Born from Above
1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.” 3Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”
4“How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”
5-6Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.
Jesus, I do know what You mean by this. I think I do anyway. I’m sure it means more than I can imagine now. But I know that when I do let You have control, when You get to change me, it is so different than I expect. I see in Your Word the person You want me to be, and I see who I am there also. I have so far to go.
And frankly, that new person You are making me doesn’t look like he has a very good life: a servant, loving those who hurt him, forgiving people who aren’t even sorry, suffering with others and even for others. It doesn’t look that good Lord.
But the little bit of me I have left You change, knows it is amazingly awesome. Why I still resist You, I do not know. As odd as it sounds, there is so much joy in serving, so much freedom in forgiveness, so much growth in suffering.
Jesus give me the faith and wisdom to totally become who You want me to be. Totally change me so every minute I am doing Your will, instead of just a few minutes a day. Keep remaking me Jesus. Change me.
When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
7-8“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”
Holy Spirit, that certainly is You. You twist and move our lives in ways I can’t imagine. I never know what to expect next, but it always turns out awesome. You keep life so fresh, so exciting, and so much more than I can imagine. I’m sure I need to be changed in ways I don’t recognize yet, but change me. Please help me to follow Your wind wherever You go.
9Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?”
10-12Jesus said, “You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?
Jesus, I can be that blind. I so often don’t understand or see the hand in front of my face. How, after so much time? Open my eyes Lord, as You opened the eyes of Nicodemus. Of course, it took a while with Nicodemus. My own progress is even much slower than his. Why? Why can’t You just change me completely in an instant? Your way, not mine Lord. Your will not mine. Slow, hard progress. Praise You forever!
13-15“No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.
Jesus, I know You died for me and have given me new life, a real life. But why am I so slow to be a new person? I feel like I’m falling backwards instead of going forward. What is wrong with me Lord? You suffered and died, and were “lifted up” for me, and I just don’t appreciate it. Why is my heart so hard? Why do i change so slow? Lord, is it all just head knowledge for me, like it was for most Pharisees? I’m just not “getting” it. I’m like Nicodemus, but I’ve known You for 35 years, he just met You. What will it take Jesus – a miracle?
16-18“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit, – God – there is too much here! I’ve heard it so many times. I know it by heart, but how can I ever really “know” it? You say I am acquitted. But I keep sinning. Can anyone really sin more? You have shown me such love, and I keep sinning. Am I still acquitted? It seems like a sensible question to me, but Your word is so clear. I am acquitted. But do I trust in You? I have no one and nothing else.
And what about the death sentence? It is so scary. Who can I help? How can I bring You to others? I know I am so unfit for that purpose. I can’t do much…I can’t do anything…but You can do much. Please Lord, You know my loved ones that don’t really trust You yet. Bring them home. If You can use me, please do. I should say, if You want to use me, please do, for You can do anything You want. Praise You God.
19-21“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”
Jesus, I need to run totally into Your light. I am living on the edge of the light. Part of me, the secret sinning part, wants the darkness. I don’t want all of my life to be about You and with You. I want this little corner where I can still do what my wicked self wants. How do I move forever out of this darkness? How do I live totally in Your light?
The Bridegroom’s Friend
22-26After this conversation, Jesus went on with his disciples into the Judean countryside and relaxed with them there. He was also baptizing. At the same time, John was baptizing over at Aenon near Salim, where water was abundant. This was before John was thrown into jail. John’s disciples got into an argument with the establishment Jews over the nature of baptism. They came to John and said, “Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he’s now competing with us. He’s baptizing, too, and everyone’s going to him instead of us.” 27-29John answered, “It’s not possible for a person to succeed—I’m talking about eternal success—without heaven’s help. You yourselves were there when I made it public that I was not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready. The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom’s friend, his ‘best man’—that’s me—in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?
Father, John the Baptist is truly amazing. He was so popular, but never lost his humility. He understood his role and wanted only what You wanted. He truly had no interest in the things of this world…popularity, cloths, food…he just didn’t care. He was on fire for You Father.
Could I ever be half that on fire for You? What would it take? Why do I care so much about the things of this world? Change me Father.
And Father, guard me against jealousy. I know that when I had even a little success, some of the people closest to me were jealous instead of happy for me. Help me to forgive them completely and forget about it. Also, I know I am capable of any sin without Your grace. Help me to be genuinely happy for others when something good happens to them.
29-30“That’s why my cup is running over. This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.
31-33“The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heavenborn is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth.
God, You are the only truth. My ways and thoughts are so shallow, so earthborn, so meaningless. Everything I do and think only matters if it is in You. You do define right and wrong, good and bad, truth and lies. Help me to never be so proud as to think for one minute that I am anything without You. You are the great I AM.
34-36“The One that God sent speaks God’s words. And don’t think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.”
Jesus, help me to better comprehend all You have given me. I know I will spend all eternity discovering You and Your gifts. I know I can’t come close to fully understanding this now, but I can comprehend it a lot better than I do. Open my mind and heart to see the new and complete life You have given me. Soften my heart and open my mind.
Holy Spirit, I feel You sometimes wanting to explode with in me. I feel You now. I know You are bursting in the desire to radically change my life. Why do I resist? Why do I not live every moment and make every decision based on You and only You? Change me.