Born Again: To Find Your End And Beginning In Jesus

Text: John 3:1-17

In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

“You must born again!”  
Perhaps you have heard these words come out of the mouths of your Baptist friends.  Or, maybe you remember the old preacher, Billy Graham, yell these words in one of his many crusades, “You must be born again!”    
However, what do these words exactly mean?  

You may be surprised to learn that as popular as these words are, they only appear four times in the Bible.  The most familiar place is in our reading from the Gospel of John where Jesus says,  
“I tell you the truth that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is ‘born again.”
But again, what do these words exactly mean?  What does it mean to be born again?  

If these words are bit confusing, take comfort for this phrase also puzzled a man named Nicodemus - the man whom Jesus was talking to in our Gospel reading 

We must keep in mind that Nicodemus was no ordinary man.  He was one of those religious elites – a Pharisee and teacher of Israel.  If he were alive today, he would probably have thousands of Twitter follower, millions of viewers on Youtube, and be a frequent guest on Dr. Phil or Oprah.  In other words, he was a well-known intellectual and religious teacher.  

Now, besides being a well-known teacher, we must also understand the essence of what Nicodemus taught.  He was a Pharisee, and as a Pharisee his teaching basically pointed individuals back to themselves, much like the modern self-help books do.  

And so, when Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again, Nicodemus was a bit confused.  Since Nicodemus’ teaching focused on Nicodemus, he said, 
“How can anyone be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again.”
In other words, Nicodemus was confused because He thought that being born again was something that he had to do.  And so, he could not figure out how to be born again through his physical actions.  

Dear friends, when Jesus said that one needs to be born again, though, He was not implying that this is something that Nicodemus had to do or even could do.  Furthermore, Jesus was not implying that Nicodemus had to go deep within the caverns of his heart to somehow create a mystical experience – a new birth.  To the point, to be born again is not something that Nicodemus could do. Why?  Well, Nicodemus’ religious teachings were not able to accomplish this new birth.  There were no tricks in Nicodemus’ theological bag and no tools in his philosophical kit that were able to accomplish this new birth.  

Let me state this as simple as possible.  Jesus is showing us that to be born again is not something that you do but is something that happens to you.  In other words, to be born again is impossible for us to do in our own strength.  It is not something that we bring about.  Just as it is impossible for us to take credit for our birth, and just as it is impossible for us to enter our mother’s womb to be born again a second time, it is impossible for you and I to be eternally born again by our own strength.  As human beings, we cannot fulfill this task; however, we still need to be born again.  

Let’s think of it this way, dear friends.  You and I do not need a redo in this life.  As a Christian, we don’t need Jesus to come along and cheer us on and give us some pointers to do better.  Our problem in life is not as if we have failed to actualize some hidden potential within.  Heavens no!  Matt Richard is not a cluster of potential ready to be birthed into greatness!  No!  The biggest problem in Matt Richard’s life is Matt Richard.  You and I do not need a little improvement, a little encouragement, or a pep talk from Jesus!  No, we need to find our end – death – in Jesus and our beginning – life – in Jesus.  Unlike the world, this Christian faith does not turn you and me to ourselves, or manmade solutions.  Instead, to be born again involves death and life - a rebirth.  

The Apostle Paul says it like this!  
“I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life for me.”  
Nicodemus’ biggest problem was Nicodemus and His whole theological system that pointed himself inward to himself as a solution.  Everything that Nicodemus did, taught, and lived, needed to die in Christ – Nicodemus needed to be born again – He needed to find His end and beginning in Christ.  

Dear friends, I cannot say this clear enough.  To be born again is for you to find your end and beginning in Jesus.  

But how is this done, you may ask?  

Quite simply, you were washed.  You were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  God wrote His name on you.  God’s Word -connected to the water - is powerful.  At your baptism, the old sinful nature was violently drowned.  At your baptism, the old sinful nature, which is malicious, greedy, lethargic, proud, jealous, full of lust, narcissistic, and pathetic, was slayed.  Yes, your baptism has teeth, it is potent.  From this violent drowning massacre your old sinful nature was killed; death happened.  But that is not all that happened.  When you were baptized you were given the Holy Spirit.  You were given holy impulses.  You were given what we call the ‘new man.’  

Now, the implications of this are quite profound. Because you were baptized into Christ – born again – you are not defined by your first birth.  That is why we confess our sins.  We confess our sins in thought, word, and deed because our sins have found their end in Jesus.  Sin has everything to do with our first birth, which is why we confess it!  It is dead to us because we are dead to it.  We have been born again – we are alive in Christ.  

Think of it this way.  Why are we so harsh on man-centered religious systems, stupid cultural fads, and silly spiritual gimmicks here at St. Paul’s?  The answer, because we are not born again unto man-centered religious systems, stupid cultural fads, and silly spiritual gimmicks but are born again unto Christ – the resurrected one.  Why would we return to dead things when we are born again in Christ through baptism?  Why would we leave the waters of baptism for the shadows of darkness?  

Dear friends, this is such good news.   Being born again means that you don’t belong to yourself and your life is no longer your own.  You are not defined by your first birth.  You do not have to be concerned about building a name for yourself.  You do not have to worry about your spiritual temperature and your spiritual empires. Being born again means that you are freed from looking inwards and freed from the constant burden of trying to acquire a clean conscience.  You have been born anew in Christ, and in Christ you have a clean conscience because Christ is your forgiveness, life, and salvation. 

And so, each and every day of your life as a Christian is like a daily baptism.  Daily you and I wander and slip towards darkness; however, daily the Lord grabs you in repentance and faith and shoves you not back into your mother’s womb but shoves you right smack dab into the waters of your baptism where you were born again. 

You must be born again, and you are!  You are baptized into Christ’s death and life.   

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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