Have you ever been challenged by God regarding a long-held way of operating? I think whether it be in business, family or personally we have all at some time been challenged to look at ways of doing things and try and improve them.
For me it was parenting. Many years before the law came in against smacking children. I had come to the conclusion that “smacking” was not the way I wanted to go......Raised by my grandmother, I got smacked as a child if I misbehaved, this was not abuse, and didn’t really do me any harm, but when I went into care, at age 11, I was beaten, that was abuse, so having experienced both I feel I have the right to say I know the difference.
With my own children. I didn’t like the way it made me feel about myself and looked for alternative methods of dealing with discipline. I was not abusive but realized as a solo-parent that I needed time out to calm down from losing my temper with bad behaviour so the best solution was putting them in time out while I calmed down. Later I was even challenged by God, to stop yelling at them....did you know a whisper is sometimes heard better than shouting....often people shut down if you yell at them....even children. My children quickly picked up that Mum wasn’t yelling any more but that they better listen because I said exactly what I meant and the consequences for bad behaviour absolutely happened. They learned quickly that rather than yell they got one warning then before things could escalate and Mum lose her temper the consequence was in place and they were either in time out or whatever consequence fit the crime.
It was a life-changing transformation and took some time and effort on my part and a lot of help from the Lord to unlearn the habits and pattens of the past and make the new system work for us. It changed not just me but I think my children....for the better. Which is not to say that I didn’t slip up now and then, but I am relieved to be able to say that when the law came in, I had already been a non-smacking parent for a number of years.
When Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling Council of the Jews, came to Jesus at night in secret, Jesus saw right into his heart and challenged him to be “born again”, Nicodemus was a good man and as a Pharisee would have been following God’s law and would have known about
"tvilah which is the act of immersion in natural sourced water, called a mikva In the Jewish Bible and other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of "ritual purity" in specific circumstances. We now know it as “baptism”.
But what Jesus was telling him was that the deeper walk with God that he was seeking required a deeper transformation still, a spiritual rebirth, involving tvilah and the Holy Spirit. It was the answer he was ultimately seeking but as with most of us, even those of us considered knowledgeable about religious and spiritual things, like Nicodemus, it took a bit of deeper reflection and conversation with Jesus for Nicodemus to actually get it at a heart level. Because as with my parenting issue the decision a change was needed came first, but I had to have the right heart to have the will to put that change into action, which is where the Lord stepped in and greatly helped, along with the strong love I had for my children.
The thing about baptism is that the Lord having been invited into your life is usually already starting to change your heart, your desires and transform your life before you even take that plunge beneath the water, washing you clean and announcing to the world that you belong to Jesus. But he still challenges us, as he did me, to participate in the transformation process and work with him instead of against him. Sometimes it’s a small personal thing just to test our obedience and love for Him, so He can then bless us more. What is he challenging you to change?