“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3
One of my favorite stories in the Bible begins with a conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus. It is the longest personal conversation Jesus had with any religious leader recorded in the Bible. What makes this story so fascinating is whom Jesus was talking to. Nicodemus was no ordinary, run of the mill Jewish man. He was a Pharisee. There were only 6,000 in all of Judaism and they were considered the spiritual crème-de-la-crème. They were the PhD’s of biblical scholars.
No one was more religious than the Pharisees. They dotted every religious “I” and crossed every religious “T.” Furthermore, Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council known as the Sanhedrin. This was the Jewish Supreme Court. The court only had 70 members; so Nicodemus was not just a Pharisee, but also a VIP Pharisee!
When their conversation begins, Nicodemus had just complemented Jesus on being a great teacher and a great miracle worker. I am sure he had a list of theological questions he wanted to ask Him but Jesus started talking about birthdays. He goes right to the heart of the matter. He knows that Nicodemus thinks that being right with God is a matter of religion and not relationship. Jesus knows Nicodemus thinks it is about what he can do for God instead of what Christ will do for Him. Then, Jesus drops a bomb, “You must be born again.”
If you had been there, you would have seen the blood drain out of his face. If there was one thing Nicodemus was sure of it was that he was right with God. Then, for the first time in his life, he heard this, “Your goodness will never be good enough for God. If you want to see the Kingdom of God, you must be born again.”
Listen carefully. You, like Nicodemus, may be very religious. You may live in such a way or have the kind of job where you are very respected. You may be doing your best to keep all the rules of what you think makes up a good life. But if you do not have a spiritual birth certificate, you do not have a relationship with God. You will never see, much less enter the Kingdom of God unless you have been born again.
Dear Lord, thank you for the fact that your Word teaches us the difference between religious and having a relationship with you. I pray that I would live more focused on developing my relationship with Jesus rather than appearing religious and doing all of the "right things" to impress others. In Jesus' name, amen.