March 30, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by James Chao, Gracepoint Berkeley

John 3:1-14

How must Nicodemus have felt upon hearing that he must put aside all his past religious accomplishments and start over (be “born again”)?  What might be some things I want to hold on to, even while seeking to draw near to God?

Given that Nicodemus was such an accomplished man and a recognized religious teacher of his time, he must’ve felt astonished and bewildered that Jesus would make such a direct challenge to start over. Perhaps there was a part of him that had already recognized that he would have set these aside all of his religious accomplishments to truly get closer to God. And yet, it still must’ve been difficult to hear it coming from Jesus so clearly, and he struggled to embrace or even to fully understand this. This shows how much we want to hold onto our accomplishments even in the midst of serving God, and how powerful a grip these things can have on our hearts.

For myself, even though I know that I can only come to God by his grace, there is still the tendency and desire to point to things that I’ve done as a way to prove my own worth in God’s eyes. There’s a part of me that compares with other people like others who are more “sinful” than me, so that I can feel good about self in comparison. There’s the desire to hold on to the fact that I’ve been a Christian and served in ministry for so many years, or holding on to the fact that I’m older than many of the younger people and wanting respect purely because of that. There is even the tendency also to compare myself with how I was before and say how much I’ve grown, to feel good about myself as though I was one who made that happen, rather than being filled with gratitude towards God for saving me and transforming me. There is also that innate desire to hold onto some sense of my usefulness based on my talents or abilities, and implicitly feeling like God should be glad to have me on his side. Even though I claim that I want to know God, in so many ways, there is that desire to grab onto things in a way as to boost my ego and make myself feel better. All of these are ways in which I resist fully embracing the idea that I am a sinner who has nothing to offer but a sinful, broken self, that I can come to God only by his grace and that it’s me who desperately need him rather than the other way around.

Why is being “born again” an apt metaphor for becoming a Christian?  How have I experienced this to be true in my life?

Being “born again” is an apt metaphor for becoming a Christian, because being a Christian means that you died to the old way of living and thinking and to completely adopt a new life trajectory in which you take on God’s values and purpose in life. It’s like making a U-turn in your life, no longer heading down the same path you were on, but ultimately moving towards God and aligning yourself with where he is going. This is the reason that you cannot take your old religious accomplishments with you, because you are now living a new life. It requires a dying to your old life so that you can adopt the new life Jesus offers.

I have experienced this in my life in that my life trajectory completely changed as a result of becoming Christian. Before, the highest vision of life I had for myself was a comfortable and content life surrounded by family. There was no consideration for other people or for the brokenness in the world. My life purpose was just to seek happiness for myself. Yet at the same time, there was that deep sense of loneliness and the series of broken relationships in my life. Sometimes that weight of disappointment and restlessness was so great that I would seek out entertainment to distract and anesthetize me.

Yet, after becoming a Christian, my outlook on life gradually changed so much. First of all, there was a deep sense of peace about myself in spite of all of my brokenness and sinfulness because of God’s unconditional love. Against the regrets of the past, there is hope for God to redeem the situations in my life and that in the end, he’ll bring me to the best place. Rather than experiencing the consequences of the trail of victims and broken relationships in my life, I’m surrounded by meaningful relationships in which I’ve been loved and I’m called to love. My life vision grew from just seeking personal happiness and comfort, to seeking to adjust myself in alignment to God’s plan. Although some of these changes took a long time to really become visible, yet they all started when my life trajectory changed as God came into my life and I became a Christian. That was the point of rebirth. Like a child whose growth and development takes time, so many of these spiritual growth and development in me only gradually became more visible. And yet, there is no denying that something drastic happened and there is new life, and I’m thankful to God that I could experience this new life.

 

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