We recently celebrated Easter, when we spent time looking at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Often, the next time we look at the story of Jesus is fifty days later when we have the event of Pentecost. Yet there is much going on between these two events.

Down by the river at Easter, I spoke about the two criminals crucified either side of Jesus and how Jesus made the promise to one of them that he would be with Jesus in Paradise that very day. This story intrigues me because of the following passage –

1 Peter 3:18-22 

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (21) Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

We see in this verse that although the body of Jesus lay in the tomb, He was “made alive in the spirit” and he even went and preached to those who had been long dead. (remember, the resurrection has not happened yet!). then on the third day, His spirit returns and His dead flesh is raised from the dead.

Remember the story in John 20:17 when Jesus meets Mary outside the tomb that first Easter morning – Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’

Jesus does not want Mary to touch Him, as He had not yet ascended to the Father. Jesus at this point still has his human flesh body. He then ascends to the father where he gets rid of the corruptible flesh and puts on His new incorruptible heavenly body that he then returns to earth in, and makes His many appearances to the disciples and others. The body Jesus presumably still has to this day!

So if Jesus is busy doing all this, I found myself left with the question, “how did the criminal manage to be with Jesus in Paradise ‘that very day’ of the crucifixion”? So I am still working on that talk, I need God to reveal more to me, so maybe next year, or the year after!! If we continue reading this passage, we learn about who these spirits were that Jesus went to speak to in the ‘prison’.

(The prison being referred to is known as Sheol in the ‘Old Testament’ or Hades in the ‘New Testament’).

After reading this passage, verse twenty one stuck with me, and over the past couple of week began to formulate into what did become tonight’s talk.

            ‘Being baptised into a new life in Christ’ 

Today we often hear the term ‘Born Again’ being used in derogatory terms. People say things like “Are you one of those ‘born again’ Christians”. Meaning you are taking things a bit too far, or that you are an extreme believer! The reality is that if you are a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ, it goes with the territory. You have been born into a new life in Christ. It’s then entirely up to you how far you go in developing this ‘New Life’!

Two things reinforced this topic of ‘A new Life In Christ’ to me.

The first thing was there have recently been the birth of two babies which have meant a lot to me. One to the ‘Glass’ household two weeks ago. (Our good friends daughters baby). The other to the ‘Gibb’ household earlier this week. (Our own son’s baby).

(A slide of the two new babies was put up on the screen)

Now I think we should have a ‘Bonny Baby’ competition to see which family has the best looking baby!

Only joking. – I actually once had to Judge a real ‘Bonny Baby’ competition many years ago at the ‘Torphins Gala’. I have never experienced anything so traumatic in my life. You are confronted with all these young mothers holding out their babies. Everyone naturally thinking their baby is the most beautiful baby ever, and I had to choose a first second and third, which of course would leave everyone else thinking their baby did not make the cut!!

I could not get out of there fast enough after giving my results – Never again – ever!

We all understand about the birth of a baby. It’s ‘new life’, it’s we humans are born into this world. However the question we are looking at tonight is “what is this ‘rebirth’ thing”, this idea of being ‘Born again in Christ’? This is not a new question. People have been asking for an explanation from the very time Jesus put the idea forward.

We read in – John 3:1-5   Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

VIDEO I came across this short video which gives a very succinct explanation of what it means to be ‘born again’.

Please take the time to watch this short video before going further with the talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ON5DvhXtySA

                                        (Just copy and paste this code into your search engine)

1 Peter 1:23 

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

According to Peter, we are ‘born again’ “through the living and enduring word of God”. It’s what we learn through the ‘living scriptures’, that brings us to this important point, of ‘rebirth’ in our lives. I therefore make no apology for quoting quite a bit of scripture throughout this talk. It’s one of the main ways God chooses to communicate with us.

The second thing which got me thinking about this rebirth in Christ, was when I took two of my older grandchildren out hunting for ‘frog spawn’ when they were up staying at Easter.

