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How to be Born Again

John 3:4-8
‘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!’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” 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.’ (NIVUK)

Nicodemus was the leading theologian of his day. He knew the spiritual and moral rules according to Moses, and he had extensively studied the Old Testament but instinctively felt that there must be more, and came to Jesus to find out (John 3:1-3).  He had been taught, and taught others, that God would be satisfied when people kept all of God’s laws, like Paul before his conversion (Philippians 3:4-6).  When Jesus told him that God’s Kingdom was only for those who were born again, it was a totally new idea to Nicodemus.    

‘What does it mean to be ‘born again’, and how is that possible?’, Nicodemus asked.  Clearly it is a ludicrous thought for a grown man to re-enter his mother’s womb!  Jesus did not answer the question of the mechanics of physical birth.  Instead, He responded by saying that being ‘born again’ involves being made clean from sin and being made holy.  Both realities were pictured in the Old Testament.  Sprinkling things or people with water was an Old Testament sign of purification (Leviticus 14:48-53; Numbers 19:18-19).  And the Spirit is God’s Holy Spirit who would change people’s hearts from the inside.

Nicodemus would have recognised God’s promise about water and the Spirit from Ezekiel 36:25-27: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  In other words, the ‘new birth’ is God’s work.  And the meteorological analogy about where the wind starts and finishes, underlined that the new birth is not under human control, but God’s.

Many people think that they are ‘all right for heaven’ because they have always gone to church, have had believing parents, have studied the Bible a lot or are morally good people.  No!  Trying to keep religious rules and giving money to a church does not let anyone into God’s Kingdom.  It should be no surprise that however good we try to be, the problem is how can we get rid of the badness?  Only Jesus can do that to make us new – removing our sin and giving us His Holy Spirit to provide His inner power for living a new life.  To summarise: none of us can earn or study our way to heaven, but God will forgive, and the Holy Spirit will enter, everybody who repents of their sins and trusts Jesus as their sin-substitute to give them new life.  It is such good news!  Why not watch www.crosscheck.org.uk and discuss it with your family and friends.

Life-giving Lord. Thank You that You have not abandoned sinners like me, but have provided a way for us to be saved. I am sorry when I forget how much You have done in my life and when I feel virtuous because of the good things I do. Please forgive me for taking away from Your glorious work which saved me and made me Your child, and a citizen of Your Kingdom. Help me to learn to expect You to give new life to all who repent and turn to Jesus as their Saviour. Help me to invest time and love in telling them how to be born again. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams