The necessity of new birth

If there is beauty in being a Christian (last week’s meditation), then the inevitable question must follow, “How do we become a Christian?” Perhaps there is no clearer explanation of this mystery then when Jesus tells Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (Jn 3:3).  

On the one hand, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a learned man, could be forgiven for not understanding what Jesus actually said.  From a worldly perspective, being ‘born-again’ doesn’t make much sense.  On the other hand, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was a teacher of God’s word who should have been familiar with the Old Testament and its teachings.  Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, says “What is man, that he could be pure, or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?” (Job 15:14). Bildad, another one of Job’s friends asks, “How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?” (Job 25:4).  

Nicodemus should have known that for sinful human beings to be regarded as righteous in God’s sight, more was needed than just being born into the right race or even family.   An internal change brought about by the operation of the Holy Spirit needed to occur. Nicodemus, and all of Israel’s teachers should have known about the necessity of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Ezekiel 37:9, where God breathes new life into his people.  

There is much about the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work to bring about change in a sinner’s life we do not understand.  Jesus, when speaking about this change uses the wind as an illustration. We don’t know where it begins or where it ends.  Although we cannot grab the wind, nor see it with our eyes, we dare not deny its presence. It is much the same with the operation of the Holy Spirit as He brings new birth to a sinful human being.  

The Holy Spirit’s work may be mysterious, surprising, even incomprehensible to us in many ways, but His presence may always be known by his sound and effects.  Just as the grass, bushes and trees sway in the wind, or as clouds are driven along by the wind, such is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Or if you will, just as the rattling dead bones in Ezekiel 37 made noise as the Holy Spirit regenerated them, no one who is born of the Holy Spirit can remain quiet today.  There should always be the visible fruit of the Spirit in everyone that is born of the Spirit. 

Perhaps the most visible fruit should be seen in the way we now turn from sin and live thankful, obedient lives, guided by God’s word.  I dare to suggest this for the greatest work the Holy Spirit brings about is changing our hearts which were at one time oblivious and dead to the work of Christ, to now seeing the beauty of Christ and His wonderful work of salvation. How can we not live thankful, obedient lives with the blessing of forgiveness and eternal life? To not do so would be to grieve the Holy Spirit within us.   JZ