I’ve never thought of it this way.
I’m reading a book called Finally Alive, by John Piper, talking about the biblical concept of being born again. He reminds us that Jesus said “you must be born again” and not “I suggest it” or “Your life would improve if you added this experience”; that Jesus said no one can see God’s kingdom without being born again. And the bit that I think we often skim over is that being reborn involves dying, which is why, as Piper points out,
Until we realize that we must be born again, and why we must be born again, we probably will not realize what our condition really is without salvation.
In other words, being born again is a really drastic remedy (as it involves dying), and that gives us a very big and important clue as to how bad our condition really is.
He uses an analogy of a doctor’s diagnosis:
If you have a sore on your ankle and after the doctor does his test, he comes in and says, “I have hard news: We have to take your leg off just below the knee,” then that remedy tells you more about the sore than many erudite medical words. So it is with the remedy “You must be born again.”
You could go around thinking the sore on your ankle isn’t too bad, you could think it will probably just heal itself over time (I know that’s how I tend to think about physical ailments, and put off going to the doctor till it’s really unbearable) – but when the doctor says we’re going to have to amputate you, then you know that sore is really serious. Deadly serious. When the doctor says it’s either amputation or death, you realise how bad it is.
Similarly we humans are capable of going through life telling ourselves that we’re ok really, not perfect but not as bad as some, surely we can fix ourselves with a self help book or two, we can improve ourselves if only we follow those five easy steps, and anyway God won’t hold our minor imperfections against us, will he? But Jesus says: it’s so bad, you have to die.
Thankfully, you don’t have to die a physically painful and agonising death as Jesus did – he’s done that for you. You have to die in a different sense, a spiritual death – when you follow the biblical command to repent, believe and be baptised. Then you will be born again, a new person with God’s Spirit living in you and enabling you to do better.
But first you need to realise that yes, it’s that bad. The remedy is necessary because the malady is that serious.