This is an excellent article: 11-15 Gems from Jesus in the Shelbyville Daily Union.com, and one all followers of Jesus can agree upon - all those who who know the experience of being born of the Spirit have something wonderful in common. My Urantia Book blog on that topic is below, but here is a snip or two from the article:
"Even though the term "born again" has become a cliche' in our culture, Jesus' statement is no less true. If we are not born again (from above), we will not see the kingdom of God, not now, nor in eternity.
"Nicodemus, the religious leader that came to Jesus, is proof that a person can attend worship service, give to the offering, even become a member of the church in good standing, and still not be "born again." That person can even rise to a leadership position and not be "born again." To be "born again" implies a new and different life, a life-change. I there evidence that your life has changed? Is your life new, different than before.?"
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A spiritual bridge
The sublime experience of being born again is one that many of us have in common. It is a spiritual bridge where all followers of Jesus can meet; a commonality that binds us together as Kingdom dwellers, whether we are Christian or not, churched or not. We can all find things to disagree about when viewing religion and the differences in the way we understand religion - even the differences in the ways we understand Jesus; but anyone who has been born of the spirit holds a unifying experience that can be recognized by any other born-again person, too - an experience that can bind us together as children of God as no other experience can.
Jesus insists upon it as an experience we must have if we are to enter the Kingdom. In the Bible, we find just the one reference, the talk with Nicodemus; in The Urantia Book we see not only that story, but numerous other references about being born of the spirit.
Read The Talk with Nicodemus
What does The Urantia Book say?
And elsewhere in The Urantia Book we are educated about this requisite for Kingdom citizenship:
34:6.4 Spiritual forces unerringly seek and attain their own original levels. Having gone out from the Eternal, they are certain to return thereto, bringing with them all those children of time and space who have espoused the leading and teaching of the indwelling Adjuster, those who have been truly "born of the Spirit," the faith sons of God.
103:2.1 Religion is functional in the human mind and has been realized in experience prior to its appearance in human consciousness. A child has been in existence about nine months before it experiences birth. But the "birth" of religion is not sudden; it is rather a gradual emergence. Nevertheless, sooner or later there is a "birth day." You do not enter the kingdom of heaven unless you have been "born again"— born of the spirit. Many spiritual births are accompanied by much anguish of spirit and marked psychological perturbations, as many physical births are characterized by a "stormy labor" and other abnormalities of "delivery." Other spiritual births are a natural and normal growth of the recognition of supreme values with an enhancement of spiritual experience, albeit no religious development occurs without conscious effort and positive and individual determinations. Religion is never a passive experience, a negative attitude. What is termed the "birth of religion" is not directly associated with so-called conversion experiences which usually characterize religious episodes occurring later in life as a result of mental conflict, emotional repression, and temperamental upheavals.
It's an interesting thing. My own experience was one of those "stormy" ones described in this last passage; not everyone has that kind of experience, though. I met a man once who told me that his experience was one of the very gradual ones, as he had been raised by Urantia Book readers and he was always aware of God and the relationship he had with God. He never really had a specific experience that he could point to as his "birth" day. I was surprised when he told me that he sort of envied my experience of the stormy labor and delivery...!
I guess I can understand that. Having had a birth of the spirit that was so full of drama, angst, and fear mixed with desperation, surrender, and hope was so striking that I think of my life now in terms of "before and after." The change in my mind and spirit was pretty much instantaneous, but it took quite awhile for my life to really reflect the changes; nevertheless, I still vividly remember that blessed day when I came to my senses...
Rebirth means change
I shared in these blogs once or twice before that when I tried to explain my born-again experience to my devoted Catholic sisters they minimized it, saying that I had been born of the spirit at my baptism when I was an infant; that there really was no need for me to have had this experience - all I really ever had to do was return to the Church! And I guess that if I had been willing to accept the dogma, the tradition, the rules of the Church, maybe that might have worked. But I was not willing to take what I felt was a step backward into traditionalism.
But I see now that - like the man who grew up knowing God - the spiritual rebirth CAN be just such a gradual and natural process. The official "baptism" marks its beginnings, and, if all goes according to plan, the rebirth is one that evidences itself with proper spiritual nurture. In an ideal world, that would be the experience of all of us. This dark world is far from ideal, though, and many have to gain the Kingdom through hard-won victory over the world.
But, whether dramatic or gradual, true rebirth of the spirit can only be had by one who is willing to change and adapt oneself to God and his holy will. Sometimes, this can be had through a church/religious affiliation, but not always. In these days, more and more spiritual seekers are finding it difficult to align themselves with traditional and institutionalized religions. But the good news for all seekers is that being born again does not have to be associated with any church or any religion. It is a deep, personal, and willing re-alignment of the little self with God.
In The Urantia Book we find the reality of the indwelling God-within - the larger "Self" whose guidance and comfort attend us always and light our path. In the end, one who sincerely seeks the "assurances of the spirit of adventurous and progressive faith" can know of a certainty that they have indeed, been born again. For following that decision, things really do change - over time, or suddenly.
34:6.7 Those who have received and recognized the indwelling of God have been born of the Spirit. "You are the temple of God, and the spirit of God dwells in you." It is not enough that this spirit be poured out upon you; the divine Spirit must dominate and control every phase of human experience.
