Thought for the day – Thursday 18 June
It’s my guess that many of you will have a particular bible verse that you remember with ease, perhaps one remembered from childhood in Sunday School or in an R.E. class. One teacher I remember from school was a stern, joyless individual who wore a foostie old baubled cardigan in navy blue, who ‘taught’ the subject because somebody had to. It wasn’t her first subject, was it anyone’s first subject? and I don’t think she liked it. We hated it.
From that, you will deduce that we would all rather be doing something else. Despite this and during my dull affair with R.E. I started to learn all the books of the bible, that was the lesson. I had no idea why this was important but eventually, with a little help from myself, I succeeded. I really did. I taught myself. We called her ‘Holy Mary’, I’m not sure if she was holy or not but if that’s what holy was supposed to look and sound like, ‘forget it’, so what happened? I became a minister and ‘teach RE, I don’t wear a foostie old navy blue, baubled cardigan and so far nobody has called me Holy Jim. This is not an invite by the way.
Jesus was a teacher too and one night a man called Nicodemus came to speak with him, their conversation is the subject of our Bible passage and contains one of the most memorable verses in the bible along with an often-quoted saying ‘ you must be born again’. This ‘born again’ gets knocked about by just about everyone who wants to talk about a fresh start or new beginning of one sort or another.
Sometimes Christians too use Jesus’ words to qualify their particular brand of belief eg ‘this is not just a Christian, this is a born again Christian’. Now I know where M&S got their idea from. What does born again mean? Nicodemus wanted to find out what Jesus was all about and during the conversation Jesus tells him he must be ‘born again’ even before he asks a question.
For Nicodemus strict adherence to the law was what mattered but Jesus was teaching something greater than that. Being born again meant being born afresh of the Spirit. The Spirit of God blows where it wills and is not contained in, or by religious observance.
If we try and understand what Jesus was saying in the context of his Hebrew upbringing we will get a clearer picture of what he meant. The Spirit of God was present in the beginning, whenever that was, and is constantly at work in individuals and events throughout the Israelites’ history.
The Holy Spirit is not a new ‘phenomenon’ relevant to one place one person, at one time. Jesus explains that just as there is a physical birth so too there is a spiritual birth. Faith in Jesus Christ, not on our own ability to observe and keep the law, is the means of our salvation. It is by God’s grace first and foremost that is our bedrock, and our response is that of trust and faith. Being born of the Spirit.
Today I ask you to think/meditate on these things.
God bless you!
JOHN 3: 1-21
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
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