Recently I needed help inserting page numbers on a document where the first page would begin with a number other than “1.” For several days no matter what I did the computer keep inserting a “1” on the first page where I wanted a “7.” I resorted to my built-in “help” tutor and even sent an inquiry to a discussion group. No matter what I did, however, the computer still wanted to start my page with a page number that I did not want. Finally, “my little voice” told me to sit down with all the instructions that I had previously, either misread, misunderstood or ignored, to read them carefully-again, and to do what the instructions said do. After all, every discussion group response had told me, in plain English, what to do in order to get past what my computer was factor programmed to do. And so I did as I was instructed. When page “7” suddenly “appeared” in the bottom left corner of my document the sense of relief and accomplishment were overwhelming. “Thank you Jesus” was all that I could utter for solving what had been a very annoying problem. After I was finally able to move on to another part of the document, the “correct” page numbers reminded me that salvation was not unlike the problem that I had encountered with my computer’s “default” setting. It was like an instant “flash of comprehension” that explained why we must be “born-again” in order to be saved.
“Original sin” and “the fall of man” are two phrases used by theologians to explain Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden. I have heard sermon after sermon about the “original sin” having something to do with Eve “eating an apple” from an “apple tree.” (I have yet to find one scriptural passage that states that either an apple or an apple tree played a part in the dismissal of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.) I do not doubt, however, that Adam and Eve were stripped of the “essence of God within” because of their disobedience to God’s warning, “Ye shall not eat of it, (the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the Garden) neither shall ye touch it.” Likewise, I do not doubt that God exacted upon Adam and Eve His promised punishment, “lest ye die.”
“Original sin” and the punishment of “death” that Adam and Eve received for their disobedience, and its meaning for all future generations, is akin to a concept in law called “running with the land.” When something “runs with the land” it means that no matter who purchases or inherits a particular parcel of land, for generations to come some aspect or feature, such as a road across it or some other unique characteristic will always remain an inherent feature of that parcel of land, which the buyers or beneficiaries will receive, no matter what. “Running with the land” is a “built-in” feature, not unlike the factory “default” setting that I experienced when trying to begin a document with a page number other than “1.” “Original sin” likewise describes an inherent, “running with” or factory programmed built-in “default” feature, that all generations of man, and woman, have and will inherit. That built-in “default” feature is the absence of the “essence of God within” that Adam and Eve lost because of their disobedience. When Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden they departed without the “living” soul that God had breathed into Adam upon his creation. They left the Garden of Eden without the “essence of God Himself” within them. The also left with a new human characteristic that theretofore did not exist; they left as the first “walking dead.” Cain, the firstborn of Adam and Eve, was the first “inheritor” of this new “walking dead” feature that afflicted all generations to followed.
Enter Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Intermediary, the Sacrificial Lamb. Enter Jesus Christ, the Divine Restorer, sent by God to provide a way to override the built-in factory “default setting” that all of mankind inherited from Adam and Eve. Enter Jesus Christ the only One through whom the “essence of God Himself” can be re-quickened back to life in the “walking dead.”
I became born-again in 1981. I have come to stop using the redundancy “born-again Christian” because it is only Christianity that teaches “ye must be born again.” I now know that before I was born-again that I was a “walking dead” person. I now know that I was born with a human, built-in factory “default” setting. I inherited the same “walking dead” trait as the first offspring who got it-- Cain. I had nothing to do with what happened in the Garden of Eden. I had nothing to do with what my great-great-great….great grandparents Adam and Eve did. Yet I was born afflicted with the same “walking dead” gene that they carried out of the Garden of Eden.
What exactly is the human “walking dead” trait? In many ways it is the equivalent of the human DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that determines individual hereditary characteristics, with one glaring exception; you do not need a PhD in microbiology to understand it. The human “walking dead” trait can be explained in very simple and unscientific terms. You are born without the “essence of God Himself” within you and unless you become born-again you will die in that same state. In other words, you are born spiritually dead and unless and until you receive the “free gift” of the Holy Spirit, before you die, you will die spiritually dead. Period.
