The Sunday sermon was coming to a close, leading up to an invitation to become a Christ follower, and the invitation went something like this: “Becoming a Christ follower is as easy as bowing your head and inviting Jesus Christ to come and live in your heart and forgive you of your sins. His presence in your life will provide a new direction, giving you victory over your circumstances and bringing joy to your life.”
While some parts of that invitation are true, I’m not certain that it gets at the heart of what spiritual rebirth is all about. For some time, I have been concerned that we (those of us who preach or share our faith with others, including me) have adopted a less than honest method of explaining what it means to be reborn spiritually.
Before I go farther, let me share my heart. I wholeheartedly believe that helping people find new life in Christ is one of the primary purposes of the Christian life. I’ve dedicated my life and my ministry to that end. But I’m uneasy with the way that I sometimes hear the Gospel being presented, and these words are my way of reinforcing to myself and to anyone else interested what I believe is an honest, direct, and Biblical way of explaining the process of spiritual rebirth.
Let me offer a reason why I think the process has gotten off track. Our culture has adopted an egocentric perspective of life. In other words, life has become about us. We are encouraged to have it our way in virtually all areas of life. No longer do we value characteristics such as commitment, sacrifice, and the sense that we are individual members of something greater. And this attitude has crept into the way we view and practice our faith. My observation is that faith is no longer the hub of our lives. Instead, it has joined a myriad of other things as just another spoke in the wheel that orbits that which is at the center- ourselves. Instead of life being centered around faith, faith has joined our hobbies, our work, and our other interests in being items that compete for available time and importance.
So how has this worldview affected the way we present the process of spiritual rebirth? Because self and not faith is the hub of our existence, spiritual rebirth is presented as a solution to the problems of life. Jesus becomes a problem solver, a soother of hurt feelings, a provider of what’s missing, or the reliever of a guilty conscience. Don’t misunderstand me- Jesus is all these thing and more to us. But solving problems and soothing hurts are different issues than spiritual rebirth.
As I read about how Jesus spoke and taught about spiritual rebirth, I think I see a few basic principles. First, spiritual rebirth isn’t about solving a problem. It’s about dying a spiritual death. It’s about putting to death the corrupted nature that has ultimately led us to where we are in life. It’s about renouncing our old ways of thinking, acting, and believing. If you want to feel better, then give God your problems. If you want to be born again, the old you must be put to death.
Second, I wonder if we don’t have it backward when we say that we invite Jesus to save us. It is actually Jesus who invites us to come to Him and be saved. This is significant, because when we are in control of the invitation to be saved, then we are also in control of the terms of salvation. If my rebirth comes at my own invitation, then I’m inviting Jesus to do for me what I want. Unfortunately, what I want is rarely what I need. I’m usually thinking about a new job or a better relationship. But to Jesus, spiritual rebirth is much deeper. It is surgery. It is a full system restore. It is about dethroning ourselves and enthroning Him. Yes, there is an element of us inviting Jesus to do His work in us when we are spiritually reborn. But the agenda isn’t ours- it’s His.
And third, when the process of spiritual rebirth genuinely takes place, there is a new Sheriff in town. There is a new King. If we are still in control of our lives, then we haven’t understood what spiritual rebirth is all about. When we are spiritually reborn, we are birthed into a Kingdom whose King is someone other than us. We’re reborn as servants and slaves. We are no longer the hub. The world cannot revolve around us any more.
I don’t remember Jesus inviting people to follow Him so they could feel better or have their problems solved. He invited people to become a slave, give up their wealth, and die to themselves. He didn’t mince words, beat around the bush, or apologize for the difficulty or commitment. And neither should we.