Over the last few months, several of the sisters in the community of believers I am a part of have given birth to new babies. Once again, I am reminded that the process of birth is something miraculous. It is an act created to communicate a greater spiritual reality. As I have observed these miracles these last few months, I have also come to realize just how deceived I have been regarding the miracle of new birth. I had bought into a devastating myth about the birthing process, and I was not even aware of it! Thankfully, I am beginning to see this ‘myth’ for what it really is. I’d like to expose this ‘myth’ in today’s post, and also shed some light on the true miracle of birth.
Many new parents that I speak with tell me that they are looking forward to the day when their baby is eventually old enough for them to have in-depth conversations about matters of life and faith. When my daughter was young, I used to have the same thoughts as I tried to imagine what those conversations would be like in the future. I am pretty confident, however, that no parent will ever have a conversation with their child that goes anything like this:
Child: Mom & dad, thank you for predetermining my choice.
Parents: What honey?
Child: Thank you for making me choose the right decision.
Parents: What decision?
Child: My decision to be born.
Child: It seems that you already predetermined that I would *choose* to be born. Thank you.
As you can see, that’s a pretty ridiculous conversation that would never happen. Another ridiculous conversation that would never happen might also go something a bit like this:
Child: Mom & dad, I am so very thankful.
Parents: Oh really, why honey?
Child: Because you gave me the freedom to *choose* to be born.
Child: I’m just glad that you didn’t cause me to be some kind of a robot, rather, you let me *choose* whether or not I wanted to be born. I am glad that I *chose* to be born.
Can you imagine your child ever saying anything like this to you? No, me either. Obviously, babies have no ability to choose their own birth. Remember, physical birth is simply a shadow of a greater spiritual birth. Unfortunately, the faulty thought process found in these two ridiculous conversations form the basis of evangelical thought and teaching when it comes to the reality of being ‘born again.’
There are many lies that prop up the evangelical system. Some evangelicals have bought into the kind of ’reformed’ calvinistic thinking that was illustrated in the first fictitious conversation, and others have bought into the ‘free-will’ kind of thinking that was illustrated in the second fictitious conversation. Nevertheless, both lines of thinking are essentially the same when it comes to understanding what it means to be ‘born-again.’ They both are based on a very devestating ‘myth’.
The Myth Of Human Involvement
It stuns me how similar evangelicalism is to the religious system that was in operation during Jesus’ day. When Nicodemus approached Jesus seeking answers to life’s questions, Jesus said something quite profound to him. Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. Nicodemus, being the highly trained religious man that he was, immediately translated Jesus’ words to mean that he had to figure out how to *do* this. The ridiculous thought of climbing back into a physical womb actually crossed his mind. How else could a person *do* the act of being born again?
Jesus quickly dismissed this kind of religious thinking by telling Nicodemus that if he didn’t understand the basics of physical earthly birth, how could He speak with Him about greater spiritual realities? (John 3:3-12) In human physical birth, the one being born is acted upon. The one being born does nothing. At just the right time, the one being born is thrust into a new world by the mother. The baby had absolutely no decision (predetermined or free-will) in the process. This kind of reality goes against the religious thinking that Nicodemus was operating in, and it also goes against the religious mindset that is foundational to evangelicalism.
What Must I Do To Be Saved?
This question is impossible to answer, and it gives evidence to faulty religious thinking. Whenever someone asked Jesus this question in the gospels, He always responded by telling them to *do* something they could not do. For the rich young ruler, this meant selling all his possessions and following Christ. The rich young ruler had mistakenly thought that he had successfully obeyed all the commandments. Jesus’ instruction to him to sell all his possessions simply exposed the fact that he was guilty of breaking the first commandment.
The same can be said in regards to the commands to love God and people. We have no ability to do this as our human nature is not capable of divine love. Jesus was not telling us to love by our own actions and life, rather He was showing us of our inability to obey even the two basic commands that the entire law stands upon. Simply put, we can do *nothing* to be saved.
I find it ironic that many evangelicals who emphasize passages like Ephesians 2:8-9 (which state that we are not saved by human effort) seem to be the first to tell people *how* they can be ‘saved’. For example:
Preacher: Bow your heads and close your eyes. Repeat after me: I am a sinner. I need your grace.
Congregant: ” I am a sinner. I need your grace”.
Preacher: I believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day.
Congregant: “I believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day”.
Preacher: Please come into my heart.
Congregant: “Please come into my heart”.
Preacher: If you just prayed that prayer with me, raise your hand. Welcome to the family. You’ve just been born again!
The reason this sales tactic is so popular and widely accepted in evangelicalism is because it appeals to the religious nature of *doing* something to be ‘saved’ or born again. It appeals to the myth of human involvement. Again, when we understand the example of human birth that Jesus used, we will know that babies are born entirely because of the decision and labor of another.
Even though John’s gospel states that we became children of God entirely because of God’s will, not our own, (John 1:13) it is at this point in the conversation that people like to quote Romans 10:9-10 which states this:
…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation”.
Those with an institutional religious grid will read this passage as an external checklist, so to speak, instructing them how to ‘do’ being born again. Obviously this is an incorrect way to see this passage. Romans 10:9-10 is correctly understood as a description of what it looks like when a person’s heart is being awakened to Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:16-17, Peter confesses with his mouth what His heart believes about the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ response to Peter’s declaration speaks volumes. Jesus said to Peter that flesh and blood (humans) did not reveal this reality of Christ to Peter, rather the Father was the one to give Peter this supernatural revelation of Christ. Peter was being awakened to this reality supernaturally through no effort of his own. It is not different with us.
This is what it looks like for our hearts to believe and our mouths to confess. This is what it looks like for us to be ‘born’ from above:
- A woman is in distress with contractions (birth pangs).
- The woman labors until the baby is delivered from her old world (the womb) to a whole new world outside of the womb.
- The baby suddenly realizes her new environment and opens her mouth to express her new reality.
When Jesus told Nicodemus that we needed to be born again, did you know that He was not telling Nicodemus something that he needed to *do*? Rather, He was simply stating something that needed to occur. What kind of parent places the burden of birth upon the the unborn baby? The Lord Himself is the one who births us into this new world.
When the baby leaves the birth canal and enters the world, they open their eyes to their new realm. They breathe in this new substance called air. They open their mouths and verbally express their awakening to this new world. This occurs to the baby. The baby is not doing this by any decision or action of its own. The baby is simply responding to the new reality of life.
In the same way, we are ‘birthed’ *into* a new world inside of Jesus Christ as the scriptures describe us as being placed deep inside of Christ. ‘In’ Christ is the fullness of the Godhead. As a result, we are literally birthed *into* the most perfect family of Father, Son, & Spirit.
As the baby is awakened to this new world, the baby begins to nurse from the mother and sleep in this new world. The same is true with our new life in Christ. We eat from Christ’s very own life, and we rest in Him.
Dear brothers and sisters, just as a baby can do nothing to be born, neither can we. We do not ‘birth’ ourselves, or others. The more we rid ourselves of this ‘myth’, the more we can get back to nursing and resting in our new world:)
For the new birth,