Monday, October 19, 2009

The Summary of the Gospel (Jn. 3:13-16)

John 3:13-16

John 3:16 is the summary of the gospel. Salvation does not come from the law but from the gospel. The verse was not spoken by Jesus Christ but was summarised by the Apostle John following his record on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus represented the coming of the new era. Nicodemus ended the old era.

God had made preparation in the Old Testament so that we can understand the completion in the New Testament but often times we cannot see the true meaning. All the Jews had studied in the Old Testament did not enable them to see the true mystery.

Nobody will receive eternal life by following the law. The purpose of the law is to judge, not to forgive. God has given us the law not for us to obey or disobey, the true motive is as to remind us that we fall so short we can never fulfil God’s standard. The more we study the law, the more we understand the perfection of God. It is like looking at the mirror and seeing our flaws. It is frightening that having the law for such a long time the Jews turned arrogant instead of feeling humbled.

Implicit in the New Testament is the fulfilment of the promises in the Old Testament but the Jews were ignorant of this. So they felt threatened when Jesus Christ came. They decided that John the Baptist must die and Jesus must die too. To them, the Old and New Testament were in conflict. But the method relating to salvation is implicit in the Law. If we read carefully, the method of looking at the snake is looking up to the Lord to be saved. But the Jews never understood.

Jesus said just as Moses lifted up the snake, so the Son of God must be lifted up too. Moses lifted up a material snake which was a symbol and the people were healed when looking at that symbol. But Jesus was the sinless holy One who was lifted up for our sin. People could try to follow the law but once bitten by the snake they will die. Looking at the snake is not related to good works. Solution to sin is not through good works. We see how the judgement of the Old Testament is related to the forgiveness of the New Testament.

In another instance, by the command of God Moses threw his staff and it became a snake. The Egyptian magicians did the same thing. So there are good and bad snakes. What is the difference since they performed the same thing? Moses’ snake could devour all the other snakes. Falsehood would be devoured by the truth. This is a mark whereby death was swallowed up in victory when Jesus defeated death. Through death He defeated Satan. So we see both snake that represented Satan as well as the snake that represented Christ.

In the event where the snake was lifted up in the desert, the meaning is that life had victory over death and that is the promise of God. But Israelites were so engrossed with trying to follow the Law they could not understand this mystery. No matter how obedient you are, if you are bitten by a snake you will die. The solution is to look upon the sinless Christ. The Jews never understood such an important revelation. The experts of the law were only interested in the narrow field of study and they were lost the deeper they digged in. They studied so much but they were constrained. They needed a paradigm shift. Whenever there is historical change it is because of paradigm shift.

The Jews only had two choices, to abandon their culture or to kill Jesus Christ. The price they paid for absolutising the non-absolute when meeting with the Absolute. The True Word of God had become physical. “You think you have the Scripture. But this Scripture bear testimony of Me and you are not willing to come to Me. You think you are one with Logos but I am the Son of Man, the Word become flesh. Because you see Me as the Son of Man you cannot see Me as the Son of God.”

After the conversation with Nicodemus, the Apostle John summarised the Old and New Testament in v.16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son so that those who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God has given us the Law to reveal that we are sinful, that we cannot fulfil His standard, so that we submit to God’s judgement. These are the passive role of the Law (Rom. 3:19-20). But the dynamic action of the Law is more important. It gives us understanding about God. Through the Law, we will recognise that the attributes of God are different from all other pagan gods. God is just, holy and good. These are the things all the other pagans’ gods do not have.

People who worship idols do not believe because the gods are just or holy. Why do they pray to those gods? It is not about truth and justice but about profit and loss. The Chinese worship the god of heaven to the god of the earth, from the god of the door to the god of the kitchen. The purpose is to have good journeys, to be blessed, to have a lot of descendants and prosperity. These have nothing to do with holiness, righteousness and justice. The Law reminds us that we are far away from God and we need to repent. From the Law we see how decadent we are. So it brings us to understand grace. The source of all grace is Jesus Christ. The Law is like a teacher that brings us to Christ. Suddenly we realise what we need is not just action but salvation. Our hope not in academics, but in Christ who took away our sin, righteous for the unrighteous, so we need to turn our eyes upon Him.

