Born of the Spirit

John 3:1-12 ESV

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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 marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

Born Again

When we are born into this world physically, coming from the wombs of our mothers, we are born of water. There is no need to make of this more than what it is, for this is the context. Nicodemus’ question to Jesus was indicative that he was thinking Jesus was referring to physical birth.

So, Jesus explained to Nicodemus that we have a physical birth, but we also need to have a spiritual birth. We need both. One is of the flesh (human), and the other is of the Spirit (spiritual). When we come into this world we are born physically, but now we need to be born spiritually.

When we are born physically into this world it is something that can physically be seen with our eyes. I have watched at least five of my fourteen grandchildren be born. There is nothing like it, for sure! It is a wonderful sight to behold when a child is born into this world.

But spiritual birth is not something we can see with our eyes or touch with our hands. We can see the results (fruit) of it in the person’s life who is born again of the Spirit of God, if indeed they have been born again, but we can’t physically see the birth take place. For, it is spiritual, not physical.

So, if we can’t see this spiritual birth take place, how do we know it has taken place? How does it work, exactly? And how should our lives be different after we have been born again of the Spirit of God?

Spiritual Birth

What does it mean to be born again? Well, it definitely means we are starting over. We have a new life that we didn’t have before, and this one is of the Spirit of God, not of the flesh. So, the life we live after we are born of the Spirit shouldn’t look like the life we lived before we were born again.

And, it is of the Spirit, and not of the flesh, so if of the Spirit of God then we, who are born of the Spirit, should look like our parent. We should look like God, not in physical form, but in spiritual form. We should look like him in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:17-24).

And the way that this comes about is by God’s grace, through God-given faith in Jesus Christ. And the way the Scriptures describe that faith is that it means we must die with Christ to sin, we are changed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and we must now walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 1 Jn 1:5-9).

Remember here that this new life in Christ means we are born again. We are starting over with a new life different from the old life. We didn’t just take on some new status, but we took on a new way of living, no longer for the flesh, but now for the Spirit of God.

For, Jesus didn’t die on that cross merely to forgive us our sins, but he died to transform us and to make us like him. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (1 Pet 2:24; 2 Co 5:15, 21; Rom 6:1-23).

You Do Not Receive

Nicodemus didn’t receive what Jesus had to teach him, not because he was ignorant, for he was schooled in the Scriptures, and he taught the Scriptures, but he didn’t want to believe. He wanted to remain ignorant. For, if he accepted what Jesus taught, he would be responsible for what he knew.

That didn’t get him off the hook, though. The Scriptures are clear that we are all without excuse if we choose to refuse God and to go our own way, instead. We are all going to reap what we sow. We are all going to be judged by our deeds (Rom 1:18-32; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8).

We can claim ignorance all we want, but we are not ignorant. We either choose to believe in Jesus or we choose to not believe in Jesus. But belief in Jesus is not some mere acknowledgment of him. It is death to our old way of life, and it is being reborn of the Spirit of God to newness of life in Christ.

And, when we are reborn, the Holy Spirit of God now comes to live inside of us to lead, counsel, guide, direct and empower our lives. For, now Jesus is our Lord (owner-master), and we belong to him. We are his possession, so now our lives are to be lived for his glory and honor.

Our lives are no longer our own to be lived however we want. If that is what we think, then we aren’t born again. Born again means changed. It means we aren’t like we were before. We don’t do the same things as we did before. Now our desire is for Christ, to walk according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh.

For, if we continue to walk (live) according to the flesh, we are going to die in our sins, not have eternal life with God (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Rom 2:6-8; Gal 6:7-8; 1 Jn 1:5-9; Lu 9:23-26).

So, if we want salvation from sin and eternal life with God, we need to surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, turn away from our lives of sin, and now walk in the Spirit according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, and then we will be saved and have eternal life with God (Rom 6:1-23).

Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet

Frances J Crosby, 1880
William H. Doane, 1876

“Though your sins be as scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they be red like crimson,
They shall be as wool!”
“Though your sins be as scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow.”

Hear the voice that entreats you,
Oh, return ye unto God!
He is of great compassion,
And of wondrous love;
Hear the voice that entreats you,
Oh, return ye unto God!

He’ll forgive your transgressions,
And remember them no more;
“Look unto Me, ye people,”
Saith the Lord your God!
He’ll forgive your transgressions,
And remember them no more.

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