Message for Sunday 8 March 2020: “Spiritually Reborn”
Posted On March 19, 2020
Consider something so obvious as to be almost silly: everybody who reads this has been born. Although your existence is undeniable, the next topic, spiritual birth, isn’t necessarily as obvious.
John’s Gospel reveals a great story about Jesus meeting a man named Nicodemus, someone described as “a leader of the Jews” (John 3:1). Jesus spoke with Nicodemus about the necessity of being spiritually reborn, what Jesus described as “being born from above” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was confused at first because Jesus used language describing physical birth and Nicodemus didn’t understand that Jesus was using metaphorical language.
Part of the problem is that people can be born into two worlds. The first world is that of everyday reality, the typical scenario of a childbirth. You’ve already achieved birth, or else you wouldn’t be reading this. However, the second type of birth is spiritual, a form of birth which is discretionary and far more subtle. You didn’t have a choice about being born physically but whether you experience a spiritual birth is entirely up to you and no one else can do it for you.
You are a resident within political boundaries such as a city, state and nation but you can also choose to accept God’s redemption, thereby becoming a citizen in a heavenly kingdom, a sort of virtual reality. Being spiritually reborn is more than church membership or having been baptized as an infant. Becoming a person with a healthy spiritual life isn’t the same as being born into a church or denomination. Each and every person must make a conscious decision to start and continue their own spiritual journey because it isn’t automatic; you can’t inherit it like some gene passed down to sons and daughters. As a responsible adult you face a decision to engage a spiritual life—or not.
Jesus’ use of the term born from above is similar to spiritual birth, awakening, enlightenment or even the more controversial born again. Jesus masterfully uses the provocative metaphor of birth to describe the magnificence of spiritual life. “Are you born from above?” People often ask this question by loading it with unspoken assumptions, implying that you can only be born from above IF you follow a certain narrow set of theological beliefs. Being born from above is more than a Right-wing slogan shouted by fundamentalists thumping thick black Bibles. God calls you and what happens after that is a richly personal, immersive experience between you and the Almighty.
When people try to force you into their tiny little theological boxes they are doing you and themselves a disservice. It’s regrettably common to use biblical language as an ideological litmus test of faith. Sadly, many people are insecure and they can’t accept others who confess God in a different manner. However, you needn’t feel trapped when people attempt to define and confine you. Even when you’re hassled by agitators about your religious life you can resist the urge to throw out the spiritual baby with the theological bath water. Being born from above is entirely good, despite how some people try to stuff their ragged baggage of personal convictions down your throat. You are born from above when you walk with God and no one can take that away from you.
How does spiritual birth occur? Theoretically this process could take many forms, probably in as many different ways as there are individual people since each person is a unique expression of the divine presence. As you become open to and aware of spiritual realities, the choice of rebirth arises, just as when Jesus encouraged Nicodemus to compare the awesome beauty of physical birth with being born from above. Spiritual birth can refer to an awakening and awareness of life-changing spiritual realities such as the fact that humans have spirit woven into their DNA.
Jesus was inviting Nicodemus into an intentional spiritual life, a miracle of rebirth wherein a person’s priorities can change from selfishness to self-lessness. All of this is driven by God’s awesome power to redeem people, available to anyone who embraces it. Yearning for and accepting God’s forgiveness and reconciliation is key to life renewal and therefore of wellbeing (health in body, mind and spirit).
There is a sense of mystery surrounding spiritual birth. How does a person know when God’s Spirit is at work? It is the effect that can often alert you to God’s presence. For instance, when you act compassionately you are displaying love, the core power of God. Can you feel your spiritual muscles flexing? Have you been born of the spirit as Jesus described? Spiritual rebirth is available to you and to all those willing to be transformed by God’s spiritual energy.
As you are transformed, so also are you blessed with the evidence of the spirit revealed through revitalized thinking and behavior. Choose God and you’ll experience heights of life and purpose not otherwise possible.