My friend was celebrating her 70th birthday. “They say that 70 is the new 50, and I’m embracing it.” I wrote that alongside a quote from my friend, David Jeremiah. He said, “The new birth is the new beginning.” These comments cause us to ask, can a man start over when he’s 70?
That may have been the thinking of that question to Jesus from Nicodemus, a learned teacher in Israel. When Nicodemus arrived, Jesus said, “You must be born again.”
Puzzled and thinking only in the physical realm, Nicodemus asked, “Can a man be born when he is old? Can he return to his mother’s womb and be born?” If Nicodemus was an engineer, one might expect those questions, but Jesus pushed further. “Are you a teacher in Israel and don’t know these things?”
Jesus then brought Nicodemus to focus on the spiritual side of the birth issue, explaining that he must be born of water (the main ingredient in the natural process of birth) and the Spirit (the key to the eternal process of birth). Jesus opens Nicodemus’ eyes to see the reality of the spiritual world. What an amazing thought! It is possible to get a fresh start in life! So revolutionary is the thought he can describe it only by saying “born again.” The original language can better be translated “born from above!”
Meeting Jesus, trusting Him to forgive your sins, and discovering a fresh start is beyond our limited physical thinking. In fact, Paul describes it as an exchange: “Jesus becomes sin for us, and we are made righteous in Him.” What I cannot do for myself, Jesus has already accomplished! Yet I know many people for whom it is difficult to accept this truth. A community leader said to me: “Jim, it is just too easy; there must be something God wants me to do!” But there isn’t; Martin Luther, back in the 1500s, put it succinctly: fida solo (faith alone)! Perhaps the words of the New English Bible are the simplest: “For it is by His grace you are saved, through trusting Him; it is not your own doing. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of.” (Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 2:8-9 in the New Testament)
A little guy in Sunday School must have understood. He said, “God gave us His best gift when Jesus died. All we have to do is pick up the gift and put it in our hearts!” Christmas has passed but there is one more gift under the tree — correction, He was hanging on the tree. This new year, 2020, offers us the opportunity to accept God’s gift. Or, as my friend said, “to embrace it.” It’s not a resolution, dependent on your strong will to keep it through the year. This is a relationship God offers to us. When we trust him, he adopts us into his family. Perhaps that’s the best way to explain what it means to be born again: to get a fresh start in a new family! Wow! Let this truth become a reality for you today!