Chapter 3 – You must be born again!
In the dead of night around two thousand years ago, a healer and radical teacher, Jesus of Nazareth met a Jewish religious leader by the name of Nicodemus. What Jesus privately revealed to Nicodemus was a new and mysterious teaching. This teaching explained the necessity of what Jesus termed ‘new birth’. This meeting is recorded for us in John Chapter 3.
A shocking theology!
Basically, Jesus says to this religious and scholarly man that unless you start again from scratch, like being born as a baby, you can’t even see the kingdom of God because you are spiritually blind. Not only that, but without new birth you can’t enter it either – you remain on the outside. He told Nicodemus that you need not only to be physically born (born of water) but to be spiritually born (born of wind or spirit) as well.
These statements of Jesus must have been totally shocking to a religious man like Nicodemus who had spent his whole life in religious performance and self-righteousness. Yes, he was not a bad man – he went to church (synagogue) and in many ways was a pillar of society and respected by many.
However, Jesus showed in stark clarity that all this knowledge and good works counted for nothing in terms of a relationship with God. What he needed was to be born again. Of course, if this was true of Nicodemus, then it is true of every human being on the planet. You must be born again!
Why are we spiritually dead?
So then, why are we spiritually dead and what exactly does it mean to be spiritually dead? How did we get there, how did this happen? Firstly, we must understand that God did not create the first human beings like this. In fact, Adam was created a living soul. He was created perfect without sin.
Genesis 1:24 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”
Spirit, soul and body
Man, therefore, was created as a tri-part being (reflecting the image of God as trinity): spirit, soul and body.
1Thessalonians 5:23 “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The body: is visible and gives us world-consciousness. It is our interface to the physical world. We perceive this world through our five senses.
The soul: is invisible and gives us self-consciousness. It is made up of mind, will and emotions and includes our memories and personality.
The spirit: is invisible and gives us God-consciousness. It is our interface to the invisible spiritual dimension. We perceive this world through our spiritual senses.
Therefore, what makes us radically different from the animal creation is that, like God, the devil and the angels (who are spirits), we, too, have a spirit.
What is the flesh?
Unfortunately Adam didn’t remain a living soul because sin and death entered the world through his act of disobedience. The moment he disobeyed the commandment spiritual death occurred. Immediately he became self-conscious: he knew he was naked, and he was afraid.
The soul and body now ruled. In the Bible this is called the ‘flesh’. The spirit was now dead (called the ‘old man’) and Adam was now carnal and driven by his five senses, his thoughts and his feelings. Eventually he physically died and every human being born afterwards took on his fallen and sinful nature. This is described in Ephesians 2:1:
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
How do we get born again?
Firstly, as in the natural, we have nothing to do with the process. We are not the initiators. We can’t be because we are dead. For example, in the natural a baby is conceived by the coming together of two people in love and intimacy. The baby doesn’t decide it is going to be born. In fact, it has no choice in the matter. Similarly, the work of new birth or regeneration is the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit.
Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”
Therefore, we are born again not by our actions but by the action of the Holy Spirit and by the seed or sperm of the Word. This seed of the Word is incorruptible and eternal. It, or rather He, is Jesus.
1 Peter 1:23 “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
This is spiritual reproduction. This is how God reproduces Christ in us. This is how we become born-again and a Christian (a little Christ or anointed one). So, if you are born-again you have a brand new spirit that is alive to God. It’s just like Jesus. Christ is alive in you!
John 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
Questions for discussion
1) What does it mean to be ‘spiritually dead’?
2) How would you define ‘spirit, soul and body’?
3) What does the Bible mean by the ‘flesh’?
4) How are we born again?
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