For those of you new to my blogs, I like to use titles that get people's attention. That one probably did the trick. How could a Christian minister possibly be glad that he isn't born again? Well, it's really a question of semantics...but we'll get to that in a moment.
There is a great deal of freedom in being a minister that refuses to get paid for his pitiful attempts at working for God. I never have to worry if the message that I've been given is going to offend people so badly that my family won't be able to eat. That is very empowering. I do not, however, take that freedom lightly. If God is your boss...you really don't want to screw up too badly, too often. So, I try and take my responsibilities seriously, and still get the message across.
First, you'll notice I used the word, minister. It's a translation of the Greek word, doulos, which means a bond servant. A bond servant was someone who had screwed up so badly that they had been sold into slavery to pay off their debt. The person who paid the debt for them owned them until the debt amount had been repaid. Since, in my case, the debt amount is the life of God's Son, I'll never repay it in this life. Can't be done. And, although He has forgiven the debt completely, and made me a joint heir with His Son, I prefer to still think of myself as a bond servant. Why? Because that's what the Apostle Paul did. Paul was obviously a much better Christian than I could ever be, so...if it was good enough for him to think of himself that way, it works for me.
It also has the added benefit of reminding me of my place. G-O-D. All capital letters. Me=dirtbag. Not only pond scum, but lower case pond scum. That's a good start.
Now, let's get back to why I'm glad I'm not born again, shall we?
Jesus used simple analogies and stories almost all of the time. Planting, harvesting, fishing...simple stories for simple minds. There is really only one deeply religious conversation that He had that is recorded: the one with Nicodemus in John chapter 3. Famous passage...but not really understood well. One of these days, I'm going to write a blog about the whole chapter...it still blows my mind. Anyway...
Old Nic asks Jesus how to get to Heaven. Jesus basically says, "You're the hotshot teacher, and you don't understand the simplest things?"
Owwwwww...that had to hurt.
Then Jesus tells him that he must be born...not again. The Greek word is "hano". It means, from above. It is denotative of place, not time. Old Nic is a ticker, as we all are. His clock only goes in one direction. Forward. Can't make it go back, can't even slow it down. Tick, tick, tick...it just keeps going. So, when Jesus says, "from above", Nic figures it hasn't happened yet because he doesn't remember it happening. Of course, he conveniently forgets that he doesn't remember his physical birth either. Asks how he gets back inside of his mom when he's an old man.
Unfortunately, he misses the whole point...as most of us do, I'm afraid.
Ever heard these before?
Have you found Jesus? (Didn't know He was lost)
Have you accepted Jesus? (Does He have at least two current forms of ID)
These are some of the types of ways that we, as Christians, are taught to witness to people. I'm sure that God applauds the effort, at least most of the time. However, that type of process quite often does more harm than good. What should we do then?
Let me ask you a question...what did you have to do with your physical birth?
The correct answer is: nothing. You were just along for the ride. You had absolutely NOTHING to do with being born. Sooooo...what do you think you had to do with your Spiritual birth? If you answered nothing, you're on the right track.
God chose you...you didn't choose Him.
Now, I know some of you are at least a little disturbed by all of this, and probably wondering where I'm going with it. Before we answer some of your questions, let me ask you another one.
Does God use the analogies with us that He does because of the relationships and experiences we have?
Or, did He create us to have these kind of relationships and experiences so that we would have a better chance at understanding what he wanted us to know while we were in these limiting tents of human flesh?
If you serve an Omnipotent and Omniscient God, like I do, the answer should be painfully obvious.
So, Chris, what's the big deal? What's the difference between "again" and "above"?
Again means it happened after your physical birth...which would make God a liar...and dependant on you. Above reconciles with His Word, where He says that He chose us before the foundations of the world were laid. In other words, God chose us, or gave birth to us Spiritually, before He even created the physical universe. It means that God's Grace, and Mercy, and Love are NOT dependant on us...or our ability to perform. From above means that there is NOTHING that can separate us from that love.
Some of you are parents...so let me ask you...what could your child do to make you stop loving them? Is there anything?
Of course not. They can get mad at you. Leave and not speak to you for years. Deny you and denounce you. But, no matter what they do, they are still your child. Period. And, they always will be.
Why do I feel that this difference is so important? First of all, because God does...or He wouldn't have been so careful in the words he chose to describe our relationship with Him. Secondly, it takes the pressure off. I can't count the number of people who have come to me in tears over the years, feeling that they didn't do enough to "save" a loved one or a friend. They believed that if that person wasn't "saved", it was somehow their fault.
Nothing could be farther from the Truth.
I'll tell you what I've told all of them through the years: God is pretty damn good at His job. Great batting average. Not only always gets a hit...always hits a home run. Every firckin' time. You can depend on Him to get the job done. My God is Omnipotent...not impotent. Look again at John Chapter 3. He asks Nic if he can tell where the wind comes from, or goes. In other words, can you tell who the Holy Spirit has touched before you? Can you tell who He will touch after you?
No. Not your job. Your job is acting on the knowledge that you've been given. To love God the best you can. To love your neighbor as yourself. Do those two things, everything else will fall into place.
Does that mean that I'm saying we shouldn't, as Christians, witness to others?
Unless, of course, you think witnessing means going to the mall and grabbing strangers and asking them if they know that they're damned and going to hell. That's not what we're told to do...and somewhere, there's a guy who did that to me at a terrible time in my life, who's probably still looking over his shoulder wondering where the psycho ex-cop is. It wasn't pretty.
What we're told to do is to have an "answer" for the hope that lies within us. That presupposes a few things: First, that we actually have hope inside of us. Second, that our lives are such that the hope that we have shows. Third, that we live among people, and that they notice the hope we have. Fourth, that they then feel close enough to us to ask why we have the hope that we have.
I talk about my wife all of the time. People may get sick of hearing about her, but I don't care. I love her. More than anything. She comes up in my conversations all of the time because I love her.
That's the way it's supposed to be with how we present God to others. Not what they're missing. Not what they need. Not where they're wrong. Not why we're right. Just who we love...and why we love Him.
You'll find you needlessly offend a lot less people that way. Nobody likes to be told that they're fat, ugly and their mother dresses them funny. Especially by someone in checks and stripes with food stains and a mullet...and a belly hanging over their too tight jeans.
Those of you who knew me in high school and before know what an insufferably arrogant jerk I could be. And, unfortunately, that was on my good days. By the time I got in my twenties, I realized I didn't really know very much. By my thirties, a lot less. Forties? Almost nothing. Now I wonder if I could find the back of my lap with a pack of bloodhounds, a posse and a flood light.
But I do know this: God loves me. He chose me. He loves you. He chose you. How do I know if He chose you or not? If He lead you here to read this...pretty simple.
The only real mystery to me...is why God would choose me. I know me. I wouldn't choose me. But He did.
And for that, I will be grateful...eternally.
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