Cannot Give Birth to Spirit
A drunk stumbled along a baptismal service
on Sunday afternoon down by the river. He proceeded to walk down into the
water and stood next to the Preacher. The minister turned and noticed the
old drunk and said, "Mister, Are you ready to find Jesus?" The drunk looks
back and says, "Yes, Preacher. I sure am."
The minister then dunked the fellow under
the water and pulled him right back up. "Have you found Jesus?" the preacher
"No, I didn’t!" says the drunk.
The preacher then dunks him under for quite
a bit longer, brings him up and says, "Now, brother, have you found Jesus?"
"No, I did not Preacher."
The preacher in disgust holds the man under
for at least 30 seconds this time brings him out of the water and says
in a harsh tone, "Friend, are you sure you haven’t found Jesus yet?"
The old drunk wipes his eyes and says to the
preacher..."Are you sure this is where he fell in?"
Religion can become so rigid and formal that
it leaves us dead. I heard about a man who visited a very formal church
one Sunday. He said that right in the middle of the service a guy had a
heart attack & died, but that the ushers carried out 5 guys before
they found the right one.
In our modern times becoming a child of God
has lost much of its grandeur because the flesh has reduced being a Christian
to becoming religious. In doing so we have basically given up our right
to become true children of God. We have a great need to be reborn as children
"Now there was a man of the
Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came
to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come
from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if
God were not with him.’
In reply Jesus declared, ‘I
tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born
‘How can a man be born when
he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into
his mother's womb to be born!’
Jesus answered, ‘I tell you
the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water
and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth
to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born
again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you
cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone
born of the Spirit.’
‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus
"Flesh Gives Birth to Flesh"
Jesus says, "Flesh gives birth to flesh,
but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Nicodemus’s life was governed
by his fleshly birth. He was born of Abraham’s seed, but he needed to become
a child of God. Nicodemus was religious. He was faithful to the religious
traditions of his day. Those traditions were largely fleshly ordinances
given by men, which were often void of the true spirit of God.
The New Testament speaks of four classes of
religious folks: Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Lawyers. The Pharisees
and Sadducees followed separate religious traditions—the Pharisees believed
in the resurrection and the Sadducees didn’t. The Scribes were entrusted
with copying the Scriptures. The Lawyers were given the responsibility
to interpret the law and make religious laws for everyone to follow.
If you had difficulty knowing how to keep
one of God’s commandments, you would take your problem to the lawyers.
You would explain your dilemma to the lawyers. Should I take care of my
father and mother in their old age, or should I give my money to God? The
lawyers would get together and study your problem to find a solution. Their
answer was, "Your gift to God nullifies your need to take care of your
It was a fleshly solution to a spiritual problem.
The lawyers did what they do best. They make laws to nullify laws. They
nullified their right to become a child of God by giving a fleshly answer
to a spiritual problem. However, only the Spirit of God can lead us to
a rebirth. Fleshly answers to spiritual problems can only bring death.
Most religions of the world represent man's
effort to reach up to God and become acceptable to Him. In China, for example,
devout pilgrims ascend a sacred mountain called Taishan. They climb 7,000
steps to its summit, first passing through the "middle gate," then through
"heaven's southern gate." Finally they reach one of the most beautiful
buildings in all of China--the Temple of the Azure Cloud. Here they offer
sacrifices, which the worshipers believe will gain God's favor. Such effort
represents great religious fervor--and futility, for it brings the devotee
no closer to God than when he mounted the first step.
It is impossible to experience the new birth
if we allow our fleshly minds to rule our lives. There is a battle raging
within each of us. It is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit.
We don’t have a group of lawyers today to
solve our problems. However, many bring their problems to the church in
hopes that church creeds and doctrines will solve their problems. Many
may think that baptism alone solved all their problems with God, but Jesus
says that we must be born of the water and the Spirit. It is not difficult
to be baptized in water, but being born of the Spirit is another story.
"If the Central Intelligence Agency wanted
you to be an agent behind the bamboo curtain in China, you would be trained
to talk, act, look, and think Chinese. You would go to school and learn
the Chinese language so that you could speak it fluently without a trace
of an accent. After studying the mores of China and watching films of Chinese
physical characteristics, you could duplicate their mannerisms. Perhaps
you would undergo plastic surgery and have your face changed so that you
would look Chinese. Then you could enter Communist China and be welcomed
as one of them.
