Jesus said to Nicodemus, “I can guarantee this truth: unless you are born again, you cannot see through God’s eyes.” (John 3:3)
Before I became a follower of Jesus, I was repelled by those who called themselves “born-again Christians.” To me, their attitude was always one of superiority and condemnation. The approach was of a transactional mentality: I could only earn the love of Jesus if I first changed my detestable behavior.
Years later, when I came to my Savior and joyfully walked into the Father’s loving embrace, I read and studied those red-letter words of Jesus. I contemplated his actions and how he treated outcasts with unconditional love, expansive grace and unequivocal invitation all before they ever awoke to the rebirth that changed their behavior. I realized being “born again” has nothing to do with superiority, condemnation or transactional love. It is a desire, after being awash in God’s sanctification, to honor him with our lives.
As new creations, we are no longer managed by man-made doctrine or theology. If we cannot harmonize the former with the words Jesus spoke, it is not the Gospel. If ignoring the Spirit causes us to justify our actions, if we seem to be led away from His fruit (Gal 5:22-23), we must acknowledge it is not the Gospel we follow, it is not Jesus we follow, nor the Father. It is at that moment of recognition we must choose whether to continue down the path of rejecting Love and Grace, or turn around and seek His full embrace.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (Galatians 5:22-23)
I was in my 50s when I became a new creation and changed my worldview. Let’s face it; I was an old dog, and if you’ve passed the half century mark, you’re an old dog, too. And like an old dog learning new tricks, I had to take a long, hard, honest look at my thoughts, my words and my actions. More important, I had to choose; would I continue to cling to my old ways or would I consciously decide to allow the Spirit to lead me in a whole new way of life.
My capacity to turn around when I’m wrong, to check myself, and to offer grace has expanded exponentially because the Spirit is strong in me. I recognize the Spirit’s voice and know which way he leads. I’m clear about the Gospel of lavish love, expansive grace, and the continual gift of reconciliation.
We never need to earn this gift – either to receive it or keep it. It is ours for eternity. Our Father’s love is relational, not transactional. Accepting this kind of love is perhaps the most difficult receiving we can learn. It is the very essence of our new life in Christ. It is the core of our rebirth. It is the umbilical cord of our relationship with God; our daily sustenance and breath of love and grace. It becomes the living water from which springs our ability to offer love and grace to others.
Whoever is united with Christ is a new creation. Your old life and ways of being are gone; new life and ways of seeing and being have begun. (2 Corinthians 5:17)