You Must Be Born from Above!
There are four critically important things you need to know about the phrase, "You must be born from above".
Section 1: Who Said It
I don't know if you've ever heard the phrase, "You must be born from above", but please allow me to tell you the most important thing about it. The most important thing about that phrase is who said it. Do you know who said it? Well, Jesus of Nazareth said it! Jesus himself said, "you must be born from above", or better translated, "born from above". Now many repeat Jesus' words, and others repeat His words without understanding them. Many misrepresent what His words mean, and still others claim that the 'born from above' phrase applies to them, when it may not. Whatever else you may think about that phrase, or whomever you associate it with, please understand that the most important thing about the phrase, "You must be born from above" is that Jesus of Nazareth said it. You can read His words in John 3:7.
Let's take a look at what Jesus said.
John 3:1-7 says, "There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, 'Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs [miracles] that You do unless God is with him.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one [notice Jesus said "one" and not just "you"] is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [the first physical birth - a woman's water breaks when going into labor and giving birth] and the Spirit [the second spiritual birth], he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh [the physical birth is just that, only physical], and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit [the second birth is spiritual]. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.'" (Author's comments in brackets).
Section 2: What it Means
Jesus doesn't use fancy language - he speaks plainly and simply. You don't see him using any big, twenty-dollar words in John 3:1-7 do you? When Jesus spoke to the people, He used common language that they could understand. He didn't hide behind big, fancy theological terms and sophisticated phrases like many religious leaders do today. He used the language of people's everyday experiences.
The birth of a child is one of the most universal experiences of human life. Every culture on the planet understands what it is for a baby to be physically born, and every person on the planet has had some first hand experience with a child being born. Jesus communicated one of the most important truths He ever spoke by using the birth experience as the analogy for this great truth.
What are some important aspects of a child being physically born that Jesus knew people would understand? Well, first, the baby while he/she is in the womb has not awakened to full consciousness of life. He or she is still surrounded in the darkness of their mother's womb. The child, while alive and growing physically, has still not entered into a consciousness of being alive and aware. In essence, the baby is 'dead' to life outside the darkness of the womb.
To illustrate this truth, you understand that you are a living person while you are sleeping, right? Yet while in the unconscious state while asleep, you are unaware of the life you experience when you are awake. While you are unconscious in your sleep and not dreaming, you are not aware of the beautiful sunsets, or the relationships you have with others, or the myriad of other experiences you have while awake. You are essentially dead to conscious existence in the real world.
In addition, the baby is doing nothing on it's own to maintain it's physical existence, but is completely carried by forces outside his/her control. When the baby is born, however, a whole series of important and radical changes take place - both physiological and experiential. Those changes are not under the baby's control - again, he/she is carried along, if you will. (Please note that this does NOT mean the baby is not a person�rather it means the baby is a completely physically dependent new person who is in a condition like sleep for the first nine months of his/her existence.)
As the baby passes from the darkness of his/her mother's womb into the light of the world, the baby becomes fully conscious and starts breathing air on his or her own and crying as it experiences a completely new mode of existence. The baby needs comfort and must now eat food on his or her own. The baby was formally completely enshrouded in the darkness of his/her mother's womb without being fully conscious of his/her life. He or she was completely unaware of life outside the womb. After being born, the baby enters a whole new world of experiences and understandings and must now make an effort to sustain his/her physical life by eating and avoiding painful and dangerous experiences.
Jesus knew all these things about the birth experience, and He told Nicodemus that he must be born from above. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must pass through a second birth experience. Nicodemus was confused about Jesus' words and asked how he could enter back into his mother's womb to be born from above. He was only considering the physical plain of existence, and thus missed Jesus' whole point. Jesus was speaking of spiritual reality, not physical reality. Jesus was using the birth analogy to communicate to Nicodemus that radical changes had to occur in Nicodemus' life. Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that he was not yet born spiritually - that Nicodemus was unconscious of, and dead to, spiritual life. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that the Father wanted him to enter into a whole new mode of existence. Jesus was saying that Nicodemus was dead to the realities of spiritual life. He was telling Nicodemus that unless he was born from above, he could not even see the kingdom of God. Jesus was saying to Nicodemus, that just as a baby dwells in darkness and cannot see the light of the world, so it was with Nicodemus � he could not see the Light of the world right in front of him. And equally important, he was telling Nicodemus that unless he was born from above, he would not enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he must be born from above out of the darkness of walking in the lusts of his flesh (the love of the world and is manifestations of pursuit of money, power, prestige, wealth, acclaim from people, thinking he was good enough to please God in his own righteousness, etc.) and out from under the justice of God. A little later on in the same conversation, Jesus told Nicodemus that, "He who believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18). Being spiritually dead due to refusing to respond to God's love, means a person who has not been born from above is under the just condemnation of God.
Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he was in spiritual darkness, just like the physical darkness a baby experiences in his/her mother's womb. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he was dead spiritually, even as a baby is "dead" to conscious life outside the womb. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he needed to pass from the darkness into His Light, even as a baby needs to emerge from his/her mother's womb into the sunlight of the world in order to live. Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to let him carry him out of his spiritual darkness, since Nicodemus could not do it alone.
Section 3: Who It Was Said To
Let us take a closer look at the person to whom Jesus said the phrase "You must be born from above". You are already familiar with his name, Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a well to do religious leader who was almost certainly over 50 years old. Jesus spoke that phrase to what we all would consider a very "good" man who was not only a leader of his religious community, but also a political leader of his nation. He would be the equivalent of a man who was both a bishop (Protestant) or cardinal (Catholic) AND a Senator, in this country (USA). This man was one of the rulers of the Jewish nation at Jesus' time. Nicodemus was a "Pharisee" (bishop or cardinal). Nicodemus no doubt lead a very "good" life, filled with religious devotion and charitable deeds towards others. And yet, Jesus told this religious leader that, "You must be born from above". Jesus was saying that Nicodemus lacked something essential - spiritual life - and until he was born from above into a new life, he was dwelling in darkness. All of his religion and morality and charitable deeds would NOT get him into heaven...he needed something more.
It is doubtful that many people would be judged as "good" a person as Nicodemus was at the time Jesus met him and had the discussion in John chapter three. Are you well over fifty, having served both religious community and nation admirably for many years? Do you live a very religious life like Nicodemus did? Do you spend the majority of your waking hours performing the religious rituals and rites of your religion? Do you spend almost all of your time doing charitable deeds and helping people by leading them wisely?
Well, if you can say yes, then you are like Nicodemus, and Jesus' Words still apply to you - "You must be born from above."
If, however, you have not lived as "good" a life as Nicodemus, don't be discouraged. In fact, it is more likely that you will allow God to birth you if you don't have a very religious and "successful" life. You see, Jesus said, "No one is good but One, that is, God." (Matt. 19:17) Jesus says, "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Luke 6 & Matt. 5) To those who are "successful" and rich like a young ruler Jesus met one day, Jesus says, "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt. 19:24) If you are "successful" in the things of the world, then you will more than likely believe you can birth yourself when and how you want to. As you will see, you are badly deceived, and your self-chosen deception will have horrific consequences.
The glorious truth about heaven, what Jesus here [in John chapter three] calls the kingdom of God, is that it is only available to those who come to know in their heart that they are wretched sinners who deserve the just condemnation of the all Holy, Just and Righteous God. Jesus said, "�I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matt. 9:13) Elsewhere, Jesus made it very clear that no one was "good" enough to enter the kingdom of God in their 'own righteousness'. He said to His own disciples, in reference to the religious leaders, like Nicodemus, "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (popes, pastors, bishops, priests, cardinals, patriarchs, deacons, et al those who take prideful religious titles), you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:20) This is why the message of the living Jesus of Nazareth is called the "gospel", which means, "good news". The good news is that the Lord has made a Way for the worst of sinners to be forgiven by their heavenly Father. That way is child-like faith in the Jesus who fully reveals himself by his own words in the gospels...the real Jesus who says of himself, "I am the Way�" (John 14:6).
Section 4: What that phrase has to do with you
The fourth most important thing you must know about Jesus saying that "You must be born from above", is that it not only applies to Nicodemus, but to all men including YOU. Dear reader, you need to know that when Jesus says that "unless one is born from above, he cannot see, nor enter, the kingdom of God.", it applies to YOU. Dear reader, please understand that Jesus says to you, unless YOU are born from above, YOU cannot see, nor will YOU enter, the kingdom of God, or heaven. You've read Jesus' Words to Nicodemus. Now, replace your name where Nicodemus' is, and discover the most important words that you will ever read.
Being 'born from above' has become a popular clich� in many communities in the USA. Many claim to have been born from above, and that's a good start, for Jesus plainly says, "unless a man is born from above, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." To have any hope to enter the kingdom of God, you must at least claim, as Jesus commands, that you are "born from above". But it must be more than a claim - it must be a true confession of your heart - a heart that has placed it's trust in Jesus and now manifests that trust and love by obeying what Jesus teaches. Tragically, many claim to be "born again", but their words and lives betray their claim as false, as they have no real desire to obey Jesus' commands.
Remember, Jesus said that "You must be born from above" to an older, well-to-do religious leader. He says it to you as well. You ask, 'well, how do I know if I've been born from above'. Good question. A very simple answer is if your life has undergone a radical change since the time when you professed to have repented of a life of ignoring Jesus of Nazareth. Have you entered into a whole new mode of existence, moving out of darkness and into His glorious light since the time you claim to have been born from above? Those things you once lived for and loved will lose their pull on you, and you will live instead to love and to serve Jesus' Father and Jesus of Nazareth.