John 3:16 says God gave His only begotten Son. How do we know Jesus is God? How could God give us God? How can we understand God sending God? Does that mean there are two Gods? God gave us His only begotten Son. When we look upon Jesus, we are not looking upon man. We are looking at the begotten Son of God.

Who is Jesus Christ? He is the Son of God. “So who is the Mother?” This is what happen when creature thinks the Creator must be like him. God is the One who created the principles governing the world. We cannot turn it around and expect the Creator to follow us. The principle of reproduction between man and woman is created by God. There are also other kinds of reproduction in other living things. We cannot demand Creator God to be like us.

The most important thing is to understand from this term “Son of God” is that He has the same essence and life as God. As the begotten Son, He has the essence of life of the Father. But what does that mean that God sent God? How many Gods are there? We need to refer back to general principles of the Bible.

The very first time Jesus opened the Scripture to read, “The Spirit of God is upon Me, …” the concept of the Triune God is already mentioned, the Spirit, God and Christ. His mandate to His disciples before He was taken up to heaven, “… and baptise them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Again we see the Triune God. One Name, but three Persons. The Father is not the Son. Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. But there is only one God and there are three persons. The Son of God has the essence of God. So He is God.

The other word is “Begotten”. It tells us He is not created. He is begotten, not created. His relationship with the Father is that of life relationship, not of creation. Life that came from Life, not life that came from creation. John 1 says that nothing was created without Him, implying that He himself was not created.

When we take a lighted candle to light another candle, we see two candlelights but the light comes from the first light. While it seems the second light comes from the first, but actually the second light already exists in the first light. The Son came from the Father, but from the beginning the Son was already in the Father. We cannot say that the Father existed before the Son. If the Father has only one Begotten Son, then before the Son was begotten, was the Father still the Father? Whose Father is He then? Without the Son, He cannot be the Father. Relative to the Father’s existence, there is the Son. The Son is called the Son because relative to Him is the Father. So the Son is Begotten eternally, not at a certain moment in time. The term “Only” means there is no another one like Him, the Only Begotten Son. He is uncreated and begotten from all eternity.

What about the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit the power of God? Is the Holy Spirit just the inspiration of God? If Holy Spirit does not exist as a Person, is it just a power as it moves? It seems to be the best explanation to reconcile the doctrine that Jesus is the Only Son who is uncreated since everything else must be created. Is the Holy Spirit created? From the Bible teaching and Athanasian creed, we see that Holy Spirit is neither created nor begotten. Jesus was begotten of the Father, but the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, not created, not begotten. The unitarians do not believe in the Triune God hence they consider Holy Spirit as the representation and power of God.

The Holy Spirit is another Person that came forth from God. The whole Bible shows the personhood of God is confined in 3 Persons. In Gen. 1:1-3, we can see the Triune God in creation. “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” (v.1), then “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (v.2) and finally “God said, Let there be light.” (v.3). So God, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God were present in creation. Creation is the work of the Triune God.

John 3:16 is the verse of the verses. It is the summary of God’s promise in Jesus Christ. It is the will of God. Verse 17 onwards speaks of the response towards the Gospel and its consequences. (To be continued… )

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jesus and Nicodemus Part 6 (Jn. 3:13-15)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 4th October 2009 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 3:13-15

The Jews studied the law for 1500 years. But at this time they were enslaved by Roman empire. On one hand they studied the Scripture but on the other hand they could not see the blessings of God upon them under Roman occupation. That built up deep desire to see the coming of the Messiah. Hence they were very sensitive to the power of God manifested among them.

