2015-2016 Bible Challenge, devotionals, resources

A New Birth (a meditation on salvation, joy, and the Christian life)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ~1 Peter 1:3

The natural way each person comes to be involves the bursting forth of birth. For nine months we grow and develop in our mothers’ wombs until the day comes filled with both pain and joy where we make an entrance into this world. As infants we are practically helpless, but with time, teaching, and care we grow to become adults able to care for ourselves.

Several places in scripture describe our entrance into spiritual life in much the same way. Jesus made a blunt statement to Nicodemus when the Pharisee came to the Savior-King under the cover of darkness: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus, confused, asked Jesus how this could be. After all, one cannot reenter his mother’s womb for a second birth. Jesus replied, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:6-7).

In other words, the spiritual mimics the physical but is also different. One might be young or old, but the fact remains: we are in need of a second birth, a spiritual birth, in order to be a part of Jesus’ eternal Kingdom.

Paul wrote that by nature we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Wrath is God’s eternal judgment against sin and sinner who have rejected his goodness and rebelled against his perfect will. By nature, we come into this world as children of Adam, children of the fall and rebellion. Sin has enslaved us and there is only one solution: new birth in Christ. Or as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”

Peter wrote that the source of this new birth is God. It is a gift, something we can only receive not something we can cause. After all, we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. We trust God for it through Jesus and he freely and graciously provides. And the new life from new birth is one of hope. A living hope as Peter called it, bound in the resurrection of Jesus.

On the cross, Jesus became our sin and bore God’s wrath for us (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 2:2). He died. He was buried. Then three days later he burst forth from the grave holding the keys of death in his hand. So it is, by faith, when we come to Christ the child of wrath dies in him and the child of God emerges as a new creation. The resurrection of Jesus guarantees both spiritual and physical resurrection for us if we belong to Jesus. So even though this present body still might suffer, break down, and decay, we have a living hope of something new: an eternal inheritance guarded in heaven by God until it is revealed at Jesus’ second coming (1 Peter 1:4-5).

New birth leads to a new being with a new hope. Death is not the end, our sin no longer condemns us, we are freed from God’s wrath, and something much, much greater is coming. We hope as we experience new life and in hope we find increasing joy.

Even in the midst of suffering, Peter said, we rejoice. Even though we have yet to see Jesus with our eyes and instead we love him and follow him by faith, we rejoice (1 Peter 1:6-8). And that is the way it is supposed to be. In most families, even with the pain of suffering in labor, when a child is born there is celebration. Even more, as we come to be born again and crowned a new child of the King there is celebration. This is both joy from others (Luke 15:7) and joy from within.

So, if you are without Jesus, then you must be born again through faith in Jesus. In this, there is great hope and a great cause for celebration. If you are a follower of Jesus, keep hoping, keep rejoicing, and keep pressing on. After all:

Though you do not now see [Jesus], you believe in him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~ 1 Peter 1:8-9

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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