Teardown or Remodel?

It is so rewarding to see hard work and effort pay off. In the third dimension, it requires a lot of elbow grease to change the old, tired, and worn into the refurbished and restored. I am speaking of remodeling old houses. If you have ever remodeled you know what I’m talking about. You can start into a project thinking—paint, new carpet, and maybe some new cabinet hardware. What you end up with often includes gutting the bathroom, structural enhancing (like adding missing floor joists), new gutters, and a whole lot more than new paint! But once you’ve begun there is no turning back.

Our spiritual lives are somewhat similar. We feel the pull of Spirit to have a closer walk with God. We are tired of the old interior of our lives. We feel that things could use a little sprucing up. When we get started we are shocked to discover we need a whole lot more than new seat cushions, we need a whole new heart!

Nicodemus found this out. He was a religious teacher that Jesus ran into one night. Nicodemus was a proud man. He was too proud, in fact, to come to Jesus during the day for fear of being seen by the other religious folk he hung out with. Speaking with Jesus would look a little too much like need and he didn’t really want anyone looking at him as needy.

The truth be told, however, he was feeling a little dissatisfied with his spiritual journey. Others would have been shocked to discover this, but Jesus was not. He was acquainted with people who were pious and filled their lives with religious activity but who still craved a deeper spiritual experience with God. Many were busy with religion but few were truly close to God.

True to form, Nicodemus began the conversation on a theological note regarding the coming Messiah with the intent of impressing Jesus. But Jesus was not to be impressed for he could see the true condition of the heart. Nicodemus didn’t need sprucing up with a new “paint job” he needed a whole new heart.

Cutting through the chase, just like a competent builder (he had spent some time in a carpenter’s shop after all), he gave Nicodemus the truth of the matter right from the start. “Unless a man is born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” The old life just wasn’t going to cut it, Nicodemus had to start with a fresh new life.

This sounded expensive. Nicodemus acted shocked. “How can a man be born when he is old?” he countered. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb?”

Jesus found this response ironic, “You are a teacher in Israel, and yet you do not understand this basic idea? You cannot enter the Kingdom unless you are born of the Spirit. It is the Spirit that gives birth to spiritual life.”

The rest of the story is found in the Gospel of John 3. It is pregnant with the truth about our spiritual condition. It is the Spirit that gives birth to spiritual life. Without being born of the Spirit we will only produce human efforts, human products, and human ideas. We literally have to start over regarding our ideas about what is spiritual and good.

We don’t just need a little remodel job, we need a whole new heart. The Apostle Paul tells us that through the death and resurrection of Christ we have access to a new way of being. Rather than being tied to our human nature we can put on the new nature of Christ like putting on a new pair of clothes. Off with the old and on with the new. He calls it “putting on the mind of Christ.” We are enabled to do this through the power of the Spirit.

The reason we become discouraged and fail in our spiritual journey so often is that we are just looking for a little remodel work in our lives. We don’t want a new life; we just want a touched-up life. But the story of Nicodemus reminds us that unless we are born again into a new life by the Spirit, that we will only produce more of the same old stuff.

Once the Spirit gets a hold of your heart you will never want the old one back again. The new one is full of God’s love and wisdom. It longs to be a vessel of light and love to the world. It is well worth trading up for a new heart and leaving the remodel work for houses. Some things are best getting new. The other wonderful thing about Jesus is that he paid for that new heart at the cross. Yours is just waiting to be picked up. All you have to do is ask God for it. A new life is just waiting to happen as soon as you decide.