Remember the physical birth experience, and how we saw some important parallels between the physical experience and the spiritual experience? Dear reader, you must understand that being born from above is not something you can do in your own strength. Just as baby has no control over when he/she is born, the same is true of the second spiritual birth. A person can not say to themselves, 'well, I think I'll be born from above now'. It is impossible to birth yourself! You cannot walk some isle in a church building, or repeat some words after some preacher, or pray some prayer, and become born from above, unless those words and actions are simply following from - the fruit of - a changed heart. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8) Various outward rituals or prayers or other actions, are not what saves a person. No, rather, the Spirit of God touches people when and where He chooses. The good news for you is He might be speaking to your heart this very moment. I urge you to not ignore the Spirit's working in your heart right now - the wind doesn�t always blow in a favorable direction.
You ask, 'how can I be born from above'. Good question. Let's remember the physical birth example Jesus used. Understand that just as a baby gets no credit for birthing itself, so one who is born from above can take no credit for it. Can you imagine a baby that was just born saying to his/her mother, 'hey mom, did you see the way I was born! Wow, wasn't I great! Didn't I do an excellent job at coming out of the birth canal? Wasn't I something!' Any mother who has given birth to a child knows how utterly foolish such statements, if they were possible, would be from a newborn infant. The labor comes without the mother's conscious control and she does most of the work in bringing the baby into the world. So it is with the work of the Spirit. The Spirit of God is the One who saves you. What you must do is allow him to save you by understanding in your heart that you are guilty before God and desperately need to be saved from your life of sin. You must understand that you are under the condemnation of God for your unrepentant life of sin. You must understand that the worst sin you have committed in your life has been one that you have committed every day since you became an adult. And what is that sin? It is the sin of IGNORING Jesus of Nazareth in your thoughts and in your words and in your actions - your unbelief due to your pride and/or fear.
You see, dear friend, if you truly love someone you will want to have a close and intimate relationship with them. You will want to be around them and communicate with them and experience life with them. So it is with Jesus of Nazareth, if you have been born from above.
Won't you stop ignoring him and the great love he showed for you by dying on the cross to show you the Way to the Father? Won�t you start truly following him today?
In another part of John's gospel, Jesus describes the born from above experience to a group of people who were hostile towards him. He graciously told them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes in him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." (John 5:24).
Ponder deeply this solemn phrase, "Born Once, Die Twice. Born Twice, Die Once." The second death is the destruction of your soul. Well, do YOU believe Jesus' Words to YOU or not? "You must be born from above..."
As you read this, perhaps your heart is affected. Perhaps you see how you have been ignoring God - not living up to his desire that you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Perhaps you can see for the first time that you are GUILTY of the greatest sin, which is you never had true faith in God and His Son? You knew ABOUT God, but you never entered into a Life of true faith. You might have even been trying to serve the God you did not personally know, but this is not what God wants. If you are truly seeing this spiritually, then you should be experiencing some fairly strong emotions associated with what is happening inside you now. Jesus calls this repentance, which is true remorse over your unbelief and sin.
So, what does God want of you right now, at this moment? It is this simple...believe His Son...listen to His Son...trust in Himself and His Son. This is what God wants of you right now. Don't play the fool and turn away. Don't reject a love so great that a loving, compassionate Father sent His beloved Son, knowing His Son would be horribly mistreated and killed because many would reject His love. Admit that you have been one who has rejected His love up to this point, and then turn from your unbelief and sin and start to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Make Jesus your only personal Teacher, Master, Leader, Lord, King of your life, and then you will know Life. And then you will have been truly born from above, or born again! And if you do this, rejoice as you have entered into salvation! Rejoice as you have passed from death to life...from darkness into Light! Rejoice that you have been received by your Father who is in heaven, and who has been waiting for you to come to Him your whole adult life! Rejoice that you are now a child of God, beloved by a compassionate and all powerful Father!
What does God want of you after you are born from above? He wants you to get to know Him and His Son. The best way to start this process is by reading Jesus' Words to you in the gospels. Get a New Testament if you don�t already have one. I would recommend these translations � the New American Standard or the New King James Version. Read the gospel of John in the New Testament, and then read Matthew, Mark and Luke. Don't make the great mistake of thinking that all of the bible is God's Word, for it is not [see Is the bible God's Word?]. Jesus is God's Word to man, thus the only guidance you need on how to live your life to please God is Jesus and his Words and teachings ONLY. Keep reading his Words in the gospels and start to DO what you see him saying to you. Only if you obey will you be able to grow in your personal knowing of his Father and himself. To continue in the Life that Jesus gives you, you must be faithful to him, and that means to receive what he teaches, and try your best to do what he says.
It is very important that you know that if you do not thirst to know Jesus, by reading his Words in the gospels, and by desiring with all that is in you, to obey ALL his commands, then you have not entered into His salvation [link to Do You Love Jesus?]. You must also know that Jesus says that if you want to be his disciple, you must forsake what this world has to offer in order to follow him (Luke 14:33). Do not be afraid of Jesus or his commands, for he is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Ask Jesus to show you the things you need to start giving up in order to follow after him.
If you need some disciples to stay with, our house is open to you.
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