Today I am beginning a series on spiritual birth and spiritual life – it’s all about being born again. This phrase can raise the hairs on the backs of some necks. So let’s look at Jesus’ words to Nicodemus that flesh gives birth to flesh, yet the Spirit gives birth to spirit…
2 [Nicodemus] came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
11 [Jesus] came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
For some, born again is a description of super-right-wing fundamentalist Christian radicals who are self-righteous and judgmental – these people are often times viewed as haters by the world. For others it’s a reference to a belief that evangelicals hold, which we might think our church doesn’t believe (because it isn’t talked about).
A dear friend of mine recently told me he is not born again, which meant for him that he did not know the date of his spiritual birthday. He doesn’t have a date of his rebirth that he can quote, and so even though he knows he is a Christian, he felt (because of the language of others), left out and judged when he heard the term born again.
Many of us can’t give a date to our decision to follow Jesus. I’m one. Was it at Bible Camp in grade five or six when I responded to a talk? Was it camping with my friend at the hot springs in Olympia when be told me I needed to ask Jesus into my heart? Or was it when the Spirit became active in changing my behaviour when I was 18? When did I become born again?
I think it was over the winter of 88-89 when I prayed to receive Jesus a couple dozen times in my bed at night. I just kept doing it because I didn’t know how or whether I needed to do it more than once.
I am born again. The Spirit has given birth to my spirit. That I know for sure. I just don’t know when and it doesn’t matter. It matters less when it happened than that it happened. The timing is one of those issues of human experience which can be powerfully symbolic for those who know it. If you don’t know your day, however, God can tell you when you get to heaven. I suspect when you arrive you won’t ask, though. It will no longer matter once you are there, and that means it probably doesn’t matter now…
I shared with my friend that to be a Christian one must be born again, and that one cannot be born again unless one is a Christian. In other words, these terms are representative of the same condition.
When a person is a child of God, he is spiritually alive. When we receive Jesus and believe in him and what he has done for us (paying for our sin on the cross and rising in victory over death), we become God’s child.
This is the spiritual birth which can only come from God. It does not come from ancestry or human decision; it comes from God as a free gift from him to those who receive Jesus. Flesh gives birth to flesh, which is how we are all alive physically. The Spirit gives birth to our spirits when we enter a faith relationship with Jesus.
The kingdom of God, Jesus says, is full of (now) and will be full (in heaven) of the spiritually alive. So when Jesus says to Nicodemus that he must be born again, he is saying that in order for Nicodemus to enter the kingdom of God, be must receive Jesus and thereby be granted spiritual birth in becoming a child of God.
Have you received Jesus? If not, I’d be glad to help you. If you have received Jesus you are, indeed, born again.