John 3:1-3 (Introducing Nicodemus)

What does it mean to be ‘born again’? What is a born again Christian?

Now you might have a pretty clear idea of the concept. But for the vast majority of people in the world – they don’t get it! When those who aren’t use the label ‘born again’ it’s mostly in a negative sense. It’s come to be synonymous with ‘fundamentalist’, ‘fanatical’, and ‘self-righteous’. Which is kind of ironic, since the phrase ‘born again’ comes from the passage we’re looking at this week, in John chapter three. And in this passage, Jesus is talking to someone who was a member of one of the most fundamentalist, fanatical and self-righteous religious sects around – and he told him that he wasn’t born again!

But the fact remains that most of the world associates the term ‘born again Christian’ with being an extremist. Fanatical about converting others to Christianity. A holier-than-thou attitude. Perhaps even a little bit brainwashed. Yet what does it really mean?

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John 3:4-7 (Born again)

Yesterday, we met Nicodemus. A Pharisee who came to visit Jesus secretly. In John’s Gospel, he represents those who are interested in who Jesus is, but aren’t yet ready to commit. Nicodemus questions Jesus, and Jesus famously tells him that he must be “born again.”

John 3:3  In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

What does it mean to be ‘Born again’?

Actually, the phrase is more naturally translated ‘born from above’. But since all of us (with the exception of Adam and Eve) have already been born once, then any subsequent ‘birth from above’ must be a second birth. So perhaps the best way of understanding what Jesus says is that we must be born again from above. That is, we must be born of God.

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John 3:8-16

Last week, we saw Nicodemus secretly meet Jesus by night – he was still in the dark as to who Jesus was, but he was intrigued. Jesus told him he needed to be born again from above – to be born of water and Spirit. In other words, he needed the “new heart” that Ezekiel spoke about long before hand – the Spirit of God that would move people to obey him from the heart, rather than from external constraints like the Law.

How can we be born again?

But how does that work, exactly? We don’t know, because we’re not God. As Jesus says:

John 3:8  The wind blows wherever it pleases…

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John 3:22-36

This is the final instalment in our study of the first three chapters of John’s Gospel. (I’ve written on chapters 4 and 5 previously; you can search the archives if you want to continue the tour.) It’s a longer passage, but it deals mostly with two related ideas that we’ve met back in chapter 1: a comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus, and the importance of accepting Jesus as having been sent from God.

John 3:22-24 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.)

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