Wesley speaks about justification as what God does for us and new birth as what God does in us. And Wesley emphasizes that these two doctrines -- justification and new birth -- are the two most important doctrines. As we are in the midst of Holy Week, we should note that these two doctrines center on the events of Holy Week. It is through the crucifixion of Jesus that we are justified. As Christ dies for our sins, we are brought into right relationship with God. It is on the cross that we see what God does for us. And, in the resurrection, we receive new birth. It is in the resurrection that Christ defeats death and offers new life. Through the resurrection, as we enter into new life, the work of God in us begins. Why did Wesley put these two doctrines at the top of his list – stating that these two are the most important?
Throughout the scriptures, we read that we must be born again. There are several terms in scriptures to point to the same phenomenon: born again, anew, born from above, and born of the spirit. It is in John 3, when Jesus is confronted by Nicodemus that this doctrine is fleshed out. As Jesus talks with Nicodemus about being born again, Nicodemus cannot get past his understanding of physical birth. Yet, Jesus wants him to understand how his spiritual self can be awakened or born anew. When we are born from above, we live in a new way – we are “renewed after the image of God” and our love of the world is transformed into a love of God. Why must we be born from above or born of the spirit or born again?
Wesley uses the analogy of our physical birth to help us understand what happens when we are born anew spiritually. Our spiritual birth is meant to mimic our birth in the world. When we are born, we see things, hear things, encounter the world differently than we did when we were in the womb. When we experience a spiritual new birth, our eyes are opened to God’s glory, our ears hear the good news, and our hearts are opened and we feel the Spirit of God at work within us. Our whole way of life changes as we view life through an eternal perspective. How have you been born again? Does your faith help you to see the world in a new way, hear things in a new way, open your heart in a new way? How does your relationship with Christ change the way you live out your faith in the world?