Geographically the Jewish scholars were divided into 4 groups: Babylonian, Alexandra, Roman empire and Greek city, and Jerusalem. All of them studied about Messiah, e.g. what would happen to political situation when Messiah come. They prayed and waited for the coming of Messiah. How would Messiah appear? Is He man or God? They might disagree on some teaching but they had common ground in their understanding of the Messiah. They all knew that the Messiah is a great King. He must avenge the Israelites and get rid of all the imperialists. He would be the victorious Judge and King. But after His final victory, would He die? Some scholars believed He would live forever. Some believe He would die like any other human beings. But what would happen when He died? So the Jewish scholars continued to study into this topic.

Ironically, why would Jesus be the Messiah? He did not seem to fulfil the criteria of Messiah they had studied for so long. Before Jesus came, there had been many great warriors but in the end all died. None could revive the whole nation of Israel and defeat the enemies. They would not accept any of those as the Messiah. Then, about 400 years after prophet Malachi, suddenly somebody appeared in the wilderness and called out to people to repent. No one had ever brought people together in that way. When people heard the Kingdom of God was near, everybody went there.

However, John the Baptist did not cause them to go to Jerusalem, supposedly the important city of Israel. Thousands and thousands of people who were baptised did not go to Jerusalem. So the Jerusalem religious leaders did not believe John. They thought John was a heretical threat rather than an orthodox preacher. So they sent people to test and examine him. John was stern to rebuke these people. From the power of the message, nobody had influence like John. He was able to inspire the masses. But the Pharisees would not accept him and hated him.

Suddenly Jesus appeared and preached the same message as John’s, “Repent, for the Kingdom is near.” And Jesus also called his own disciples and they came from Galilee, not Jerusalem. This is very confusing to Pharisees. Why was Jesus and John the Baptist rude towards religious leaders in Jerusalem? They were not among those who worship market economy. They were not trying to please their audience. They were not involving themselves in hypocrisy. They were stern to preach the truth.

However, as a result of thousand of years of Israelite culture, the religious leaders had a different character. They were arrogant and thought that in the entire world they were the only one with revelation from God. The ark of God is in their temple and God dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem. Not a single religion taught the will of God like theirs. So they were self-righteous and looked down on others. God saw this and had determined that He would forsake these people. But they could not sense it. They were still admiring their own success. This is the blindspot of culture and religion. They are blinded by their own success hence they have no future.

When you cannot see God, you are blind. At the height of their learning, the religious leaders were blind. All they could see was themselves. They are still not aware that God would abandon them. Nicodemus was the only Pharisee with conscience. He was awakened while the rest was blind. He recognised the work of God in Jesus Christ. His colleagues were all arrogant but he came to Jesus humbly.

Strangely, Jesus did not quite appreciate him. Jesus did not praise him or tried to please him. Instead, He gave Nicodemus very hard teaching. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” In effect, Jesus was saying, “You cannot see. You are asking for something you do not know. You call for something you do not understand. You are Israel’s teacher and yet you do not know this. It is not just by studying that you gain true wisdom. You need help from above.” The entire nation of Israel wanted to reach God from below but Jesus showed Nicodemus the grace that came from above.

However, Nicodemus found difficulties in understanding Christ’s words. They had different definition so they could not communicate. When Jesus talked about life, He was referring to spiritual life, but Nicodemus was thinking about physical life. Jesus tried to explain to him that flesh gave birth to flesh and spirit to spirit. He segregated flesh from spirit. Nicodemus still did not understand. Jesus said the wind blows wherever it pleases. And Nicodemus thought Jesus was talking about physical wind. When speaking about the wind, Jesus was refering to the Spirit who had had sovereign will. Many people segregate the Spirit with the Spirit’s will. The sovereign will of the Holy Spirit grant new life to whomever He pleases.

Jesus said “If you cannot even believe what I speak of earthly things, how can you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” Nicodemus’ reply, “How can this be?” Here we see that the greatest scholar in the world knows nothing before God. When he spoke, he simply revealed his ignorance. Jesus rebuked him, “You are Israel’s teacher and you do not understand this?” In one sentence, Jesus summarised the irony of religion.

