"WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?"
BEING BORN OF SPIRIT
June 14, 2012
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’”
– John 3:1-2
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest ruling council among the Jews. Many of the Pharisees accompanied Jesus as he toured the cities, acting as spies and posing questions in an attempt to trip him up so they could find some cause to arrest him. Nicodemus was one of those followers, but he was not one of the spies. He came to believe in Jesus, and so when he approached him this night, he came in his own right, not as an official delegate of the Sanhedrin. In fact, this evening’s visit was in secret. He wanted to know more without being seen by the multitudes. Jesus, perceiving that Nicodemus came to inquire about the Kingdom, told him:
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’”
– John 3:3-8
Jesus was laying the groundwork for entrance into the kingdom. By saying “What has been born from flesh is flesh,” Jesus was not talking about fleshly birth, or returning to a woman’s womb. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was no doubt righteous in works and faithful in keeping the law. But Jesus was showing that even the best of the flesh cannot enter the kingdom on that ground alone.
And when he says that you may hear the sound of wind but not know from where it is coming, he means that being born from the spirit is not discernible by the eye. You can see the affect of the wind, but not the wind itself. Likewise, with your fleshly eyes, you may be able behold the manifestation of the spirit, but you cannot actually discern the spirit itself. Since the re-birth is not accomplished by fleshly actions, and it is not discernable to the eye, Nicodemus was still baffled.
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”
– John 3:9-12
Jesus indicates that the answer lies in understanding heavenly things. So let’s take a journey into the “heavenly things” as they relate to spirit birth, beginning at the beginning – with our fleshly birth.
Born of Flesh
The flesh, the inherent nature of man, does not naturally bear the fruits of the divine spirit. In our natural form, we behave more animalistic. (Jude 19; James 3:15) The focus of natural man is on food and sustenance; he jealously guards his possessions; he is fierce and argumentative when it comes to perceived wrongs; he is mostly concerned with his physical pleasures and personal appearance which manifests his apparent power; and he brazenly takes what is not his for his own selfish advantage. Being born again means that we must get rid of these beastly qualities of the natural man – “the mark of the beast!”
We are not saying for a certainty that this is the meaning of the “mark of the beast” referred to in the book of Revelation (Revelation 13:16-17), but it is certainly a matter worth considering. What we can say for a certainty is that the animalistic behaviors referred to above are indeed marks of man’s beastly nature that must be done away with if we are to enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens. The Apostle Paul spoke of this conflict of the spirit and the flesh:
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
– Romans 7:18-19
Unfortunately, we are suffering the consequences of a double deprivation of help in our task of progressive spiritual attainment. Satan’s rebellion precipitated world-wide confusion and robbed all subsequent generations of the moral assistance which a well-ordered society would have provided. And even more disastrous was the default of Adam and Eve which deprived us of the superior physical nature which would have been more conducive to spiritual aspirations.
Notwithstanding this double disaster to our nature and environment, we would experience less of this apparent warfare between the flesh and the spirit if we would enter the Kingdom of God – the spiritual brotherhood – as born again sons of the Father. As faith sons, we enjoy comparative deliverance from the slave-bondage of the flesh through our wholehearted devotion to doing the will of the Father in heaven. This relief was explained to the Roman congregation:
“For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.”
– Romans 8:19-22
Yes, until now. Jesus showed mankind a new way of mortal living whereby human beings may very largely escape the dire consequences of our pitiful physical state through our faith in Jesus.
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
– 1 John 5:1-5
We conquer our flesh by our faith that as Jesus was born from God, so we, too, can be born from God. Though we have the inheritance of animal tendencies, we also have within us the spirit of the Father (1 Corinthians 3:16), and we have around us the spirit of truth (John 16:13) which converge to assist us in subjecting our flesh more and more to the will of God.
The crystalized theories of even the highest religious doctrines are powerless to transform human character or to control mortal behavior.
