Read: John 3:1-21
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3
You’re at a football game or some other sporting event and somewhere in the stands you spot a familiar sign – it’s one of the most recognized scriptures in the Bible – John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 is the first scripture I memorized as a new Christian and it certainly sums up the gospel of Christ in one beautiful sentence.
But there are some other verses in the 3rd chapter of John that did trip me up a good bit – especially early on as a new Christian. Like that whole thing about being “born again.” I had heard of being born again, but not because I read about it in the Bible. I had some distant (but close enough to do damage) relatives who were “born again Christians.” You probably know people just like them, walking around with their toothy grins, never a bad day because God is good (wait for it . . .) all the time!! Life was good for them because they were part of the born again club, but as for me and my immediate family – we were riding in the fast lane on the highway to hell and they never missed a chance to point that out!
So when I became a Christian at the age of 15 (in spite of the aforementioned relatives awesome evangelism techniques) I was stunned to hear that I had become “born again.” As a matter of fact, I told my Bible study leader no way, no how, he must be mistaken because I was for sure, definitely NOT one of THOSE people! But as we continued to study John 3 and talk about what it meant, I backed away from the edge of the cliff and heard the words spoken by Jesus for the first time. And for the first time those words brought hope instead of dread and it was like the truth and the loving compassion of Jesus washed over me – washed away the condemnation and disapproval those same words brought when used as a club.
At 15 I was just beginning to glimpse the meaning of being born again. Everything felt so different then. One week, I was a just a goofy, awkward 15 year old with lots of questions about life and God and Jesus – and the next week I had given my life to Him and I felt it in every ounce of my being. Some people have said that becoming a Christian (or being born again) is like seeing everything in black and white – and then you give your life to Christ and all of sudden, you’re living in color. It’s awesome.
Now, at age (take your best guess!), I’m long past the honeymoon phase of my new life in Christ and living out this “born again” existence takes some work. It would be so easy to just live my life in the comfort and assurance of that decision made at 15. But while that one decision may have cancelled the consequence of my sin nature – I still have a sin nature. Just ask Chris and our kids :)!
In our passage today, Nicodemus begins his conversation with Jesus by acknowledging that he knows Jesus has come from God because he’s seen the miracles and heard His teachings. But Jesus replies by essentially saying – that’s not enough. He tells him that no one will see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again. So Nicodemus believed in Jesus – but Jesus said it needs to go further than that. It takes more than belief. You must become a new person. You must be born again.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come.” What an incredible statement of hope to anyone who has ever wanted to just start over! This is the gift of God – He sent His Son not to condemn the world, but to save it! And we get to start over!! (I know I’m using a lot of exclamation points here – but this is really, really exciting!!!!)
So what does the term “born again” mean to you? I hope that if those words have been a source of confusion or condemnation for you, that reading this scripture passage and hearing those words in the way Jesus intended them will bring healing and freedom to your soul.
Jesus – thank you for making me new. And not just on that first day when I confessed my need for you – but every day thereafter! You are so good. I worship you, Lord, and I’m so grateful for your love. May we all experience your love in a new way today. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.