Do people who start church know what church is? When people start Christian school, do they know what Christian education is? Those who serve, do they understand why? Those who preach, do they understand?
Jesus said, “We speak of what we know, we testify of what we have seen. How can you qualify as a teacher? How can you testify when you do not see?” Things on earth are different from things of heaven. What Nicodemus had studied was of the world but Christ wanted to give him things of the spirit, of life.

After Jesus said this, he said nobody has gone to heaven except the Son of Man. Jesus declared He was the only One who came from the highest heaven. He was God who came from the highest. After Jesus said this, Nicodemus did not debate. He did not critique easily although he was expert in the Law. In contrast, many people who just studied theology for a year like to show off his knowledge.

John 3 and John 4 recorded very different stories. In John 3, Jesus spoke to a religious leader who had a lot of questions, who could not understand, needed a long time and might not have much time left to live. In John 4, Jesus preached to a Samaritan woman who repented immediately and brought the whole village to believe. Whilst Charismatics generally only focus on the second type, we want both type in reformed movement.

In the final part of conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus said the Son of Man must be lifted up like the way the serpent was lifted up by Moses. The serpent represents the Devil in Genesis. But God asked Moses to make a serpent and this serpent now represents Christ. Why? Satan entered the body of the serpent to tempt man into sin. The serpent poison people and many people died because of the serpent’s venom. When the venom is inside the blood, wherever it passes by there will be great pain and the body structure will be damaged.

Jesus came to the world and came in the flesh, and although He never sinned, he took the body of sinful man, as though he was poisoned, that the power of sin may be upon this frail body. And He used His infinite power to destroy the power of sin in this body. He gained victory over the power of sin. The venom of sin would kill us. In the same manner, Jesus took the body of sinner and bore the sin of mankind to give us salvation.

Why did the incident of lifting up the serpent happen in Moses’ time? Why did they need to look up to the bronze snake? It means that it does not matter how learned you are, what your religious background or status is, if you are poisoned by venom, you will die. It is not a question of knowledge, but of life and death. At this crucial moment, the solution is not in having knowledge, but if you look upon the Lord, in Jesus, the God in the flesh who Himself took upon the body of sinner and completed the work of salvation, you will be saved. Moses represented the Law but at that time we were already told to look to Christ. Through Moses, God taught Israelites the Law but in that era already commanded them to look at Jesus.

Genesis 3 is the first time we read about serpent. The Bible also recorded about serpent in a miracle performed by Moses and in lifting up the bronze snake in the wilderness. In the New Testament, Mark 16 writes about signs which accompanied those who believe, one of which was about about being bitten by snake unhurt. Peter did not go through all five signs. James only experienced certain signs. Paul experienced many of them. He was also bitten by snake but did not die.

When the Son of Man is lifted up, it represents how He gave us salvation. Those who look upon the Lord will be saved. This is no longer a matter of action or of the law. You are already poisoned. You must die. You cannot rely on the law or on new actions. The only solution is to look upon the Christ who was lifted up.

Speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus’ words were aimed to all Pharisees. When the Word in the flesh come, you still do not want to come to Me. You still want to stick to your study. You think in them you have eternal life. I have come to give you eternal life but you reject Me. The biggest problem is that you will die in the law but you are not willing to come to Me. The law should have guided you to Me but you grab hold of the law and refuse to come to Me.

They study the Scripture but they do not want the spirit. They hold on to the external form and reject Christ. It is like those who want the box but not the diamond ring inside.

As Moses lifted up the serpent, so the Son of Man would be lifted up.

Jesus ended the conversation here. Nicodemus thought over for many years and became a believer later on. After Nicodemus accepted the Lord, the Jews banished him. He had no more income. He was very poor when he was old. He followed the Lord for the rest of his life and gave up his status and power.

