27: Regenesis (John 3:5-8)
If Genesis 2 outlines the process of man’s creation, John 3 outlines the process of our recreation (or new creation). It is laid out for us by Jesus Himself, the Logos that spoke it all into being on the first place.
“Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”” (John 3:4-5).
Notice that unless you are born again you can’t see the kingdom of God. If you aren’t born of water and the Spirit you can’t enter it.
Why water and Spirit? When Man (“adam” is the Hebrew word for man) was created he was formed out of the ground (“adama” is the Hebrew word for ground). Adam was formed out of “adama”. This ground was watered by a mist that came from it.
“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up — for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground — then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:5-7)
Adam received life by God breathing into his nostrils the breath of life (“nesama hay”). He was “formed”, meaning that he was fashioned, hand made by God. He was formed not born (meaning one who comes from the body of another). And He was formed (not born) of earth and breath.
Now, if we want to see and enter the kingdom of heaven, we need to be born, not formed. We need to come from the “body” of another. And we need to born (not formed) of water and The Breath. What does that mean?
“Of water”. There were many instances of new life and new beginnings coming out of or through the water in the Old Testament.
• The ground on which new life appears in creation in Genesis 1:9-13 comes up out of the waters.
• Noah and his family miraculously came up through a flood of water into a new life in a new world (Genesis 8:13-19). The water had cleansed the old and made a way for a fresh start.
• Moses and the Israelites found their new identity as a nation under God as they miraculously went between the waters of the Red Sea on dry ground in Exodus 14.
• Joshua and a new generation of God’s children miraculously entered into their new lives and inheritance as God’s people by passing through the Jordan River on dry ground (Joshua 3).
• Elisha passed into his new life as a prophet by miraculously crossing that same Jordan River on dry ground (2Kings 2:14)
• The New Testament era for the people of God begins with John the Baptist calling them to pass through the waters of baptism as a cleansing of the old and a moving into a new life. Even Jesus went through those waters “to fulfill all righteousness”.
Throughout the Bible, God brings people up into new life through water. A new start, a new identity, a new purpose, emerging out of the water. Cleansing and cutting off the old way of life, the old reality, the old identity. Birthing something new.
“And The Spirit”. The word here is “pneuma” and it means breath. But this is not just any breath, this is referring to the third person of the Trinity. The Breath of God, the Holy Spirit. This means we need to receive the very breath of God if we are to be born again. This is the person of the Holy Spirit, from the very essence of who God is, breathed into our very souls, awakening and resurrecting our core being into a new life, identity and purpose. Or rather, the same purpose that God had always destined us for, but now equipped and empowered to carry that purpose out.
We are born again “of water and the Spirit”.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).
What we are, outside of Christ, is flesh born of flesh. The spiritual life that was given to us when God first breathed into Adam and Eve at creation is no longer available to us because our sin cut us off from the source of that life. As a result, that spiritual life no longer exists. Outside of Christ we are spiritually dead. That’s the deadness that Paul was referring to when he reminds the church in Ephesus of what they were before they met Jesus.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1).
So, outside of a life transforming meeting with Jesus, it is no wonder that we live the way we do. We are flesh, with all the weakness, frailty and vulnerability that entails. There is no other force and motivation at work within us, except for that niggling remnant of our life with God, our conscience, that keeps reminding us of what is right and wrong. We may however be influenced from outside by good or evil and those influences may take up residence in us as resident forces and influences. The difference is that the evil ones do no ask for permission, they simply look for a legal loophole for gaining access and take it. The Breath blows where He wills and we may feel His influence, but He is looking for permission from us before taking up permanent residence.
If that is what it means for us to be flesh born of flesh then what does it mean for us to be spirit born of The Spirit? Flesh born of flesh means weakness, frailty, vulnerability. Innately (that is, at the very core of our being) sinful. Spiritually dead. Awaiting physical death and eternal destruction.
Spirit born of The Spirit means the life of God alive in us. Strength, grace, passion for truth and justice, unfailing love. Innately sinless. Spiritually alive. Awaiting physical death but eternally indestructible. That’s quite the change. That’s quite the contrast.
That’s quite the tension to be living inside the mortal body of a Christian. A flesh born of flesh life that has been crucified with Christ and yet with an incredible capacity for resurrection. It keeps rising up and needs daily putting down. And then spirit born of The Spirit that lives forever. However, we need to refuel every day if the power of our dead and dying flesh is to be resisted and overthrown. We need to go on being filled with the Holy Spirit and we need to go on putting to death the flesh.
That is the age old war of good and evil, light and darkness, life and death, warring in our minds, bodies and souls every day. It stands to reason then, that the more deep and complete the destruction of our flesh, the old sinful nature, at the point of our new birth, the better. The more we can understand our need of true repentance, the less we have to wrestle with on an ongoing basis.
We will always have our wars with spiritual forces outside of ourselves. But they too are won and lost on the basis of which nature wins the battle inside our own lives. If The Spirit wins our internal battles, then there is no where for the enemy to put his feet and he has no power over us. If the flesh wins, then that lessens the power that we have within us to resist the devil to make him flee from us.
This is why we must be born of water and The Spirit. If the water represents the death of our old nature, the flesh, then we must die well if we are going to live our new lives well. The greater the depth of repentance the more we can flourish in our new lives in The Spirit. Ongoing confession and repentance will keep the flesh down and allow our spiritual lives to grow and strengthen.
This is a good thing to remember when we first are born again. Are we really convicted of our sin? Are we really ready to deeply repent?
This is a good thing to remember when we lead people into the life of the Holy Spirit.
We are born flesh of flesh. If we want to be free of the life of that flesh, it’s demands and results, then we need another life at work within us. A stronger, purer, freer life. That new life doesn’t exist in us before we come to Jesus, so it needs to be “born” in us. If we want new life we must be born again. As Jesus said:
“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:7).
If we are to be born again we must be born of water and The Spirit. The Spirit is like a powerful wind that blows where He wants to. He blows into people’s lives, even though they have no idea who He is and what He is doing. He had blown into Nicodemus’ life. Everyone who wants to be free of the flesh life, who wants the wonderful life that Jesus offers, needs to open their hearts and allow the wind to blow right into them. That same Holy Spirit that came on the Virgin Mary and brought Jesus to conception in her womb wants to blow into our lives and bring the life of Christ to birth in us too.
We might initially come to Jesus by logic and reason, or by emotion and feeling. It really doesn’t matter how we come. But if we want to be born again, we have to repent and be baptised as a sign of that repentance, dying to our old life to be washed clean and raised into new life with God. If we want to be born again, we need to invite The Breath, the wind, the Holy Spirit to bring His life to birth within us. There is no other way of seeing or entering the Kingdom of God.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
So this is what regenesis requires. This is what it means to be born again. It is available to us as a free gift. A gift that comes to us as a result of the overwhelming motivation that is at the heart of everything that God is and does. And that is love.Posted on: June 4, 2018Peter Todd