I’ve been wrestling with something recently and it has driven me to the point of frustration and left me feeling perplexed. The dilemma I am having is this:
I want to be able to explain what happened to me when I first came to know Christ.
It was miraculous and mysterious to me, and I would love to put some skin on this inexplicable skeleton. I’ve talked with some of our high school students recently about this phenomenon, and they have expressed similar frustrations. I hope this post encourages you to dig into John 3 and see how Jesus responds to a late-night visitor.
In third chapter of the Gospel of John a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus enters the scene. His conversation with Jesus is a peculiar one and a bit unsettling. Jesus tells him that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Churchgoers should be wary because this is Jesus’ response to an extremely religious man. In verse 2, Nicodemus said that he knew that Jesus had come from God. The Pharisee saw supernatural power in this Rabbi and said that God was with Him. However, despite this recognition, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he cannot see the kingdom unless he is born again.
What do we do with these words from Christ? What does it really mean to be born again and what would that even look like?
I think a beautiful example of this being fleshed out in the Scriptures takes place in Acts 16. Paul and several others had gone outside the gate of Philippi to talk to a group of women gathered by the riverside. One of these women was named Lydia. Verse 14 tells us that she was a seller of purple goods and a worshiper of God. Immediately after this description, the text says that “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul (Acts 16:14). It was in this moment that the Lord worked a sovereign miracle. He gave Lydia heart-eyes. He turned on the light switch in her heart and awakened her soul. Soon afterward, Lydia and her entire household were baptized.
There are a few things to take into account about this new birth.
- The first is that the very nature of this new birth is mysterious to us. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:8 that being born of the Spirit is a lot like the wind. We can feel and hear the wind – but we don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going.
- The second is that this new birth is totally a work of God. 1 Peter 1:3 makes this crystal clear: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again…”
- The last thing is that this new birth brings new results and new evidence into our lives. In other words, our lives bear new fruit. The Book of 1 John is full of these evidences. A few of them are:
- A belief in Jesus Christ (1 John 5:13)
- We cannot continue to walk in habitual sin (1 John 3:6)
- We have a God-like love for others (1 John 4:7)
By no means are these descriptions intended to be exhaustive. For further information I would encourage you to check out the book Finally Alive by John Piper, or check out Wayne Grudem’s chapter on Regeneration in his Systematic Theology work.
When I lack words to describe the mysteries of God in my life, I dig into the Scriptures. I want the Bible to help me unpack and understand what the Lord is up to. I have come to the conclusion that I can’t wrap my head around all the Lord did inside me at my conversion. What He did really was a miracle and I am totally ok with saying that Ephesians 2:4-5 is about the best description I can come up with it to describe it.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved –“
He took my dead heart….and shocked it to life.