A continuing series reflecting on the book: “What Jesus Demands from the World”, By John Piper (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2006, 400 pgs.)
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again,Â he cannot see the kingdom of God.” -John 3:3; Jesus answered, …” Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” -John 3:5,7
John 3 records a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Nic starts by complimenting Jesus. Then Jesus immediately begins to proclaim a teaching that emphasizes their differences. The Pharisees believed that one could ‘justify’ themselves and gain eternal life by knowing and following all of the Mosaic Law. Jesus says, nope that won’t cut it, ‘you must be born again’. Nic was a member of the Sanhedrin and an expert in the OT scriptures, and yet he did not understand what Jesus was talking about. Jesus was actually reflecting on the words of Ezekiel:
” I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” -Ezekiel 36:25-27
Jesus is teaching here that God himself will cleanse his people and give them a new Spirit, a spirit which will help to bring about a change of heart. The scripture says that it will be the ‘Spirit of God’ that will be put within them, and that it will help in following his statutes and ways. This is OT and Nic had no idea, nor did he know that this would soon be fulfilled.
Jesus continued the discussion by saying: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Â “
‘Flesh’ represents ordinary humanity, the natural human condition. “We are not born spiritually alive with a heart that loves God. We are born spiritually dead”1 Jesus teaches here that all humanity is divided into two camps:
1.Â Those who are born only once– born naturally, “Born of the flesh” and spiritually dead.
2.Â Those who are ‘reborn’–“born again” by the Spirit of God, alive and changed by him. Those who see and seek his kingdom.
What Jesus demands from Nicodemus, he demands from everyone in the world. Nic was considered a ‘righteous’ leader among the Jewish folk, and yet he still was spiritually ‘dead’. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or what race and ethnic group you belong to, Dead is Dead. There is nothing that you can do naturally by yourself to get into the Kingdom of God. You must be ‘reborn’ by the Spirit of God. It’s not one of those ‘self-help’ programs, it is a gift from God that activates a new ‘supernatural’ life. John Piper finishes the chapter:
“Look away from yourself. Seek from God what he alone can do for you. Moral improvement of the old you is not what you need. New life is what the whole world needs. It is radical and supernatural. It is outside our control. The dead do not give themselves new life. We must be born again–“not…of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). That is what Jesus demands from the world.” 2
1 John Piper,p. 38; 2 ,p. 39