The Bare Soul - March 25, 2012
You Must Be Born Again

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "You Must Be Born Again" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on March 22, 2012.

You Must Be Born Again - March 22, 2012

John 3:7 - Do not be amazed that I said to you, "You must be born again."

From the dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, we are introduced to the mythological ruler of Corinth, King Sisyphus. Because of a series of dastardly events which the king cleverly engineered throughout his lifetime, he was assigned a fitting punishment in the land of the dead. Sisyphus was to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill with the belief that he would be free from his punishment once he was able to reach the summit. However, as he neared the top, the boulder would invariably roll back on the king and back to the bottom of the hill. Throughout eternity, Sisyphus must continue to work the large stone up the hill only to see all his efforts frustrated. This judgment of useless efforts and unending frustration would never have an end. While this is a mythological morality tale regarding how no one can redeem themselves once under the judgment of the demon gods, it is nonetheless a good analogy to point us to Christ and the significance of Him taking away our judgment through His gift of the new birth.

Before knowing Christ, we may have found ourselves not only amazed at much of the Lord's words, but also a bit irritated that much of His teaching seemed so unattainable. Or, possibly we considered Jesus' teaching superfluous, not really understanding His intent. Like Sisyphus, we believed we could roll this massive boulder (symbolizing our life) up this ponderous hill (depicting our redemption). As the mythological character, we often thought we were gaining while trudging up this steep incline. However, circumstances would too often dash all hope of conquest. Many continue through this life and never find hope to help them in their summit. Then again, a few do find liberty they so earnestly desire. Relief often comes in unexpected ways and through divine encounters. Like Sisyphus, Nicodemus thought he was doing an admirable job of conquering the hill. He undoubtedly felt the strength of the Law of Moses on his side, commending to him how he had lived a righteous life. But then comes Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law to show him otherwise.

Possibly Nicodemus was feeling a bit self-righteous when he came to the Lord that fateful night. Perhaps he was acting on a sense of conciliation as he mentioned to Jesus in the first two verses of John chapter three how his colleagues considered Jesus a great teacher and a man of God (John 3:1-2). However, Jesus' reply was like a blow to the stomach which knocked the religious wind right out of the Pharisee. When Christ told Nicodemus, "... unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, this invariably shook this master of the Law, challenging the very paradigm he had built his life upon (John 3:3). The rattled Pharisee then began questioning the Lord, not believing his ears. It was as if this Sisyphean had just realized he was never going to accomplish his task of redeeming himself through his own efforts. He suddenly came to the conclusion that this mighty boulder he had been pushing through life was large and mighty because of the weight of his sin. We know Nicodemus is dumbfounded and amazed, for the Lord tells him not to remain so, as our lead verse points out. Throughout the remainder of this glorious chapter, we see the Lord laying out to Nicodemus the way of salvation---that he no longer had to push his cumbersome rock up the hill. Jesus was telling him, through simple scriptures such as John 3:16, that He was the Rock and He would make that climb up Calvary's hill in his stead. All he had to do was to believe.

Like Nicodemus' amazement, we can also react similarly to a supernatural requirement that seems beyond our abilities. Once we understand we cannot save ourselves, self-redemption becomes a hopeless endeavor which only produces more hopelessness. The great desire of the flesh will always be to save itself through "good works" and possibly seeking the good of mankind. While this is noble, it is high treason to God without first becoming born of God's Spirit. Only then are we empowered to perform His goodness, not ours. We cannot continue pushing this enormous rock symbolizing a life weighed down by our shortcomings and sins, but we must believe He has already pushed it to the summit and has obliterated it with His resurrection. Beloved, to be born again has nothing to do with doing more for God, but BEING more in God. Without the being, there can be no doing that will have lasting value. May we all understand that He is the Rock who has redeemed us by removing the large stone from that tomb entrance nearly two thousand years ago. He is risen, friends, and He desires us not to live in a Sisyphean way but one of surrender through which we might always push through this life with victory!

Father in heaven, May we all understand how we cannot rely upon our own efforts to redeem us. There is salvation in only One, for He is the Rock who overcame the hill of Golgotha and rose from the dead to give us the power to live. Allow us all to be amazed at our inability to save ourselves, and our wonder at the love of Christ for doing so. May we all be born from above so that our lives will emulate our Father both now and forever!  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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