Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, 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 3:1-8)
“Born from above.” “Born again.” “Born of the Spirit.” Aren’t these Protestant terms? Well, not exactly, since they come from the Catholic New American Bible in the Scriptures above. In these Scriptures, Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to see the kingdom of God, he had to be “born from above.” Of course, Jesus wasn’t talking about the physical birth that Nicodemus thought he meant. He was talking about a spiritual birth.
This concept of being born from above may sound unfamiliar to us as well. After all, we live in a world that relies on the physical senses— what we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. But Jesus came to enliven our spiritual senses so that we could “see” him and “touch” him in an even deeper way. He came to teach us how to walk by faith and not just by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). So what does it mean to be “born from above” or “born of the Spirit”? It means a lot of things! Here are just a few.
First, being born of the Spirit makes us vessels of the Spirit. It means that the Holy Spirit lives in us, and we can now enter into a personal relationship with our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Secondly, being born of the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit is always available to encourage us, convict us of sin, fill us with peace, and stir us to do his will. It means that we can be led by the Spirit instead of the desires and drives of our fallen nature.
Thirdly, being born of the Spirit means that we can begin to think as Jesus thinks, to have the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Where we may want to react with bitterness, anger, or vengeance when we are wronged, the Spirit can teach us to look on our offender as someone created by God and equally loved by him. He can teach us to forgive quickly, to discern good from evil more clearly, and to be more ready to serve instead of expecting to be served.
Finally, being born of the Spirit means becoming a bit different—at least from the world’s perspective! Nicodemus saw something truly unique in Jesus. Was it the miracles? Was it his love? Was it his sense of peace and joy? Or was it the way Jesus’ words resonated in his heart? Whatever it was, we can be sure that as we open ourselves to the Spirit, people will notice some- thing out of the ordinary in us, and they will be intrigued. They will see us living by a different set of standards, and that will make them more receptive to the good news of Jesus Christ and that they too can be born from above through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So take courage, you don’t have to carry around shame over past sins. All you have to do is take them to Jesus and ask him to fill you with his Spirit and set you free. Let the light of his mercy melt away your guilt, and fill you with joy and peace instead. Let him show you the freedom that he won for you on the cross. It may take a while, like Nicodemus, but we can all experience what it means to be born from above this Easter season!
“Lord Jesus, I want to experience more deeply what it means to be born from above. Come, Holy Spirit, and make me a vessel for your grace and open my spiritual eyes. Holy Spirit, I need more of you today.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
[Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
- What is your reaction when you hear the terms: “born from above,” “born again,” and “born of the Spirit”? Do you think of them as Protestant terms or as Catholic terms? Why?
- Like Nicodemus, do you also struggle when you hear these terms? Why or why not?
- The article gives four attributes of what it means to be “born from above” or “born of the Spirit”. In your own words, how would you describe what these terms means?
- Take some time now to pray that you would experience more deeply what it means to be born from above and born of the Spirit. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.