Jesus isn’t an American. So, when he hears someone praised as a “self-made man,” he probably cracks a smile. Maybe it’s a sad, wise one like in the movies. Maybe not. He didn’t die on the cross to help those who help themselves. He died for one purpose, to give us a new life and new eyes and ears and heart along with it. We don’t need to remake, reimagine, refortify, recycle, reincarnate or reanimate ourselves. We need to die and be born again.
“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3
What a cliché’ – “born again.” For many, it’s only heard as a slogan or insult, depending on who’s speaking. But Jesus’ words will never lose their power as long as there are people like Nicodemus, with hearts of faith and heads of doubt, who look at the darkness of the world around and the universe inside. It’s natural. Maybe it’s a tornado, maybe it’s a breeze, but the feeling is there, and we can never hear, see or know the answer until we’ve been born again.
To be born again means we are a new creation, “created for good works in Christ Jesus.” We are born into the “Kingdom of God” that Jesus ushered in with his life, death and resurrection. Just as the Father breathed life into Adam in the garden, the Spirit breathes new life into the one who has been placed in Christ. God works in us to transform our self-centered natures. Like a newborn, we see the world with new eyes, kingdom eyes. We can hear others with new ears, kingdom ears. We can love with new hearts, kingdom hearts. And like a newborn, we slowly learn to speak and walk and we grow strong.
New life brings freedom. We are free to praise without feeling diminished. We are free to forgive, without feeling slighted. We are free to obey without feeling constrained. We are free to look at the faults of others without judging. We still have pain, but it should come from new places. Instead of screaming because we don’t get a juice box, we should scream because others don’t get bread. Instead of crying when someone hurts us, we should cry when we hurt someone else.
We are not self-made, we are God-breathed – from our first breath of life to our first breath of new life as children in the Kingdom of God, now and forever.