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”
– Galatians 2:15-16
“([F]or the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”
– Hebrews 7:19
Instead of laws, what the world of today needs is the living truth by means of the combined spirit forces. Jesus attempted to explain the power of the spirit forces to the Samaritan woman at the well. He told her:
“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
– John 4:10-14
It is the presence of the divine spirit forces, the waters of life, that prevents the consuming thirst of mortal discontent and that indescribable hunger of the fleshly mind. Spirit-motivated beings never thirst, for this spiritual water is a well of satisfaction “imparting everlasting life.” Such divinely watered souls are independent of the material environment for the joys of living and the satisfactions of earthly existence. They are spiritually illuminated and refreshed, morally strengthened and endowed. These are the Father’s children.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
– John 4:23-24
Yet, the spirit never drives, only leads. If we are willing learners, if we want to attain spirit levels and reach divine heights, if we sincerely desire to reach the eternal goal, then the divine spirit will gently and lovingly lead us along the pathway of sonship and spiritual progress. Every step we take must be one of willingness, and intelligent and cheerful co-operation. The domination of the spirit is never tainted with coercion nor compromised by compulsion.
When we live such a life of spirit guidance freely and intelligently accepted, there gradually develops within the human mind a positive consciousness of divine contact and assurance of spirit communion. And eventually:
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
– Romans 8:16
Already has the Father’s indwelling spirit told us of our kinship to God so that when the spirit of truth bears witness, we have an assurance that we will attain to our inheritance. We increasingly exhibit the characteristics of the spirit as would spirit-led individuals – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23), even without law.
Such spirit-guided and divinely illuminated mortals, while we yet tread the lowly paths of the human existence, soon begin to discern the lights of eternal life as they glimmer on the faraway shores of another world. Already have we begun to comprehend the reality of that inspiring and comforting truth:
“However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”
–1 Corinthians 2:9-10
Perfecting our Faith as New Born Sons
We must do our utmost to eradicate the unhealthy fleshly desires and attitudes if we want to experience the eternal joys of being born again, entering into the Kingdom of the Heavens and reaching our divine destiny of embrace with our heavenly Father. Much is required.
When Jesus began his ministry in the great Sermon on the Mount, after sharing with mankind the promises of God, he added:
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
– Matthew 5:48
Later, he told hem:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
– John 14:12
And Paul referred to Jesus as the “pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) Clearly, the Father – a God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2) expects great things from us.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
– Isaiah 55:8-11
So we can be certain that all who chose the Father’s way will eventually be perfect because Jesus will assist us in perfecting our faith; and we will do greater things than even Jesus did. It is rather obvious that we cannot achieve these goals while in the flesh. Therefore, we are confident that there is much more work and training of our personalities to be done in the heavens – the heavenly abodes.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”
– John 14:1-2
There we will be purged of all the remnants of our unfortunate animal heredity, our unwholesome environment, and our unspiritual planetary tendencies. The last remnants of the “mark of the beast” will there be eradicated. There, we will begin a new and more spiritual worship of the unseen Father, a habit that we will increasingly pursue all the way until we are received into the Father’s presence.
But we must begin the work of perfecting our faith and discarding the fleshly beast-like tendencies even now. We must accept the invitation to be sons of God and be born of the spirit. This is our ticket into the kingdom – our token of the spirit.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
– Ephesians 1:13-14
Paul reiterated that token to the Corinthian congregation:
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
– 2 Corinthians 1:20-22
Throughout every trial and in the presence of every hardship, spirit-born souls are sustained by that hope which transcends all fear because the love of God is spread abroad in all hearts by the presence of the divine Spirit. God-knowing men and women who have been born of the spirit operate on intellectual levels and live on spiritual planes far above the conflicts produced by unrestrained or unnatural physical desires. They become citizens of the kingdom of the heavens, while temporary residents here on earth. (1 Peter 2:11)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 4:4-7
Having elected to pursue the new birth as faith sons of the Father in heaven, and having accepted the assignment as ambassadors substituting for Christ, we do not allow ourselves to be troubled by our occasional moments of doubt or of failure or of perplexing confusion. We do not falter and question our status and standing before God:
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
– Hebrews 6:10
For in every dark hour, at every crossroad in the forward struggle, the spirit of truth will always speak, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – (Isaiah 30:21)
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