A Pharisee named Nicodemus came to visit Jesus at night. He began his conversation with Jesus with a statement seemingly intended to flatter Jesus, i.e. “to praise someone in order to get something that you want, especially in a way that is not sincere” (Macmillandictionary.com).
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NASB)
Jesus saw right through Nicodemus’ flattery, and he got right to the point of the matter. He knew what was in the man’s heart. He knew his motivation for coming to talk with Jesus at night. And, so he spoke right to the heart of the man, and he told him what he needed most.
But, Nicodemus didn’t understand, not because he didn’t know the scriptures, for he did. He possessed great knowledge of the Word of God. Yet, he didn’t understand Jesus’ words because he would not believe what the scriptures taught with regard to Jesus Christ, their Messiah and Lord (God), and with regard to our salvation.
Nicodemus responded to Jesus’ words with the mind of the natural man who is not able to discern what is of the Spirit. He thought Jesus was talking about physical birth, so Jesus went on to clarify his statement even more:
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into 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 be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7 NASB)
Many people have taken these words totally out of context and have made them say something they don’t intend to say, so just let me say upfront that this is NOT talking about baptism when it uses the term “water.”
For, in context, Jesus was speaking of natural birth by water from a woman in contrast to spiritual birth which is of the Spirit of God. He was letting Nicodemus know that he not only had to be born physically, but that he had to be born spiritually of the Spirit of God if he wanted to have eternal life with God. He had to be “born again,” only this time of the Spirit.
And, being “born again” is like starting over again, not as a human baby, but in the spiritual realm. For, we are born with sin natures, separate from God, without hope. Now we are born of God, and we are cleansed of our sins, and we are delivered from the control of the sin nature over our lives. Now, in the power of God’s Spirit living within us, we can walk in holiness and purity and righteousness, and we can live lives which are pleasing to God and which can be used of him for his glory and for his purposes and will.
But, many people today, just like Nicodemus, claim to know God, and they may even have much knowledge of scriptures, too, but yet they will act ignorant of those truths because they don’t want to believe what they teach. For, believing would mean that they would have to act on what they professed, and many professors of Christ want to remain in their sins.
Nonetheless, Jesus provided the way out from underneath our slavery to sin via his death on a cross, so that we might be saved through Him.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17 NASB)
One of the drawbacks to translations of the scriptures into various languages is that not all languages share the same verb tenses. For, from the original language in which this was written, the word “believes” should be translated as “believing,” for it is present tense, not past tense.
In other words, we can’t “believe” in Jesus past, and have that secure for us eternity with God if we don’t believe in Jesus present tense. For, we must continue to the end, scripture teaches. We must hold on to the faith, and persevere, and walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh if we want to have the assurance of our salvation and eternal life with God.
For, the word “believe” has to do with divine persuasion as to God’s holiness and righteousness, and as to our need to forsake our former lives of living for sin and self to follow Jesus Christ in obedience to his will for our lives. Over and over again in the New Testament we are taught that we must walk in obedience to our Lord, and we must not follow after the flesh, or else what we can expect is eternal damnation not eternal life with God.
Many people read this scripture here, too, and they use it to claim that Jesus did not come to judge anything or anyone, but that is not true. There are other scriptures which state that he did come to judge, such as the one where he says he didn’t come to bring peace to the world but a sword, and to turn family members one against another.
He was not promoting that we hate and fight against one another, though, but he was making his followers aware of the fact that when we truly become his followers, in the truest sense of “follower,” that many of our family members may turn against us if they are not true followers of Christ, too. Jesus experienced this with some of his family members and neighbors and fellow “church” goers and “church” leaders, and we will, also.
As well, Jesus did not mince words when he told the people plainly the cost of following him. He said we have to leave it all behind to follow him. We have to deny self and take up our cross daily and follow him in obedience to his Word. For, if we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self we will lose them for eternity. Yet, if we lose our lives for the sake of Christ, i.e. if we die with him to sin and live with him to righteousness, then we will have eternal life with him (See Lu. 9:23-25; cf. Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24).
So, if we die with Christ to sin so that we might live with him to righteousness, in the power and working of the Spirit within us, then we do not come under condemnation. But, if we choose to keep our old lives, and to keep our sinful addictions, and to walk in them instead, then we are already judged.
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:18-21 NASB)
And, what is that judgment? Basically, we are all given a choice to believe in Jesus or to not believe in him. All of mankind has had God revealed to them through his created works so that none of us have any excuse for not worshiping the One and Only True God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For, it is not that we don’t know of God or that we can’t see his divine character through the things which he has created, but that we choose to follow him or we choose to follow our own flesh, instead. And, we will reap what we sow.
So, what is belief? It is to choose Jesus, and it is to choose to walk in the Light and no longer in the darkness. It is not just acknowledging who he was and is, and what he did for us. It is not just accepting his forgiveness, too, because without repentance there can be no forgiveness. Belief in Jesus means we leave our lives of sin behind us and we now walk in His light and in His truth according to His will and in His power and strength within us. It is surrender to our Lord in every area of our lives because we love him and we want to serve him with our lives because of what he did for us, too.
A Believer’s Prayer
An Original Work / July 31, 2012
With my whole heart, Lord, I pray
To be Yours, and Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.
Love You, Jesus, You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.
Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride, I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.
Saturday, September 29, 2018, 6:00 a.m. – Thank You, Jesus, for giving your life up for us on that cross and for coming back to life so that we can die with you to sin and live with you to righteousness. Amen!