Tag Archives: New Birth

Above My Paygrade

A friend who writes sophisticated software was losing sleep over a tough problem.  I made the mistake of asking him to explain, in simple terms, what the issue was.  For the next 20 minutes he did his best, but I was dumbfounded.  I couldn’t understand anything he said!  And he was really trying to dumb it down for me.

Jesus had the same problem trying to explain spiritual reality to a guy who couldn’t fathom what He was saying.  Of course, the man was merely a religious expert, one of the temple leaders at the time.  Jesus told him:

I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  (John 3:12 (NIV84))

Translation?  “Hey, this thing I’m telling you is basic stuff.  If you can’t understand this, there’s no way for me to explain about heaven.”  Makes me pretty curious about the “Heavenly things” since what Jesus said was the basic level stuff was about being “born again.”  Literally, “born from above.”  He was talking about having the Spirit of God coming alive in your soul, so that you could come to life – being born, so to speak – in a whole new way.  Into eternal life.  Here’s some of the rest:

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’. (John 3:3–7 (NIV84))

I cannot fully grasp this beginner level truth. Analogies help but it remains a swirling mystery. Even after having experienced the effects of this spiritual new birth I still struggle to fully comprehend it. Imagine how amazing the “heavenly things” must be… Religion has a way of reducing such mystery down to where even the experts can master it. But Jesus knows we ain’t seen nothing yet!

Family Matters

Professional door to door salesmen have a certain air about them when the front door opens.  Kind of a mixture of formality with friendliness, practiced patter in smooth tones, dosed with expectation and anxiety.  If they want success at this house, they need to perform.  On the other hand, the kids in that household come to the front door, yank it open and go blasting through, shoelaces untied, jacket half off, enroute to the kitchen for a snack.  Big difference.  When you are a part of the family, you don’t need to perform to be accepted or even loved.  You just belong, simply because of who you are.

This is especially true for those in God’s family.  Who are they?  Consider these verses:

12 Yet to all who received him, [Jesus] to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  –  (John 1:12–13  –  NIV84)

26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  (Galatians 3:26–29  –  NIV84)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1a  –  NIV84)

By trusting Jesus, we are welcomed into God’s family, not by adoption, as nice as that would be, but through birth, the birth of God’s Spirit in our souls.  That’s better.  As His children there is no pecking order; race, former religion, social status – none of that matters.  We are treated alike, and have full rights as heirs.  God arranges for this through a generous act of lavish love.  Welcome home!

Going from How? to Wow!

“Greatly troubled” probably doesn’t even come close to describing Mary’s reaction when Gabriel popped out of the closet.  And then he said, “Don’t be scared, I just came to tell you God wants you to have His Baby.  If Mary was hyperventilating before, I’m guessing she notched it up a bit, thinking, “What?  God wants His Son to come and live in me???”  Imagine.

As preposterous a request as that was, God sends a similar one to you.  He wants His Son to be born in you and live in your soul forever.  On one level, that is more of a privileged invitation than a mere request.  But it is not unusual, when people hear that amazing invitation for the first time to respond as Mary did.  First, “greatly troubled” (read: frightened down deep). 

But then, confused.  Mary said, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” ( Luke 1:34b)  She knew she was unqualified, in a sense, not good enough to have a baby.  Our question is similar: “Me?  God wants Jesus to live in me???  Doesn’t He know how I have been living, what I have been thinking?  There’s no way I could be qualified!  How could that possibly happen?”

The answer is the same as Gabriel gave Mary:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.   – (Luke 1:35b)

And who gets to have that new birth?  Everyone who, like Mary, believes and says, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”  –  (Luke 1:38b)

Beware the Crusty

Nobody told Marlene (not her real name) you’re not supposed to yell in church.  Even if she had been told I’m not sure it would have made any difference.  Right in the middle of a sermon, the pastor said something about how the Holy Spirit lives and grows in the souls of those who place their faith in Jesus.  And she couldn’t sit still.  Marlene jumped to her feet, with her arms waving wildly above her head, and yelled out, “Whoo Hoo!”  Needless to say, the rest of the congregation was a bit startled.  Some of them woke right up, blinking and bewildered.  No doubt, others were thinking, “That’s not the way we do it here…”

But I think Jesus loved it!  Whoo Hoo!  He knew that woman had come to faith and been reborn a few days earlier, that she just couldn’t contain her joy.  I’ll bet Jesus was wondering why nobody else was jumping and shouting.

A bunch of long-faced, crusty, religious types once asked Jesus why He and His disciples were not fasting, why they were not acting with appropriate religious sorrow.

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:15-17)

New wine is alive.  It’s growing and bubbling inside.  So is new birth in the Spirit of God, when someone surrenders to Jesus.  It bubbles with joy and new life.  Paul called it “walking in the newness of life.” (Romans 6:4 NASB)  Old, crusty rituals cannot contain new life.  How can the guests fast while the “Bridegroom” is with them?  Jesus told believers that He would never leave them (Matthew 28:20), that He would come and make His home with them (John 14:23).  He said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14;19).  Whoo Hoo!

The chances are good that Marlene is more subdued in church these days.  She probably got the memo.  She’s more crusty.  But don’t you fall prey to that!  The wine is still new.  The Spirit of God is still growing and bubbling inside.  Let that joy loose!  Whoo Hoo!