John 3:1-7–There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.'”
We throw around terms like “born again” all of the time in the church world, and just assume that everyone knows what we mean. But what Jesus was telling Nicodemus was unheard of in that time. Jesus had just told him to be born again. It sounded ridiculous to Nicodemus, who was probably expecting a reply like, “To see the Kingdom of God, you must follow the whole law of Moses.”
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, part of the religious leaders of the day. Jesus dealt with them a lot during His time on Earth, and they always tended to be very legalistic in what they did. Many of the Pharisees thought that in order to please God, they needed to make sure that they did everything right. They performed in order to earn God’s favor, but missed that what He really wanted was a connection with them.
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is the backdrop to one of the most prominent, famous verses in the Bible:
John 3:16-17–For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
When Jesus said to be born again, He was saying that when we put our faith in Him, He will give us a new spiritual life. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says,“He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” We still have problems and we still make mistakes. But by aligning ourselves with Him, we are given a new identity.
When we let Christ define us, sin loses the hold it has on our lives. All that it takes is trusting that Christ is who He said He is: God in the flesh, who came down to the Earth, died to take the penalty for our mistakes, and rose from the dead to show that He has power even over death. Nothing we do can earn that kind of love; we just receive it as God’s gift to us.