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Pointers along the way #322

A lesson from Nicodemus
- Jacob Ninan

Nicodemus was the man who met Jesus secretly at night to talk about things of God. He was a Pharisee and a ruler among the Jews (Jn.3:1). We can say he was very religious, with a good knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures, and we may not be wrong if we guess that he might have been a sincere and upright man. But the first thing that Jesus told him was about being 'born again,' first of all to be able to 'see' (or have a true revelation) of the kingdom of God and also to enter it (Jn.3:3,5).

To be born again is a new covenant experience. This is when God takes away our old, sinful heart and replaces it with a new heart of flesh (pliable and mouldable) (Eze.36:26), writes His laws on it (Jer.31:33), causes us to walk according to them (Eze.36:27), washes away all our sins and promises not to remember them again (Jer.31:34). Under the old covenant which God gave through Moses, there were blessings or curses depending on whether people obeyed the commandments or not (De.28). In the new covenant God gives us forgiveness, acceptance and eternal life as a gift of grace. God does this supernatural work of new birth through His Holy Spirit when we go to Him in repentance from our sins and place our trust in Jesus who died in our place for our sins.

Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about this new covenant experience. Actually the new covenant would come only when Jesus died, and Jesus was talking ahead of time. We don't know why Jesus said this only to Nicodemus and not to the others who asked Him about eternal life, to whom He said, "Keep the commandments,' according to the old covenant. Perhaps it was because the others were testing Him, and Nicodemus was sincere.

Anyway, the fact is that even such a religious, knowledgeable, sincere man such as Nicodemus needed to be born again! People born in Christian families make a mistake when they think that they are already children of God because of their natural birth or because their parents 'baptised' them. Being born again is a thing of the Spirit, and not related to fleshly birth or religious rituals (Jn.3:6). This happens when each man comes to Jesus personally, acknowledging his sin and placing his trust in Him. We all are individually responsible and accountable to God (Ro.14:12), and our parents or others can't stand proxy for us.

A new birth is required, because when we are naturally born, we are born in sin (Ps.51:5), and our old heart is deceitful (Je.17:9). It is only when God gives us a new heart and writes His laws upon it that we receive a new nature and new desires (1Pe.1:3,23).

A 'natural' Christian cannot just make a 'commitment' to Jesus to live a good life or to turn over a new leaf. He needs to be born again. That happens only when he confesses his sins, repents from them and receives Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice for him. That is how he acknowledges that he can never earn his salvation but only receive it as a gift of mercy (Ep.2:8). That is when he is born again.


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