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Archive for Saturday, September 16, 2006

Faith forum: Does a person have to be an agnostic or atheist to be ‘born again’?

September 16, 2006

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Yearning for spiritual rebirth is universal

The Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:

Whether you are an atheist or a devout believer, a "born again" experience can happen in your life. Some can point to a single moment. For others, the "a-ha" moment comes many times.

"Born again" is a metaphor. The classic reference is the story of Nicodemus. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, comes to Jesus. He is searching for God. Jesus tells Nicodemus, "No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above (or in)."

Nicodemus is a literalist. He thinks in terms of being born again from his mother's womb. He does not get it. This is too bad, for what Jesus offers is what Nicodemus needs: a spiritual rebirth.

In some way, we all need this.

We all aware of how easy it is in life to lose a sense of wonder, of mystery and awe. We cannot help but find ourselves at times absorbed in this material world, and its cultural messages. The effect is one of experiencing our lives apart from God.

Nicodemus yearning for transformation is universal. We wonder: How can we rise from the "tombs" of our lives? How can we taste again the joy, freedom and peace that comes from God?

"Born again" describes the transformative experience that lies at the heart of Christianity.

All the world's great religions offer a similar path. The word "Islam" means, in part, to "surrender": to surrender one's life to God by radically centering in God. At the heart of the Buddhist path is notion of "letting go." Lao Tzu said, "If you want to be reborn, let yourself die."

There are many paths - and many moments on each of our paths - that can lead us closer to God.

- Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at peterluckey@sunflower.com.

'Born again' isn't limited to a fresh start

The Rev. Beau Abernathy, pastor, Crosspointe Church, 1414 W. Sixth St., Suite 100:

First, let's define terms. The phrase "born again" comes from John 3 and is used a lot in our society.

The Greek word (the original language of the New Testament) for "born again" means "to be born again" and "to be born from above." The one word in the original language captures those two concepts.

So being "born again" isn't just a fresh start. It isn't just a renewal. It's something spiritual that happens in our lives. It points to an entirely new spiritual birth.

What Jesus tells us in John 3 is we cannot experience eternal life unless we are born again, born from above. Spirituality can't be added on to your life. You've got to start fresh and start new. "You must be born again!" (John 3:7).

This highlights the difference between religion and regeneration ("born again"). Religion focuses on phrases such as "I can achieve God's favor," "the good in my life can outweigh the sin," "I must give up a part of my life" and "trying hard."

Regeneration focuses on "God's love is an undeserved gift," "Jesus' death on the cross forgives my sin," "I commit to Jesus all of my life" and "Trusting Jesus alone."

There's nothing more important than being "born anew from above." I'm never going to make a better decision than the day I said to Jesus Christ, "I want you to be Lord of my life."

Are you "born anew from above?" Consider these words from George Whitefield to Benjamin Franklin: "I find that you grow more and more famous in the learned world. As you have made such progress in investigating the mysteries of electricity, I now humbly urge you to give diligent heed to the mystery of the new birth. It is a most important and interesting study and, when mastered, will richly repay you for you pains."

- Send e-mail to Beau Abernathy at beaumerna@sbcglobal.net.

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