“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (KJV)
This statement of Jesus confused Nicodemus. It might also confuse us. What does it mean to be born again? What Jesus is hinting at here is the radical nature of transformation that the Christian goes through when they accept the truth of the Gospel. It is nothing less than being born a second time. To paraphrase Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17, we become something completely new, the old that we were is gone and all we are is fresh and newborn.
The image of being born again is an image of total and complete change. But so often we are still holding on to that old life, that old way of doing things. Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus about flesh giving birth to flesh and the Spirit giving birth to the spirit. When we make a choice to believe in the grace and love of Jesus as our savior, then we are meant to put away the flesh-- all the things that tie us to the old, human way of life. We become a spiritual being, living a spiritual life in the grace that God blesses us with. But are we willing to give up the flesh?
The things of the flesh aren’t just the nasty, evil stuff we might imagine. The things of the flesh are all those thoughts and actions that are a result of our own selfish will. Some of them might even have a varnish of respectability on them. But the problem is that we do them because we want to do them, not because Jesus calls us to do them. We haven’t surrendered our will to God, and so we are still living in the flesh. We are afraid that God is going to turn us into something we don’t want to be, that we are going to have to give up control, so we resist this new birth.
The idea of being born again, while it does make us stop and think, is such a wonderful and rich illustration. When we are in the flesh, we call our own shots and follow our own path-- all the way to destruction. When we are born again, we become like a child. We become spiritual infants, totally dependent and held in the loving arms of our Father. We have been born of the Spirit and the Spirit of God now guides us, directs us, and empowers us. God is now in charge, wholly and completely.
What does our life look like? Does it look like we are committed to being God’s new- born children, wholly dependent on Him and His guidance? Have we released our old will and accepted God’s because only God’s will is perfect? Or does our life indicate that we are still children of the flesh, selfishly pursuing our own agendas? Being born again can release us from the struggle and pain of trying to go our own way, and that way truly does lead to pain and struggle. In being born again, we become God’s, we belong to Him and we can enjoy the peace and protection that following His will gives us. We really can see the Kingdom of God.
See you Sunday! John