Message Supplement (31 May 2015)

Everybody who reads this has been born. “Duh!” you may say. Sure, we can attention to the obvious. But the next topic, spiritual birth, isn’t as obvious. Spiritual birth can be described by many metaphors. One of the most powerful descriptors is what the Bible uses when it refers to our soul-awakening as a rebirth, a “born again” experience of total inside-out transformation.

What of the biblical context? John’s Gospel reveals Jesus meeting a man named Nicodemus, “a leader of the Jews” (John 3:1). Jesus spoke with Nicodemus about spiritual birth, and how it is God’s plan for us to receive this rebirth. Nicodemus didn’t get it at first because he was troubled by the thought of something other than a literal, physical birth.

The biblical story of spiritual rebirth should inspire us to consider how we are born into two worlds. The first world is that of the material earth and it involves our physical birth, a process over which we don’t have any choice. The second birth, which is what Jesus discussed, is spiritual, and this is something over which we have total choice in that we can either consciously accept it or refuse it.

When we consider spiritual rebirth, we needn’t engage the ongoing culture war, wherein one side in the conflict proclaims that they only are “born again” and the rest of humanity is condemned to an eternal, fiery hell. All God’s children who embrace salvation can claim a “born again” life for which we needn’t apologize. Sadly, the liberal & progressive church has abandoned born again terminology because they’ve thrown-out the baby with the bath water. Liberals & conservatives alike can proclaim being born again with conviction. No one group owns the term and if we feel otherwise then we should challenge that faulty thinking by bold proclamation. We take Jesus’ analogy of being born again for what it is, a provocative metaphor describing the beauty and miracle of forgiveness, salvation, redemption, and the life-saving mercy & grace that can only come from God’s transforming Spirit.

Spiritual birth means that we have been renewed and made aware of spiritual realities, the chief of which is that we are followers of “The Way,” the original name for Christianity and the path of our ongoing spiritual journey. We therefore accept entrance into an intentional spiritual life when we yearn for and accept forgiveness and reconciliation through God’s Spirit. We become true to God when we are spiritually reborn into God’s Kingdom, which is something of a mystery in that it is both a present reality and a future hope.

Jesus describes Spirit as wind, and yet we can’t see the wind. There is a sense of awe-inspiring glory surrounding spiritual birth. The Spirit, like the wind, blows where it wills, and is not easily controlled, domesticated or predicted. So how do we know that the Spirit is with us? You can tell when the wind is blowing because you feel it or see what it does. Similarly, it is the effect of a spirit that alerts us to its presence. Therefore we can perceive God at work when we are spiritually reborn as active agents of God’s love and truth.

Have you been born of the spirit as Jesus described?  Being born again is more than a trite slogan foisted by red-faced fundamentalists thumping their thick black Bibles. Being born again is also more than confirmation, more than theological correctness, more than church membership or passively sitting in church pews. When God’s love, mercy and grace save you and awaken you then our attitudes and behavior change. In this way we become new creatures born from above. Does this describe you?

We must be open to and aware of God and then deliberately, consciously accept what God has for us. We must desire to have God’s spiritual winds cast a reviving rush of new life. As we are being transformed we are blessed with the evidence of the Spirit revealed in us and through us. Choose spiritual rebirth and you’ll experience heights of joy and purpose not possible any other way.   –Reverend Hoxey