The Bible tells us in the Gospel of John chapter three about a conversation between Jesus and a religious leader whose name was Nicodemus. Under the cover of darkness Nicodemus came and said to Jesus "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." Jesus’ response to that comment was strange, answering a question that was never asked and leading the conversation to what was truly on Nicodemus’ mind. "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (v.3) This confused Nicodemus so he asked: How can you be re-born? Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 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." (v.5-8) Jesus here tells Nicodemus what it means to be born again, then tells him what that looks like.
Let’s first look at the phrase “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
During the creation of the earth (Genesis 1:26) God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” God is a trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit and He made man to be a reflection of Himself, an inferior trinity: body, soul and spirit. The body is obvious to define; it’s our fingers, our knees, our muscle tissue, etc. The soul is our emotions, our feelings, and the soul will give direction to our body. Our spirit is the conduit to God; it is how we connect with our Creator. In the beginning Adam’s body, soul and spirit were working perfectly. God would communicate His will to Adam through Adam’s conduit (his spirit), which would direct Adam’s soul to direct his body. Because of His great love for Adam, God’s direction to Adam’s spirit was always in Adam’s best interest. But, when Adam chose to go against what God was telling his spirit to do (when Adam sinned), the conduit broke, the connection was severed, and Adam was left to be controlled solely by his soul. We (you and me) like Adam are created with a body, soul and spirit, but because of sin our spirit is disconnected from God and without that connection we are controlled by our emotions or feelings, our selfish desires. In John chapter 3, Jesus tells us that if you want to enter the kingdom of God you must be born of water and the Spirit. While in the womb we swam in an amniotic fluid that is mostly water surrounded by a sac, when our mothers “water” broke (when the sac broke) we were born “of water” but we were born disconnected from God. This was our first birth. Jesus tells us that we must be “born again” of the “Spirit”; there must be a reconnection of our spirit with God if we want to spend eternity with Him. Salvation (becoming born again) is that reconnection.
So how then does that reconnection occur? In John chapter 3 and Jesus tells us how that happens. In verse 13-15 He says: “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus here gives us a map of sorts of how to get to Heaven by reminding us of a story that took place centuries earlier that is written in the book of Numbers chapter 21. Starting in verse 5:
“And the people spoke against God and against Moses: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread." So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Numbers 21:5-9
In this story we have a group of people who because of a serpent, are destined for death when God intercedes with a remedy for that impending death. All mankind is destined for death because of what happened between a serpent and Eve in the Garden of Eden and we too are in need of a remedy for our impending death. Read what happened in the Garden:
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 2:1-6
In this story we see the original sin. Even though God told Eve not to eat of the tree, she did. She disobeyed God’s directive. She didn’t believe God when He told her of the consequence for her disobedience would be death; she instead believed the serpent who told her she would not die…so she ate. Then Adam believed the same lie and he too ate.
Compare the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden and God’s remedy for her sin with the story nation of Israel in Numbers 21 and you’ll see that the analogy that Jesus is using in John 3 is perfect:
1. The Israelites didn’t believe God when He told them He was going to lead them to the Promised Land…this was proven by their complaints that they had been brought to the wilderness to die. Adam and Eve didn’t believe God when He told them that if they were to eat of the tree they would die…this was proven by the fact that they ate of the tree.
2. The consequence for the nation of Israel for their sin was death in the wilderness by way of poisonous serpents. For Adam and Eve and for us the consequence of our sin is death (Romans 6:23), or the separation of our spirit from God.
3. When the Israelites realized their sin, they went to Moses confessing their sin and asking that a remedy for the snake poison be given. When we realize our sin we need also to confess our sin and seek the remedy for sin.
4. God provided a remedy for the Israelites by telling Moses to make a representation of what was killing them (the serpent), put it on a pole and let the people know that all you have to do to live was to look at the representation of the serpent on the pole. God has also provided a remedy for our sin. He sent his Son (John 3:16) to become the representation of what is killing us (to become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21)), placed Him on the cross so that all who look to Him will be saved.
It can’t be that simple, looking at a snake on a pole?! That’s the question I would have asked if I were in the wilderness dying from a snake bite, but it was that easy. And it is that simple for us as well, look to the cross of Christ, who came to this world to die so that we might live!
