You can’t be born again and not be radically different, not see the world through the eyes of the Savior; experience life, the pain the joy and heartache and the passion, that comes from being a Spirit led, Spiritually alive being, in a dead and dying world. Unless of course you purposely ignore the Spirit.
Being born again isn’t a state of mind, it’s not a phrase to describe a set of beliefs or a particular brand of Christian. It’s not a club that you join or a conditioning to ascribe to through discipline, ritual or liturgy. Being born again is a state of being. It’s a state of being just as surely as being born of the flesh is. It is who you are, but you also have to allow yourself to become who you are as a born again person.
Being born again from death to life is a radical transformation, it is literally an altered state. We don’t learn to be born again any more than a baby learns to alter his or her condition from being in the womb to being out in the world. But unlike the first birth where a baby doesn’t have a choice as to whether it’s born or not; In the case of being born again we do have a choice, we choose whether we will be born again, or not, when we choose whether or not to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and invite him into our hearts and are made alive by his Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
How can you not be different when you are suddenly the living temple of the very Spirit of God himself?
I have seen this transformation happen over and over again, I have had the privilege of inviting many, many, people over the years to accept Jesus as their Savior and I don’t care if it is just quietly raising your hand in acknowledgement in a church service, boldly sprinting to the alter in front of everyone at a big event, bowing your head and saying the sinner’s prayer across the table in a cafe, falling prostrate in repentance and weeping for joy before a campfire in the mountains— if you have opened your heart to Jesus you are a new creation, and you are not the same person you used to be.
When it happens it is always a miracle, another rebirth, another cause for celebration in heaven. I’ve looked in a person’s eyes and seen the lights come on as there is suddenly someone home, the fear and hurt falls away and life begins— real life.
I racked my brains as I taught this lesson to my church trying to think of some story or illustration about what it means to be born again, to be free, to be real, to just be, and it just wasn’t happening. There’s the old usual illustrations of the Butterflies and the Bull frogs being born again, from a caterpillar and a tadpole but really, that doesn’t work, we are not worms or bugs or amphibians so it’s hard to relate.
But I kept thinking about little Mattie, (Names changed) A baby girl a couple in our fellowship is foster parenting. I remember the first time they walked in here with her, the foster mother, Catrina, was all aglow just like a mother showing off her new baby and Scott- the proud father. But this baby had not been born to them. Mattie had been born into a nightmare. At just a few weeks old she shown up in our church with two broken legs, a broken collar bone and sternum, and a cigarette burn on her toe for good measure. All inflicted on her by her birth mother, her flesh and blood mother.
But Mattie was born again into a new family, given another chance, a new life. She was now in the arms of a mother who would never hurt her, who loves her and has brought her to a place of healing, peace and safety.
But there is more to the story; the Lord had told Scott and Catrina that Mattie was coming. The Lord knew that there was a baby girl who would need a chance to be reborn into a new family, weeks before she was even born. Matt and Catrina had been struggling, they wanted a big family and had a beautiful daughter but had been unable to get pregnant again and they asked me to pray for them. I did and in the midst of the prayer I saw a picture in my mind of a baby girl still in the womb and I heard the name Mattie.
I told them that they were going to have a little girl. I then asked them if they had thought about any names; “No, not really” I hesitated because I didn’t want to influence them but I said, “Well I heard the name Mattie, I think its short for something but I don’t know what.” So when she walked in that day with a baby girl and said; “Guess what her name is”, I said; “No, it can’t be.” … It was, She said: “Her name is Matilda, but they call her Mattie.”
-The little girl they were promised.
So it is, that our God is good— all the time. Is that a great picture of being born again or what? Mattie, who was born into chaos and pain, has a new life a new family, a new hope for a good future. She came to our church that first week bruised and broken, knocked out with pain meds screaming in pain whenever she woke up, it was heartbreaking. But she has been allowed to heal and now her eyes have a light and she smiles when she is awake. Her past just a distant, fading memory.
Someday Mattie will have the choice to make, “Am I the victim, living in defeat and bitterness, using my past as an excuse and a reason to destroy my future, or am I going to live as a victor, one who has been given another chance to live a life of joy and purpose, using the opportunity and love I have been given to move forward into a hopeful and optimistic tomorrow?”
We all have that choice to make.
So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:7,8