Sunday, May 17, 2015

Jesus says You must be Born Again

A symbol of born again
After dark one evening, [Nicodemus] came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.’” (John 3:2-8, NLT)

This is one of the hard saying of Jesus. Nicodemus spoke as “we” and “us,” but Jesus looked him in the eyes and said, “Unless you’re born again.” Caught off guard, Nicodemus could only imagine one kind of birth – natural physical birth – the ludicrous picture of an adult receiving a second birth from his mother prompted Nicodemus’s question. Jesus replied was quite puzzling at first. He clarified by rephrasing and expanding his first statement. “Born again” was a new way to describe spiritual regeneration and conversion. “Born again” becomes “born of water and the Spirit.” Many see here a reference to baptism (in water) and baptism by the Spirit. But the immediate context supports the interpretation of physical birth and spiritual birth. The “again birth” follows the first birth that humans can produce. The change is so radical that it is equal in importance to our original birth. So, Jesus said, we shouldn’t be surprised by the standard: “You must be born again.”

Jesus equated “born again” with “born of the Spirit.” He was no longer speaking of the ultimate results of spiritual rebirth (citizenship in the Kingdom of God), but about how the Spirit works in someone’s life. The effects of God’s transforming power are like the evidence for the wind: You can hear it and see its effects, but you can’t see the wind itself. Now, we often explain our own conversion experience by focusing on what we did – prayed the prayer, raised the hand, knelt at the altar, wept in repentance – but those actions were a response to what God is doing.

Think about this: If you have experienced being born again, you have a story to tell. Whether that experience produced a radical shift in your life (like physical birth) or reflected more subtle and quiet changes (like the wind), life became different. This is what (real) conversion does – converts you to God’s way of thinking and living. Nicodemus had to question long held beliefs and re-examine his priorities. What has the Spirit been saying to you? How has the Holy Spirit produced spiritual life in you?

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