We found some in a boggy area of a local wood, and managed to get the frog spawn into a plastic bag, then we all carried it home triumphantly! Within a week, they were all hatched and growing quickly.

I know you will possibly find the following analogy a little weak. However as I watched the tadpoles grow, I found myself thinking about the life cycle of the frog, it occurred to me that they went through a sort of ‘double birth’ thing. Their first birth is from the spawn laid by their mother. Then they live for quite some time as tadpoles, before a second transformation, or ‘rebirth’ into a frog. We humans don’t have that sort of second birth in the natural world, yet Christ tells us we do need to have this ‘second birth’, however He is very much talking about in the spirit, not in the flesh.

Ephesians 4:22-24  captures this quite nicely.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that following this ‘rebirth’, “We have the mind of Christ”.

Sometimes I think we can become so bogged down in the small things of life, that we just done see the bigger picture. We can become so pre occupied about how to live a good Christian life, about what others think about us, about our own trials and tribulations, which we all have many of. That we simply miss the most important thing.

When Anne and I went into the hospital on Wednesday to meet our new baby grandson, we had difficulty finding a parking space anywhere near the maternity unit. Eventually I spotted a space. The last space at the end of a long line of cars, out on the public street.

It was a very small space with double yellow lines at one end and a car bumper at the other. I was determined I would not get a parking ticket for having a wheel on the double yellow line, so I got Anne to get out of the car and guide me into the space. There was just room, and I was not touching the yellow lines!

We were in the hospital for a couple of hours and when we came out guess what was on my car windscreen? Yes, a parking ticket! How did that happen, I was so pre occupied about not having a wheel touching the double yellow lines that I forgot to look at the ‘bigger picture’ of where I was parking. It was a ‘Residents Only’ parking zone.

Sometimes I thing we can be a bit like these tadpoles in one of my containers. We are only aware of, and totally focused on the world we find ourselves in. However, we all know there is actually something much greater beyond the container, and one day soon, the tadpoles, once they become frogs, will experience that bigger world when they are released into it. Right now though they are looking through a ‘glass darkly’.

(1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known).

The tadpoles only get glimpses, or hints that there is something else out there!

In this world, we too see through a glass darkly, we get slight glimpses through the scriptures we read of something much greater to come. However we are meantime confined to this reality we currently know and live in!

A video came up randomly on my facebook the other day that reinforced that thought. It was all about ‘motorway junctions’ of all things!! Motorway junctions can be stressful places to be, often with huge cues of traffic. When you are negotiating these junctions, you only ever see the other vehicles around you, or bits of roadway heading off in strange directions that make little sense from your view point.

VIDEO This video showing an aerial view of motorway junctions in operation is well worth watching to understand ‘The Bigger Picture’. https://www.facebook.com/SciencePagecom/videos/422089588341557?sfns=mo

Or you can see it here – (but skip to 4.50min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yITr127KZtQ

When you see the bigger picture, things begin to make so much more sense. These junctions are actually quite beautiful!

As you begin to read and to understand God’s word, and the promises He makes within it, the beauty of His Kingdom begins to be revealed to us. You will begin to see beyond the confines of this natural life we are currently in. God has an amazing plan for each of us and that plan begins with us accepting Jesus as our Saviour and going through this ‘Spiritual rebirth’. Only then can the Father begin the process of renewing our thinking and moulding us into people that become more like Him. We will begin to produce more and more of the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’

Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

This process is explained nicely in Colossians 3:8-10  but now, put them all away — anger, exasperation, meanness, slander and obscene talk. Never lie to one another; because you have stripped away the old self, with its ways, 10 and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator. 

