The new year makes us focus on new beginnings, new opportunities, and new goals.
Sometimes the old way just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe God has been showing you that it is time for a change. You just can’t live that way anymore.
This is the background of Nicodemus’s life. That’s why Jesus told him “you must be born again.” Are you ready for that new beginning in the new birth?
The importance of the new birth is highlighted by Jesus in John 3:3&5. Unless one is born again, Jesus said, he cannot see or enter the Kingdom. The concept of Kingdom descibes those who yield submission to God and those who enjoy God’s covenant care. If someone is outside the kingdom, that person doesn’t enjoy God’s promises of spiritual care. Instead, there is nothing but certain condemnation. On this verse Calvin wrote:
This statement means that no one truly belongs to the church and is counted among God’s children, unless he first becomes a new man. This verse shows briefly how one begins the Christian life. It also teaches us that we are born exiles and complete strangers to the Kingdom of God and that we are perpetually at war with it, until he makes us other than we are by a new birth.
So how can you be born again? That was Nicodemus’ question and Jesus answered it. Jesus said you must be born “again” or “from above.” The Greek word means either of those things and we have typically seen it translated “again” in our translations of John 3, but typically this word means “from above.” The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament says, “unless one is born from above (cf. v. 7; 1:13); this is cryptic language and is misunderstood by Nicodemus in the sense of anew (3:4; cf. Leroy). According to v. 31 Jesus is the one who comes from above. The authority of Pilate is given to him from above (19:11). Every good gift … comes from above, i.e., from the Father (Jas 1:17; cf. 3:15, 17: the wisdom which comes from above).”
So John used this word to refer to things that were from or of God. The new birth through water and the Spirit is a theme which runs throughout the Bible. In creation the dry land emerged as the Spirit hovered over the water and the waters receded. When the flood waters began to recede, the dry land appeared for God’s new world. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea they were freed from bondage, were baptized unto Moses, and became a solidified nation if their own. At the new heavens and new earth in Revelation, the sea is no more because God has made everything new and sin is gone.
Now Nicodemus is told to join in God’s procreative process. He too must be born again. This new birth is worked by God and received by faith when people are baptized. The image and process remains the same. Creation corrupted by sin is covered water. And God makes a new creation as the new born child of God ascends from the water.
Look at what God does when we are baptized as you read the verses again (John 3:3; John 3:5; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-5; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Peter 3:21).
Have you been born again? Are you in God’s Kingdom? Are you part of God’s new creation?