We’ve been dabbling in death for too long. From the French Revolution’s lethal guillotines through the atrocities of Jihadist terrorism and the convenience of ‘therapeutic’ abortions there runs a culture of death as swift and overpowering as a mighty current. The Western World’s recent ‘advances’ in assisted suicide provide a solution no less diabolical than Hitler’s death camps. Who can offer us something more than the hopelessness and emptiness of death?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” answers the first century fisherman Peter. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).
Peter’s epistle of praise to God reflects upon and savours Christ’s offer of assisted procreation: the gift of “new birth.” It is more than a dry theological premise. Much more. The concept of Christian new birth is the key to living an extravagantly deep and meaningful life. But where did Peter come up with this concept of new birth?
The teaching originates with Jesus, who Himself explained, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” This new birth forms the foundation of the experience called the Christian faith. We all know what Christianity is, don’t we? But let’s look a little closer at what new birth really means.
Jesus explained, “Spirit gives birth to spirit,” and “So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” He is saying that the Spirit of God regenerates that part of us that is designed to commune with Him and ultimately live forever within that primary relationship. The depth of this birth means that it is invisible to the human eye. It is the unseen core that now pulses within the believer. The Apostle Paul explains that we “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” All fine and well, but how do we actually do this?
Peter anticipates our question by calling believers “newborn babies”, “obedient children”, “chosen people” and “a people belonging to God.” As God offers new birth to believers our first job is to embark on a new way of thinking about ourselves—that is, to understand our new identity. Every thought, every word, every intention and action we will go on to initiate arises from this mindset of our new identity.
Since we each come out of old, distorted identities prior to our new birth of spirit, we need to be intentional about settling this issue in our minds. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is now our God and Father. We are His children; we are no longer bound to be rebellious but are free to obey Him out of love for Him.
The third level of our new birth involves our behaviours. “Just as he who called you is holy,” Peter counsels, “so be holy in all you do”; “love one another deeply, from the heart” and “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” Like the old saying, “Beauty is as beauty does,” our behaviours are the evidence of our spirit and our identity.
We have no small task ahead of us. Holiness is otherness; it is living other than the way our old bent to selfishness and lies used to cause us to live. God, though—great joyful mystery!—is on our side. Just as He launches our new birth through His Spirit giving life to ours and as He helps us understand our new identity, He also assists us in developing the new behaviours we need in order to be authentic. His Son Jesus is the model for the new character into which we will mature and His Spirit is the impetus within us to help us reflect our model.
So those who accept Jesus’ offer of living hope through His resurrection have moved. We have moved from a culture defined primarily by death, to one defined by life—eternal, Spirit of God-filled, ever-expanding life. It’s a new birth and a new identity, which leads us to new behaviours. How will this change the way you live today?