John 3:1-8 – Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
We cannot see the wind, but we can certainly see and feel its effects; and, when you are hiking in the mountains the wind can get rather chilly, even on a warm summer day. On the particular August day that this photo was taken the temperatures were probably near 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but by the time we got to Upper Two Medicine Lake the wind coming down off the mountains was cold enough to warrant putting on a jacket. Never underestimate the weather in the mountains. Always be prepared and carry extra layers of clothing, even if it is warm when you are starting out on your hike.
Today’s passage from John’s gospel recounts a late night discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees. Although Nicodemus seems to acknowledge Jesus’ authority, at least as “a teacher come from God,” he clearly does not understand, or does not want to understand, what Jesus is telling him when he says, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
The term “born again” is not just some catchy phrase used by Christians; it is a real transformation that takes place in the hearts and minds of those who come to know and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. The term “born again” is often the subject of much debate, but there is another term also used to describe this transformation, that term is “regeneration,” found in Titus 3:4-7,
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Christ’s words in John 3:5 and Paul’s words in Titus 3:5 definitely appear to be describing the same process, “born of water and the Spirit,” and “by washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” In both passages it is clear that this process is not of the individual believer’s own doing, it is only by the action of the Holy Spirit that this transformation takes place.
How exactly this regeneration, or rebirth, happens is a mystery, and Christ basically tells us just that when he says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” We know that we cannot see the wind, but we certainly can see and feel its effects, so it is for those who have come to know and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts
© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.