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Let The Mystery Speak For Itself!

"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3)

Liberal "scholars," who claim the Bible is not Godís inspired Word, often focus on the absence of any mention in Johnís Gospel of the circumstances surrounding Jesusí miraculous birth. Since it was John who took Mary, Jesusí mother, into his home following the crucifixion (John 19:25-27), the Virgin Birth seems conspicuous by its absence from the narrative penned by "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Yet, in reading Jesusí conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, one is drawn to the mysterious statement of Jesus cited above.

How is one "born again" and why is it necessary to "see the kingdom of God?"

"Born again" means literally, "born from above." After Nicodemus incredulously asks, "How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his motherís womb to be born!" (v. 4), Jesus elaborates on his original statement. "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh. but the Spirit gives birth to the Spirit" (vv. 5-6).

In other words, to be "born again" or "born from above" means to be "born" of the Spirit. Only then can one enter the kingdom of God. As Jesus later says to the woman at the well, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24). This is what life in the kingdom of God is all about! Godís "true worshipers" worshiping him "in spirit and in truth." But if our worship is to be in spirit and truth, we must heed the truth as told to us by Jesus: we must be born of the Spirit.

There is no doubt that John has in mind the miraculous nature of Jesusí own birth as he offers his account of the life of our Lord. Jesus was born of a virgin via the agency of the Holy Spirit. He was literally "born from above." What Jesus really means when he says, "no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again," is "To enter my kingdom, you must be born the way I was born!"

But this is a physical impossibility, as Nicodemus pointed out. How are we to experience "birth from above" the way Jesus did? The answer is very simple, yet deeply profound: we must become one with him. We must surrender ourselves--spirit, soul and body--to "the man from heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:49) if we are to bear his likeness, share with him in his life, his death, and finally, his resurrection.

The whole experience of the Christian faith is a pneumapsychosomatic reality. Our whole person--spirit, soul and body--experiences birth from above, death to sin, and resurrection to eternal life. We cannot accomplish this in our frail, fallen state. That is why Jesus took care of it for us. When we unite with him, we share with him in the mystery that is the Incarnation. Human words cannot explain it. But human beings were created to experience it.

Let us walk each day in the presence of Christ, and let the mystery speak for itself.

James Gibson
Marshallville United Methodist Church

Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast
Let every soul be Jesus' guest

Ye need not one be left behind
For God hath bidden all mankind
                                             --Charles Wesley

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