Do you have one of these? It’s very valuable. It’s the kind of thing you normally don’t take out of the house. In fact, if you’re anything like me… you have this in a secure place in your home. Some of you probably even keep this in a fire proof safe, or at a bank, or something like that, just so you know it’s safe.
Regardless of where you keep it, my guess is that almost everyone has this.
It’s a birth certificate. It points back to my origin story. To the moment I was born.
If you look at my birth certificate you’ll see that I was born on clear night in Thomsaton, GA when the moon was bright & you could see the stars!
Ok, it doesn’t have that much detail. But you can see that I was born at Upson County Hospital on June 6, 1977. You can see that my parents named me Corey William Trevathan. You can see that my parents are Mark & Debbie Trevathan. And it says on here that the day I was born was the happiest day of my mother’s life! 🙂
Ok, it doesn’t say that either, but I’m sure it’s true!
Why it matters…
We use Birth Certificates to prove that a birth took place. That you are who you say you are.
This piece of paper points to a reality, but the truth is you don’t need to see this piece of paper to know that I was born. You don’t need to see this document to know that I’m alive. I’m right here. I’m the evidence that at some point, there was a birth. And my physical life points back to my physical brith.
The life we live points back to the origin of the life we live.
Physical life points back to physical birth.
We live the lives we live because of our origin story. Your physical life points back to a moment in time when you were physically born.
A Better Origin Story
But God wants to give us a better origin story. Even if you love your origin story God gives you a better one.
During the time when Jesus was walking the planet, there was a man by the name of Nicodemus. Nicodemus was living from an outdated origin story. He had a great origin story. Some might say it was the best anyone could hope for.
His story? He was born a jew, born into the chosen people of God, the people who were chosen to be a light pointing all people to the only God who saves.
Not only was Nicodemus born an Israelite, he was a Pharisee, a Rabbi, a religious leader & a part of the high council.
He had the origin story everyone wanted. What he didn’t know was that he needed a better origin story.
But he knew enough to know that he needed to talk to Jesus on his own.
He had heard Jesus teach, & it was nothing like he had ever heard before. He had seen Jesus perform miracles, & it was like nothing he had ever seen before.
Nicodemus knew that his fellow Pharisees & members of the high council wanted nothing more than to do away with Jesus because he was a threat to their power, their teaching, & their way of life. But Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus because he had a question burning a hole inside of him & he needed to know… Jesus… are you who I think you are? Could you really be? The Messiah?
Of course, to meet with Jesus would mean to risk everything. He couldn’t be seen with Jesus or his colleagues would kick him to the curb. If they knew that Nicodemus was a Jesus sympathizer, they would no longer allow him to be a part of their group.
Meeting with Jesus at night
So Nicodemus comes & meets with Jesus under the cover of night. At least, that’s the way John tells the story in John 3. John tells us that Nicodemus comes to meet with Jesus to ask him his questions. Here’s how John sets up the story:
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus.
“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus couldn’t even get his question out. He’s getting to ask the most important person in the world the most pressing question in his mind, but before he can ask his question Jesus interrupts him!
Jesus, knowing Nicodemus’ heart, cuts right to the heart of the matter & tells him the answer to the question he hasn’t even had a chance to ask yet… Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
At this point, Nicodemus is thinking… What do you mean? I was born into it. I’m Jewish. I’m a part of the kingdom of Israel. That’s synonymous with the Kingdom of God. What do you mean I can’t see it, or won’t even recognize it?! I’ve got a birth certificate that says I’m in.
And not only that, but what do you even mean? Born again?
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
Now Nicodemus has a whole new set of questions. What do you mean, be born again? How is that even possible?
But what Nicodemus fails to understand is this fundamental truth… that, in Jesus’ words, “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”
We all understand this on the one hand. People give birth to more people. If you have dogs, they will give birth to more dogs. Cute little puppies. Cats give birth to cute little kittens. This is the way the world works.
So Jesus uses this to teach Nicodemus that this is why he needs, in fact, this is why WE ALL NEED, a second birth. This is why we need to be born again, or born from above.
The life we live points to the origin of the life we live. And we need a better origin story.
But Nicodemus is still confused. As we would be. As some of you are right now…
“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
Again, for Nicodemus, he thought he already knew how to get eternal life. You keep the commandments. You love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength. If you keep the Law of Moses, the commandments, then you’re in!
So why is Jesus all of a sudden using language about the Son of Man… a clear reference from the scriptures that Nicodemus knew about the Messiah… and then connecting the Son of Man with that story about a time when Moses had to lift up a bronze snake in the wilderness to save the Israelites?
Lifted up on a pole?
If you don’t know that story from Numbers 21, it’s a bit strange. But when the Israelites had left Egypt & were on their way to the promised land they were growing tired of their long journey. You know, like when you’re kids are in the back of the car & they’re asking over & over again, “Are we there yet!?”
Because they were hot & tired, they started complaining. Now remember, up to this point, God had heard their cry & rescued them from hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt. God had delivered them across the Red Sea & single handedly defeated the Egytpian army. No Israelite so much as picked up a sword to win that fight.
Then, on their journey, they were hungry. So God arranged to have manna, literally bread from Heaven, come every day to feed all the people of Israel. And now they’re complaining because they’re not there yet!?
So, because of their complaining against God, God sent poisonous snakes into their camp. Some people were bitten & even died. They realized what they had done. That they should have never spoken against God. So they asked Moses to pray to God on their behalf. Moses did. And God answered. He told Moses to make a replica of the snake & put it up on a high pole. And anyone who was bitten who looks at the snake up on the pole will be healed & saved from death.
Nicodemus knew this story. But why in the world is Jesus talking about the Son of Man being lifted up on a pole? What is this about people looking up at the Son of Man on a pole being saved? What is Jesus talking about?
And then Jesus says these famous words… you’ve probably known these words of Jesus all your life. Nicodemus had no idea that these next words that Jesus spoke to him would one day show up on bumper stickers, at football games & be written on the hearts of millions of people around the world. Here in this moment under the cover of night Jesus speaks these words to Nicodemus…
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. – NIV
And then Jesus said…
God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
I’m not sure if Nicodemus got his questions answered that night. He probably left with more questions than he started with.
What Nicodemus didn’t quite know yet was that night a new light had dawned & that light was shining & was pointing him to God. What he hadn’t quite figured out yet was that Jesus was calling him that night to be a part of a new & better & different story!
What’s your story?
What about you? What is the defining moment of your life? What origin story is your life pointing back to?
What origin story are you living from? Are you anything like Nicodemus, living from an old & outdated origin story? Do you need to live from a better story? Are you ready for a different origin story? A new beginning?
The reality is the life we live points back to the origin of the life we live.
Many of us are living from the wrong origin story. The life we’re living points back to mistakes that were made, some of which might have been your own & some you had nothing to do with but you’re living with the consequences.
All of us need a different story to live from, a better story to live from.
A Different Kind of Birth
It was September 24, 1989, on a Sunday in Montgomery, AL when I was baptized at the Vaughn Park Church of Christ by my father. I know what my birth certificate says, but when I tell you my story you’re not going to hear much about being born in Thomaston, GA. What you will hear me talk about is my rebirth, my baptism story & the spiritual journey I’ve been on since that day. That’s the story I’m living from. It’s a story about God’s love for me.
Some of you have not walked through the waters of baptism yet. But you want a different life, a better life. It’s time to step into a different origin story, a better origin story. It’s time to step into the waters of baptism.
A different kind of life requires a different kind of birth.
Because the life we live points back to the origin of the life we live.