much about whether God can do supernatural things, but whether He does such things nowadays. Starting from the point that every single genuinely born again Christian has already experienced the supernatural event of re-birth, most also experience God touching us in our heart as we read or hear from His Word. Instead of locking God up in the box of our understanding, why don’t we place ourselves in His hands and allow Him to lead us in any way He chooses? Surely He knows what is best for us, and also how to protect and lead us!
Many hesitate to do this, not because they disagree with the idea, but because they have heard about many who have gone that way and got into serious error or excess. "It’s safer where we are," they say. Safe, perhaps, but that way we cannot experience or carry out everything that God has for us! Stepping out in obedience to God may look risky to the intellect, but that is the safest position for anyone because his safety then becomes God’s responsibility. Error comes, if we step out according to our own fancies without God calling us. How do we find the difference? By depending on the principles and teaching of the Word of God even when taking heed to what appears to be direct guidance from God.
Let us not allow ourselves to be excessively fascinated by the supernatural (and fall for the Devil’s trick of making us think that anything supernatural must be from God), but let us also not shy away from the supernatural things that God wants to do in and through us (1Cor.14:39,40).