I’m sure there were some in the Israelite camp that didn’t believe that the remedy for their impending death was that simple. So they didn’t look, they went on with their life, struggling to stay alive, looking for the logical remedy, but they never found one, so they died. There were prerequisites to receiving the remedy. They needed to admit they were dying and, when it was told to them what the remedy was, they had to believe what they heard, turn their eyes to the pole and look. In that admission and belief, they were healed.
Think about this for a minute, let it soak in. There are prerequisites to you receiving God’s remedy for sin:
1. You must believe that you are a sinner and have need of a Savior. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23), that the penalty for our sin is death (Romans 6:23), and that God has revealed to every person that they are a sinner (Romans 1:17-22).
2. You must believe God when He tells you what the remedy for your imminent death is belief in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Jesus tells us that He is the way the truth and the life and that no man can get to heaven except through Him. (John 14:6) He died to take the penalty for your sin…He died in your place and if you believe that and follow Him, you’ll be saved from the death penalty you deserve. (John 3:16)
Look at it this way. If you are standing in the middle of a burning building and you refuse to believe, despite the obvious evidence that the building is on fire, you won’t take the necessary action to leave the building. You must first believe that the building is on fire. Once you believe the building is on fire you then must believe the fireman when he tells you that the only way out is to follow him through the door one step to your left. If you believe the fireman, then you’ll follow him one step to your left, if you don’t believe him, you’ll get burned.
God didn’t start the fire that is going to kill you. You, by your sin started that fire. But God has made a way for you to get out of the fire, (“whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16) but He won’t force you to take that path, He won’t force you to follow Him. If you do take that narrow path, if you do follow Him, you will be saved and spend eternity in Heaven. If you don’t, well I’m sorry, you’ll spend eternity in Hell...you'll get burned.
Many argue that this is narrow-minded and unfair to all those who believe something different. But in reality, if God provided numerous ways to get to Him, wouldn’t THAT be the unfair thing to do? Think about that. Let’s say that you just moved into a new house and decided to throw a party but instead of giving easy and concise directions to your house to the people you invite, you said; however you want to get here will work, just take whatever road seems right to you. Wouldn’t that be extremely unfair to those who didn’t know where you live but want to come to your party? God gave very easy to follow and concise directions to His house. If you then decide to take a path other than the one He told you to take, it’s you, not Him that is at fault when you end up at the doorstep of the wrong house.
Ok, so there’s only one way, but what do we have to do to get on that path? How do I receive the remedy? Do I simply say a prayer? Do I go to church? What do I do? We’re taught in Romans 10 that “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Believe with your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Some argue that all it takes is a simple prayer, something to the tune of “I open my heart and invite you inside, please be my Lord and save me from my sin” but if you don’t believe that Jesus came to save you from your sin or you don’t actually make Him Lord of your life, then those are just empty words that will accomplish nothing. Remember back in John 3 when Jesus said “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."? (v.8) As with all effective remedies, there will be evidence of its effectiveness. When you truly believe that God’s remedy is Christ, you will be cured. The evidence of that cure will be repentance. You won’t want to go back in that burning building again; you will naturally seek to turn from what is killing you (your sin) and turn to what is saving you (Christ). Christ will naturally become your Lord.
Bottom line is this: If you want to get saved you must realize your need for Christ, look to what He did on the cross for your salvation and make Him Lord in your life. When you do that, your spirit re-connects with God and you will begin to be led by His Spirit. Your agenda for life goes away and you adopt His agenda. Your desires begin to conform to His desires. When He tells you to move, you move. When He tells you to jump, you say “how high”. That is what a saved person looks like. To start this new life it does just take a prayer, a prayer from the heart that simply asks Jesus to begin to lead you away from the sin that is killing you and to a life that is pleasing to Him. Then follow Him when He answers that prayer.
Disclaimer: This blog is hosted by HolderGolf.com and is one way James Holder shares his faith with others. It is in no way intended to drive putter sales or to promote the brand. It is simply a platform that has the ability to reach people that would not otherwise be exposed to our first and primary passion, Jesus!