Born Again

born againC asked a great question in the last post: ‘what does it mean to meet Jesus?’ (Your comments have been stonking: thank-you).

Here’s my tuppence;

No-one goes away from meeting Jesus, unchanged. Sometimes (and these are normally the testimonies we showcase at special events), there’s a kind of deliverance: a moment, when lives change, very obviously, for the better.

Sometimes it’s gradual.  And outwardly at least, life appears much the same.

But quite often, meeting Jesus messes everything up.  It does not improve your bank balance, your love life or your sense of humour. Instead of making you happier about yourself; it makes you feel worse.  You sometimes think Jesus is the icing on a pretty decent homemade cake…but He goes and upends the whole tin.

Nicodemus for example, (John 3).   He’s a Pharisee, on the Jewish ruling council.  Powerful, rich, well-respected. The sort of man who can carry off red chinos, (which takes some doing, at least in Eastbourne). Nicodemus has got the cake and the icing.  Secure in his identity; strong and full.  So he rocks up to Jesus, for a bit of a chat.

‘Teacher’, he says, ‘me and the guys have been talking. You are obviously a teacher who has come from God. All these miraculous signs are proof that God is with You -‘

Nicodemus wants dialogue, not rescue.  But Jesus is having none of it. Jesus says:

‘Here’s the truth – only someone who is born again can see the kingdom of God’.

This is not what Nicodemus asked.  After all, he gives talks on the kingdom of God!  No-one needs to tell him about being born ag – Wait. Born again? What?

‘I’m a grown man. How can someone be born again when he is old like me? Am I to crawl back into my mother’s womb for a second birth? That’s impossible!’

And Jesus hits him.  With an assertion that calls his whole life into question.

(Scrivener translation – sorry).  Mate, he says. Everyone who wants to enter the kingdom of heaven, must be born again. Including you. It’s not about tweaking a few rules or doing slightly better. Everything about you is wrong.  Everything has to change.

That’s the first punch.  The second is when he likens Nicodemus, the respected leader, to the grumbling Israelites.

Don’t think of yourself as a righteous leader of God’s people, think of yourself as a grumbling, perishing sinner.  Like in Numbers 21. In that story the murmuring Israelites are suffering the judgement of God, snake-bitten and without a hope in the world. But the LORD provides a bronze serpent for them to look at and be rescued.

You’re not a somebody going somewhere. You’re a nobody lost in the dark. You are not part of the solution. You’re part of the problem.  And there’s nothing you can do to rescue yourself. The only way to be rescued – is to look to me.

Nicodemus came as a champion, strong and full.  After a few words from Jesus, he leaves, weak and empty. But when we recognise our need – that’s where the grace of Jesus meets us. We see this in John chapter 4, where Jesus meets someone very different. A woman who’s outside society.  Wrong gender, wrong race, wrong nation, wrong lifestyle. This woman is already weak and empty. And the first thing He does is to offer her life: the living water of his Spirit.

If we meet Jesus full, He’ll empty us. If we meet Him empty, He’ll fill us. But no-one leaves Jesus unchanged.



5 thoughts on “Born Again

  1. I don’t understand the term ‘born-again Christian.’ I get it that you are born again into Christianity and that is not my problem. But why do these ‘born-again Christians’ seem to think they are so much better than every other Christian? It makes it sound like they became Christian, stopped and then did it all over again. I think it’s a phrase that should be banished!

  2. Emma,

    I love that example of Nicodemus, I’d not thought of that before. Thanks!

    I’ve been thinking about this in the last few days. So for me, meeting Jesus ruined my life. My family hated me, I was physically attacked – it was all pretty horrible. And things aren’t magically all solved – I still struggle with an eating disorder, with depression, and with the consequences of some stupid choices.

    This has been a bloody awful few weeks, to be frank, and there’ve been so many times when I’ve questioned faith entirely. Why the hell do I keep up with it when nothing ever happens? I’m still broken and messed up. What’s with all that “victory” talk? It’s much more of a stumble for me.

