Today we read John 1-4, about Jesus’ interactions with several people in the early stages of His ministry. Their stories inspire us to respond.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a very religious man who held authority. He would have known the scriptures backward and forwards. Jesus had caught his attention when word spread of His turning water into wine, and he could have even been present when Jesus cleared the temple courts of the merchants in His righteous indignation. But he had a reputation to protect, so he came to Jesus at night to find out for himself the answers to his questions.
Jesus goes straight to the heart of the matter. It seems He is answering a question that Nicodemus hasn’t yet asked. God always sees what’s in our hearts, even when we haven’t acknowledged it! He tells Nicodemus in no uncertain terms, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” He repeats Himself and makes it even more clear: “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.’” (John 3:1-21)
“Born again” is perceived as an “old-fashioned” word, but here’s the truth according to Jesus. None of us are getting to heaven without it. To be born again is more than simply making a decision on our own terms that we want to be good people and earn our way to heaven. It is recognizing our sin, repenting of it, and asking God for salvation – for Him to do what only He can do, which is to give us spiritual life.
The other stories I read today complete the picture of what must happen for new birth to occur. John the Baptist tells us, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36) The woman at the well met Jesus personally, and believed Him when He said, “I am He [the Messiah you are waiting for].” (John 4:26) The people in her city didn’t take her word only; they believed because “we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42) The official at Capernaum “took Jesus at His word” and returned home, where he found his son had been healed just as Jesus said; as a result, he and his whole household believed. (John 4:46-54)
Jesus will tell us many times over that He is the only way to heaven. We must be born again. Do you believe Jesus’ words? Have you been born again? If you have, I will see you in heaven! If you are not born again, I beg you to take Jesus at His word and believe. You must be born again.