Christians have many different ideas about what it means to be “born again.”
I regularly pass a billboard that’s covered with a picture of a raging fire on the left side and a picture of puffy, white clouds on the right side – and, across the top, I read the words: “Heaven or Hell – The Choice is Yours!” Most of us have probably been asked: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” Maybe you attended a Billy Graham Crusade many years ago, and suddenly felt the need to come down onto the field and “do something” about your relationship with God – RIGHT NOW!
In this week’s message, “Born Again!”, we listen to the story of Nicodemus. We see that Nicodemus came to Jesus “at night,” and learn that darkness is always a sign of doubt and disbelief in the Gospel of John. In the story of Nicodemus, we are challenged to admit that what we believe about being “born again” ultimately tells the world whether we believe that salvation is “all up to us” or “all up to God.” And that’s really big!
As a part of my preparation for this message, I reflected and prayed about the process of giving birth. For nine months, Mom carries a baby deep inside of her. She watches what she eats – goes to the doctor for check-ups – and buys things that she thinks she will need when the baby is born. And then, comes the “Big Day”! There’s pain and there’s sweating and there’s screaming. And, after it’s all said and done, the new Mom gets to hold her new baby – who, by the way, basically hasn’t done anything to make its own birth happen.
What if being “born again” isn’t so much about what “we do” – but is, rather, God’s work in our lives to push us out of places where we are warm and cozy – into a new phase of life? What if being “born again” isn’t so much about “accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior;” but is, rather, more about God’s activity – pushing you out of the places where you feel safe and secure, and driving you into places where you can grow and mature and become something more than a spiritual baby?
So, what do you believe it means to be “born again”? Is being “born again” your decision to take a step toward God – or is it about God washing you in the waters of Baptism, filling you with His Spirit, placing a lit candle in your hand, and saying: “Let your light so shine before others, so that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven”?