Have you ever wanted to trade places in life with someone else?
When I was a kid, I wanted to trade places with Lee Majors. There were two reasons. He was the $6 Million Dollar Man, and he was married to Farrah Fawcett Majors.
In high school, there were a couple of friends I wanted to trade places with. I thought they were cooler and more popular than I was. As a grown man, I do not often dream of being someone else anymore, but I do think about starting over at times.
What about you? Have you ever wanted a fresh start? Would you like a second chance? Did you know that the Bible says you can have a “do over?” Actually, Jesus said that you need a do over.
One day a man named Nicodemus came to Jesus wanting to talk about religion. Jesus turned the conversation around and said, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was confused. How can a man be born again? There are a lot of things you can do over again. You can go back to Disney again. You can go back to school again. You can go back to your favorite restaurant again. You can’t go back into your mother’s womb though.
How can a man be born again? Jesus wasn’t talking about a physical birth. He was speaking about a spiritual birth. He was saying that we each need a second birthday, and the second birthday is just as important as the first.
The phrase born again has fallen on hard times, but Jesus is the one who originally used the phrase. He was speaking about our need for God to do a work in our hearts that would bring us back to life. According to scripture, we are born physically alive but spiritually dead. We need a resurrection, a new life, and a fresh start. This is what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of being “born again.”
The New Birth is not about getting a new religion, but about getting a new life. Nicodemus had as much religion as any man you could imagine. He was steeped in biblical knowledge and lived out a very rigorous and disciplined religious life. He came to Jesus though because he saw something different than a religious man. Jesus was a man full of love, life, compassion and he had a unique connection with God.
Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he didn’t need another religion or another rule. He was saying, “Dude you need to get a life — a new life!” Jesus alone can give us new life through his Holy Spirit. All of our religious attempts to get to God do not give us life. Religion doesn’t give us life. If you were to dig up a corpse, dress it up nice, take it to church, and tell it to obey all the rules, would the corpse now have life? Of course not. The corpse doesn’t need religion. It needs new life.
This is why Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Spiritually dead people do not need more religion. They need new life. They need a spiritual resurrection from the dead. If they do not receive Jesus and his new life, then they will remain a spiritual corpse forever.
Jesus promises a new life with a new start. He actually is willing to trade places with us. He took our place on the cross so that we could receive his life and power. Are you ready for a do over? Are you ready for a fresh start? Don’t try religion. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Turn to Jesus. Admit your sin, and your need. Ask Him for life – new life, true life. Ask Him to come in and change you and make you new. And that’s the Word.
The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-634-2960.