Becoming born-again for me came after 33 years of walking around dead. Of course I had no idea that I was dead. My first encounter with anyone, whom I listened to about salvation, came in 1979 while I was practicing law on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. I made very short shrift of the young man’s advice that I needed a “personal savior.” I had been baptized at the age of 12 and had not murdered anyone so why did I need a ”personal savior,” a savior for what? And I left the matter right there on the island and moved to Washington, D. C. where strange things started to happen. I started to want to read mly Bible and to learn more about Jesus Christ. I started to want to do certain things and not want to do others. I had no idea why. And so it persisted until one day in 1981 when I attended a church in Denver, Colorado. The guest pastor from Tulsa, Oklahoma spent the entire morning talking about “the Holy Spirit.” Even while listening to the pastor I refused to believe that there could be any such “ghostly” entity. I also had a healthy dose of skepticism about the kind of behavior that I had been witnessing, particularly people falling down from being “slain in the Spirit.” After all I was a lawyer, a University of Michigan Law graduate and some things were simply lacking in “proper” decorum. We used a phrase in law to explain lawyers who did not have much evidence but who engaged in a lot of theatrics, we called it a “dog and pony show.” As far as I was concerned being “slain in the Spirit” was a church ordained “dog and pony show.” At least it was until the pastor invited unbelievers who wanted to “know” for themselves that there is a Holy Spirit to come forward. To this day I do not know why I went forward—all I know is that my feet moved me from my chair and I found myself standing around the edge of the pulpit with a long line of similar unbelievers. As I stood in line the pastor started at the end of the line to my far left and raised his hand above person after person, all of whom slumped to the floor. I continued watching this “spectacle” until he got to me. I tried as hard as I could to stop the flood of electric energy that started at the top of my head and went through to my feet. It felt like a heavy feather. I tried hard to push the invisible “force” away and off of me. I couldn’t. I knew in an instant that something very out of the ordinary had happened. I knew in an instant that something overpowering, yet gentle, had manifested itself to me. I had had an “encounter” with “the Holy Spirit.” I later came to understand that the manifestation that I had experienced had to be equal to or greater than my unbelief. Some weeks later I asked Jesus to come into my life and to be my “personal savior.” Some months later I experienced the moment, the instant of being “born again.” It did not happen in a crowded church, it did happen during the singing of a tear-filled congregational hymn. I simply woke up and before I could get up, “something” came into me as if a wind quietly blew in. In that instant I “knew that I knew” that I had received the “free gift” of the Holy Spirit. In that instant I knew that I was born-again. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I ran all over the house crying, “thank you Jesus.” I also ran around all over the house screaming, “You devil, I got away, I got away, you didn’t get me, I got away.”
I consider my own born-again experience to be my divine authorization to speak about what I have called the factory installed “default setting” that all of mankind inherited from Adam and Eve. I do not believe that my experience is in any way unique since millions of people profess to have had the “born- again” experience. I know that God deals with each of us as unique individuals and that each “born-again” experience is unique to each individual. When I reflect now on the moment when I became “born-again” I know that was the moment, the very instant, when the “essence of God Himself” was “quickened,” that is, brought back to life, within me and that I was no longer a “walking dead” person. I know now that becoming “born-again” is simply another way of saying that my Adam and Eve genetically inherited, “walking dead,” characteristic has been changed and I am now a new creature. I now understand that asking Jesus Christ to come into my life and to save me was an invitation for Him to restore in me the “essence of God Himself” which is the free gift of the Holy Spirit. I now understand what the young man meant when he told me that I needed a “personal savior.” I now understand who Jesus Christ is and why He came into this world--to divinely and individually override the human “default setting” that made all of humanity the “walking dead.” I now know that the instant that I was “born-again” was the moment when Jesus Christ divinely did just that, for me. And, not unlike the built-in default page number settings on my computer, there is a way of overriding the built-in “human default setting.” Through Jesus Christ there is indeed a way to “escape” an automatic default page “1” and to begin life anew on page “7.”