(This article is scheduled to appear in the Oct. 27 edition of the Linn County News.)There was once a man named Nicodemus, who came to Jesus secretly to inquire about the Kingdom of God. Ironically, Jesus told Nicodemus that he must do something that he was incapable of doing. “You must be born again.” (John 3:3)
Not surprisingly, Nicodemus was confused as his thoughts immediately turned to physical birth. But Jesus was speaking of a spiritual birth. While we have no control over our physical birth, it is equally true that we have no control over our spiritual birth either. At least this is true according to Jesus who went on to tell Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 ESV)
Interestingly enough, Nicodemus argued with Jesus over this aspect of God’s sovereignty; and Jesus responds with a rebuke. “Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:9-10 ESV) Nicodemus was considered one of the greatest teachers in Israel, yet he did not understand God’s work of granting new life to the spiritually dead.
The big word for “born again” is regeneration; and it is a sovereign act of God. You cannot conjure up a new birth, no more than you conjured up your physical birth. Jesus’ analogy of the wind teaches us much about the new birth. We have no control over it, but we see the effects of it. The effects of regeneration are repentant faith. In other words, when God brings new life to a heart, the heart responds by turning from sin and placing an eternal faith in Christ as Lord. Regeneration is not a work of man, for dead men do not determine to come alive. Only God can bring them alive. Dead men do not simply choose to repent. God grants them repentance. (See Acts 11:18) The work is God’s; therefore the glory is God’s.
So in closing, I’ll do as I usually do and call you to repent and trust in Christ. Many will ignore this call because they are dead in their sins. But some will respond: those whom God chooses to awaken and to grant the new birth. Do you want to go to Heaven? You must be born again.