In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth: no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:3
In the late 90s in America, it seemed like almost every week we were getting sent another free disc from AOL (an internet service provider). Try AOL 6.0 – 500 hours free! Try AOL 7.0, 8.0, 9.0. I remember it going to at least 10.0 before I stopped paying attention. The purpose of each disc was not only to entice you to try AOL as your internet service provider, but to convince you that this new version was so much better than what had come before. Each disc, each .0, was an upgrade. It kept getting better and better.
In a world of constant patches, upgrades, and add-ons (I’m running OSX 10.7.5), there is the temptation to view salvation and the Christian faith in the same way. Life with Jesus will upgrade me to Me 2.0. Our faith improves us and makes us better than what we were before.
However, I believe that in John 3, Jesus is giving us a different vision. Life in Christ is not an upgrade; it’s new birth. Going from “without God and without hope” to “having been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13) is not improvement over the previous version of ourselves. It is a whole new us. It is not going from good to great. It is new birth.
The language of being ‘born again’ is so common in Christian circles that it can easily lose its force. A birth is something completely new. Being born is a profound and radical event in your life. It is you becoming you – entering the world and the life that has been placed before you. It is accompanied by pain, disorientation, and years of learning, growth, and dependence.
Being born again is similar. It is a radical break from the way your life had existed before. It is something new – new creation, as Paul says. New birth is you becoming you – entering the world and life that has been placed before you because of the cross of Jesus Christ. It is accompanied by pain, disorientation, and years of learning, growth, and dependence.
To be born again is not to be better, but to be new.
Entrance to the kingdom of God requires rebirth. It includes the exciting and radical newness of being born of water and Spirit. The reality of new birth that Jesus heralds in John 3 is so much better than an upgrade. We are born again.