“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.”’” John 3:1-7
For an upstanding, on-the-surface-righteous Pharisee who had risked his reputation to approach Jesus, this requirement to be born again was startling and confusing. Why would he need to change at all, and besides, how could he possibly enter his mother’s womb again? But Jesus’s words dug deep, aimed to penetrate the soul and spirit of this legalistic leader. It was not Nicodemus’s behavior He was after, but his heart, and any heart not reborn cannot be His, no matter outward conformity to morality or rules.
Whatever our lives look like, unless we are born again, we cannot be God’s child. Today, we want our first birth to be sufficient. We want to be affirmed for who we are, for all our bents and choices, all our natural tendencies and hard-wired personalities. We strut our stuff for the world to see and celebrate, and expect God will join in the party. But our Savior’s words will quash our frivolity if we are willing to hear and heed: we must be born again.
Every one of us is born with inordinate affections, proclivities that are not of God, and He knows it. This has been the case since Eden, and Jesus graciously offers a way out. To say that because I was born this way you must accept it, is either not to hear Jesus’s clear words, or to ignore them as irrelevant for me. Jesus is no respecter of persons; His command is for all. We must be born of the Spirit if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Romans 5:12,15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:45; Hebrews 4:12)
Why do I resist His words? Because I am in love with ruling my life? Do I chafe at His command as harsh, because He made me the way I am and I’m fine, thank you, instead of receiving it as a gracious invitation to believe in Him and have life abundant and eternal as a new creation? How compellingly do I extend His loving offer to the Nicodemuses in my life? (John 3:16; 10:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17)
O God, thank You for not leaving us to ourselves, for Your gift of rebirth, of salvation. Please awaken those dead to You to heed Your call to be born again, and may we all live and move and have our full being in You. (Acts 17:28)