Daily Devotions

Above, Not Again

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 "Jesus answered him, 'Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.'” (John 3:3)

 

Such a beautiful passage, and such a misinterpreted passage. The misinterpretations of this verse have done more to damage human souls than just about any other in the Bible. First, the New Testament was written in Greek, with some words of Jesus introduced in Aramaic. Using any English translation in a literal way is suspect. Second, this passage's key interpretive moment is the source of misunderstanding.

 

In many English translations, the Greek word anothen, is translated as "born again." The more accurate translation of this word is actually "born from above." While, at first glance, this may not seem a huge issue, this seemingly subtle difference has driven a divide between Christians and has been a key rationale for excluding people from the Kingdom of God. This is no small issue.

 

Who is the one who initiates faith, and hence, salvation to one's life? The claims of the "born again" are that you must offer a salvation prayer or in faith ask God into your life, in order to be "born again." The individual is the one who initiates and controls their own salvation.

 

When you are "born from above," our re-birth comes not from our initiative, but from the one who is "above": God! Theology is always suspect when change is dependent on human initiative. God is always the initial and primary actor in our salvation. On our own, we never have the faith necessary to "chose" God. God is always the one who "chooses" us.

 

Don't let anyone bully you or make you feel guilty for not having a "born again" experience. I am so grateful that I do not have a "born again" experience, because it would rely on my puny faith. I am grateful that you and I are "born from above" in spite of our faith, not because of our faith. Only when we are "born from above" can we truly bask in the grace and mercy of Almighty God.

 

Today, thank God for looking upon you with love and grace. Close your eyes and picture God saying to you, "I love you_______ (fill in your name), and with grace and mercy, I bless you and call you 'Born from (me) Above.'" You are worthy by God's love and grace, not because of some "born again" incantation or some other human-initiated process. Thank God! 

 

Anger: Blessing or Curse?

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"Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." (John 2:15)

 

Jesus had a temper. Jesus could get angry. Yet, Jesus is without sin. This means it is possible to be angry without sinning. The reason many of us have trouble hearing about Jesus being angry is because we human beings cannot show righteous indignation without it going to an inappropriate place.

 

The key is to respond with an appropriate response. If three strong men attack a weaker person in a subway, a polite "excuse me," is probably not enough to protect the vulnerable person. Polite requests of a brutal dictator will not change widespread abuses. But a whip of cords, and turning over tables is not appropriate when a child spills their "SpaghettiOs."

 

At a deeper level, what makes an angry response appropriate or inappropriate is also determined by motivation. If Jesus was angry because he felt slighted by the money changers and wanted to get even, it would probably be inappropriate. If the money changers were destroying lives, a few overturned tables would be a small price.

 

Today, pray for God to give you control over your emotions. Pray for God to give you control over your thoughts and feelings. Emotions can be a blessing or a curse. Get in touch with your feelings. Do not be scared to feel, but try to take a step away from your emotions and evaluate them at a little distance. Are they beneficial in this moment, or are they hindering you? Ask God to give you the self-control to make a positive difference in each situation. The more you practice control, the better you will be at mastering your emotions, rather than being mastered by them.

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