"You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'" – John 3.7
If we're honest, most of us are surprised that Jesus says 'you must be born again.' We don't see any need to be born again – we think that's something to do with a group of slightly odd Americans. But Jesus tells us that we must be born again and I can think of at least 3 reasons why he uses the picture language of getting a new life or being born a second time…
1. Being born again takes a miracle.
Does anyone else get nightmares where they're on a program like X Factor? I picture myself in front of the judges as they stamp on my ambition to be Bruce Springsteen. I ask Simon Cowell – 'Simon, do I have what it takes to be a world-class singer?' And he shakes his head and says 'Tonks, if you want to be a singer, you'll have to be born again as a different person – this time, one who can sing.' He's saying 'it's impossible. It's not going to happen. It would take a miracle.' And Jesus means the same thing. He says 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.' (John 3.3)
2. Being born again is not something I can take credit for.
Amazingly, however, Jesus goes on to tell us that it is possible to be born again. He says '…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.' (John 3.5). It would take a miracle to change my heart, and I can't do miracles, but God the Holy Spirit can. Stroppy teenagers shout at their parents 'I didn't ask to be born.' Christians should be saying the same thing to God in amazement and gratitude. He deserves all the credit for it. In the same way that we couldn't decide to give life to ourselves when we were born from our mothers, we can't make ourselves be born a second time either.
3. Being born again means we can have a new start.
I was at a wedding last week when I walked up behind a friend I hadn't seen for a while, and gave him a few friendly, manly punches in the back. He turned round and said 'I'm sorry, do I know you?' I then realised that this guy was someone I'd never met. I wanted to walk away and come back and say 'can we try that again?' I'd treated this person in a way that was totally inappropriate. But, terrifyingly, we've all done that in the way we've treated God. None of us have treated the Maker of our universe with the respect that's appropriate. But in His amazing kindness, when we're born again, we're given a second chance to start our whole relationship with Him over again.
When I start talking about kayaking, people often tell me to "get a life". Jesus tells us not to be surprised when He says the same thing to us all…