A Bible study through John 1-6
Are you a night owl or a morning person? Does the pre-dawn stillness thrill your soul or do you prefer the quietness of the midnight hour after others have retreated to bed before turning into proverbial pumpkins?
As I sit here in the pre-dawn stillness pondering and writing on today’s passage from John, I think you can guess which category of people I belong to. The early bird catches the worm, and I like getting as many worms captured each day. Yet despite my early morning preferences, I find that I often do my soul-searching praying and wrestling with God late at night and into the wee hours of the morning. Can anyone else relate?
Often it is in these late night hours that life slows down enough for our hearts and souls to be attentive to what God is trying to say to us. During the day, life’s responsibilities and demands often crowd our minds and clamor for our attention and God’s still small voice, while often heard, is not front and center. However, in the quietness of the night, we can stop, listen, pray, think, and have honest conversations with God.
And we are not alone in this pursuit of God in the midnight hours. Some of the most famous words of Jesus recorded in Scripture were spoken because one man sought answers to his questions in the middle of the night.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the 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. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”
Nicodemus was a leading religious leader in Israel. He had authority and prestige, which is why he chose to seek out Jesus in the middle of the night. While this action may seem a bit cowardly, Jesus never mentioned Nicodemus’ timing or why he chose to visit at such a late hour. The important thing was that Nicodemus sought Jesus in the first place. This is a lesson we can take to heart. It doesn’t truly matter when or how people come to Jesus. The important part is that they do come, and come with open hearts filled with questions and receptive to the truth.
As Jesus and Nicodemus converse, we see in Nicodemus an open heart actively seeking for truth. He wanted to know God more and understand His ways. Nicodemus was hungry for truth and ready to accept and believe the truths Jesus shared with him on that late night in ancient Israel.
Are our hearts as willing and open to the things of God? Are we ready to lose some sleep in order to better know and understand the ways of the Lord? Are we hungry for truth?
One of the truths Jesus first shared with Nicodemus is the need for every child of God to be born again. We have all been born with an innate sinful nature that leaves us broken and wicked from birth. Therefore, in order to enjoy and enter into the perfect kingdom of God, we must be born again. This requires a complete renewal of the heart and transformation that is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit and by the blood of Christ. But remember, Jesus came to baptize, empower, and overwhelm with the Holy Spirit and He died so that we could attain access to the Father and be reborn into the kingdom of God.
Notice what Jesus says about everyone born of the Spirit: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, 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 3:8). When we have been reborn of the Spirit, our lives are guided and directed by an invisible force. We, and the rest of the world, cannot see the Spirit, but we can feel and see the effects of its working in and through our lives. Also, note that the Holy Spirit moves and directs as it wishes. We do not control it, but rather, must allow it to control us. It requires faith and trust in God to allow the Holy Spirit to have complete reign in our lives so that we can truly be Spirit-filled, born again children of God and followers of Christ.
Do you see evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life? Are you willing and open to letting God guide and direct you wherever He wills by the power of His Holy Spirit? Or are you trying to control and decide the direction of your life?
Just as we cannot control the wind, we will never be able to dictate the moving of God’s Spirit. And the sooner we recognize and accept this truth, the sooner we’ll be able to experience the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through our lives. So let the Spirit have its way in you. Because without its presence and rebirth of your life, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. Therefore, examine your life and heart and see if you are being filled and completely directed by the Spirit of the living God.
In closing, let us remember to never be afraid to come to Jesus in the wee hours of the night to ask big questions and seek out truth. Nicodemus did it and it changed his life and the lives of countless others as Jesus unpacked the heart of the gospel in this one conversation that has been recorded for posterity. Next time, we’ll take a look at some of the most famous words and teachings of Jesus that were uttered all because one man decided to forfeit sleep in order to gain answers to his deepest questions. In the meantime, let us continue to ponder what it means to be born again and to allow the Holy Spirit to have complete control to guide and direct our lives as God wills and to transform our hearts from the inside out.