It must have been as confusing to Nick as it might be in many churches today.
Nicodemus had come to Jesus for more information about Him and His ministry.
He was certain Jesus was sent by God and the works of Jesus and His teaching had to be from God. However, the response of Jesus confused him, “You must be born again.”
“What are you talking about,” He asked.
Jesus explained further, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
Either the look on Nick’s face or his body language asked, “Why is that?”
"Because", Jesus went on to say, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Let’s unpack what Jesus was saying to this “good man.”
A person lives by the desires and appetites of their physical nature, the five senses of the human body; sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.
A person’s thoughts, emotions, and volition are animated by selfish desires and the sinful appetites of the flesh.
The Apostle Paul wrote it this way, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” Ephesians 4:17-19 NKJV).
Nicodemus believed in Jesus, and Nick was a good man.
Jesus was telling him that would not get him into the Kingdom of God. Indeed, he was not going to Heaven, even though he was a religious leader; even though he believed in Jesus and His teachings.
Why is that?
Everything he was doing religiously and all of his good works were being done out of the flesh and not out of the Spirit of God.
Nicodemus was doing all of those things to please God and to earn his way to Heaven.
He believed in Jesus but all of his righteousness was self-earned by his own good works.
He did not have true righteousness.
No man or woman can earn true righteousness through their own good works. Every human being is born with a sin nature.
Our mind, will, and emotions are not directed toward God but toward our own self-will and they are animated by the spirit of darkness.
We do not like that truth; we may even resist admitting it.
Everything within our education system, our culture, the medical science and philosophy declares otherwise.
Even most of Christian psychology teaches man is basically good.
Psychologists Freud, Rogers, Mower, Glasser, and Skinner, may adamantly declare there is good deep in the heart of a person and it can be found if we dig deep enough.
That is not what God’s Word declares.
The Psalmist wrote, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3 NKJV).
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5 NKJV).
Ephesians 2:1-5 declares, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom once we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
The Apostle Paul wrote it is the condition of every man, woman, boy and girl. “There is none righteous, no not one… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23).
This is why every parent must train and discipline their children to tell the truth; to be obedient; and to be kind; to share; and to not steal.
A child left untrained and undisciplined will not naturally know responsibility, compassion for others and willingly share.
They will not know honesty, loyalty and integrity.
The human heart is born with a propensity to the spirit of darkness and disobedience.
Have you measured yourself by the Ten Commandments, lately? Every one of us comes up terribly short. Yet, the Word of God says, “If [you] stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness.”
That is very clear, true righteousness and holiness does not come from good works but from putting on the “new man.”
That is only possible by being born again.
Being born again does not take place just because you believe in Jesus.
The demons believe and tremble, Scripture says in James 2:19.
It doesn’t happen just because you read the Bible, go to church or lead a Bible study. You must personally experience the life-changing work of the Holy Spirit with in your heart.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).
How can you personally experience the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, or be born again?
You must follow through with all four, none can be left out.
1. Believe that Jesus Christ is exactly who He says He is, the eternal Son of God; that He took your sin and guilt upon Himself and was crucified upon the cross for you; that He was buried in the grave; and that He rose again from the dead on the third day.
2. Believe and accept the truth God says, that you are helplessly and habitually a sinner and you can do nothing to change yourself and your condition. You have broken God’s Ten Commandments and you deserve hell. Left to yourself, you will be self-centered, self-willed, and rebel against God and His Law.
3. Humbly ask God for His mercy and grace, then, authentically repent of your sins. That means you admit (confess) you are indeed a sinner; you see your sin the same way God sees your sin; it is defiling, evil, corrupt, wicked and destructive. Renounce your sinfulness and turn your heart from your sin and all its pleasure and turn to God with all your heart.
4. Humbly and passionately ask God to forgive your sin and to wash your heart from all defilement and guilt. Ask Jesus Christ to come live in your heart and to take charge of your life. Surrender to Him your will and your whole life; choosing to live for Him and to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
There is a reason Jesus Christ called it being born again.
It is life transforming.
When you are born again you love the things you once hated and you hate the things you once loved. You live for the things you once avoided and you avoid the things for which you once lived.