“Born Again” Elections & the Bible

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“Born Again.”

This was a book by Charles Colson back in the 70s.  There was a shocking statement by Jimmy Carter, also in the 70s. He said, “I am born again” and sent journalists to their dictionaries.  We are much more used to this term, but it has not come to mean what you think it means.

Born Again in 2016 in America means a voting bloc, mostly in the Republican Party, mainly in the Midwest and South.  It refers to social and economic conservatives.  So much so that pollsters ask voters if they are Born Again.   Now, political candidates seek the favor of this group.

It is time to reclaim this term from the pollsters.  It is an important biblical idea.  It comes to us most famously in John 3.

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 anew, 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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”                           John 3:1-8 NRSV 

I have crafted 6 sentences about what this term means in John’s Gospel.

  1. New Birth joins us to God’s family.
  1. New Birth is a decisive act.
  1. New Birth is God’s act alone.
  1. New Birth means born again and born from above
  1. New birth comes by belief.
  1. New Birth by the Spirit means we see, believe and live.

 

 

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Ice – Job 38

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“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
    for the day of battle and war?
24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
    or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

25 “Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a way for the thunderbolt,
26 to bring rain on a land where no one lives,
    on the desert, which is empty of human life,
27 to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
    and to make the ground put forth grass?

28 “Has the rain a father,
    or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb did the ice come forth,
    and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?
30 The waters become hard like stone,
    and the face of the deep is frozen.

Job 38:22-30 NRSV

Photo of ice on Lake Monona, Madison, WI  2/17/2016

Light and Love in I John

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“If love is understood in an abstract and fairly impersonal way, then it becomes difficult to see how, in the same God, such love can co-exist with wrath.  But the Scriptures treat God’s love in more dynamic ways…”  D. A. Carson, “Atonement in Romans 3:21-26” in “The Glory of the Atonement”, ed C. E. Hill and F. A. James III.

We struggle with how a God of Love just does not say, “forgive and forget.”  Some accuse the scriptures themselves of paganism, where sacrifices are offered to appease an angry God.  Yet it is God who initiates the work of Salvation – see John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he sent….”  Paganism was an attempt to appease a God or gods by human effort.  The Gospel is God satisfying God.

We find this in the book of I John. The word for Propitiation, or Atoning Sacrifice (Gk, hilasmos) is found in two places.  I John 2:2 and I John 4:10.  What is interesting is that I John 2:2 is tied to a statement about God, that “God is Light.”  This means something like God is True and God is Righteous, for the context of the passage speaks of truth and of sin.

In the particular passage, I John 1:5-2:2, the idea that God is Light and that we are darkness (sinful) is resolved by the blood of Christ (1:7) as part of being the atoning sacrifice (2:2).

I John 1:5-2:2

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

In I John 4:7-17, we find love.  We find the statement that “God is Love.”  This passage does not say that God thus decides that we are worthy of love or that his love is unconditional. Rather it is conditional upon the “atoning sacrifice” (v. 10) of Christ.  God’s love is resolved by his action of providing a sacrifice: “This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” v. 9.  Love is not in the Bible a cost free and general inclusion, but rather it is a costly sacrifice enabling inclusion.

This is exactly what Carson meant in the quote at the top. In the abstractions of Love and Holiness or Kindness and Justice we find questions such as” How could a loving God requrie blood sacrifice?”   In the concrete passages of scripture we find something else; we find an affirmation that the love of God is expressed in his own provision for us.  He sent his beloved son to be a sacrifice for sin.

I John 4:7-12

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.