Jesus did not force him to believe. He went through a lot of struggles but in the end the words of the Lord did not return void. An intellectual like Nicodemus has a lot of obstacles and need a lot of time to decide. But if you plant the right seed, the seed will grow when the time is right. He gave up his great position and became a faithful Christian. When Jesus was crucified, he wanted to take His body. Nicodemus had changed.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Jesus and Nicodemus Part 5 (Jn. 3:9-15)

John 3:9-15

Nicodemus could not understand Jesus’ words because it was not consistent with what he knew. He represented the Jews who had studied the Scriptures for 1500 years. Although his culture was so advanced, he knew he did not have what Jesus had. They had not seen miracles for four centuries and unlike them, Jesus spoke with authority. He observed that Jesus had done greater signs and wonders than what they had ever seen.

Despite the arrogance of Jewish culture, there was one man who was humble enough to go to Christ. While the Jews had failed miserably in politics and culture, they were still above all as far as God’s revelation is concerned. That became their source of arrogance. They did not realise that God hated self-righteousness. When the culture is in the height of its arrogance it might be the time God abandoned them. After the book of Malachi, no more revelation was written Hebrew. There was a move from the Hebrew to Greek culture. Jews would not accept it until today.

Nicodemus came to Jesus sincerely. Jesus accepted him and shared the truth with him. But His answer is not what Nicodemus expected. There was no common ground. The more he conversed with Jesus, the more confused he became. He was stuck with the physical matters: How could someone be born again? How can one go back to his mother’s womb? Yet Jesus was talking about spiritual life, about the work of the Holy Spirit and the sovereign will of God. But Nicodemus could not understand. This is the failure of the intellectual.

In the book of John, Jesus said “I tell you the truth” 25 times but 3 times were addressed to Nicodemus. Jesus only spoke to one person such an important sermon. Why is he worthy to listen to such a big portion of the truth? This is the sovereign will of God.

Jesus said, “You are Israel’s teacher, and do you not understand this?” (v.10) It was a rebuke that Nicodemus was not qualified to be a teacher of Israel.

But why is it that Nicodemus did not understand about being born again? Is it because the Old Testament did not teach or because he was blind? Has God revealed it and due to his selective hearing he could not understand? Why is it that some people repent with just one sermon while others’ hearts become more hardened? The Apostle Paul said that many people learn but never understand. Many do not come to church seek the truth, but to be worshipped. Some go to church because it is close to their house, or because business opportunities, or because there are beautiful girls. What about you?

Did the Old Testament speak of new life before? Indeed. God said that He would remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. This is not an academic or reasoning process. All those are of secondary importance. Having a new life, a new heart, is of utmost importance. Our selective perception is very frightening. We seek after unimportant things and neglect important things.

Not only did the Pharisees ignore the word of God, they despised the Word that came in the flesh. This is the greatest irony in human culture. The more they abandon God the more they think they are following God.

Nicodemus should be thankful and humbly reminded that he could still be changed at his old age. If a person is willing to listen to rebuke and thank God for it, he is blessed. John 3 did not tell us when Nicodemus went home. He was a person who was highly intellectual, well-respected and it was very hard for him to change. He was very used to reasoning. Maybe he needed a few years before it became clear to him. So when we preach to such people we cannot rush.

In John 4, the Samaritan woman repented immediately. Not only that, the whole village also believed after hearing the woman’s testimony. On the other hand, it would take a long struggle for Nicodemus to believe. But once he overcome, it would be a great victory.

After Jesus said this to Nicodemus, He suddenly said something different. Jesus said that other than the Son of Man, nobody has gone into heaven. Would this not stumble Nicodemus who knew the Old Testament so well? The Old Testament recorded that Elijah and Enos went to heaven. Why did Jesus say this to the expert of the Law? Many people who were not patient enough to ponder easily misunderstood Jesus and left him to their own destruction. In the matter of believing the Lord, we should not follow our own will and narrow-mindedness. The word of God is not easy to understand. We need a lot of patience and humility to learn wisdom.

Enoch and Elijah went to heaven. What heaven did they go to? Jesus came from heaven, what sort of heaven was He from? The Bible implicitly told us that there are many levels in heavens. The Jews ignored that and many Christians ignore that too.

