Have you ever bought something that you had to assemble yourself? Some of my projects have gone something like this: I open the box, lay out all the pieces, and start reading the directions. Sometimes I struggle with the directions, especially when they are roughly (poorly?) translated into English. After a lot of time and effort, when I think I’m finished, I discover some leftover pieces. I scour the directions only to discover that those leftover pieces are not only important, but they had to be used at the very beginning of the project. Sigh!! The only solution is to undo everything and start all over. Maybe you can relate.
I wonder if Nicodemus felt something like that when he met Jesus as recorded in John Chapter 3, verses 1-21.
Nicodemus had spent much of his life building a stellar reputation as an upstanding citizen of Israel. He had also achieved a highly respected religious position. He would have been considered a very good person.
Nicodemus became fascinated by the unusual things that Jesus was saying and by the amazing miracles He was performing. One night he approached Jesus and paid Him a very high compliment. “…Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
Jesus then said something that rocked that man’s religious world! Instead of responding to his flattering remark, Jesus revealed that the religion, wealth, and good works that Nicodemus possessed were not enough to get him into heaven. Jesus did this by pointing out that Nicodemus needed to start all over and be born again. Nicodemus had only one birth date (a physical birth of course), and that was not enough. His only hope was to have a second birth, a spiritual birth.
Notice how Jesus worded it: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). In other words, a second birth is absolutely required in order to go to heaven. A second birth is NOT optional if you expect to have eternal life.
Since Jesus said a second (spiritual) birth is so important, that raises two questions:
#1 How we can get this new birth?
#2 How we can know for sure that we have it?
Jesus explained both of these things to Nicodemus.
Spiritual birth begins when a person turns away from sin and puts their complete faith in Christ’s work to save them. Referring to His coming crucifixion, Jesus said “… the Son of Man [must] be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. …He who believes in Him is not judged… ” (John 3:14–16, 18).
Faith in Christ alone is the key, the only key, to a relationship with God.
How can you know that you actually have the second birth? For one thing, you will experience a newfound love and affection for Jesus. After all, how could you NOT love Jesus who suffered the hell you deserve?
Never forget that it is Christ’s work that saves us, not our works. Just like a mother does all the work during a physical birth, Jesus does all the work in our spiritual birth. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of [our] works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
In order to come to Christ, we must stop trusting whatever goodness we have assembled in our lives, and be willing to start all over. As Jesus put it, “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ ” (John 3:7).