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What must I do to be Born Again?

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  • What must I do to be Born Again?

    I think that this question has been and continues to be misunderstood by many people, including myself for many years.

    Years ago, I would have told you that being Born Again meant asking Jesus into your heart: a spiritual acceptance of Jesus as Messiah and Savior through his sacrifice on the Cross. Accepting such would invite The Holy Spirit to dwell within us. This, of course, must be preceded by repentance for past and present sinfulness, which I understood was innate - born into us because of Adam's "fall" from grace. Sometimes this is referred to as Original Sin.

    Accepting the "free gift" would entitle you to a crown of jewels, and a room in Heaven, where the streets were paved in gold, and you would join a chorus of angels singing praises to the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) forever and ever, Amen.

    Not accepting this "free gift" would guarantee that you would spend eternity in Hell. At the time (I was raised Baptist), I believed that Hell was a physical place somewhere beneath the Earth's surface where lakes of fire (As a teenager, I imagined it as Magma) would burn the unrepentant for ever and ever.

    Is this what you, dear Christian, think?

    On the other hand, there are many people - Christians included - who understand the "Born Again" question of Nicodemus as more of an intellectual query rather than a magical formula. In other words, what Jesus was really saying was that you need to accept a turn about in your heart of hearts, and act in a way that embodies the intent of The Law. The Sermon on the Mount has Jesus turning familiar commandments made by Moses into a more modern interpretation.

    For example:

    "You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.…
    And so on.

    In other words, what is the purpose of the more apocalyptic version of Christianity? Why is that preferable to the more "down to earth" version of simply following Jesus' lead in how we live, think and relate to others? Do not both ways lead to a closer walk with G-d?

    Also, why is there the need to be threatened with eternal punishment? If Jesus was intended to be a sacrifice for sins:
    By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
    , why didn't it take for everyone?

    NORM
    When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

  • #2
    Originally posted by NormATive View Post
    On the other hand, there are many people - Christians included - who understand the "Born Again" question of Nicodemus as more of an intellectual query rather than a magical formula. In other words, what Jesus was really saying was that you need to accept a turn about in your heart of hearts, and act in a way that embodies the intent of The Law.
    The concept of being born again is neither a magic formula nor an intellectual concept. It is a matter of trusting in Jesus alone. Asking Jesus into your heart is an analogy, a way to understand the need to trust Him. When we trust Him for our salvation we are actually changed. A part of this change is "simply following Jesus' lead in how we live, think and relate to others." However God's plan never appears to have been to simply get people to be nicer and live more comfortable lives. What is God's ultimate plan? I can not answer that, but it involves expressing His nature, that is perfection, among other things.

    What is this "apocalyptic version of Christianity" of which you speak? Can you explain a little better what you mean here?

    Also, why is there the need to be threatened with eternal punishment? If Jesus was intended to be a sacrifice for sins: , why didn't it take for everyone?
    For one thing hell is less a threat of eternal punishment than a warning that if you don't want God you will get exactly what you ask for - no God. As to why it didn't take for everyone, not everyone is willing to trust in Christ; which trust involves submission to Him.
    Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by NormATive View Post
      Also, why is there the need to be threatened with eternal punishment? If Jesus was intended to be a sacrifice for sins: , why didn't it take for everyone?
      The term "eternal punishment" (kolasis aiōnios) occurs once in the entirety of Scripture: Matthew 25:46. First, keep in mind that the passage in which this terminology occurs (vv.31-46) is dealing with the judgement of the nations at Jesus' return. It is Jesus' exhortation to his disciples specifically and not to all persons in general. In other words, Jesus is not using this as a warning to frighten the crowds. Second, "eternal punishment" does not necessarily mean unending torment as it is so often assumed. In actuality, this concept is absent from Matthew's Gospel. Instead, we learn that the fate of the wicked is likened to the burning up of chaff, trees, and weeds (3:10-12; 7:19; 13:30,40-42) and plants being uprooted (15:13). So the imagery of fire—including the "eternal fire" of 25:41—denotes the final annihilation of God's enemies, not their ongoing torment. More directly, Jesus warns his disciples that being denied before the Father (10:33) and the permanent loss of life are ultimately what's at stake (10:28; 10:39; 16:24-26).
      Last edited by The Remonstrant; 04-07-2014, 01:36 AM.
      For Neo-Remonstration (Arminian/Remonstrant ruminations): <https://theremonstrant.blogspot.com>

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      • #4
        Originally posted by NormATive View Post
        I think that this question has been and continues to be misunderstood by many people, including myself for many years.
        Norm, I am not Christian, dear or otherwise, so I hope you don’t mind me making a suggestion.

        “Born again” means spiritual renewal. The idea of spiritual renewal is not unique to Christianity. The search for it starts with dissatisfaction and involves some sort of ritualized self reflection and goal setting so that you feel more effective in your life. I think that many religions tend to confuse, contaminate and clutter the essence of the idea by associating it with particular heroes, holy books, gods, afterlife, rewards and punishments.
        “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
        “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell
        “not all there” - you know who you are

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        • #5
          I would say that it's a metaphor for dying and coming into new life.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
            For one thing hell is less a threat of eternal punishment than a warning that if you don't want God you will get exactly what you ask for - no God.
            As apologists typically do, you conflate desire with belief. Whether or not I want God is irrelevant. I cannot believe he exists just because you say he does.

            Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
            As to why it didn't take for everyone, not everyone is willing to trust in Christ; which trust involves submission to Him.
            Christ is not the one I am failing to trust. I am failing to trust the people who tell me about Christ. It is you to whom I am not submitting.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post


              For one thing hell is less a threat of eternal punishment than a warning that if you don't want God you will get exactly what you ask for - no God. As to why it didn't take for everyone,
              But it remains "a threat of eternal punishment" nevertheless. Surely any ideology that achieves its end by the threat of severe punishment, no matter what form the punishment takes, is morally bankrupt.

              not everyone is willing to trust in Christ; which trust involves submission to Him.
              No. Initially it requires belief in him and the dogma surrounding him. Many, me included, consider evidence for the existence of the God/Man Jesus and his wondrous deeds, to be woefully insufficient to warrant belief.
              Last edited by Tassman; 04-07-2014, 06:45 AM.
              “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                I would say that it's a metaphor for dying and coming into new life.
                Is that a metaphor of a metaphor or are you being literal about surviving death? One very strange aspect of Christian salvation (same thing) is that first you seek renewal, then once you feel that you have it, or maybe you just think you have it because you have been dunked in water, you then have to direct your attention to constantly thanking He who has bestowed this apparent transformation (or not) on you. You are not allowed to take credit for your own spiritual renewal. Jesus literally steals that from you. Do you not think that that is a loss of focus brought about by failing to realise that the “other world” is a metaphor for the ideal way of living in this world: the “Kingdom of God”?
                “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
                “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell
                “not all there” - you know who you are

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
                  or maybe you just think you have it because you have been dunked in water,
                  Baptism happens BECAUSE we have been reborn, not so that we can.

                  you then have to direct your attention to constantly thanking He who has bestowed this apparent transformation (or not) on you.
                  Says who?

                  You are not allowed to take credit for your own spiritual renewal.
                  Why would I want to? If I were lost at sea, and rescued by the US Coast Guard, should I try to take credit for my own rescue?

                  Jesus literally steals that from you.
                  Perhaps you should study the meaning of the word "literally". But how does He "steal" anything? Did the Coast Guard "literally steal" my right to boast of my own rescue?

                  Do you not think that that is a loss of focus brought about by failing to realise that the “other world” is a metaphor for the ideal way of living in this world: the “Kingdom of God”?
                  Why can't it be both?
                  "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You'll probably get a few different answers. But I believe its best described as the Full heartfelt recognition of Christ as Lord and a baptism (believers or infant) and of course a life long obedience to God. For one to be a Christian one should Love God and desire to serve Him Only.
                    A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
                    George Bernard Shaw

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Catholicity View Post
                      You'll probably get a few different answers. But I believe its best described as the Full heartfelt recognition of Christ as Lord and a baptism (believers or infant) and of course a life long obedience to God. For one to be a Christian one should Love God and desire to serve Him Only.
                      If you think about practical matters, I would say that service to God can be described entirely in secular language and be just as meaningful and spiritually renewing. Would you agree?
                      “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
                      “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell
                      “not all there” - you know who you are

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                        Why would I want to? If I were lost at sea, and rescued by the US Coast Guard, should I try to take credit for my own rescue?
                        Perhaps you should study the meaning of the word "literally". But how does He "steal" anything? Did the Coast Guard "literally steal" my right to boast of my own rescue?
                        I think it is psychologically damaging to discredit your own successes, gifts and abilities. If you do not understand yourself you find that God punishes you because you are wicked but not because God is a sadist. And, do people go off the rails from time to time – of course they do. So wickedness is a semi-permanent state depending on how much guilt you carry about with you. And that is a choice that YOU make about God’s character. You CHOOSE to be guilty, downtrodden, wicked and unworthy by the relationship you have with God.
                        “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
                        “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell
                        “not all there” - you know who you are

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
                          If you think about practical matters, I would say that service to God can be described entirely in secular language and be just as meaningful and spiritually renewing. Would you agree?

                          Given that I recognize a person may live a fully moral and meaningful life without a belief in God; how would you propose describing devotion to God in secular terms; especially if said person decides that they want to believe in God and lead a religious life.
                          Last edited by Catholicity; 04-07-2014, 11:00 AM.
                          A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
                          George Bernard Shaw

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
                            Norm, I am not Christian, dear or otherwise, so I hope you don’t mind me making a suggestion.

                            “Born again” means spiritual renewal. The idea of spiritual renewal is not unique to Christianity. The search for it starts with dissatisfaction and involves some sort of ritualized self reflection and goal setting so that you feel more effective in your life. I think that many religions tend to confuse, contaminate and clutter the essence of the idea by associating it with particular heroes, holy books, gods, afterlife, rewards and punishments.
                            I like this view. "Born again" has many meaning as there are different beliefs. The Buddhist awakening may be considered being "born again." I am more then a little cautious of significance of most very human claims of becoming "born again" or "enlightened" from the many different varied conflicting perspectives that humans make this claim. There is a very fallible human tendency to claim they have found the absolute ultimate reality, and in reality it is simply an egocentric claim of finding 'something.'

                            My experience of being "born again," resulted in the awareness that because of my fallible human nature, I did not likely no anything in any sort of an absolute sense, and no one else did either. 'I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.'
                            Last edited by shunyadragon; 04-07-2014, 12:33 PM.
                            Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                            Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                            But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                            go with the flow the river knows . . .

                            Frank

                            I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by firstfloor View Post
                              I think it is psychologically damaging to discredit your own successes, gifts and abilities.
                              That's just goofy.

                              If you do not understand yourself you find that God punishes you because you are wicked but not because God is a sadist.
                              More goofiness.

                              And, do people go off the rails from time to time – of course they do. So wickedness is a semi-permanent state depending on how much guilt you carry about with you. And that is a choice that YOU make about God’s character. You CHOOSE to be guilty, downtrodden, wicked and unworthy by the relationship you have with God.
                              No, I don't. Just because you have a twisted view of God doesn't mean I do.
                              "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                              Comment

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