Unless a person is born again, he cannot experience the kingdom of God. When I think of the kingdom of God, I think of a place where there is great love, and joy, and peace. It’s a good place to be. And Jesus said we can’t experience this place/condition of great love, or joy, or peace unless we are born again of the Holy Spirit.
Last year in the middle of my trip in Haiti, I was born again.
The motel in Port-a-Prince where we stayed Saturday and Sunday nights was not a 3-star motel. Nor was it a 2-star. It would be generous to give it any stars. The mission leader had warned me not to expect any hot water or to be able to ingest any water from the faucets anywhere on the island.
Yet, at the two motels we stayed Monday and Tuesday, I was blessed to have lukewarm water and enough water to completely shower those two nights.
We returned to the motel in Port-a-Prince late Wednesday afternoon. I took my luggage into a room, noticing there was no remote control to turn on the air conditioning. So I went downstairs to ask politely if they could bring up a remote control. Then I went back to the room and turned on the television, a 1970’s model. It came on – but it’s volume was on full blast. I scrambled to find the button that controlled the volume only to find the button to lower the volume was broken off.
I really didn’t need to have the television on because all the speaking was in French anyway. But I wanted a little music or noise in the background to create a diversion from thinking about all that I’d taken in that day.
Dinner in the restaurant always took an hour to receive. For the third time, they didn’t have on hand what we ordered. We usually had to eat what was available. After eating, we decided to clean up and get some sleep. I went up to my room, only to discover I had no water. Barely a trickle came out of the faucet. More water came out from under the sink’s cabinet and onto the floor of the bathroom than came out of the faucet. I tried the faucet in the shower. No water. And neither of the lamps on the bedside tables worked.
It was 8 p.m. and I was too tired to go to the trouble of getting them to give me another room. But I laid in bed thinking how I was going to tell them in the morning what a terrible room I’d been given. Then the hole-in-the-wall bar across the alley started blasting its music at twice the volume it had been during our first two nights. The motel was the open air variety made of hard walls and hard floors and hard ceilings. Sound waves bounced ten times before finding an opening to escape into the night.
I tried to be creative. I put toilet paper in my ears and a pillow over my head, but it didn’t lessen the volume. And the singer kept singing the same thing over and over and over and over again.
That’s when the spirit within me started sprouting horns. Did they expect me to pay $110 for a room with no water (except on the floor) and no TV and no air conditioning and no working lamps and no quiet? I needed a new spirit within me because the spirit that was growing was not a spirit of love or peace or patience or joy.
Yet, an image came to my mind of what I had seen that day, and I had think, Do I really have it so bad?
The children I’d seen for three days didn’t get a menu to choose what they wanted for supper. Ninety percent of them had nothing on hand to eat for supper and they wouldn’t eat until ten o’clock the next morning. The children didn’t have running water or television or A/C or lamps working on their bedside tables any night. Most didn’t have beds. Most were sleeping in a ten foot wide by twenty foot long house with eight to ten people. That doesn’t leave much room for a bedside table much less a bed for each person.
As long as I focused on them, knowing their need was far greater than my own – for I was lying on a soft mattress, possessing 200+ square feet of space all to myself, and knowing I was returning to Kentucky in a few days, I understood I didn’t have it so bad. And I was born again - falling asleep in the kingdom of God
How do you know if you’ve been born again? I think it’s easy to know. The Bible says the result of the Spirit is love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are present when you have a holy spirit.
One of the meanings of the word “holy” in Greek means “worthy of reverence, worthy of praise.” God is worthy of reverence and praise. Why? Because God is love – the Source of peace and joy and all the fruits of the Spirit. “Be holy, just as I am holy.” Be worthy in all you do – worthy of reverence and praise.
In our human condition, it’s not possible to hold onto love, peace, and joy all the time. We are not always under the power of a holy spirit. Sometimes the power of unclean spirits rule within us. We need our spirit reborn every day because we enter and exit the kingdom of God every day, sometimes several times a day. You can be experiencing the goodness and peace of God in the morning, and by the afternoon, you can be as angry as a hornet whose comfortable nest has been disrupted.
To get back to the kingdom of God, you must be given a new and right Spirit that is capable of bearing the fruits of that Holy Spirit.
There are times when I think I’ve reverted back to the caterpillar stage of the human spirit. Those are the times I identify with St. Paul when he says, “The works of the flesh (which are in opposition to the Spirit) are obvious: (they include) hostilities, conflict, anger, quarrels, disagreements, divisions, and things like these. I am warning you as I warned you before: those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
“Those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” They will not have peace – you can’t have peace when you’re fighting and arguing.
Sundays are days I tend to feel most like I’ve been born again. I experience peace after I have received the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness in worship, and hymns, Scriptures, and in the bread and the wine. My spirit feels renewed. I feel uplifted. I feel at peace with my God. This is where I experience the kingdom of God most readily.
Do you want to be born again? Jesus said, “If you who are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Ask for a Spirit that is holy. Ask for a Spirit that is worthy of reverence and praise. And your heavenly Father will be pleased to give you the kingdom.