Be Born of Water and the Spirit
I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see
the kingdom of God
I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Flesh gives birth to flesh, the Spirit gives birth to the spirit.
You should not be surprised at my saying, "You must be born again."
The wind blows wherever it pleases.
You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
John 3:3, 5, 7-8 (NIV)
I have intentionally quoted from a version used by some people to refute their claims that being 'born again' is enough for salvation.
New Year always marks new beginnings. What other topic marks new beginnings but birth.
We often hear people say that you have to be born again to be saved. And they often quote the above verse to support their claim. Yet, if we read the verse carefully, it does not say that being born again will automatically bring salvation. Being born again will let one see the kingdom of God but to enter the kingdom of God, one must be born of water and Spirit.
I see here two types of rebirth. One that brings an awareness of the kingdom of God (seeing the kingdom of God) and another that brings entry to the kingdom of God. The first type of rebirth gives us an awareness of who God is and a realization that one has to submit to him to enter the kingdom. The second type of rebirth is one that is not only aware of one's need for salvation but one that repents AND has a commitment to be open to the movements of the Spirit.
The first type of rebirth is an incomplete rebirth. It is based on a shallow faith, one that is based on an idea that all things are alright once we tell others that Jesus is our Lord. This is a faith based on lip-service. This is why we see people who profess that they have been born again but continue to be controlled by their own desires or worse, live in sin.
The second type of rebirth is the rebirth that allows us to enter God's kingdom. There is, first of all, repentance as symbolized by the water - and more importantly, a commitment to be open to the movement of the Spirit. Jesus stressed the importance of repentance because he spoke of being born of the flesh and born of the Spirit. Someone born of the flesh continues to live a life in the flesh. That person is still controlled by his own desires. However, someone born of the Spirit is now controlled by the Spirit. If one continues to live in the flesh, following their own desires, there is no true repentance, because the flesh still controls them. For those born of the Spirit, there is true repentance because now, the person is focused more on following the desires of the Lord.
To be born of water and the Spirit therefore is the only way to the kingdom of God. One cannot be complete without the other.
Being born of water is repentance. It is the fruit of an awareness of salvation and it is proof of desire for salvation. For us Catholics, repentance is shown through the sacrament of Confession. In this sacrament, we admit publicly that we are sinners and that we want to be reconciled with God. This should be our intention for going to Confession. If our intention is just to show off, then there is no true repentance.
Being born of the Spirit means that we are children of the Spirit. We submit to the Spirit and to no one else. Jesus tells us what it is to be born of the Spirit. We know it is blowing, but we will never know where it is going. There is a sense of surety that something is the work of the Spirit but the result of this is not known to us. Life in the Spirit is not all happiness. It is not always laughing, nor is it always doing something for the Lord.
Life in the Spirit is a work of the Spirit. Very often, the Spirit leads us to places and situations that we do not want. But if we trust the Spirit, we come out of the situation more matured and with a deeper knowledge of God - and more often, we see God working a miracle in these situations.
In the past 5 to 6 months, I have been experiencing this. I have tried my best to get a full-time contract but could not get one. But my wife and I have a sense of peace within us. Of course, there were times when anxiety just attacks us and we get depressed too. But generally speaking, there is a sense of surety that God is in control and that there is nothing to worry. We sometimes think that we might have a psychological problem because generally speaking, we were never anxious of what the future will hold. I discussed this with a priest who confirmed that this indeed is the Lord's work.
During this period also, I came across the writings of St. Theresa of Avila and she said that, God gives us peace but sometimes, he withdraws himself to show us that this peace is a gift. I think the reason for this is to teach us that we cannot find peace by ourselves. It is God's gift to us - given at his pleasure and we cannot do anything to get it.
This is therefore entering the kingdom of God - being born of water and Spirit - repentance and commitment to the Lord. For this new year, I pray that the Lord will continue to open our hearts so that we can truly live our lives in him, obeying him and following him wherever he takes us so that we can give glory to his name, through Jesus our Lord.