“You must be born again.” In the evangelical world this phrase is arguably the most famous and used statement in the whole of Holy Scripture. Unfortunately, it is often reduced to a cliché, an almost formula-like approach to the Christian life. Simply ask Jesus into your heart and you can be born again, that is, go to heaven. The problem, however, lies in the fact that this is not really what Jesus said in John 3.
Jesus ministered in a religious world that needed deep transformation because it had become, uh-hem, reduced to formulas and clichés. When Jesus stated that people need to be born again, he meant that there is a need for new life – not behavior modification, not re-arranging some things on the calendar, and not some more focused goals. No, people need new life. They need it so bad that it is like being born again.
Just as a baby cannot create herself, make herself grow in the womb, and give birth to herself, so no one can experience total life change, being born again, on their own ingenuity, power, or ability. We ought never to expect anything less than complete life transformation that comes through a total spiritual awakening, like being born again.
If that sounds downright radical, well, it is. It is meant to be. Jesus’ words to Nicodemus were so revolutionary to him that he had a hard time swallowing it. But Jesus never dumbed-down spiritual truth in order to make it more palatable or understandable; he insisted on life change, and he taught it and lived it through preaching the kingdom of God and healing all kinds of people.
Only God can do such a work of bringing new life. We are completely dependent upon the Spirit to birth us into a new reality through the person and work of Jesus. We are also totally reliant upon the Spirit to use us as spiritual mid-wives, helping to birth new spiritual babies into God’s world.
Saving God, you sent your Son, the Lord Jesus, to this world in order to give it new life. Save me, O God, from myself and give me the change I need. Help me to share this message of transformation with others who need to be born again, as well. Amen.