Born Again

Today I should like to suggest that the tired phrase ‘born again’ is a very rich expression for life in the Kingdom of God. Recall Jesus saying to Nicodemus, that he must be born again if he was to SEE the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) One could say ‘born from above’ or ‘born anew’ but either way there is, from Jesus, the sense that one must start a new kind of life. I see that life as one of intentional interaction with God. It is not just enough to believe there is a God who is sovereign, who cares for his creation through his providence. One needs to have a new life experience with God. One needs to trust that God is actually engaged with us, is beginning a new work in us in the words of Philippians 1:6. This God is not static. His life is dynamic with us always moving, and relating with us.I believe that too often we can be satisfied with the theory of God and not the reality of God in us.

Jesus came to the earth to bring a brand new reality that can be trusted. That reality he called the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of the Heavens. And to see that Kingdom as a reality one needs a new birth, a starting over in life with a new perspective that throws out most old notions of God as ‘up there’ or ‘the man upstairs.’ We need instead to place our confidence in the Jesus who came to show us ‘The Father’ and through whom as Jesus said we actually see the most perfect loving character of God the Father.

Maybe other expressions of ‘born again’ would be ‘alive’ ‘have new eyes’ or ‘be alert’, ‘excite your senses’, ‘think outside the box’, ‘get rid of all your restraints’, ‘think creatively’.

If we, any of us, are going to experience Kingdom living here and now we have got to start being creative in the attitudes of our hearts and minds. We cannot love like Jesus love without this ‘interaction’ with the Father. We love because God loved us and that love of God is big. It’s huge. And our little kingdoms that we build all by ourselves do not have the capacity to love like that. When Jesus tells us to forgive everyone or we won’t be forgiven it requires a new dynamic, a new paradigm, a model unlike anything we have ever known. It requires really a new birth experience.

Jesus told his followers, his new students that they needed to become like a little child in order to enter the kingdom of God. (See Mark 10:15) They and we must come with a simple trust; arms wide open to receive the love of God in Christ as never before.  A child places his or her confidences in those who care for them. They are not prejudice. They don’t worry about tomorrow.  They don’t even worry about the clothes they wear. Children know how to love unconditionally.  Jesus had a special care for the children and told the folks the danger of hurting any one of them.

When Jesus tells us to be ‘born again’ he knows that we come with a package of previous behavior and attitudes but he also knows that by God’s grace those characteristics where they are harmful can change. We can set them aside as it were. (See Colossians 3:8) Paul’s writings

So how does this new birth take place? It is a conscious decision to place our confidence in God’s son, Jesus, who came to show us the character and providence of God. And as with a child we learn a new language of trust and love and peace and righteousness. The new birth is certainly assisted by the Holy Spirit, which is why Jesus probably mentions the wind blowing where it wants to because God in Christ is up to a new thing in his creation. It may be the first time we actually experience love from God.

We are given new eyes to see as when Elisha prayed for his servant to be able to see the armies of God surrounded them against the enemies. (2King 6:17)

If we are born again, starting new, revitalized then like a child we will need to learn how to read and here I refer to the Scriptures that can make us wise. (2Timothy 3:15) And as we talk with our Father we begin to learn the language of love.

And most of all being born again means that we become apprentices of Jesus. We enter his school of grace and truth. We sign up to practice the life that Jesus told us to live. He promises to live with and within us, to be with us to the end of the age.

So let me conclude by saying that being born again is a dynamic life with God at every moment. It affects our body, our minds, our spirit, our souls. This is not a theory. It’s not a doctrine. This is the new reality of the Kingdom of God that has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Kingdom of God and invites us into life with God.

By the way. Nicodemus? He shows up again as a follower of Jesus. (John 19:38-42)

 

 

God with and in us.

I would like to expound somewhat on some of my earlier comments regarding intimacy with God. I had written that belief is not enough, that in fact we need a personal encounter with God.  Well, not that we ‘need’ but the grace of God includes a personal encounter with the Trinity.

Paul writes that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Romans 8. I take that love as a real and personal as well as powerful entity living and breathing life in us.  Jesus said on one occasion that he would along with the Father would come and make his home IN us. John 14. He said that concerning followers who were in love with him then and now.  In Ephesians 3 Paul writes these words

“16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

I take this to mean that there is a real presence of God in us assisting us to know his love.  It is by God’s grace that such a presence, a power, a love can reside in us though our own personal disciplines of such things as prayer, fasting, reading the scriptures, doing acts of service and meeting as community.

In the twenty third Psalm we read ‘I will fear no evil for thou art with me’ This means that nothing evil can affect those who are in love with God because God is a reality that governs their lives, God is a love that provides for them, God is a person made actual in Jesus Christ to keep us with God, forever.

And finally (for now) when Paul prays that he yearns for Christ to be formed in us, I believe he means the real nature of Christ residing in our lives wherever you are comfortable locating that presence.

I can live in this world solidly for Christ because I know that Christ is living in me.  Nothing else can define my life but my relationship with my God, which I understand by his grace to be quite fine.

If we are to live as students of Jesus, followers, disciples who make a difference in this world we are fortunate to have this assurance from God.