You Must Be Born Again – Yes You.
By Carlton Foster – October 2020
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again” (John 3:7). Who was Nicodemus, and why did Jesus think that Nicodemus was not born of the Spirit of God? Jesus stated that humans could reproduce only human life, giving physical birth to other humans. Still, the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life, and those who want to live forever with Jesus must be born of the Spirit of God. So if you – yes you – want to live with Jesus, you must be born again. Yes! We must be born of the Spirit of God.
The Bible stated that Nicodemus was a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee (John 3:1). He usually meets with the High Priest and with other religious leaders. He is like a pastor of pastors: a God-fearing individual. It was Jesus who said, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses (Matthew 23:2).” These are the caliber of people Jesus said must be born again if they are to enter the Kingdom of God.
What about you and me? We are Christians; we also believe in the God of creation just like the religious leaders of the olden days did. Does the physical act of baptism verify that “I am born again”? Jesus said, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).” Paul also gave an example of this kind of birth when he said, “But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit (Galatians 4:29).” Abraham’s human effort purposefully gave birth to Ishmael thinking that he was accomplishing God’s will, but Isaac was born and is named the promised child who is the true child who will accomplish God’s will. Are we also accomplishing God’s will? We may be born of the water when we were baptized, but are we also born of God’s Spirit?
These Jewish religious leaders go through a stringent process to develop a leader. They are known as the official interpreter of Moses’ law; however, this is what Jesus said to us about them: “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven ( Matthew 5:20)!” Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God (Matthew 15:8-9).” Jesus said we are defiled by the words that come out of our mouth and that every plant not planted by God will be uprooted. Jesus said that those religious leaders were blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a ditch, which is hellfire.
Jesus emphasized and said, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either (Matthew 23:13).” He continued, “For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are (Matthew 23:16)!” In our time, these people are the Christians of our ages: brothers and sisters we regularly see at churches.
Even James, the disciple, noticed these behaviors and said, “A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire, and among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself (James 3:5-6).” While James mentions spoken words, we know that these thoughts originate from the heart. And even if there are no spoken words, but if the heart thinks evil and followed by non-verbal actions, the intent is still malicious. So why were there evil intent in these Christians and religious believers?
James answered when he said, “But the wisdom from above is pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere, and those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness (James 3:17-18).” Therefore, as James mentioned, Christians and religious leaders of today who think and act as he outlined are the ones born of the water and the Spirit.
I like Paul’s advice when he said, “I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what sinful nature desires. These two forces constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions (Galatians 5:16-18).” Paul list some actions that show the Christians who are not yet born of the Spirit, and these are sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, hostility, quarreling, envy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, and other sins like these. He also emphasized that any Christian living that sort of life with any of those sins will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
The apostle Paul, just like James, gave examples of those who are born of the Spirit. He said, “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-24).” When you are born again, every eye will see a change in you; they will see that the new person’s actions are similar to that of Jesus: taking care of the “least of these” among you. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me (Matthew 25:40)!” Yes! Our actions or reactions to others will verify if we are born of the Spirit of God.
To summarize: if you are a Christian, your thoughts and actions will testify if you are born of the Spirit or not! You will not enter the Kingdom of God if you are NOT born of the Spirit. Our lives must show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to be born of the Spirit. We must show these actions not only to those who are our favorites, but we must also show these actions to those people we don’t like.