Sunday Message for 30 May 2021: “Love the Spiritual Life”

Everybody who reads this has been born. “Duh!” you may say, “that’s obvious.” But the next part, spiritual birth, isn’t as obvious. A man named Nicodemus struggled with this, prompting Jesus to speak: “ ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above’ “ (John 3:3).

Spiritual birth can be described by many metaphors, one of the most popular of which is the much discussed “born again” or “born from above” version referenced above. Jesus spoke with Nicodemus about spiritual rebirth, and how it is God’s plan for people to receive this inside/out transformation. Nicodemus didn’t understand at first because he got stuck on the literal rather than spiritual meaning of birth.

Spiritual birth is a reminder that you face two entirely different worlds. The first world is that of the material earth and physical birth, a process over which you do not have a choice. The second birth is spiritual, a choice over which you have control to either accept or reject. Have you embraced spiritual awareness and rebirth?

Then as now, people are reminded that spiritual rebirth is a challenge and a controversy. Various interpretations confuse the discussion. There’s a long history, especially when the term “born again” is used to push only one narrow, conservative view of God’s love. Diverse groups of Christians agree that humans have a spiritual nature but they argue over how to characterize it or even over what to do about it.

On the one hand, a risk for progressives is abandoning born again terminology simply because it has been tainted by fundamentalists. A challenge for progressives is not to throw out the spiritual baby with their opponents’ theological bath water. Progressives may also mistakenly assume that anything goes, that one opinion is just as valid as another and we dare not offend someone by suggesting they need to be spiritually reborn.

On the other hand, a major error of the fundamentalists is that they live by a list of self-serving rules and authoritarian control. Such an approach becomes diabolical when it separates people into black/white categories based on who does or does not follow a strict list of “do this” and “don’t do that” commands. Violate fundamentalists’ litmus tests and you’ll be dismissed as a hell-bent sinner worthy of persecution even in this life. This view is anti-gospel as it undermines the essence of God’s love.

Avoid getting stuck in extremist ideology on either side of the cultural divide. No one denomination or political viewpoint owns spiritual health. If anyone tries to convince you otherwise then you can challenge such faulty thinking by bold proclamation: God’s love sets you free from control by institutions and traditions. Yes, God liberates you from whatever shackles you.

For spiritual health you can accept Jesus’ analogy of being born from above for what it is, a provocative metaphor describing the beauty and miracle of forgiveness, salvation and the life-saving mercy & grace that comes from God’s spirit. Have you embraced such redemption or is something interfering?

Spiritual birth means that you have been renewed and accepted into a new family, what is known in Judeo-Christian terms as “The Way,” the original name for Christianity found in the Bible’s Book of Acts (19:9; 23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22). Followers of God’s Way therefore accept entrance into an intentional spiritual life based on forgiveness and reconciliation through love, which is the Almighty’s essence. You become true to God when you are spiritually translated into God’s Kingdom, a mysterious status that is both a present reality and a future hope.

In his discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus described God’s spirit as wind, yet you can’t see the wind. Moreover, wind blows wherever it wants. Similarly, the spirit flows without being controlled by or trapped within any church of religious institution. So how do you know that spirit is with you? You can discern your spiritual wind because it is the effect that alerts you to its presence. You can sense God at work when, for instance, you feel liberated, joyful, and you become more positive, hopeful and most of all you display compassionate love with all people.

Have you been born of the spirit, perhaps as Jesus described?  Being born from above is more than a battle cry from fundamentalists throwing their thick black Bibles at people they are trying to convert. Being born from above is also more than confirmation, more than theological correctness, more than church membership or even in passively sitting in church pews. When God’s spirit blows your attitude and behavior are transformed; you become a radically new creature. Does this begin to describe your experience?

Become open to and aware of God and then deliberately, consciously accept the spiritual redemption God has for you. Be born from above and then forge your own unique spiritual journey. Hunger and thirst for God’s spiritual winds to cast a reviving rush of new life. Embrace spiritual rebirth and you’ll experience health in mind, body and spirit that is otherwise impossible without a transformed life.

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