***Warning: practical content wrapped in a nerdy package ahead***
In a theology discussion group this week, I found myself wondering about this question. I mean, I believe that regeneration is instantaneous, but why does it matter? And can I put the reasons in a list?
1) Regeneration is connected to, but not the same as sanctification
We work so hard to help people understand that the Christian life is a process, that day one leads to day two and ten and one thousand and that God calls us to faithfulness and growth throughout. Sanctification is a process. Jon Elswick, our pastor, insightfully pointed this truth about sanctification out for us.
But regeneration is about new life.
And new life has to start at some point. At some point, an object that was at rest started moving. Call it what you will - "The Big Bang of the Christian Life," "The Prime Movement," "The Ignition" - at some point you have to get started.
Imagine tall grass and a lawn mower. You pull the starting cord and the engine roars to life. You leave the sidewalk and the mower shudders in the grass. Clippings begin to fly and the smell of grass mingles with gasoline. What would happen if, instead of pushing the mower forward, you kept pulling on the starter cord?
If regeneration isn't instantaneous, we'll keep coming back to it and won't move forward.
2) Regeneration looks like justification, but has better legs
Both regeneration and justification have to do with our position before God.
But what would happen if justification was the only thing that happened in that first instant? We would be declared righteous before God, but left without the power to start living the Christian life. We would be forced into an awkward ghetto experience, drifting and spinning without purpose or direction. Oh ... wait ...
It's not enough to have a theology that tell's you you're in, you also need to know why and what to do now. And, although you can catch echoes of God's mission in a well-developed theology of justification, you need a well-developed theology of regeneration to get up and get moving.
Too many of us are stuck enjoying our status with God - declared righteous - and divorced from our call from God to live lives devoted to him.
3) Regeneration is a part of our adoption into God's family
When did you become a part of your family? Was it your birthday? Adoption date?
Families are full of these instants. One moment can redefine a family. Even though there are processes at work (engagement, gestation, nap time), we celebrate and orient ourselves around instants, moments.
Our son's birthday celebration will communicate to him every year that he belongs in our family. Our anniversary remembers our moment of commitment to each other.
It matters that regeneration is a moment because it communicates God's grace to us. We're already his sons and daughters, and this through the our "birth from above." It's mysterious and special, awe-inspiring and messy, as is every birth. And it takes place in a moment, not through a process.
We never have to earn our place in God's family.
What do you think? Does it matter if regeneration is instantaneous?