"You would then do everything in the Chinese
manner. No difference would be noticeable. As far as anyone in China is
concerned, you are Chinese. But would you be Chinese? No, not if you did
not have Chinese parents. Nothing you can do will change your race.
"Actually, it's the same way spiritually.
You may talk and dress like a Christian. You may join Christian organizations
and sing Christians songs, and in all ways act like a Christian. However,
none of these things will make you a Christian. You were born sinful and
you have the nature of a sinful race. Nothing you can do outwardly can
change this fact. Just as you would have to have been born of Chinese parents
to be Chinese, so you need a new birth spiritually to be a Christian."
[Evangelism Explosion by D. James Kennedy. Tyndale House, 1977. Page 107.]
Jesus told many of the religious people of
his day that they needed to be reborn. Religious people have a tendency
to believe that religious practices can make them good.
A certain ruler asked him,
"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call
me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-except God alone. You know the
commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do
not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"
"All these I have kept since
I was a boy," he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said
to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to
the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
When he heard this, he became
very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and
said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed,
it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich
man to enter the kingdom of God."
Those who heard this asked,
"Who then can be saved?"
Jesus replied, "What is impossible
with men is possible with God."
Peter said to him, "We have
left all we had to follow you!"
Religion leaves us wondering who can
be saved as it blinds us to the possibility of the new birth. This
devout devoted young man came to Jesus expressing his doubts about his
salvation. "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
He is not fully convinced that he has eternal life. He is uneasy and unfulfilled.
He is anxious about his salvation. Fulfillment of the law, obedience to
the commandments, accumulation of wealth—none of these was enough to convince
him that he had eternal life. His religion bred anxiety. Being born of
the Spirit brings peace and joy.
"Therefore, there is now no
condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ
Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and
death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by
the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful
man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order
that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who
do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit"
There was a God shaped vacuum in his life,
a longing in his heart. The sad part was that he couldn’t let go and let
God bring about his rebirth.
Only God can give us a new birth. "Jesus
answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless
he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the
Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying,
'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear
its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’"
Thinking as the world thinks comes as first
nature, but thinking with the Spirit of God is not so easy. When we are
baptized into Christ we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit
is given to guide us through a spiritual rebirth. For those disciples following
Christ during his earthly ministry their biggest problem was allowing their
minds to be led by the Spirit of God.
The Fallacy of Religious Tradition
Religion subtly teaches us that we can
have salvation on our terms, not the Lord’s. Jesus smacked at everything
religious in this young man’s life by saying, the first thing you have
to understand is that no one but God is good. "When Jesus heard
this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have
and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come,
follow me." This was Jesus’ way of making this man face up to his sin.
From all outward appearance his life was most exemplary. He obeyed all
the laws Jesus mentioned.
Religious tradition can become the most dangerous
thing in seeking God. This young man was following religious tradition,
but his heart was far from God.
Many follow church rules, but inside
they have never changed their heart.
This young man gives us a picture of
a seemingly maturing child of God.
You can be very religious and not be
You can paint the pump house but that
doesn’t make the water pure!
It wasn’t a matter of improvement in outward
behavior, because Nicodemus and the young ruler already lived a good life.
It wasn’t a matter of keeping the law because
they already did that to the best of their ability.
"I tell you the truth," Jesus said, "unless
a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
This concept of being born again is something
that we have a difficult time grasping.
Nicodemus was an intelligent man, but sometimes
the trouble with very intelligent people is that he or she can’t accept
They look for complicated solutions that aren’t
It must have sounded like a riddle to Nicodemus,
who immediately tried to tackle the problem from the earthly angle.
"How can a man be born when he is old? Nicodemus
asked. Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be
If you want to stay spiritually healthy you
must be spiritually reborn! John 3:16, the most famous verse in the Bible,
was preached to the religious sinner.
Even the religious sinner can be born of the
Word and of the Spirit. Nicodemus was religious, but he needed to be reborn.
There is a classic parable concerning the
attitude we must have to be reborn as it reveals that a fleshly birth can
only bring death.
"To some who were confident
of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told
this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and
the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:
'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or
even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all
"But the tax collector stood
at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast
and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather
than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts
himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’" (NIV).
Listen to what Peter told religious sinners
"’Repent and be baptized, every
one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you
and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our
God will call.’
"With many other words he warned
them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand
were added to their number that day" (NIV).