John 3:1-10: You must be born again
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Would the child you were be proud of the person you have become? No doubt the answer to this is mixed, but many of us can feel weighed down by the past, the decisions we have made, the errors and sins we have committed. At times we may catch ourselves thinking that it would be great if we could have a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean sheet of paper. But is this possible?
With these thoughts we come to John 3 where Jesus meets Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a ruler of the Jews, a Pharisee. We are a little on guard after chapter 2. He also comes by night, in the darkness, and in the gospel of light this is not a good place. The darkness is a place of ignorance and rejection.
Nicodemus sounds like he honours Jesus when he says he is a teacher come from God, and that God is with him. This is a good assessment but while it may be true it is not the whole truth. Nicodemus is like many in our world, they sound like they honour Jesus but they do not acknowledge who he really is. Jesus’ reply seems to have very little to do with the statement that Nicodemus has just made. It is like he is having a different conversation. What is going on?
Nicodemus has made an assessment about Christ; he has claimed to know who Jesus is. When Jesus says that ‘No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born from again’, he is saying to Nicodemus, do you really know me? In fact, how can you know who I am?
When Jesus says ‘born again’ he uses a word that has two possible meanings: born again or born from above. Nicodemus understands Jesus as meaning ‘born again’. In John 3:31 we see that Jesus meant ‘born from above’. In the end it doesn’t really matter because the underlying point is the same. Nobody can know who Jesus is, no-one can come into a relationship with God, or see the kingdom unless God acts. They must be born again.
Nicodemus asks about the possibility of being born again. His statement about age and re-entering wombs almost sound like he is mocking Jesus. Jesus’ reply in verse 5 says that a person needs to be born of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of God. The background here is Ezekiel 36 which speaks of God’s action of cleansing human hearts with water and then transforming those hearts by his Spirit. These are complementary actions to bring a person to relationship with God.
Nicodemus asks how these things can be. Jesus replies that he should know this as a teacher of Israel. This should be common ground between them. At its heart is the truth that God must work in a person’s life for them to see the kingdom, in John’s more regular expression, to enjoy eternal life.
And the good news is that this is what God does for his children. He enables the ultimate fresh start, by washing people clean and regenerating them by his Spirit he gives his children the ultimate new beginning. They can be born again, they can be born from above, they can see the kingdom of God.
John 1:13 reminds us that we are children of God through God’s action alone. We have contributed nothing. All is of grace. And for that we should give humble and hearty thanks.
And we can pray for those who don't know Jesus truly, that the Spirit would blow their way, make them to be born again, and enable them, also, to see the kingdom of God.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, your unworthy servants give humble and hearty thanks for all your goodness and loving kindness to us and to all people. We thank you above all for your amazing love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace; and for the hope of glory. We pray for those who do not yet know your love that you will be gracious to them and make them to be born again as your children by the power of your Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ name.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
From October 21-23, the Anglican Church of the Holy Spirit (commonly referred to as PAES) hosts a conference celebrating 25 years since its foundation. PAES is also the National Cathedral for the Anglican Church in Brazil, planting 6 churches and leading the vision for Anglicanism in Brazil. Pray for God's blessing on the celebrations, the speakers, Archbishop Miguel, and the vision going forwards.
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