The Son of God went to the world of man, hence became the Son of Man. The Son of Man came from above, but Enoch and Elijah went from below to heaven. The One who came from above is the only Way to salvation. The religious pursuit of man is in complete opposite direction from God’s way of salvation. Jesus showed Nicodemus that nobody has gone into heaven, that nobody can reach heaven by trying hard. But the love of God created the situation where He Himself came down and reached men. Nicodemus must have been very confused that night to have all his past understanding shatttered.

This is the most revolutionary preaching of the Bible. In the Old Testament we know that God is in heaven. No prophet in the Old Testament claimed that he would go to heaven. Even David said he would go to Hades. He would not say he would be raised to heaven to be with God. The only time it appeared was in the book of Daniel, but he also did not understand. God commanded him to just write it down. On the Last Day, he would be raised. In the books of David, David was talking about Christ, “my Lord lives forever, sit on the right hand of God”. He is the resurrected God.

Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, after I die, after my physical body decay, with my eyes and my body I will see God.” This God not only resurrected Himself but also resurrected us. Job did not mention about the Law of Moses, Israel or even Abraham. It was possible that this was the first book of the Bible written. Job knew the concept of resurrection. In the writings of Isaiah and Daniel it was there too, but the concept of heaven was vague.

But both Old and New Testament did reveal that there are 3 levels of heaven. In the New Testament, Paul said he heard mystery in the third heaven.

Heaven where God the Creator is, is the highest Heaven. It is not the same heaven as where Enoch and Elijah went to. Why then did Paul say he went to the third heaven? What about Satan? Did not he go to heaven too since he appeared before the presence of God in the book of Job? Not necessarily. God is omnipresent, so coming before the presence of God does not mean one is in heaven. It simply mean we cannot escape His eyes.

Where did Enoch and Elijah go to? It was not the universe nor the milky way. It was a spiritual heaven. But it was still not where God is. They were at the highest place where creatures can go. But God is in His throne at the highest. That place has no Elijah and Enoch.

What Jesus was saying to Nicodemus is that He came from the highest heaven where God is. He is both man and God. Humanly speaking, He is God in the flesh. Divinely speaking, He is omnipresent.

What about the Old Testament? Where is it recorded about 3 levels of heaven? After the temple was built, it was recorded once in the prayer of Solomon: “Jehovah, heaven and heaven above heaven cound not contain you.” This implied only 2 layers. Then he said, “How can I build a small temple for you? Heaven, and heaven above heaven cannot contain you, because You live in the highest.” So there are 3 levels. That’s where God is. That is where the Son of Man came from.

Jesus and Nicodemus Part 4 (Jn. 3:1-12)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 20th September 2009 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 3:1-12

This is the only time Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. Nicodemus was also the only Pharisee Jesus spoke to. The truth is revealed to the person who sincerely seek the truth. In the book of John, there are 25 times Jesus said “I tell you the truth” and within this dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus used it three times. (Jn. 3:3,5,11)

“I tell you the truth unless a person is born again he will not see the kingdom of God.”
“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit.”

The most important word in Hebrew culture is the word “true”. The most important thing in is the true God giving true revelation, referred by the Hebrews as the truth. The Jews knew that truth is the most important foundation of all things and they received true revelation from the true God.

How did they become hypocritical? Because they replaced truth with knowledge and reason. Mere desire to be good does not automatically mean one is therefore good. When one equates his wish to reality, he is in deception. Similarly, when religious leaders consider their theology as spirituality, that is the beginning of the failure of their spirituality. They know the word of God is true but they cannot live up to His standard, yet they think they have it and they become arrogant. In the books of the Gospel, Jesus continued to rebuke the Pharisees.

The entire content of Christ’s dialogue with Nicodemus is based on truth. The Truth spoke truthfully to Nicodemus. Jesus sincerely spoke to Nicodemus and He could see what was binding the Pharisees.

