You can be born to live again… What on earth does that mean?
Perhaps you know, or perhaps you think you know.
Over 35 years ago a young man thought he knew the meaning of that phrase born again. He had a fair idea anyway of what he thought of people who ascribed that term to themselves. He thought “those people” to be ignorant, old fashioned, narrow-minded and generally out of the mainstream of the enlightened. Admittedly many were well intentioned and some were good or even kind, but that could be said of a lot of people, including himself.
‘One doesn’t need to be “religious” to be good or headed in the right direction he believed, one just needed to do what was right and avoid the wrongs’. “Life is a journey and we determine our destiny by our choices.” “Decide for our selves what is right or wrong and go for it”. Since he didn’t really want to “buy into” anyone else’s religion, he little by little developed an eclectic religion of his own.” Pick-up one discard the next, while we reach for still another mode of transportation that’s more suiting that the other.” The “truths” he gleaned from many sources, a little Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, a dash of Animism, and even a few “revelations from nature and the occasional acid trip. Hey, it worked for him, why not.
Yet like a small child set free to choose his own diet, he chose only what was sweet, or suited his fancy. He believed only what made him feel good about himself or promised him more sweets. As with the proverbial child in the candy store this spiritual diet proved unhealthy, actually sickening. One thing the young man chose not to believe was the bad news of consequences, negative consequences, so warnings went unheeded. “Yeah, I can see that happening to others, but it won’t happen to me, I’m too careful, too wise, too smart, I know better.”
To believe gravity is a law for “others” and to think oneself above it, is folly. We take seriously the warnings associated with that law and avoid many perilous consequences by observing it. Unfortunately for this young man, the law of gravity was one of the few laws he felt he wasn’t above. He then began to fall prey to perilous consequences. Drug and alcohol addictions became a part of his reality, he didn’t “choose” them, but could not seem to “not choose” them. Yet they were escapes, temporary as they were, and so his path began to follow the path of escapes. Travel and adventure became more frequent and costly. A new law began to block the path; the law of ever diminishing returns. Each experience began to require more to achieve the same level of escape or fulfillment. Like a track star at the high jump, the bar continued to rise until it was beyond his abilities to clear it.
I’m sure you have long ago figured out that the young man in the above story was me. I reached a point in life where I had everything I wanted, yet nothing had any flavor or promise of fulfillment. Empty cannot begin to describe the feeling or the road I saw ahead. You see, I had achieved every persons secret dream. I had become my own boss, I answered to no one, I was in fact my own god.. I could do what I wanted when I wanted as I wanted, yet I was as thoroughly miserable as I believe is humanly possible, If this was “being God” I didn’t want any part of it.
How does a man reach the point of actually believing he is God or like God? Does it take unmitigated arrogance? No, simple pride will do it. As with Eve in the Garden of Eden, all we need do is fall for the same line she did. “You too can be like God, you can decide for yourself what is right and wrong.” She bought it, ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and then she was dead. Let’s call Eve’s choice, sin, the bible does. If sin can be defined as “me first” that would define us all as sinners. If sin in fact kills, then we must be dead or at least dead to God. The most tragic aspect of death is, it’s irreversibility as it separates the living from the dead. What parent wouldn’t feel powerless standing over the corpse of their child. The child is beyond their reach, separated, forever gone. Their relationship is permanently altered, ended. It took me 26 years to realize I was dead. I’m not usually such a slow learner, but when we don’t want to believe the truth, we will work really hard to hold onto our lies. Also, I don’t like to admit I’m wrong, especially when its in reference to everything I believe about right and wrong.
God had His reasons for bringing me to that horribly painful and empty place so long ago. He loved me. He showed me the vacant road ahead and the depth of my inabilities to navigate around it. I did not want to proceed any further down that road of my own making. At the point I chose to let go of all that I had ever held as right or wrong, true or false, good or evil; I let go of my beliefs and the “right” to determine good and evil for myself. It is with empty hands we are able to embrace the truth. The letting go is called repentance. Admit the sin, let go of it, then reach up for help. While God can show us that we are dead, separated from Him, there is still nothing we can do about it, dead men can’t move. The dead don’t do! They can’t be good, they can’t say any right words, can’t sacrifice or change. They can just be dead. Fortunately for us, it is up to someone else to do something about the situation, it is all up to God. God did do something. He sent His only Son to die in our place. Jesus took the penalty for our sins, suffered our consequences. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, defeated death and separation. He became for us life and provides that life to those who will, in faith, receive it. He even gives the power to reach up, it is called grace.
“By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” ( Ephesians 2:8)
On that day when I reached the end of myself, and submitted to God, several things happened.
One, I met God, personally. Not only is He real, He is knowable, and we can get to know Him better and better as we obey His commands in an effort know Him. (John 14:21)
Two, the emptiness I had experienced broke and I was filled with an inexpressible joy, and sense of purpose.
Three, the Bible came alive to me, the scriptures actually began to speak clearly. As I read them, I understood and identified with their message.
Four, the need to escape was gone, so were the addictions and the very desire for any of the things I had tried so hard to be free from.
Actually many things changed, the way I viewed everything, it was and is truly like being born again. Born into a new world, alive to God, (Ephesians 2:5) able to hear His voice. (John 10:16)
Born again is not just a term. It is more than an experience, much more than an understanding. It is the other side of the grave. It is something totally foreign and unfathomable to those who have not received the Gift.
The Gift is there waiting to be received. The terms of receipt are unconditional surrender. All must be done God’s way as prescribed in God’s word, the Bible. Being made alive requires something supernatural, a faith originating from God. Why think it strange or small-minded, that something as awesome and beyond our abilities as this saving faith, should have to be received on God’s terms and not on our own? Only our pride would hold on to the “right” to have it our way. Let go, admit to your Creator that you haven’t lived for Him, but for yourself. Admit you are a sinner, we all are. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… (Romans 3:23) Relinquish the “right” to decide for yourself what is right or wrong. Then, with empty hands, take God at His word and place yourself in the Hands of a God who is able to justify the ungodly. Receive His mercy, His sacrifice, His very life. It is then that you will be born again. One of my favorite scriptures is an invitation from God to us. Isaiah 2:18 says… Come now, let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.”
God is simply saying “Come now, the blood of Jesus took care all your sin. All issues aside, all excuses, all fears, I took care of that, now come, let us get to know one another, let me love you, heal you, assure you that you are wanted, most precious in my sight.”
It is my prayer that whoever reads this, will hear the voice of God asking them to come, and will, as I did 35 years ago, lay down the “right” to be God, and truly come to know the One True Living Holy, Awesome, and Wonderful Creator of all mankind, God, Jesus Christ. He is worthy!
Now that I know Jesus I have walked and talked with Him so I can’t see how I ever lived before that day so many years ago. The simple truth is I didn’t, I just existed. Step out of existence and into life today, what do you have to lose? What do you have to gain? Eternal life!
“And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
My life is just a vapor,
I live it day to day,
never knowing when the wind,
will blow it fast away.
By knowing God, through His Son,
eternal life I hold.
And knowing Him will not pass away,
when my limbs grow stiff and cold.
J. Christopher White