From Live Loved, by Max Lucado
“Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
You Must Be Born Again
The noisy room silences as Nicodemus enters. The men are wharf workers and tax collectors, unaccustomed to the highbrow world of a scholar. They shift in their seats. Jesus motions for the guest to sit. Nicodemus does and initiates the most famous conversation in the Bible: “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” (John 3:2).
Nicodemus begins with what he “knows.” I’ve done my homework, he implies. Your work impresses me.
We listen for a kindred salutation from Jesus: “And I’ve heard of you, Nicodemus.” We expect, and Nicodemus expected, some hospitable chitchat.
None comes. Jesus makes no mention of Nicodemus’s VIP status, good intentions, or academic credentials, not because they don’t exist, but because, in Jesus’ algorithm, they don’t matter. He simply issues this proclamation: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3).
Behold the Continental Divide of Scripture, the international date line of faith. Nicodemus stands on one side, Jesus on the other, and Christ pulls no punches about their differences.
Nicodemus inhabits a land of good efforts, sincere gestures, and hard work. Give God your best, his philosophy says, and God does the rest.
Jesus’ response? Your best won’t do. Your works don’t work. Your finest efforts don’t mean squat. Unless you are born again, you can’t even see what God is up to.
—3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE
Thank you, Almighty God, for providing salvation for all who submit to you. We praise you that we can be born into your spiritual kingdom out of a life of sin. What a relief to know that we do not have to work to become your child; we simply accept the work of Jesus’ death on the cross. Your offer of salvation is a marvelous miracle of mercy. It is a free gift from your generous heart given to all who don’t deserve it but desperately need it. We praise you for your magnificent work, amen.
“And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” – Hebrews 5:9
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21 NIV
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