“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
I have been reflecting over the past few days about birthdays. Every year we each have a birthday and we are reminded of the day when we came into this world. We are also reminded that we are each one year closer to the day on which we will stand before the Living God to give an account of our lives. For each one of us birth was something that happened which was out of our control. In no way were we in control of any aspect of it. In reality the same can be said for our birth from above into the life of Christ. When I re-examine my born again experience what I discover is that it was entirely an act of God. I might think that I exerted some control over it. When I look at its reality however what I discover is that the decisions that I made were the consequence of things that God was doing in me. His gracious work in me was the motivation for all of the decisions which I then made.
To examine my testimony reveals that I came to Christ at an East Toronto Youth event in the early 1970s. I had no plan on committing myself to Christ when I went to the retreat. In fact I felt that I was already a believer at that time. As the retreat concluded something happened that shook me out of my unbelief. This was that I suddenly became aware that I was not in fact a believer. Then I had a powerful experience of the love of God. I knew then and there that God loved me. It was very much like John Wesley’s description of his conversion where he described himself as having his heart strangely warmed as he was given a powerful sense that he was loved by God and that his sins were forgiven. That was my experience. Everything else fell into place at that point. Long established behaviours were changed as I found myself being conformed to the image of Christ. I now knew that I was a believer. I wanted to read the Bible. In fact I felt that I had to read the Bible. Choices to involve myself in Christian fellowship seemed to be made for me. I became involved as the Lord led me.
In much of this I thought at the time that I was making decisions to involve myself in these things. Hindsight tells me that the Lord was changing me and opening up opportunities for me. Even the choice I made to become a minister was made for me. The Lord’s leading, and the choices that He led me to make all seemed to be under His control.
Jesus tells us in John 3:3 that we must be born again. Another translation of this phrase is born from above. It is the work of God’s Spirit, under His control and it is that one thing that makes us into real Christians. It is God’s work in us. We cannot control it, or create it. All we can to in regard to it is to receive God’s gift when He gives it to us. Jesus presents this to Nicodemus as a statement of fact that is designed to bring him to faith. The Word of God presents this same fact to each one of us. “We must be born again.” Are you? All of eternity depends upon your answer to that one question.