If you ever wondered what an authentic and calm discussion between a Pharisee and Jesus would have looked liked, you’re in luck. That is exactly what we see here in John chapter 3. This Pharisee, named Nicodemus, thought that perhaps there truly was something special about Jesus from Nazareth and wanted to sit down to chat with him. Nicodemus was still concerned about his reputation and status with others, so he made sure he did it at night so that no one else saw him speaking to Jesus.
Jesus had a particularly notable response when Nicodemus mentioned that he believed Jesus truly did come from God, “I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is a confusing statement to Nicodemus. Jesus clarifies, “Unless one is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Jesus is making a hard line in dirt that distinguishes between those who are in God’s family and those who are not. What is that line? The status of your rebirth. Are you living the life of the “flesh” or are you living the life of the “spirit”? If you’re living in the ways of sin, there is no way you can receive the kingdom of the spirit and vice versa.
I want you to imagine with me for a moment. Let’s say you’re at a track and field event full of varying sports. As you might know, there is a 1st place medal, 2nd place medal, and 3rd place medal for each event. Would you be surprised to see the first place medalist for the 400 meter dash ended up being a discus thrower? It doesn’t make sense that someone would win the medal for a game they have never played would it? Wouldn’t they receive the reward given for their specific event?
The same goes for our eternal reward and destination. There are only two “games to play” in this event called life. We can either dedicate our lives to the ways of this world or we can dedicate our lives to the ways of God’s kingdom. Jesus gives us the warning here that we should not expect to receive the “1st place medal” of God’s kingdom if we are still playing the game “of the flesh.” Why would we ever expect for God to give his kingdom to those who reject it? He wouldn’t. We all sin and we all make mistakes, but the difference here is what game we are practicing. To be born of the spirit is to be playing a completely different game from those who are only born in the flesh.
So in these years that you have right here and right now, you have a choice to make—what game will I play and practice? Will I be born again in the spirit, pursue God, and in the end receive His kingdom? Or, will I stay in the flesh, pursue the enemy, and in the end receive eternal death? I encourage you to make the conscious and daily choice to die to yourself in order to be born of the spirit.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Have you ever tried playing both the flesh and the spirit game at the same time? Explain what that might look like. What happens?
- What is one way you can challenge yourself to die to the flesh today? And how will you replace that with following the spirit and pursuing God?
- Also in this chapter, both Jesus and John say one must believe in whom to receive eternal life? What will happen to those who reject the Son? What might that look like?