In reply Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Many people today, particularly churchgoers, are confused about what it really means to be a Christian.
If you ask many churchgoers what it means to be a Christian or how one becomes a Christian they will say something like this, “Well, I try to live a good life! I attend church and I try to be kind to others!” To them, this is what being a Christian means.
This definition of ‘Christian’ is interesting in light of what Jesus emphatically said to Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus was curious about this man who performs miracles and speaks with authority like no other. So he went to him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:1-2). While Nicodemus doesn’t say these words exactly, it’s clear that the root of his statement to Jesus is the question: “Jesus, who are you?”
Notice, Jesus doesn’t explain to Nicodemus who he really is. Instead, as always, Jesus addresses the heart problem of the man. He declares, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
What was Nicodemus’ real spiritual problem? He was blind and lost. And his religiosity wasn’t enough to cure him. Like the church of Laodicea, he was “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked!” He was just like the modern church today, seeing himself as ‘rich, having acquired wealth and not needing anything.’ What was Jesus’ counsel to this rich church and to Nicodemus? Jesus said, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
But what is this gold that Jesus refers to? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 13:45 Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” The gospel is the greatest treasure in the universe. You ‘purchase’ it by faith. When you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (which includes confession and repentance), God imputes righteousness to your account. In essence, at the moment of genuine faith, God declares one sinless in the courtroom of heaven. This, and only this, is what makes a person rich. Examine the contrast:
The unbeliever is wretched, while the genuine believer is righteous.
The unbeliever is pitiful, while the genuine believer is blessed.
The unbeliever is poor, while the genuine believer is rich.
The unbeliever is blind, while the genuine believer is seeing.
The unbeliever is naked, while the genuine believer is clothed in white.
A person who possesses the gospel of Jesus Christ, though he or she is poor in the eyes of the world, is rich in the eyes of God. Nicodemus was the most outstanding and respected teacher in all of Israel (John 3:10). He, more so than anyone else, should have understood who Jesus was. Yet he was spiritually blind. This is why Jesus told him, “You must be born again.”
What is the main lesson for each one of us? We need to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Because Christianity is not about being religious. Christianity is about having a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ.
This is what it means to be born again. This new birth occurs the moment you truly place your undivided trust in Jesus, and in his death on the cross as payment for your sins. In that moment, the Holy Spirit invades your dead spirit and gives it life. Then, you become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Examine yourself. Have you truly been born again?