Notice we are “Continually being renewed”. It does not happen all at once, it is a process! In addition, we have this stark warning in  John 3:3 when Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus.  Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The life you leave behind when you become a Spirit-led, Bible-believing, faith-filled Christian is gone. Romans 8:1-2 describes the change like this: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

The death we all go through in this life is no longer the end for those who believe and have been re born. We are no longer bound by what we can touch, see, smell, hear and taste. We now answer to God’s laws, the Law of the Spirit. When natural symptoms tell us we are under the weather, we know we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). When our bills tell us that we’re drowning in debt, we know our God will provide all we need (Philippians 4:19). And when the enemy, (or friends, family or circumstances) whisper that we will never have the life we dreamt of, we know that our God is a God with good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11)

We begin to see the ‘bigger picture’ once we have been given ‘The Mind of Christ’. Now, if you are like me, you begin to question the sense in all this. The rest of the world around us seems to be heading in a different direction. They seem to be chasing after the tangible things this world has to offer. However we, as believers, find ourselves chasing after the things you can’t see, Spiritual things. It can be hard to keep on believing you are the one heading in the correct direction, when everyone else around you is heading in the opposite direction!

We read in Luke 10:17-21 – the story aboutJesus sending out the 72 disciples’.

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’

Verse 21 continues At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Jesus anticipated this dilemma we would find ourselves in, that our thinking would become so different to the rest of the world, and He goes to great lengths to reassure us. He explains that we have to become ‘child like’ in our thinking in order to understand this teaching.

Mark 10:15

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

We read the exact same words in –

Luke 18:17

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

Then in –

Matthew 18:4

“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.

This need to be ‘child like’ is mentioned many times in the New Testament, and when you see something repeated like this, especially when it’s the words of Jesus, you should never ignore it! Unfortunately people today find it very difficult to humble themselves to become “Child Like”, to accept the simple gift of eternal life from Christ. They prefer to look for complex answers in places like science, other religions, or even try making up their own belief systems. Anything other than being seen to use the simple faith of a child and bow the knee to Jesus.

Always remember if you ever feel ‘foolish’ or ‘weak’ for believing in Jesus, or in Spiritual things you can’t see. That’s the very reason Jesus chose you! (Luke 10:21 — you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do).

This ‘New Life’ we have in Christ has many benefits, and the whole process can be summarised as follows:

Believers begin a new life when they are born again by the Spirit

1 Peter 1:3 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Some extra verses –

2 Corinthians 5:17 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Romans 6:4-6

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

Ezekiel 36:26

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 11:19-20 

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This regeneration, or rebirth, places believers on the road of faith whereby they become new creations  

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Then we can begin to enjoy a new life in Christ

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

In spite of this reality of a ‘New Life’, we as believers continually find ourselves wrestling with our old nature and old self. It takes both effort and faith for us to put on the ‘new self’.  

Ephesians 4:24

and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

1 Corinthians 2:16 

But we have the mind of Christ.

and also to follow this new commandment of Christ

1 John 2:8 

Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

It’s a ‘Renewing Process’ that we are going through

2 Corinthians 4:16

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

Some additional verses

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

John 3:6

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Titus 3:5

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

This gift of ‘new life’ was foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament. Ezekiel prophesied the gift of a new heart and a new spirit

Ezekiel 36:26

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Jeremiah told of a new covenant

Jeremiah 31:31 

 ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.

Isaiah spoke of us getting a new name

Isaiah 62:2 

The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name
Which the mouth of the Lord will designate.

This new age promised by the prophets came in Jesus Christ, the new Adam. Yet that which we presently understand as believers, is only a foretaste of that which is yet to come in the fullness of time.

The Book of Revelation tells us that God will make everything new Revelation 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’

He will create a new heaven and new earth

Revelation 21:1 

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

A new Jerusalem Revelation 3:12 

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.

where the saints enjoy a new name Revelation 2:17 

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

and we will sing a new song Revelation 5:9 

And they sang a new song, saying:

‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you

purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

There is no way we can fully understand what God has in store for us when we finally join Him in our new bodies. However what greater benefit could there be, than the promise of a glorious eternal life with the Father.

1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ – the things God has prepared for those who love him –

1Cor 15:53  “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality”.

The message Jesus left us with is very simple!!

Mark 16:15-16 

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Romans 6:23 

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.