Saturday, August 17, 2013

Spirit Birth (Devotional Entry)

A day from a devotional on "The Symbols of John" I'm trying to finish.  It's like the other six devotionals I've written down on the right (with 3 more already written and in the shoot on the Sermon on the Mount, Mark's Passion, and Jesus' parables).
Scripture Passage: John 3:1-8

As the wine replaced the water, so Spirit birth is a more important birth than birth of water. We are born of water when we are born to our mothers. But we are born from above when we are born from the Spirit.

Jesus compares the person who has trusted in him to someone who has been born a second time with a spiritual birth. You will not gain eternal life, John is telling his audience, simply to be born an Israelite. As a teacher of Israel, Nicodemus should have known that. Since God is a Spirit, his true children are born of the Spirit. So also John’s audience needs to be born of the Spirit. If they believe that Jesus is the Christ, they can have eternal life (3:16). If they receive God’s Word come from above, God will give them the right to become the children of God (1:12). If they believe in the power of his name, they can have life in his name (20:31).

John may have a double meaning to his phrase, “born again,” a double entendre that we cannot translate very well into English. The word anōthen in Greek can mean “again,” but it can also mean “from above.” To be born of the Spirit is indeed to be born a second time, so it makes good sense to think Jesus is saying that Nicodemus needs to be born again. Yet at the same time, spirit is the stuff of heaven, where God dwells. God is a Spirit, as we will see in John 4. So to be born of the Spirit is to be born from above. John has put Jesus’ words in a way that would help his audience see both meanings.

The Spirit blows where he wants. In natural birth, it is easy to see who the parent is.  You knew a child was an Israelite child because you knew the parents. Spirit-birth is not like that. "God has no grandchildren," in that respect.  It is those who believe who experience birth from above, and earthly parentage is no certain indicator. Repeatedly, John urges us to believe that Jesus is God come to earth. John urges us to drink the wine of his blood and be born again. Where does the Spirit want to blow? He wants to blow into our lives. He wants to make us his children. He wants to give birth to a life in us that will never end.

Spirit, blow into our lives today, whether to give us birth for the first time or to give us strength to face another day.

"Prevenient grace brings the first desire to please God, the first dawning of light about his will, and the first slight and passing conviction that we have sinned against him."
Paraphrase of John Wesley, "On Working out Our Salvation"

1 comment:

Ken Schenck said...

As I work through John, I am more and more impressed that it is intended to be a highly symbolic gospel far more than a straightforward historical presentation of Jesus. The power of the symbolism and the way John has presented things to speak directly to a Christian audience near the end of the first century is astounding to me. Is this a case where to read John as fairly straightforward history is almost to miss its most important message entirely???