2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” To enter the kingdom Jesus says, “you must be born again” (John 3:7). Both of these verses describe conversion in terms of the start of a new life. God must do this work in us, which is called regeneration. Through this miraculous, creative work of grace, God takes a dead, crippled and blind sinner and turns him into a living, walking, seeing child of God.
As we study Romans 8 we are seeing the priceless gifts of grace God has given us in Christ: freedom from the penalty of sin (v. 1), freedom from the power of sin (vv. 2-3), freedom to follow the Holy Spirit (vv. 4-5), etc. These are gifts of God’s grace alone, given to us through no merit of our own, but received solely on the basis of our faith in Jesus Christ.
Here are eight signs to look for in your life – signs that you have been transformed by the grace of God, born again as a new creation in Christ.
- Humility (Rom. 7:24-25) The first and constant sign of someone who has encountered the God of glory and grace is the humble recognition of His awesome power, goodness and mercy and our terrible sin, selfishness and pride. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12).
- Joy (Rom. 8:1) Though we deserve nothing from God but His judgment and condemnation, He poured His wrath on Jesus instead of us, making it possible to save sinners who repent and put their faith in Christ. In Christ we are forgiven – free from the penalty for sin. This truth should fill our hearts with joy!
- Gratitude (Rom. 8:2-3) In Christ we are also free from the power of sin. Sin reigns in the hearts and lives of all who do not belong to Jesus. Sin is their master. But Jesus “breaks the power of cancelled sin; He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me” (Oh for 1,000 Tongues to Sing). Seeing the slavery we were under and the price that was paid for our ransom should give us overflowing gratitude.
- Progress (Rom. 8:4-5) This side of heaven we will not be perfect, but we should be making progress. We should be growing toward maturity in Christ. The Holy Spirit of God has given us a new heart that loves His commands (Jer. 31:31-24) and the Spirit Himself will lead us into all truth (John 14:26) and empower us to obey (Rom. 8:11), producing His fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-25). But we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit, setting our minds on Him and disciplining our bodies to walk with Him. Apart from the Lord we can do nothing, but if we abide in Him He will bear much fruit in our lives (John 15:1-9).
- Discipline (Rom. 8:6-7) The Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of all who belong to Jesus. We are His temple (1 Cor. 6:19). Yet we are also commanded to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). So we must grow in the spiritual disciplines that allow us to “place ourselves before God so that He can transform us” (Richard Foster, A Celebration of Discipline). These disciplines include corporate worship, Bible study and prayer (both personal and with other believers), service in the church and outreach in the world, etc. If we do this in our own strength (our “flesh”) it will be like rowing a boat against the wind. But if we learn to surrender our power and will to the Spirit’s leading it will be like setting the sails of our lives to a strong and steady breeze that will propel us forward to life, holiness and ministry.
- Power (Rom. 8:8-11) There is no power inherent in us, but there is infinite power in the finger of God. To the extent that we learn to humble ourselves before Him in dependence and submission to His will, the Lord will be able to do mighty things through us (John 14:12) – not for our glory, but entirely for His. The key is being directed by the Lord, not relying on our own ideas or plans but acknowledging Him in all we do (Prov. 3:5-6) and seeking His glory above all (Ps. 115:1).
- Holiness (Rom. 8:12-13) The Holy Spirit’s job on earth is “to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Our job is to become increasingly sensitive to the Spirit’s leading so that we can “put to death the deeds of the body” by means of the Spirit (Rom. 8:13). Our focus should not be on sin and trying to remove every area of sin from our lives. Rather, our focus should be on God and growing so much in our love for Him and our delight in Him that the desires of the flesh and the temptations of the world will increasingly fade. Godliness leads to holiness, not the other way around. It is only as we give God increasing weight and focus in our lives that we will become more holy. Pursuing holiness without a love for God is vain hypocrisy.
- Love (Rom. 8:14-17) God is love. His children follow His example and increasingly overflow with the love that fills His heart. We deceive ourselves if we claim to love God but have no love for one another (1 John 4:7-8). Without love anything else we do, no matter how apparently impressive, is just noise (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Love is the first sign of being born again, the last sign of Christian maturity and the hallmark of true faith in Christ every step of the way.
Do you see at least some of these signs in your life? Are you seeing growth and progress so that you are becoming more like Jesus? Let the truth of Romans 8 – the Gospel – settle deeply into your heart and mind like a seed in warm, fertile soil. Meditate on these wonderful words of grace. Fill your mind with this truth and let it begin to drive out the distractions around you and the temptations in you. God’s Word will produce a harvest in us if we let it (Isaiah 55:1011)! “The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!” Romans 1:16