Focus: John 3:1-21
In the late 1970’s, President Jimmy Carter created quite a stir when he labeled himself “a born again Christian.” Carter, who is a Baptist, used this term to identify himself with a group of people who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and who have trusted Him with all of life. But where did he get this idea and what does it mean?
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, one of the religious rulers in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees believed that a person would gain God’s pleasure by keeping the laws of the Old Testament. If you were good and kept the law, they might say, you would inherit the kingdom. These very Pharisees ended up being the group that opposed Jesus so strongly, which led to his execution by crucifixion. But something about Jesus caught Nicodemus’ eye. Being afraid to be seen with Jesus, Nicodemus came to visit him at night to get some answers.
Jesus reply is one of the strangest ideas in the Bible, “You must be born again to see God’s Kingdom.” When you first read this, you may end up thinking exactly what Nicodemus thought, “How can I go back to my mom and be born a second time?” But, Jesus was not referring to a physical birth, but a Spiritual birth.
You see, before a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, he or she is spiritually dead. That person has no spiritual life, and no ability to reach or respond to God. But when a person is saved, God touches that person, comes to live inside him or her, and gives that person a new inner life. The Holy Spirit comes into that person’s life and changes him or her. The person has been taken from death to life spiritually.
On the day you were born physically, something drastic happened. Before your birth, you were living, but had no ability to interact with the outside world because you were still in the womb and could not breath air. Shortly after birth, something wild took place. It may have happened because the doctor spanked your rear, or just because you wanted to cry, but suddenly your lungs got filled with air, and you let everyone know that you were here. Before you were saved (if you are a follower of Jesus), you were living, but had no ability to interact with God because of your sin. But at the moment you were saved, God breathed His life into you and for the first time you were alive spiritually. This is what it means to be born again. Without this new birth, the life of God changing your life, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.
The theological term we use to explain the new birth is “regeneration” (which means to be born again). By using the term, we are saying that a person who was dead to God has been changed by His power and made alive in Jesus. This new life is what opens the spiritual eyes of a person and leads them to believe in Jesus. Every once in a while, you may hear this word in one of Mike’s messages or read it in a theological book. When you do hear it or read it, think about Nicodemus, and his conversation with Jesus.