RELIGION COLUMN: One person but two birthdays

Published 7:07 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2013

By Charles Christmas

I am writing this article on my birthday, Feb. 20. I am 86 going on 91. It is a day of thanksgiving for the entire journey and for the open doors, which are still mine to give my life away. The wonderful greetings from family and friends via email, phone calls and cards are exciting, along with lunch out with a special couple battling cancer.

I was the last of eight children, and I am thankful for the advantage of being the caboose. Each sibling offered something very special as a role model for me. Now, there is the advantage of accepting some responsibility for those still living, especially all my nieces and nephews, both Louise’s and mine.

But I have another birthday. You see, I am not only 86, but I am also 76, because on Aug. 20, 1937, I was born again and a new life began within me. As you do your math on the previous sentence, you will discover that at the age of ten, the Lord opened my heart, and I opened my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ to be my Savior and Lord. On that Tuesday summer night, I understood that being a good boy would not make me a child of God or prepare me for heaven; only Jesus’ death in my place and his rising from the dead—and this only—was God’s way for me or anyone else. You will probably remember the teaching of Jesus in the simple, third chapter of John’s gospel that unless a person is born again (or from above) he or she cannot see or enter into the kingdom or family of God. Something must be added to your physical birth, and that is to be born of the Spirit, or one will not enter the kingdom of God. Something must happen to you that only God can do, and if it does not happen, you will not enter God’s family. God’s provision and possibility for you to be born again is that he was lifted up on that cross for all of our sins to be placed upon him. Jesus assures us that those who believe on him and commit their life to him as their living Savior and Lord do experience the new birth, have eternal life from God, will not perish and are not condemned, nor are they under the wrath of God. (John 1:11-13 is a very simple passage on the new birth; also I Peter 1:22-25.)

I have important responsibilities within my birth family: to live a life that will honor my parents; to not bring shame on the family; to contribute to peace and unity within the family; and to care about the physical and spiritual welfare of my family. But I have ongoing and unending responsibilities in my “new birth” family, the family of God, God’s church, the family of Jesus Christ and his church, my church family. I am responsible to honor my heavenly father, to please him and to obey. My desire and effort is to never bring shame upon my Lord and Savior, or upon his family, the church. It is my responsibility to promote peace, unity, harmony and strong relationships within God’s family, my local church. I am obligated to help meet various real needs of the family members and support the family’s plans and purposes.

Now, the question I am responsible to ask is, “Do you have two birthdays?” Of course you know that you were born of your parents so many years and months ago, and so your earthly life began, but do you have a second birthday when eternal life began in you? This new birth, eternal life, birth from above, or being born again is all in Jesus Christ. In 1 John 5:11-13, the Bible says, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The person who has the Son has life; the person who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” It is certainly not necessary that you remember a day and an hour when you were born again, but it is very needful that you know that you have believed, and do believe, on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with a continuing and unending commitment; that God is your father by the new birth; because your have received Jesus Christ, your very heart has been opened to him. You may wish to refer back to the third paragraph for a review.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.