March 24, by Dan Waugh
Following along in the reading plan Bob sent yesterday, I had the opportunity to read John 1-3. Twice in these three chapters, John speaks, or Jesus speaks through John, of the new birth.
In the first instance, John says, “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of flesh nor the will of man, but of God.” Here he makes it clear that he isn’t speaking of a literal physical rebirth (‘not of blood’) but something different – a spiritual rebirth.
In John 3, Jesus baffles Nicodemus, a religious leader, when he says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Perplexed, Nicodemus asks how this is possible; can a grown man re-enter his mother’s womb? Jesus says that the second birth, the rebirth, is of the Spirit, not the flesh.
For a moment, set aside that being born again is an entirely normal way for us to talk. Consider the idea as if you’re hearing it for the first time, as if you’re Nicodemus. I can think of nothing more patently absurd than being born again. Except, maybe, resurrection.
The apostle Paul speaks of Christians as being raised to newness of life, of dying with Christ and being raised with him. Of course, there is the future resurrection we look forward to, but in many places, Paul tells us that we have already experienced a spiritual resurrection. We were dead in our sins, but we’ve been made alive in Christ. For instance, Paul writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:13).
The theological term used to describe the miracle being represented by the image of new birth or being raised to a new life is regeneration. And. It. Is. A. Miracle. Thanks be to God for giving us new life! Edwards describes it as “a great and glorious work of God’s power, at once changing the heart, and infusing life into the dead soul.…”
Again, if this wasn’t a normal way for me to speak as a Christian, it would seem absurd. But, God has always been a God of the absurd. God saves humanity in a boat (Noah). God speaks in a burning bush (Moses). God saves by parting a sea (Isreal). He uses a shepherd boy to defeat his people’s enemy (David). He dies so we could live.
God doesn’t think outside the box. He doesn’t have even have a box. Keep an eye out for the surprising, sometimes absurd, works of God in your life this week.