Being 'born again' is gift from God
The Rev. Randy Beeman, senior pastor, First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.:
In John 3, the Bible says, "Now there was a wise man named Nicodemus. As Nicodemus questions Jesus at night, Jesus responds, 'No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'"
Jesus is busy moving Nicodemus not just toward new thinking, but new life. The point was not for Nicodemus to walk away from the discussion with a bit more knowledge about God, but rather to fall to his knees asking God to forgive him for his arrogance in thinking that he knew anything of the living, free, sovereign God. Nicodemus found new life and new perspective. He was born again because of Jesus. I think that night Nicodemus hoisted his sail, prepare to sail out of his safe harbor, moved along by the Spirit's breeze into life not of his own devising.
We never hear of Nicodemus after this night, until toward the end of John's Gospel. Jesus, the one to whom he came at night with questions, is dead, crucified. Among the few daring to be near was Nicodemus. Considering that Jesus was crucified by the wise and the powerful, it's quite a surprise to see Nicodemus, a member of the establishment, risking that. He is there at the end, not as interrogator but as disciple, not as a visitor in the night, but as a committed follower of the light.
Nicodemus doesn't say anything. He comes bearing spices to honor the body of Jesus. He comes to worship the Son of God, slain for sin. He offers neither questions nor answers but sweet-smelling spices whose aroma is carried by a wind that blows where it will. Nicodemus truly has a true life in Jesus.
Being born again happens when we stop trying to buy into the idea that all knowledge is found within our small lives and that we find enlightenment in ourselves. It is admitting that insight here occurs, not from burning the powerful midnight oil, not from buckling down and working hard to get it, but as a gift, from above, from God. Grace from Jesus.
-- Send e-mail to the Rev. Randy Beeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spirit comes alive by accepting Jesus
The Rev. Paul Gray, senior pastor, Heartland Community Church, 619 Vt., and acting director of the Leo Center, Suite 100, 1 Riverfront Plaza:
The Bible teaches that each of us is made up of three components: spirit, soul and body. We live in our body and interact with our surroundings by means of our five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. We also have a soul that consists of our mind, will and emotions. Our body and soul are automatically present when we're born physically.
But our spirit -- where we have our relationship with God -- is not automatically born at our physical birth. It only happens when we come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to one of the leading religious leaders of his day, Nicodemus, (John 3:3-6) "I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the kingdom of God."
Nicodemus exclaimed, "What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"
Jesus replied, "The truth is, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven."
("Born of water" means physical birth, when the mother's water breaks.)
The apostle John wrote (John 1:12-13) "To all who believed (Jesus) and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan -- this rebirth comes from God."
The Bible teaches us that our spirit comes alive -- we are "born again" -- only by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and beginning our eternal life through our relationship with him. That's the beginning of what we call the Good News.
-- Send e-mail to the Rev. Paul Gray at email@example.com