In reply to a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus (a member of the ruling council), Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth; no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again….” (John 3:3. NIV). When Nicodemus further asked how a man could be born again, Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit….” (John 3:5. NIV.)
Two words in the above message strike me; they are “see” in His first reply and “enter” in His second. Jesus tells us clearly and in simple words that no one can even “see” the kingdom of God unless he or she is born again and no one can “enter” the kingdom of God unless he or she is born of water and the Holy Spirit In other words, unless we are born again in the Holy Spirit and in Jesus Christ, we cannot live in the kingdom of God–under no circumstances can we hope to live holy or godly lives.
What then is “born again”? Light has been shed on me after having read in his book called “Born Again” by Charles W. Colson (20th Anniversary Edition). Almost 40 years ago, against the backdrop of the explosive Watergate scandal, Charles Colson revealed the story of his own search for meaning during the tumultuous investigations that led to the collapse of the Nixon administration (U.S. ex-president). A convicted former special counsel to the president, Colson paradoxically found new life not with success and power, but while in national disgrace and serving a prison sentence.
Colson describes the day he sat in his prison cell and began jotting down notes of the events that brought about the fall of a president and the rebirth of his former “hatchet man”. Those notes developed into his book.
Colson recalls, “All I knew was that I had a story I must tell, a story that might bring hope and encouragement to others.” Colson could have written a book about Nixon years for he was given a very attractive offer. But the more he prayed, the more he was convicted in unexpected ways to write what he had discovered in his own life. Colson wrote in his book “…God seemed to be saying that the renewal of our national spirit can begin with each person–with renewal of individual spirit. If you want to do something, submit yourself to Me and I will guide you were the words implanted on my mind….”
Perusing the Preface, I found the following passage beneficial in helping our further as well as better understanding of the meaning of rebirth:
The butterfly is nature’s most visible illustration of rebirth. Once drab and earthbound as a caterpillar, the butterfly emerges from the cocoon in beautifully radiant colors, soaring upward into the sky. Free–BORN AGAIN–just as each of us can be when we are, through Christ, born again in the Spirit. (Colson).
We should observe in nature a caterpillar changes into a beautiful butterfly and sets itself free from its cocoon. But how would one know that the caterpillar after changing into the butterfly would enjoy its better life? Are we too subjective to believe that the “beautiful radiant colours” butterfly must have a better life than that of the previous “drab and earthbound” caterpillar?
Similarly, would we be consciously aware that we would be leading a new life or re-birthing into it after receiving the salvation as grace from God through redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ?
Apostle Paul points out that no one in this world understands or seeks God, nor does he or she do good things. People’s throat are like “open graves” and their lips are like “the poison of vipers”. They curse in bitterness. Not knowing “the way of peace”, they shed people’s blood and lead a miserable life–not fear God. (Romans 3:11-18; NIV)
On the contrary, people with faith and justified by God’s grace, though they are like all sinners (for all human has sinned, and “fall short of the glory of God”); the blood of Jesus Christ has presented “a sacrifice of atonement” for those who believe in Him. (Romans 3: 22-25a, NIV)
Peter also says that believers have been “born again” in eternal life through “the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23; 2:1-3, NIV)
Paul asks us to “rid…of all malice, and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind,” but”crave pure spiritual milk” [the Word of God] for further growth. (1 Peter 2:1-3, NIV)
Now the question is, “What are the possible changes in our lives people can behold after we have been saved and born again?”
Apostle Peter says, in 1 Peter 2: 4 (NIV):
… you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light….Now you are the people of God .…
The above words as Peter was telling the Jews are truly applicable to the lives of today’s believers.
Paul urges believers to offer their bodies as “living sacrifices”–the spiritual act of worship–the good ways of life believers should lead in their families, in church, in society, and in this world. In our daily practice these would mean:
- Pray consistently and praise God through Jesus. (Hebrews 13:15, NIV).
- Be generous and do good things to others. (Romans 12:13, NIV); (Galatians 6:10, NIV).
- Have a grateful heart always for all things and for intercession for others. (1 Timothy 2:1, NIV).
- Just and be compassionate to others (Micah 6:8, NIV). We must live our lives by doing justly with ethics in all life; love mercy with consideration for others, when justice has not been done; walks humbly with God.
- .Be humble and walk with God. That to walk with God is to experience your personal God. Paul calls this the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5, NIV). If we follow God’s precepts, all our ways will be made straight. (Proverbs 3:6, NIV)
- Be honest in worshipping God. “in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, NIV).
Once you are baptized into Christ Jesus, you have been baptized into His death and reborn a new person so that you can “see” and “enter” the kingdom of God. Your life will be transformed and guided by the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. Even though you arestill in this world you are not of this world, and you will be the “light” and the “salt” in this world. The world will, therefore, be changing with hope for better because of your steadfast faith in and hard labour for Christ Jesus. No doubt we ought to believe that the “beautiful radiant colour butterfly” must have a better life than that of the previous “drab and earthbound caterpillar ”. All is God’s creation.
.Let us pray —
Thank you for your amazing grace that has saved our souls. We long to worship you in spirit and in truth. Lord, save us and transform us so that we can see and enter your kingdom and we’ll live our lives in abundance and in glorifying Your name.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.
耶穌對一個法利賽人名尼哥底母說﹕“我實實在在的告訴你﹐人若不是從水和聖靈生的﹐就不能進 神的國。”(約翰福音三﹕3, 和合本)。