    And yet. I can’t give up on Christ – though I’ve tried. And I guess – it’s because amidst all the crap and the mess and the brokenness – He is somehow there. And I can’t see what He’s doing, and sometimes it’s hard to trust that He’s doing anything – but – oh, I don’t know. The image of Him I relate to best at the moment is that of Jesus as my rock. And that rock doesn’t change, despite how crazy the storm is.

    So maybe for me, that’s what i mean about meeting Jesus. The storm is still there – but somehow, I have this last, desperate hope of solid ground somewhere. It’s not the stuff of the dramatic testimony – just a last, almost faithless hope. But somehow, it’s enough.

  3. What is it? Infinite (immeasurable) love meets infinite human need? Somehow if i am not careful all these verses can read like fictional counterparts in which the only result is the artful re-interpretation of whatever we want to make of the texts! I know as a non-theologian, that is what I can unconsciously tend to do. But if it is more than artistic license that is called for, is it a surprise that we get messed up? We face that which is contrary to ourselves, a form of Objectivity which forever questions are deeply cherished views on everthing, including who we would think we are. One such untruth is the idea that we live self-determined lives, and that the life I live is for me primarily. For as someone said to me, in a rather puzzled state, ‘who else’s life is it’? No doubt there is a connection between cherished notions of ‘the me’, ‘my freedoms’, verses the painful necessity for repentance and self-renunciation. In other words they clash, absolutely. So whenever I think of Jesus i think of , well, ‘who’s life is it anyway’, and if it is not mine, then i feel , at least, if nothing else, slightly more relaxed about it, especially as I have not got everything (material desires), nor ever will have…in my outwardly tatty life. (Nor do i have to struggle all the time) Also, many people are encouraged to be strong, or at least appear to be, the idea that there may be any merit in weakness or meekness etc, probably has not occured to them. I for one am glad that I don’t have to be confident in myself but that there is one in whom i can have total confidence. Strictly speaking can any Christian be said to cope, if coping means coping alone? Perhaps the answer is a definitive no. That is why we pray i supose. My everday plans fall apart and sometimes something better takes its place and takes me by surprise. Perhaps i don’t understand who this life is that is shared with me, perhaps you don’t either. Perhaps if you look at your life you see few novelities, creativity or suprises. More by way of a deadening routine, round and round , here we go again. That does not sound like the life we were promised and I want more of the other (life). Don’t we all expect too little of this other life to be lived, because we don’t realise what is on offer, who he is, prefering as we do the familiar over the unfamiliar, the self-centred over the truely other, the One who stands with us, for us and also against us.

  4. Hey Lizzie,
    I related to so much of what you said. It can be such a hard walk. And you can’t really snuggle up to a Rock in those tough times!
    The storm, the dark night that is when God remains our Rock. All sorts of situations, circumstances and issues may darken our lives. You’re exhausted, in pain, frightened.
    But there is something in us that can’t give Him up even if we want to sometimes. You know the Rock, exists, is real, He is hope and you can’t give Him up, no matter how battered you feel. Like Emma said, if we are full He will empty us of everything. And for some of us those losses are incredibly hard to bear.
    I just wanted to say Lizzie, you’re not on your own, you have your Rock, but you also have other sisters standing with you. We just haven’t met each other yet. But I will pray for you today my sister. That you hold on. I love what it says in Zechariah 9:12 “Return to the stronghold [of security and prosperity] you prisoners of hope; even today do I declare that I will restore double your former prosperity to you.” Amplified Bible.
    I love that picture of being ‘a prisoner of hope’ because that’s what you and I are Lizzie – ‘Prisoners of Hope’ we can’t give up because we know the truth we have been captured by it, He won’t ever let us go. And we will continue the hard journey, standing on our rock with our captured hearts of hope.

  5. FHL – stop making me cry! On a serious note, thank you so much, that encouragement means so much to me right now. Am praying for you too. I love the Zechariah verse too!

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