“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again (John 3:7).’”
Margaret Boemer’s unborn daughter had a rare tumor that continued to grow and demand more and more blood supply and threatened the child with heart failure before she was even born. The Boemer’s went to Texas Children’s hospital in Houston where doctors performed risky open fetal surgery. The baby, just 23 weeks into her prenatal development was delicately removed from her mother’s uterus so that the procedure to cut away the life threatening tumor could be excised. Afterwards she was placed back into the womb to grow more fully (1).
The little girl, named Lynlee, did well and her heart improved and 13 weeks later she re-entered the world which she had briefly entered months before. The world now knows her as “The baby who was born twice.” Because had she not been born initially so that the vital surgery could be performed she would have never lived to see her real birthday.
You and I have a lot in common with little Lynlee. Sin is terrible disease that, unchecked, will continue to grow, damage our hearts and lead to death. This is not a congenital condition as some have believed (Deuteronomy 1:39, 24:16, Jeremiah 19:4, Ecclesiastes 7:29, Matthew 18:3) but came upon us when we first chose to sin. When we chose to conduct “ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind (Ephesians 2:3)” we became subject to the wrath of God by this “nature.” The word used in this verse, translated “nature,” is the Greek word “phusis” which means a “growth by germination or expansion.”(2), Richie describes “phusis” as “behavior after long habit” has become our nature (3). We might call it our “second nature.” Like a well beaten path, we have followed the course of this world so that by ourselves we cannot return to the narrow path that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14).
It is for this reason that Jesus taught that we must be born again (John 3:3). That rebirth takes place when we die to our sins and are joined together with Christ, immersed in the waters of baptism; “Born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5),” Jesus said. Absent this rebirth, through baptism, we could never enter into everlasting life and the kingdom of heaven.
There is a remarkable, lifesaving surgical procedure performed by Jesus to those who undergo this rebirth in which the deadly sinful nature (“phusis”) is cut away from our hearts (Colossians 2:11-12). It is not our doing but according to God’s mercy we are saved “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).” Have you been born again of the water and the Spirit?
“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).”
(2) Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary
(3) Lonnie Ritchie; A Layman’s Simple Commentary on the New Testament Volume III, pg. 444