In previous blogs, I have covered the top ten teachings according to the frequency with which Christ taught. You can access a free download of ‘What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus’ here. Continuing now with Christ’s additional teachings. The next of which is ‘be born again’.
Now there was a certain man, named Nicodemus. He came to Jesus at night and said to Him, “Rabbi (Teacher), we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs [these wonders, these attesting miracles] that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.”
How can a man be born when he is old?
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God… The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it is coming from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:2
The term ‘born again’ is often ridiculed on earth. ‘Are you one of those born againers?’ we may be asked. But there will come a day when they will wish they had understood what Jesus had to say on the matter. Many take this scripture to be associated with the day they first believed in Jesus. That defining day when they stepped out of the darkness and into the light. But I believe it goes much further than this.
The difference between a surrendered life and a filled life
Rees Howells was born in 1879 in Wales. He had a remarkable heart to know God at all cost. Howells came to know God in 1904 at the time of the Welsh revival when 100,000 people were convicted and converted to Christianity. This led to a further one million being converted in England which then spread to other parts of the world. From this time he developed a lifestyle of deep prayer and went on to carry the revival to Africa and to eventually establish the Bible College of Wales along with a school and hospital. They would hold morning and evening prayers.
In 1936 (some 32 years after his conversion experience) during these prayer meetings the Holy Spirit became evident. He started showing them the difference between a surrendered life and a life of the Holy Spirit living in them and through them. They were shown how much there was in them that still wanted to live their own lives. Just as Jesus went to the Cross, so are we expected to lay our lives fully down on the ‘altar’ to God. No longer living unto ourselves fulfilling our own desires. But living for Him.
Luke 9:24 whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake, he is the one who will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God]. As Jesus said ‘you must be born again’. To be born again means a true death of our old selves and having a spiritual ‘rebirth’ of the Holy Spirit living inside of us.
Henry says – ‘In John 3 Nicodemus came to talk with Christ about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation. Christ tells him that he can have no benefit unless there be a change of the spirit, equivalent to a new birth. The Lord Jesus started His response with: ‘Verily, verily, I say to thee’, so this may be read: “I the faithful and true witness.” The matter is settled irreversibly that except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
What is required to be born again?
What is required to be born again? First, we must live a new life. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again is to begin anew, as those that have lived either much amiss or to little purpose. We must not think to patch up the old building, but begin from a new foundation. Secondly, We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. We must be born again from above. We must be born anew. By our first birth we are corrupt, moulded in sin and iniquity. We must, therefore, undergo a second birth, our souls must be enlivened anew.
This new birth arises from heaven (John 1:13 who were born, not of blood [natural conception], nor of the will of the flesh [physical impulse], nor of the will of man [that of a natural father], but of God [that is, a divine and supernatural birth—they are born of God—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified]). We are so born to a divine and heavenly life, a life of communion with God and the heavenly world. We can partake of a divine nature and bear the image of the heavenly.
Christ spoke of this crucial necessity
Christ spoke of the crucial necessity of this: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We cannot understand the nature of it. Such is the nature of things pertaining to the kingdom of God (in which Nicodemus desired to be instructed). The soul must be re-modelled and moulded, the natural man must become a spiritual man, before he is capable of receiving and understanding anything. 1 Cor. 2:14 But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him. Secondly, We cannot receive the comfort of it, cannot expect any benefit by Christ and his gospel, nor have any part or lot in the matter (unless we be born again). In God alone can we be happy and know what heaven is, in which the perfection of our happiness is reserved.
The change is not brought by the power and influence of the Holy Spirit
To be born again is to be born of the Spirit. The change is not brought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power and influence of the Holy Spirit of grace. It is His inspiration, and He who works on the heart that He has access to.
When the soul is brought to mourn for sin, to groan under the burden of corruption, to breathe after Christ, to cry ‘Abba—Father’, then we hear the sound of the Spirit, we find Him at work.
The truths of Christ are of undoubted certainty. We have all the reason in the world to be assured that the sayings of Christ are faithful sayings, that we may venture our souls upon them. He spoke from the clearest evidence, and therefore with the greatest assurance. What He spoke of God, of the invisible world, of heaven and hell, of the Divine will concerning us was what He knew, and what He had seen.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Where are we? have we truly been ‘born again’? are our lives fully indwelt by the Spirit of God? If not, that door is open to us, if we be willing.
Quench not the Spirit The Holy Spirit wants to fill you With His love that will never fail. He wants to take command Of that little vessel in which you sail. You may be a passenger on board Or simply one of the crew But the role of being in charge Ought not be for you. When the Spirit of God is in command of the vessel Then the Spirit of God is at hand Waiting to sweep you majestically Across the sea to the promised land By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, I ask that You take charge of my vessel this day. Take ownership of my life and make it useful to You. For I see that is the best life and the way to everlasting life in You. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.