"Have You Been Born Again?"

Image credit: compuinfoto / 123RF Stock Photo Back in the 1980's, I saw a news account of a group touting a new method of resetting a person's consciousness.

The person was to climb into a hot tub and close the lid, naked I believe. Then the person would be submersed under the water representing their mother's womb, though I'm not sure what instructions were given for when to breathe. (lol)

At some point their consciousness of the past would be cleared and they would come out of the tub. It was to be a new start in life and they were proclaimed as "born again." I'm not kidding, I really did see this on a news program. Where? In Southern California, of course!

The term born again

Charles Colson, legal counsel to former President Nixon, wrote his book Born Again in the previous decade. It tells his story of spiritual rebirth following his imprisonment. It's a clear, compelling book that I recommend.

Nothing against hot tubs, but Colson is more on target with what Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of John, when he told the Jewish leader Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. (John 3:1-10)

The term born again has been misconstrued and misused often. My story of the hot tub is a clear example. When Jesus uses this term Nicodemus is puzzled by the idea of being born twice, as many of us might be.

I've heard complicated and technical explanations, but they aren't much help for non-believers or even young believers.

Jesus gives His explanation

So how does Jesus explain it? He uses natural and simple words, and reinforces what He says as one simple truth. For me, I need to read and reread what Jesus says until I can see the simple truth with God's Spirit as my guide.

Two words form this simple expression of born again. The idea of being born isn't complicated, my grandkids can grasp that. New life comes as a result of birth, whether it's a person or an animal. So the first word doesn't require much explanation.

But the second word isn't as simple as it looks. The word again, as it's translated in most common versions, doesn't mean repeat or replicate. Nicodemus, a learned leader of the Jews, struggled with this expression. But Jesus pressed on and repeated what He said in different words to express what He meant.

Jesus talked to Nicodemus about life in God's kingdom. It is spiritual in nature, so a person needs a spiritual birth, different from the natural, physical birth all humanity experiences. This spiritual birth comes from God. It's from above. The basic meaning of the second word again is literally from above or anew.

How can we understand this term?

How does Jesus explain this to Nicodemus? He uses an illustration from nature and speaks of the wind which is invisible. We can't see it but we see the effect of its action. Then Jesus says, "That's the way it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 GW)

It helps to look at Jesus' words as reinforcement of one simple truth, rather than many details to be analyzed. Rereading through John 3:3-8 in other versions and translations will help with the process of seeing the simple truth Jesus intended.

Making it simple to understand

Here's the process I use. First, I read and reread the full Bible text where the word or phrase is found. Then I look for the simple and natural meaning intended by whoever spoke or wrote it. When I gain more insight, I write out (or speak) it in my own words (IYOW). Try it. If you have a simpler way, go for it.

Here's my attempt— God's kingdom is spiritual in nature, so I need a spiritual nature to see it and enter it. I can't cause this spiritual birth myself, but I can receive it from God by faith.

How would you tell someone who is a non-believer what it means to be born again?

I bet someone out there in web-land can do a better and simpler job than I did. Give it a try. Put your IYOW version in the comment section. I look forward to seeing your creativity!