Yesterday was Independence Day, a day when we remember the birth of our nation in the United States. Today is my husband’s birthday and I have been busily making him his favorite cake and smoking ribs on our Traeger pellet stove. I’ve been thinking about birthdays and how much importance we put on them.
But our physical birth is only the beginning of our journey. At some point along the journey, God calls us to be born again. In a late night conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus explains this important concept. Nicodemus has just stated that he knows Jesus is from God and so wants to learn from Him.
In reply 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.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8.
Nicodemus had a hard time understanding what Jesus was saying. In our culture today, people still misunderstand what it means to be born again. Often the term “born-again Christian” is used in a derogatory manner to apply to extreme fundamentalist Christians who believe that you must speak in tongues and exhibit other outward signs of being born again, and who often twist God’s Word to promote hatred towards various groups. But according to Jesus a “born-again Christian” is the only kind there is. Only those who are filled with God’s Holy Spirit because they believe and trust in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus will see the kingdom of God.
The Christian band Third Day sings a song called “Born Again” that is to me a perfect depiction of what it means to be a born-again Christian:
Today I found myself,
After searching all these years,
And the man that I saw,
He wasn’t at all who I’d thought He’d be.
I was lost when You found me here,
And I was broken beyond repair,
Then You came along and sang Your song over me.
It feels like I’m born again
It feels like I’m living
For the very first time
For the very first time,
In my life.
All of mankind is “broken beyond repair” in the sense that we cannot repair our sinful nature on our own. I can still remember the feeling I had when I came to the realization that I was broken beyond repair. I remember when all I saw within myself was broken. My thought patterns were all negative, I was filled with anger and bitterness, but I didn’t know why and I didn’t know what to do about it. Then Jesus found me and He sang His song of grace and forgiveness over me.
Before I knew Christ, before I was born again through His Holy Spirit, life as I knew it was a hopeless struggle that I didn’t want to be in anymore. One day I could take it no more and I reached out for the hand that was reaching down to me. I confessed that I could not heal myself, that I could not manage my own life successfully, that I was without hope and without joy. On that day, something changed within my heart and I felt hope and peace for the first time.
I’m sure there are those raised in the church who are filled with the Holy Spirit from an early age, who somehow understand their need of the Savior and have always allowed God to be in control. Not every Christian can point to a single instant in which they were born again, but they are nonetheless born of water and the Spirit.
Jesus went on to say to Nicodemus:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18.
I believe in God’s one and only Son, I put my trust in Him as my Savior, and so I am born again. How about you?