Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
We have the advantage over Nicodemus, I’m afraid. We know the story of Acts, which reveals what being born again means. The Holy Spirit descends upon us and fill us, making us new people.
I love Jesus’s description of the Spirit. You can’t see the wind, you don’t know where it comes from, but you know it’s there. That’s what faith is, believing in something you can’t see or fully understand. Of course these days science has taught us a lot more about the wind, so a better comparison might be subatomic particles or something. (Seriously, have you ever looked into quantum physics? It blows my mind.) So a part of faith is trusting in God’s word, even the parts we maybe don’t understand. Hell is a great example. Many Christians struggle to understand a loving God who would condemn non-believers for eternity. (I know I struggle with that!) But we don’t have to understand to believe and trust. Have faith!
But if you want a little help with that particular quandary, John 3:16-21 should help. Jesus was sent because God loved us, and He didn’t want us to be condemned anymore! The consequence for sin is death, and God just HATES that. So He sent Jesus here to save us. But we have to accept that grace. If we choose to love darkness and sin more than we love God, we have to face the consequences.
Keep in mind, guys, that sin does not mean you’re a horrible human being.. ALL people, even good people, are sinners. Sin is, essentially, putting something else before God. That could be money, science, yourself, your partner, work, drugs, fame, food, you name it. And we all do that sometimes. The question is, overall in our lives do we put God first? Do we love God more?