Wild grapes and Harleys

Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway.
Lookin’ for adventure and whatever comes our way.
Yeah, Darlin’ gonna make it happen, take the world in a lovin’ embrace.
Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.
Like a true nature’s child, we were born, born to be wild,
We can climb so high, I never wanna die. —”Born to be Wild”, Steppenwolf

I hear that song and I’m roaring down the highway doing ninety on my Harley, hair blowing in the wind, the sun at my back and the open road empty as far as the eye can see.

Not that I actually own a Harley…

Born to be Wild is a song for our generation. It’s about throwing off responsibility. It’s about being a wild child—free, beholden to no one. It’s about wringing every ounce of juice from the grapes of life and every second from every day. Tempus is fugiting, after all, and you only go around once in life.

We live free and easy. We make no promises, no commitments, and when the urge strikes us, we move on down the road. Casual dining, casual relationships, casual sex—life is about doing what we want, when we want. Life is about enjoying the moment.

And where does God fit in? If God wants to catch us, he’d better have a cell-phone and voice-mail. Give us that rip-open-the-envelope-and-just-add-boiling-water instant spirituality, mocha-flavored, please. Give us a can of Christ-lite and a Jesus bagel, to go.

There once was a man named Nicodemus, a religious leader in Israel. He came to Jesus late one evening—secretly, because he wanted to protect his reputation. He was curious. He wanted to know if Jesus was the real deal, the Messiah, and he hoped to engage him in a stimulating tête-à-tête, or barring that, perhaps share a late-night spiritual snack. Nicodemus wasn’t looking for a chariot-load of “thou shalt nots”—he had life figured out. All he wanted was a chance to rub shoulders with the Son of God. But Jesus wasn’t offering drive-through service.

One night Nicodemus, a leading Jew and a Pharisee, came to see Jesus.
“Master,” he began, “we realize that you are a teacher who has come from God. Obviously no one could show the signs that you show unless God were with him.”
“Believe me,” returned Jesus, “a man cannot even see the kingdom of God without being born again.”
“And how can a man who’s getting old possibly be born?” replied Nicodemus. “How can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?”
“I assure you,” said Jesus, “that unless a person is born from water and from spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God…” —John 3:1-5, J.B. Phillips

This is not welcome news to those of us out cruising the highways on our choppers.

Born again. It’s a phrase that already carries a lot of cultural baggage. Some instinctively recoil on hearing it because of its association with Christian fundamentalism. Even Nicodemus found it difficult to understand, and he knew his way around the Torah. Born again? What on earth did Jesus mean by that?

To be born again means to make a fresh start, but not in the sense of writing down a list of New Year’s resolutions—it’s nothing as trivial as that. Being born again is like a personal Reformation. God nailed his list of ninety-five complaints to the cross and dares us to live differently. Being born again is about whole-life transformation.

Jesus described it as an organic process.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more… Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. —John 15:1,2,5, NLT (Jesus speaking)

We are like wild grape vines, tangled and barren. Grape vines without grapes are not much good. To be born again is to ask God to cut us free from our roots and graft us into Christ, the true vine. There, we draw up the rich nourishment of God himself, and we are changed. If we remain there, we’ll find ourselves bearing sweet, succulent grapes, and life itself will be sweeter.

There is no such thing as promiscuous Christianity. We will not find God by sprinkling spiritual pixie dust over our heads. True spirituality, Christian spirituality, means being grafted into God and letting him transform us right down to our very DNA. Being born again means dying to what we used to be and letting God make us new.

You may be nature’s child, but God wants to make you his child. You may have been born wild, but God wants you to put down roots. Park the Harley and start walking in the direction of Galilee. We were born to be born again.

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