I’ve worn glasses since I was in junior high. I remember being told by the optometrist that I should just wear them to watch TV. Once I started wearing them, I didn’t want to take them off because I could see perfectly. I liked that. I liked recognizing people from a distance. I liked being able to judge a fly ball in addition to watching TV uninhibited by my imperfect eyesight. So much for eyesight. Here’s an observation . . .
John 3: 1-3 reads thusly, “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’”
Nic and his peeps knew Jesus was from God, but his observation is not on par with Peter’s confession or Martha’s declaration at her brother’s graveside that Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:27). Yet, it’s close. Despite this, we ain’t gonna talk theological semantics. That’s a waste of time.
What I do see in John 3 is Jesus’ imperative insistence that “yous can’t see nutin’” without the Holy Spirit. No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above/anew. Believing in divine revelation as truly coming from God is what God honors and, as was true for Abraham, it’s accredited to the believer as righteousness. In this ion of time, the definitive divine revelation is Jesus is Lord. Alleluia. We don’t see this unless the Spirit reveals it, and we don’t see the Kingdom (the reign of God most magnificently manifested in Jesus) unless we’re born of the Spirit. Trusting in God is our relationship with God, but it’s God who starts the ball rolling and ultimately honors our trust. It’s our heavenly Daddy who wants our relationship with him reconciled and made whole.
I think if not for the Holy Spirit, the only divine presence on the earth and in our sphere of existence, we would be left with convincing nonbelievers and skeptics of the Jesus story by virtue of our own apologetic devices and advanced education. When this doesn’t work, which it seldom does, we retreat to performance oriented activities to woo the same publics to our enclaves of like minded people. After a generation of such attempts, we stop and become content with like minded and like generational “sisters and brothers” and wait for the designated authorities to come and tell the folks that remain that it’s time to close and lock the doors of our churches for the last time. Oh, well.
We must be born of the Spirit, born again, born anew if we are to see who Jesus really is. Giving accounts of what has happened and saying God must have done it does not reveal a faith born of the Spirit. It’s simply observing and accounting for what has happened. Jesus’ words to Nic in John 3:3 reveal where Nic really finds himself and what the mission of Jesus ultimately is – to open the door for a new creation of people born of “God stuff” that see and participate in the reign of God in this world.
It’s been said often that confession of faith in Jesus as Lord will secure our eternal destiny. Heck, I just said it. Alleluia. Heaven is our home. I believe heaven will be running over with believers. It’ll be great; however, the demons believe and tremble.
Shoot, if you ain’t got nutin’ else goin’ on but faith in Jesus, run wit it. I, however, believe that a Nic kind of faith based on story or observation isn’t enough. Our destinies have more to do with living filled up with God in and through us to impact everyone and everything in this world. The redemptive work of God in Christ isn’t finished in Biblical story form with Easter morning. The redeeming work continued with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and will ultimately be completed in the New Heaven and New Earth.
Being born of the Spirit isn’t merely saying my marriage was my wedding ceremony or sacrament. A marriage is an on-going relationship. Our life in God is not encapsulated by a salvation moment. Our life in God is an on-going relationship with God in Christ as revealed to us regularly by the Spirit. When we discount the Holy Spirit as too mysterious to be grasped or simply irrelevant or associated with behavior that unbecoming for dignified folk, we’re content with a confession that secures our eternal destiny, but we really don’t know, or care to know God revealed to us in Jesus.
At the end of the encounter of Jesus and Nic, John does not give us a happy ending. We’re left to wonder what Nic’s reaction was. So it is with the Spirit.