A Pharisee named Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council and a teacher of religion to the Jews (vss. 1, 10). He came to Jesus privately one night to speak with Him. Jesus focused immediately on the truth that this religious leader needed to hear: “You must be born again!”
Perhaps you've been sharing your faith with a friend, who then asks, "Do you have to be born again to go to heaven?" That's a very valid question, and we find the answer in Jesus' words to Nicodemus. Without the new birth by the Holy Spirit, Jesus told Nicodemus, he would neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. The “you” in “you must be born again” is plural, so Jesus intended this truth for the many, not just for that one nighttime visitor.
In a moment of time Jesus turned that ancient Jewish theologian’s world upside down. Religion would not get him to heaven. All His knowledge of Judaism wouldn’t either. Nor would good works, as we’ll see shortly. Then how would he get to heaven, to eternal life with God? The only way into the kingdom of God for Nicodemus — and for all the rest of us included in the plural “you” — is being born again by the Holy Spirit.
Thankfully, God has not made the new birth by the Spirit complicated. It is not hard to get saved. To the contrary, being born again is available to everyone immediately, if done on God’s terms, not man’s. The Scriptures below show us the way.
When Jesus Christ the Son of God came from heaven to earth 20 centuries ago, most people did not receive Him. But some did, and they were born again (here, “born of God”). It’s the same today: receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, believe in Him as the crucified and resurrected Savior, and repent of your sins and receive His forgiveness. Do this and you will be instantly born again. You will become a son or daughter of God (2 Corinthians 6:18), destined for an eternity of indescribable joy in the presence of God the Father and His Son Jesus. By contrast, those who refuse to receive Jesus are destined for an eternity in the fires of hell. This adds much urgency to Jesus' declaration that we "must be born again."
As Jesus explained it, this spiritual birth will not be one of natural descent nor of a human father’s choice. Instead, you’ll be “born of God.” It is God Almighty, by His Holy Spirit, who will cause a regeneration — an inward spiritual rebirth in you — as an immediate result of (1) your repentance from your sins and (2) your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
“Regeneration” is translated “new birth” in the Amplified Bible and a number of others. It is translated as “rebirth” in the NIV and some other versions. Regeneration is a word that has the etymology and the sense of being born again.
We cannot earn our way into God’s favor by our good works. In fact, the Bible tells us that it it not by any righteous works that we do, but entirely by God’s mercy, by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:5,8) that we are saved.
This divinely granted salvation is “by the Holy Ghost.” The third person of the Trinity “regenerates” (literally, rebirths) us and “renews” us. The Holy Spirit accomplishes what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” What a promise! Our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God (Hebrews 10:17). We are made new and are included in “God’s family” (1 Thessalonians 4:10) and will spend an indescribably joyful eternity with Him (Psalm 16:11).
We are born again to a living hope! The time for depression and pessimism is over. The future is bright. Before His own death for our sins, Jesus prophesied of both His and our resurrection from the dead: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). First Corinthians chapter 15 describes in great detail the resurrection of the faithful at Jesus’ Second Coming.
And that is a far, far preferable outcome at the Second Coming compared to the fearful alternative facing those who choose not to receive Jesus in this life (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, KJV) — “…the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thankfully, the love of God led Him to allow His Son Jesus to die on the cross, taking the guilt of our sins upon Himself. He then rose from the grave on the third day, ascended back to heaven, and is to this very moment seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. From His throne in heaven Jesus is reaching out to every living person by the word of His Gospel. He is calling all of us to come to Him in faith and in repentance for sin. He will forgive you, will make you new, will bring you eternally into the family of God, and will continue to love you deeply for all eternity.
If you have already received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, take a moment to rejoice at this Good News. If you haven’t yet received Him as your Savior, from my heart I encourage you to do so. A short, beautiful description of “How to Be Born Again” is offered to you by the late, deeply respected evangelist Billy Graham. I encourage you to click the blue link just above and to receive Jesus as your Savior and join the family of God. You will be eternally glad that you did.
Check out our helpful list of "Salvation Scriptures" (How to Be Saved)
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©2018, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.