This morning I turned on my laptop and found a gazzilion pop ups that kept me from doing anything on it. I spent some time on my laptop defining and locating the spyware, malware, rogue whatever. After several attempts to remove it, I decided to reformat and do a fresh install of Windows XP. In the end the tech folks suggested this was the best solution for this particular threat. I had backed up everything of consequence and therefore this would be a time consuming but rather painless solution.
It occurs to me there is a parallel here worth exploiting. As people we try to fix what is wrong with us. We are willing to listen to the spiritual gurus of the moment, we work at this with some diligence, but we are not so easily rid of the threats created by sin and its death. We may benefit temporarily from some of these approaches but what we really need is a fresh install, to be born again. That is exactly what God offers to us in baptism -- the chance to be born not from below but from above by the Spirit who connects us to Jesus' death and resurrection so that the salutary benefits of that dying and rising again are accorded to us.
But how we resist this -- even after the new birth is accorded to us in the cleansing waters of our baptism we long for the previous life. A part of us tries over and over again to return to that old life and to leave behind all that Christ came to give us. Though we knew the misery of that lost life, it was so familiar to us we find ourselves almost nostalgic of it and fearful of the new life born of water and the Spirit.
The great struggle of the Christian life is lived out in the tension of what was and what is (in Christ), of what we lost and left there in baptism and what we gained and carry with us by faith, of who we were and who we have been made to be as God's own children... In the end it seems too radical a need to be born completely anew -- just a few tweaks and we think we would be fine. Even after baptism this mortal nature is so rooted in the lie of our past that it is almost as if we regret our new birth.
All in all it is a waste of time -- this life of regret and fear. It distances us from the new reality that is genuine and real. It occupies our time and energy instead of living out what God has given us as new. It steals our focus to the past instead of to the present and future.
Sin has so embedded itself in our nature that we cannot be healed a bit at a time. Radical problems mean a radical solution. So as I wait for the fresh install that will make my laptop factory new... I pray how I might live out more fully the gift of new life that was given to me in Baptism... how I might die as the old self and rise up to live more purposefully the new self that God made me in those cleansing waters... where death gave way to life...