Darkness has fallen in Jerusalem. A prominent Pharisee named Nicodemus wants to see Jesus. He is a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. By every measure of his day, he is a success. He is a teacher and a respected man. But inside his soul he is hungry. He has seen and heard of the miraculous signs of Jesus and he wants to know who this man really is. Knowing the real reason for his visit, Jesus speaks to the heart of Nicodemus, "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
In our age, the term "born again" has been bantered about by Madison Avenue and misused by many. But to Nicodemus these words were startling indeed. "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. Jesus explained clearly and simply, "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit."
All of us have been born physically. Where we spend eternity is determined by whether or not we have experienced the second birth, the birth of the spirit. Born again in the Greek language literally means born anew or born from above. It is as if being impregnated with the spirit of God. It means you must confess your sin, look to the cross, and believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. You must ask him into your heart and allow him to take the throne of your life. God has no program to improve our old nature. We must die with Christ at the cross and receive His Spirit. Second Corinthians 5:17 states, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" This is the new birth: receiving Christ into your heart.
Unfortunately, the world is full of religious people who will never see heaven. Rather, they will be judged and separated from God for eternity in hell. Going to church doesn't make you a believer. Carrying a Bible doesn't make you a Christian. Doing good deeds can't assure salvation. We must be born again or we will not see the kingdom of God. I experienced that rebirth at the age of 26. God redeemed me from an empty, wasted, dark life and gave purpose and joy to this poor man. He can do the same for you.
The story is told by Anne Graham Lotz of her father, Billy Graham, attending a dinner in honor of various religious and political leaders. He was seated next to an archbishop. He inquired of the man when he had become a Christian. The archbishop. teared up and told his story. He had attended a conference in Chicago dressed in the robes and religious attire of his faith. While riding a bus, a woman tapped him with her finger. She was a recent immigrant with poor English. "Hey mister," she said, "Are you born again?" The archbishop bristled and said he was in Chicago to teach at religious conferences. As he got off the bus the woman said to him, "You didn't answer my question." Challenged and convicted by her words he arrived at his hotel room and opened the Gideon's Bible. He found the story of Nicodemus in John chapter three. Realizing he had never asked Christ to come into his heart, he knelt by the bed and became a genuine believer.
Are you born again, or are you simply practicing religion and wearing a religious label? Heaven is for those who humble themselves, repent of their sins, and receive Christ. It is evident from Scripture that Nicodemus became a follower of Christ. May Christ grant, dear reader, that you experience that new birth today.
Roger Scalice has been a pastor and missionary for over 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org