It’s an incredible day in South Florida!
I wrote a post 2 weeks ago: “Born Again”. There are two applications of this concept which are worth repeating. First, prior to being born again we are NOT alive in the kingdom of heaven. Second, this new birth happens TO US, we are not responsible for the process or the results.
That second point was a bit sticky for Nicodemus (Let’s call him ‘Nick’). Nick was afraid of a two repercussions of this concept. We often share those fears.
If we have made good choices, we want to be acknowledged. If I’m a good father, a good husband, a good doctor – does that matter? Nick’s whole life centered around knowing and practicing God’s law. Surely he would get some credit toward entry into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus helps us understand this with a story in Luke 9. He described two men going to the temple to pray – a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee looks up toward heaven, expresses gratitude for all his good works; he thanks God that he is NOT like the sinful tax collector. This is pride.
One of the first steps in the pathway to relationship with God is recognizing that I am lost, broken and alone. Nothing good has ever come out of me. The tax collector from Luke 9 beat on his chest, bowed his head to the ground and whispered “God be merciful to me, a sinner”.
He went home justified.
Nick had a second concern: could someone claim to be “born again” and yet continue a sinful life? What does it mean to be Regenerate?
Jesus used the same Greek word,“Pneuma”, for both “wind” and “spirit”. To be “born again” is to be born of the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit/Wind. We cannot control the wind. We cannot deny it’s effect. The flag flutters and the palm tree bends – it’s windy. At 3 in the afternoon, there is a stillness in the 95-degree heat, the flag hangs limp and the palm tree is motionless – there is no wind and reasonable people retreat to the sanctuary of air conditioning.
The flag and the palm do not control the wind; they undeniably show its’ effect. When we are born again the Spirit does a work of regeneration inside us and the effect will be undeniable. Perhaps small, barely perceptible, growing into a hurricane!