CHARACTERISTICS OF STAGE ONE
In this first stage of the soul, the encounter with God’s perfect love in Jesus Christ is one that invites us to a radical change of mind, heart, body, and soul. God’s singular focus is to make us like Jesus Christ and be in relationship with Him. His love is unconditionally offered to us, but there must be a releasing of the rule of our own lives in order to surrender and receive His love.
Nicodemus was a man of excellent moral standing and religious credentials, being a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. He arrived in the cover of night honestly seeking. Nicodemus’s fine religious credentials did not impress Jesus nor did the earnest intentions of his heart. Jesus simply tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again,” using the metaphor of birth to illustrate that being redeemed is so radical, it is like being born all over again.
We are powerless to save ourselves. Like Paul we affirm, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:15, 18).
Jesus came to restore our broken and fragmented souls. He came to heal all the ways that sin has ruined us. In Jesus’ inaugural address in the temple, He stood up and read from the book of Isaiah.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18–19)
As soon as Jesus spoke, people noticed an unusual authority and vibrancy evident in every word. Then the moment came: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). The promise of God to His people was realized in the very presence of Jesus.
God flings open the prison doors of sin in our souls that have confined us and invites us to live a life fully in His presence. Jesus wants to set us free from our own sinful self-rule but also from rejection, abuse, shame, and despair. He invites us into a relationship of intimacy in which we need to let go of our performance mentality by trying to manage our own lives; to let go of our masks and facades; and to lay our sin, wounds, and burdens before Him and allow Him to forgive, heal, and renew us. God the Father adopts us as His sons and daughters to learn to live as He lived and to share His heart (Romans 5:10; 8:15).