John 3:1-8 New Living Translation (NLT)
3 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 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.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
Titus 3:3-7, NLT Paul writes:
Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—
When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
Regeneration, being born again, is one of the foundational doctrines, an important principle, of our Christian Faith.
Without being born again, Jesus teaches that one cannot be part of the Kingdom of God. Without a new birth, or without regeneration, one is not saved. We need to be spiritually renewed by faith in Jesus in order to inherit eternal life and eternal joy in Him.
The commentary of the NIV Fire Bible teaches us that, “Regeneration, or spiritual birth, is an inward re-creating of a person spiritually- a life transformation from the inside-out.”
Man, do I feel like Nicodemus sometimes. I think we all must, especially when first coming to faith in Jesus. In our passage, Jesus clearly lays out to Nicodemus that one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus, like many of us, think in things that we are familiar with. Born again.. labor pains, birth. What? Nicodemus doesn’t understand. He’s not seeing it. He is blind in the spiritual ways, he needs the eyes to see. The heart to understand. The Holy Spirit’s guidings and promptings to just get it.
We need life-change. Without it, we are separated from God. God, in His perfect, undefiled Holiness cannot ignore our sinfulness. Our sinfulness places us all away from God. But yet, in His great love for us, He made a way. He made a way for us to be redeemed and washed clean of our trespasses against Him, and He offered Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ for our ultimate redemption, restoration, and renewal.
Spiritual birth happens when we are led by the Holy Spirit to know our sinfulness, to know our dire need for God, and to repent of our wrongdoings. Spiritual birth is a leaving of our old selves, who were once slaves to sin, and turning towards God and accepting Jesus as our Savior and our lord of our life. When Christ becomes the forgiver of our sins, and the leader of our life, He bestows upon us the living water, the Holy Spirit, so that we may never thirst for fulfillment or thirst for a purpose in anything but glorifying God again. The Holy Spirit, one person of our one, Trinitarian God, penetrates our life. He washes us. He restores us. He turns our entirety to Jesus and He leads us to Christ and His Word. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures to us; teaching us the things of God. The Holy Spirit also illuminates our sins. Making things that once seemed appealing, now seem disgraceful. He births a longing for God and a greater disdain for sin. A greater understanding of the world versus the word. And a greater understanding of what pains God.
We are set free from the stronghold of sin.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Romans 6:1-7 English Standard Version (ESV)
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
By depending on God, we may daily say no to the things that we used to do that were against God’s commands, and begin to say yes to being renewed in His Word. This is possible only by God’s undeserved grace. By His unaltered, unchanging grace, may we continually be renewed day by day, and may God’s mercies also be new day by day. With the spiritual birth, our fleshly, sin-stained, bodies are not yet re-birthed (we don’t go back into our mother’s wombs like Nicodemus suggested). We wait. We live in this tension of the already but not yet. We are already justified, but we are not yet glorified. Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. But He has not yet came back to fully glorify all of creation. He will. And then, we will be free from sin forevermore. We won’t have to wage war against our flesh and against the Devil. (But more on that spiritual warfare later.)
With new birth comes sanctification. After we are born again by accepting Jesus as our Savior, and by receiving the Holy Spirit, we are thrust into the lifelong process of growth. Of sanctification. Of becoming more like Jesus and of becoming greater image-bearers of God. This process is different for everyone. It’s a process that God ultimately takes us on, and works within us. But it is also a process that we must yield to. We must submit to. As Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Submitting is hard. The Holy Spirit nudges us along into submission, and we must allow for it. We must humble ourselves daily. We must think less of ourselves than we think of others, we must desire to know God more and to love Him.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
Ephesians 4 New International Version (NIV)
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
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