“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”— John 3:3
As I type this, my wife and I are roughly 10 days away from welcoming our third child into the world. While many thoughts are passing through my mind, one that persists is the miraculous nature of birth. I have been privileged to be present in the delivery room as our first two children took their first breaths. It is truly an indescribable moment to see the birth of a new life. Moreover, it is a humbling moment to know that I have been called to be another person’s father.
In John 3, Jesus has a nocturnal meeting with Nicodemus — the modern-day equivalent of a seminary professor and Bible scholar. Nicodemus cannot deny, as did his colleagues, that Jesus was of supernatural origin. He said, “No one could perform these signs you (i.e. Jesus) do unless God were with him.” Instead of accepting the high compliment, Jesus, as was his custom, used this divinely-arranged moment as a teaching opportunity for Nicodemus, a learned teacher of Israel.
Nicodemus had a basic understanding of human anatomy and knew that it was impossible for someone to enter their mother’s womb a second time and be born again. As was often the case for Jesus’ audiences, Nicodemus was missing the spiritual reality of Jesus’ teaching. Far from advocating a physical rebirth, Jesus declared that if one wanted to become a member of God’s kingdom, one must undergo a spiritual birth by the Holy Spirit.
Spiritually, all humanity is dead apart from being born again by the Holy Spirit. Paul describes humanity’s hopelessly unresponsive plight in Ephesians 2:1 as being “dead in our trespasses and sins.” Corpses do not awaken themselves from death. Furthermore, neither you nor I can awaken a corpse from the dead. Sure, we may stand over it and shout at the top of our lungs, but nothing will happen. For a corpse to be brought back to life and be able to respond requires a divine call. Paul describes this event as God making his children alive, raising them up, and seating them with him in the heavens (Ephesians 2:5-6). Theologians have termed this divine action of the Holy Spirit as regeneration.
Regeneration enables unbelievers to respond to the gospel of Christ by faith and repentance. For the first time, an individual’s conscience is awakened to see the reality of his sin before a holy God. The conviction of sin and the conversion of soul ensues. This is truly an indescribable moment, as a new life is born. Henceforth, the heavenly Father is always present and a part of this new Christian’s life. Friend, have you been born again? If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you must.