Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Born Again - Part 1

            This article is written particularly for those who consider themselves Christians, although anyone desiring truth might find it helpful.
            Jesus himself used the term "born again" in John 3.  Jesus instructed Nic that following God has  nothing to do  with a particular family of origin, religion, culture, or belief system.  Scholars believe the term "born again" can be more accurately translated in English as "born from above."   Jesus explains, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.  So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it wants.  Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8; NLT).
            We exist in a physical (natural) realm, but the spiritual realm (supernatural) cannot be understood in the same way.  Heavenly Truth is not always understandable with earthly paradigms.  The earthly paradigm of birth is event driven, human effort intensive, and results subject to natural laws of earthly existence.  When a baby is discovered in his mother's womb, he is given a due date.  Pregnancy is a labor intensive process with a climax of the new born breathing on its own.  The new life is now part of the family of origin and human race made of the same stuff as the very first human created in the natural world. 
            The heavenly paradigm of birth from above, however, is much different.  It has no earthly timetable, all effort is God's, and the changes are mostly in the inner invisible realm (likened to the wind).  Each individuals response to God is unique in terms of a conversion experience.  The Holy Spirit reveals the Light of Jesus to a darkened spirit part of our being.   Being born from above is predicated on acceptance of God's love as demonstrated through Jesus Christ dying on a Cross and being raised from the dead.  The Spirit of God continues to breathe life into our spirit to renew and recreate our being from the inside out.  This inner change of heart comes as a result of surrendering the natural body, mind, and soul to the supernatural power of God.  Spiritual growth occurs with an increasing compliance with this process of surrendering to the ways of God.
            The birth of a baby is nothing short of a miracle.   As I witnessed the birth of our three natural-born children, I was each time reminded of the absolute wonderment of God's gift of life.  Natural birth is a miracle.  How much more then, is spiritual birth a supernatural process.  We are each born with a personal spirit, but the spirit part of our being is not fully awakened until it is born from above.  When we surrender to God the right to rule our being, the rebirth of our spirit begins.  In order to reach the maximum potential as the person we are meant to be, this rebirth process must continue throughout our lives (discussed more in a Part 2 article).
            If you’ve been around the Church for any length of time, you’ve heard someone talk about “decision for Christ”  in reference to a “conversion “ experience.  But, being born again is more than acknowledging a need for a Savior.  A decision of a natural mind is not enough.  You may also have heard someone talk about “accepting Christ into your heart.”  Although the heart is where the action is, mere acceptance of a message of truth is not enough for rebirth of spirit.  Accepting and deciding may be a good starting point, but in order for the spiritual realm to intersect with the natural realm, it always requires yielding of the natural.  Surrendering control of your inner person is the key issue. 
            What might surrender look like?  Again, the finer details of surrender may look different for each individual, but here are some possibilities.  It means submitting beliefs and values to a higher power and being willing to re-align to a God-defined standard of Truth.   It means giving up control of the ability to decide for yourself right from wrong.  It means letting go of a self-made identity in exchange for God reshaping of who you are as a person.  
            The transformation is somewhat of a mystery, but over time the practice of surrendering control will become evident in the natural realm.  For example, you may come to an understanding of family that includes a desire to grow your relationships closer without feeling like you are losing your identity as an individual.  Your value for healthy life recognizes the harmful affects of smoking cigarettes, so you give them up without it becoming a sacrifice.   Your concepts of love, happiness, and fulfillment become more in line with what God has already outlined in the Bible.  Your employment, standards of sexual morality, living arrangements, or consumer habits may need to change;  not simply because you made a decision to change your behavior, but change occurs because the "wind" of the Holy Spirit is working a change of heart.  It is also not a result of "trying harder," but surrendering at and cooperating with God's work at a deeper level. 
            The Psalmist penned the following words two thousand years before the message from Jesus quoted above.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  ....
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God"  (Psalm 51:10,11,17; NLT).
The ancient King David cried out for God to change his heart.  He recognized the necessity of supernatural intervention.  We see here that brokenness and repentance are part of what accompanies a cleansing of heart.  Repentance simply means to turn around.  Surrendering to God requires turning away from human control to divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  When a person surrenders internally, the external behaviors follow.  Many people face great frustration because they try to change their behavior without being fully surrendered in their heart.  
            John writes, "Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6; NLT).  Jesus is the way to be born from above.  Believing in Jesus and following his example of surrendering to the will of the Father is the way to awaken the eternal part of your being and have eternal life (John 3:16).   It is not about trying to become good enough, holy enough, strong enough, or any change of behavior.  Born again is simply believing in Jesus to transform your life.  If you make it more complicated than that, you are likely believing something that is not true.   Adding things that are not true may quickly lead to disappointments, false hopes, and missing the divine call on your life.  It may also lead to falsely believing you are a Christian because of your good deeds rather than having a heart surrendered to God. 
            My experience in Christianity goes back about six decades. I recently came to the conclusion that much of my understanding of "born again" was superficial or incomplete at best.  I had a born again conversion experience in my childhood and served in leadership for many churches over the years.  I even have a doctorate degree in Religious Studies from a conservative Christian school.  However, I recently discovered deeper revelation that being born from above is also a journey of radical and continuous transformation that cannot be explained in the natural realm (discussed more in Part 2). 
            Are you "born again?"  If you are not absolutely certain you can talk to God right now and be sure.  You may wish to read Part 2 of this article to discover the ongoing process of rebirth.  
            If you need another human to talk to about this, please contact me and I would be glad to discuss this more. 
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry