How do you believe?
In the third chapter of John, Nicodemus comes to Jesus. He is a Pharisee, he’s one of the leaders of the Jews. As a good Pharisee, he’s had the right training, he’s read the right books, he’s learned from one of the famous rabbis, Hillel or Shammai or Gameliel. But apparently he’s not satisfied, because he comes to Jesus who is a new rabbi, not properly trained but seems to have answers.
He comes at night, so the others can’t see. Jesus has told him you must be born again, you must be born from above. Now for us this is a very familiar phrase, but Nicodemus only sees it physically. “How can you get back into your mother’s womb,” he cries. But it’s so familiar to us we may not really understand it.
For many of us it seems like our own personal challenge, our own choice to be born again. I must make the personal choice to follow Jesus, to believe in him. But remember birth is not something we have any control in, it’s not our choice, it’s God’s and it’s God’s alone.
You’ll note that when I say born again, I also say born from above, because in the Greek the word anothen which Jesus uses can mean either born again, or can mean born from above with God causing the rebirth.
Jesus tells Nicodemus about the Spirit. This is also something we cannot control. The powerful wind goes where it will, invisible, yet visible by its results and its consequences, the leaves rustling, the lives changed. And Jesus also tells Nicodemus about the Son. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, and the people were saved, so the Son will be lifted up, and those who see and believe will be saved. It is in this context that we have the most familiar, most beloved, verse for us in the whole Bible – John 3:16 – “for God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever shall believe in him shall be saved and have eternal life.”
That’s what it means to be reborn, born from above – to believe in Christ, trust him with our lives, staking our lives on him in a faith not our own intellectual assent, but a faith given to us from above, given to us by God. So how do you believe? Is it intellectual, or have you staked your life on it? Can you say to others God loved the world so much he gave his only son and believe it, stake your life on it.? Then do it and tell others about it. Do it today.
REV. DALE BROWN is pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian churches. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.