You MUST Be Born Again

Jesus-and-Nicodemus

“You must be born again.” Hey, where I’m from, that scripture is as well worn as John 3:16. In the ’70’s fad of the “Jesus Movement” (anybody who was paying attention at all to the culture of the early ’70’s knows this) being “born again” was all the rage. Billy Graham wrote a book about it and Jimmy Carter, running for President, made being “born again” a household phrase. I remember even wearing a button on my shirt (being the good “soul winner” I was expected to be) that asked “Are you Born Again?”

Wow, I haven’t thought about those days in a long time. They were filled with a sureness and a conviction that I had work to do to get everybody “born again.” They were happy days and misguided days, but they were sincere days so I guess that counts for something.

Let’s look at today’s Gospel Lesson: At that time, there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nikodemos, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nikodemos said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The Spirit blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, and you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nikodemos said to him, “How can this be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:1-15

First notice that Jesus confronts this man, Nikodemos, with a command “Do not marvel…” and the reason for this is that this message Jesus gives to Nikodemos is not new! All through the First Testament, God, the Prophets, and Teachers were telling the People of God that one day God would write the Law on their hearts and not just on tablets of stone (Jeremiah 31:33). The promise of the coming of the Messiah was filled with the expectation that there would be a fundamental change in the relationship between God and humanity. What amazed Jesus was that Nikodemos, a teacher of the Law, seemed to not understand this!

Next, The Lord reveals that this “born again” He is talking about is a spiritual rebirth. The Lord confronts Nikodemos with the reality of the amazing truth that God intends to bridge the gap that existed between the physical and the spiritual and heal this broken connection!

Finally, The Lord reveals that this healing of physical and spiritual would be like what Moses did in the desert with the serpent on the pole (Oh, you don’t know that story. Look at Numbers 21). Just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent on the pole for all Israel to see and if they would look, they would live, so the Son of Man will be “lifted up” and whoever believes in Him will live forever.

Today, are you being born again? Is the divide between the spiritual and the physical being healed in your heart? Are you spending as much time on your spiritual needs and spiritual hunger as you do on your physical needs and your physical hunger? If not, then perhaps it’s time to renew your participation in the active and purposeful pursuit of God’s presence in your life. All the tools you need to mary the physical and the spiritual are given to you in the Lord’s Church; from the precious and whole Divine Liturgy, to daily prayers, to the lives of the Saints, to confession, and all the Divine Mysteries of the Church. All is ready for you. All is available. All is here. It’s time to be being born again. It’s time to be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Faith Encouraged Ministries is now making our daily devotionals a daily podcast on AncientFaith.com. You can listen to the Orthodox on Purpose Daily devotional in your car or at your desk or in your home on your mobile device or your home computer. All you have to do is go to AncientFaith.com and look up Faith Encouraged Daily! Listen starting next week!

8 comments:

  1. ‘You must be born from above.’

    Being “born again” is necessarily a personal choice; between the Holy Spirit and the person. Without a heart change in the person, no ritual can effect it. I don’t think that has changed since the AD 70’s, let alone the 1970’s! (unless, of course, one subscribes to the Augustine-Calvin school of “irresistible grace”).

    1. And I would suggest, Dallas that, without a ritual, there will be no heart change. It’s the forever attempt to divorce these two aspects of the human person – will and action – that constantly trip up modern theologians. It just never works out because we were meant to be whole persons.

      And that is at the heart of the Orthodox view of salvation. This is also why we tie together, instead of always trying to discern between, the physical and the spiritual.

      I would also add that this “being” born again isn’t a merely punctiliar event, but an everyday, on going reality, just like physically growing up is something I’m constantly doing.

      Trying to divorce the physical from the spiritual is one of the greatest weaknesses of modern Protestantism, and it doesn’t work.

  2. Fr. Barnabas, bless. A somewhat jaded Catholic, I just want you to know you were the first Orthodox priest I became aware of via the internet during those summer months of 2014. Since then I’ve discovered the RC party line regarding Orthodoxy isn’t quite the truth now is it. Particularly the devastation wrought on the Byzantine empire by the Crusades and the subsequent, gradual conquering of most it by the Ottomans. Aside from that, new and disconcerting questions arose concerning the Filioque addition, the nature of original sin and some of the off the wall papal ex cathedral statements like the Immaculate Conception. In some ways it’s going to be more difficult for me to embrace Orthodoxy than it would be for a Protestant, and this makes me superficially perturbed at you for having watched and listened to your youtube videos. But Orthodox I will be, eventually. Just wish the closest Orthodox Church wasn’t almost 100 miles away!

    1. Dear Bradley,

      I don’t blame you for being perturbed with me! I remember telling one of the men who introduced me to Orthodoxy that he had ruined my life. But in a good way!

      Please know I pray for you as you journey towards Him Who loves us more than we, ourselves, know how to love.

  3. Thank you, Father, for your excellent post. I especially appreciate the reference to the Jesus People movement, in which I first found the Lord in a powerful way. My own button said, “Ask me about Jesus”. Mercifully I never had the nerve to wear the button. I suspect that if I did wear it, it would only have insured that I had plenty of space around me in the subway.

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