Self-will: a spiritual dead-end
For me - and maybe for many others, the problem was never authoritative certainty; I had long before left the Church of authority in the dust. No, my problem was that when I jettisoned the Church, I also jettisoned God and his will; I struck out on a life of self-will. And after a period of time that I call my "wilderness days," that self-will was proving to be a dead-end, for when I left the Church, I also drifted clear of all of my previous spiritual moorings. As many others may attest, living a life that is self-willed and without a spiritual purpose can be a very poor existence indeed.
Finding The Urantia Book was a huge part of my rebirth of the Spirit; I found the book when I was at a very low point and thus, ready for something different. Having reached a point of desperation, I was defeated and thus, teachable. And just then, The Urantia Book turned up...
Reading the revelations of God and his real nature, of Adam and Eve, of life after death, and certainly of Jesus and his original teachings had everything to do with providing truth to my weary soul - truth that I never was able to find within the confines of organized religion, and most certainly not through my own self-willed life, which was a cruel prison of its own. I was one of the spiritual captives who was being set free!
And from that day forward, the process of using my own self-will for the best purpose - choosing to seek the will of God - became my true salvation. This passage - among others - rang like a clear bell in my spirit, and is still my goal of living:
155:6.11 [Said Jesus:] Never forget there is only one adventure which is more satisfying and thrilling than the attempt to discover the will of the living God, and that is the supreme experience of honestly trying to do that divine will. And fail not to remember that the will of God can be done in any earthly occupation. Some callings are not holy and others secular. All things are sacred in the lives of those who are spirit led; that is, subordinated to truth, ennobled by love, dominated by mercy, and restrained by fairness — justice.
What does Jesus say about being born of the spirit?
Again - in The Urantia Book, the rebirth of the spirit is an important concept that is stressed many times. I will close with a few of the wonderful passages of Jesus in which he teaches about this marvelous rebirth:
First, here's what he said to Nicodemus - the familiar story from the Bible that is referenced in the article above:
142:6.4Jesus answered Nicodemus: "Verily, verily, I say to you,Nicodemus, except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Then replied Nicodemus: "But how can a man be born again when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born."
Jesus said: "Nevertheless, I declare to you,except a man be born of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. But you should not marvel that I said you must be born from above. When the wind blows, you hear the rustle of the leaves, but you do not see the wind—whence it comes or whither it goes—and so it is with everyone born of the spirit. With the eyes of the flesh you can behold the manifestations of the spirit, but you cannot actually discern the spirit."
And Nicodemus said: "But how can I begin to lay hold upon this spirit which is to remake me in preparation for entering into the kingdom?" Jesus answered: "Already does the spirit of the Father in heaven indwell you. If you would be led by this spirit from above, very soon would you begin to see with the eyes of the spirit,and then by the wholehearted choice of spirit guidance would you be born of the spirit since your only purpose in living would be to do the will of your Father who is in heaven. And so finding yourself born of the spirit and happily in the kingdom of God, you would begin to bear in your daily life the abundant fruits of the spirit."
155:6.3 "I have called upon you to be born again, to be born of the spirit. I have called you out of the darkness of authority and the lethargy of tradition into the transcendent light of the realization of the possibility of making for yourselves the greatest discovery possible for the human soul to make—the supernal experience of finding God for yourself,in yourself, and of yourself, and of doing all this as a fact in your own personal experience. And so may you pass from death to life, from the authority of tradition to the experience of knowing God; thus will you pass from darkness to light, from a racial faith inherited to a personal faith achieved by actual experience; and thereby will you progress from a theology of mind handed down by your ancestors to a true religion of spirit which shall be built up in your souls as an eternal endowment."
155:6.12 "You must cease to seek for the word of God only on the pages of the olden records of theologic authority.Those who are born of the spirit of God shall henceforth discern the word of God regardless of whence it appears to take origin. Divine truth must not be discounted because the channel of its bestowal is apparently human. Many of your brethren have minds which accept the theory of God while they spiritually fail to realize the presence of God. And that is just the reason why I have so often taught you that the kingdom of heaven can best be realized by acquiring the spiritual attitude of a sincere child. It is not the mental immaturity of the child that I commend to you but rather the spiritual simplicity of such an easy-believing and fully-trusting little one. It is not so important that you should know about the fact of God as that you should increasingly grow in the ability to feel the presence of God."
Finally - and in relation to the Gospel of the Kingdom:
193:0.3"And now you should give ear to my words lest you again make the mistake of hearing my teaching with the mind while in your hearts you fail to comprehend the meaning. From the beginning of my sojourn as one of you, I taught you that my one purpose was to reveal my Father in heaven to his children on earth. I have lived the God-revealing bestowal that you might experience the God-knowing career. I have revealed God as your Father in heaven; I have revealed you as the sons of God on earth. It is a fact that God loves you, his sons. By faith in my word this fact becomes an eternal and living truth in your hearts. When, by living faith, you become divinely God-conscious, you are then born of the spirit as children of light and life, even the eternal life wherewith you shall ascend the universe of universes and attain the experience of finding God the Father on Paradise."
Please see our topical study about the rebirth of the spirit HERE, where you'll find even more inspiring passages, too - from Jesus and from the authors of The Urantia Book.
Do you have an experience of being born-again? Please share!