3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?"
This week we will begin to study one of the most important chapters in the gospel of John; it is one of the chapters that people turn to again and again, and memorize portions of it, too. I pray that it will be meaningful to all of us.
What is the new birth? What is being "born again"?
We hear those terms used so much -- sometimes so casually. Let's dig in and make certain that we know what John wants us to know. Remember why he is writing -- he wants us to "get it." To understand that Jesus is God, that He came to save, and that John wants to show us His glory.
Jesus was speaking to all of us when He talked to Nicodemus. Nicodemus wasn't a special case -- we must all be born again or we will not see the kingdom of God. We will not be saved; we will not be part of God's family; we will not go to heaven.
Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees, the most religious Jewish leaders. Jesus said to them (you can read this in Matthew 23:15 and following) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. . . . You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”
So even the most religious among us must pay close attention to the new birth, being born again.
I'm sure that was a little shocking to Nicodemus. And it may shock people today. They may think, "Well, I am a good person. I give to worthy causes, and try to help others. I even go to church every Sunday." But are we born again?
What Jesus says about the new birth confronts all of us with our hopeless spiritual condition, apart from the grace of God. Before the new birth happens to us, we are truly spiritually dead. Even the most generous and ethical among us are still morally selfish, and spiritually rebellious, not accepting God's mercy. And we are legally guilty before the law of God, and in front of His holiness. When Jesus tells us that we need to be born again, He is telling us that our present condition is corrupt, guilty, and hopeless without His help. Oh, we don't like to hear that about ourselves. Nicodemus probably didn't like it, either.
Another thing that may shock people is that the new birth refers to something that is done to us, and for us; it is not something that we do. Being independent and self sufficient and achieving things is what cranks a lot of human beings' tractors. They are proud of their accomplishments, and rightly so. But the new birth is not something we can achieve alone.
In I Peter 1:3 we read, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again."
You see, we do not cause the new birth -- God causes it. Any good things that we do are a result of our being born again; they are not the cause of the new birth. So, it's not in our control, and it makes us confront our helplessness and dependence on God.
Some of us are not happy campers with those thoughts.
So, as we begin to study the new birth, let's focus on these verses and learn what John wants us to know. Let's keep this in mind, as well:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”God loves to magnify the riches of his life-giving grace where Christ is lifted up in truth. I pray that we will learn more, praise God for His mercy, and that perhaps some who not yet born again, may accept God's gift of eternal life.
See you tomorrow.