When Nicodemus said, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God” (v.2) this ‘we’ does not refer to the Pharisees as the Pharisees rejected Him. He was referring to the crowd who also accepted Jesus because of the miracles He performed. This is a neutral, objective and sincere observation of Nicodemus. Yet when Jesus said “you must be born again”, He was referring to the Pharisees. He would not say any empty words. Every word was without compromise and pierced right into the heart.

Jesus was stating that the Pharisees needed to be born again. They were very learned and well-read. They had studied the words of Moses many times. They were so arrogant that they treated the Gentiles as though they were dogs. But Christ was showing Nicodemus that all these which made them proud are meaningless. They need a new life and without that their knowledge is empty knowledge and useless.

God-Incarnate has the authority to judge us as God. Let us not equate Jesus with another religious leader. He is the highest revelation of God to end all seeking of the truth and to judge. What Jesus said to Nicodemus is also a judgement for all religious leaders. Their true need is to be born again. Things that are great in the eyes of men are abominable in the eyes of God.

Their grace had become their stumbling block. Because they are intellectual, they oppose God. Grace of God given has become a curse to them. This is the crisis of grace. At the height of God’s creation, He made man in His image. Man is the greatest crucial creation of God.

Being born again is not our choice. It is a passive experiene. We must experience it individually but the source is not from us, it came from the sovereignty of God. It was God who gave us Christ. It was Christ who promised the Holy Spirit. We are not born by our choice. We are not man or woman by choice. This is a passive experience. Within this passive action we are able to choose. We are the most marvellous creature. After we are born, we have the ability to make choices.

Jesus said the wind blows wherever it pleases, you cannot see where it comes from and where it is going but you can see the manifestation of its power. You can the destruction it leaves behind. These visible human beings and material things have been moved by invisible wind. The invisible is more important and powerful. The dumbest people in the world are those who treat the material as god. In our lives we should place more emphasis on the invisible.

We cannot physically see the invisible God in His visible created world, but through His visible creation, we ‘see’ Him who is invisible. The invisible is the power behind the visible.

Jesus said, “Do not be surprised if I tell you that you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (v.7-8). Here Jesus mentioned the wind, the Spirit and being born again.

There is a word to represent the wind, the breath, the spirit. God breathed into Adam’s nostril and he became a living being. The word used for spirit is ‘ruah’. It is the wind of God or the breath of God. The wind blows wherever He pleases. When He breathed into Adam, he became a living being who is both spiritual and physical. When this breath of God leaves us, we die. When we are alive we continue breathing. When we breathe the last breath, we die. When we die, the spirit leaves us. In the Old Testament, it was recorded that the spirit returned to the child when Elijah brough a child back to life.

What sort of living being is Man? He is a living being with the spirit. It means that the influence of spirituality is very strong. Socrates said that Man is the measure of all things. Aristotle said Man is the reasoning power of all things. Mencius said Man is the conscience of all things. And there is a saying in Chinese that Man is the spirit of all things. The Chinese term is closer to Biblical teaching.

When God made man, He gave man the spirit that has been created. But when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He was not asking Nicodemus to train his created spirit. He was to be born again by the Spirit of God that made him.

So it is not sufficient just to nurture our created spirit where we have our knowledge, reason, understanding and character. When Jesus said we are to be born again, it is a promise that the Spirit of the Creator would come to His chosen ones.

This is a very profound revelation. But we often make it too simplistic. What does it mean to be born again? To quit smoking and drinking? It means the Spirit of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ brings about new life in you. And the Holy Spirit that gives birth to you will guide your entire life. This is not what the created spirit will experience.

What Nicodemus had is academic dissertation, but Jesus was speaking about life force. The problem with religion is that there is all the academic learning but no life. Just because we study Beethoven, it would not give us the ability to compose like him. Only when you have the life of Beethoven can you compose like him.

The Creator has come to you to give you new life, to be with you, to guide you and fill every part of your life with great abundance. May we not have fragmented and superficial understanding of Christianity. May we witness for Christ and live the life He has given to us. May the Lord bless us all.