The Face of Grace
Pencil sketch by JC Chambers
Part thirteen in a study of God's grace from the book of John.
How can we experience God personally?
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is 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.” John 3:1-8
Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the -member ruling body that governed Israel in Jesus’ day. He “came to Jesus at night” because he wanted his visit with Jesus to go undetected. Behind closed doors, Nicodemus confessed to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus cut to the heart of Nicodemus’ root concern when He replied, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
If God is good and if it’s possible to connect meaningfully with Him, how can I make that happen?
This is what Nicodemus really wanted to know. It is a question each of us asks. In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis suggests that at some level, all of us have heaven on our minds.
“There have been times when I think that we do not desire heaven, but more often I have found myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it- tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear.”
Jesus indicated that in order to connect meaningfully with God, Nicodemus had to be receive a new spiritual connection. To be “born again” literally means to be “born from above.” Before He could experience God personally, Nicodemus would need to “download another operating system.”
The “Spirit” is the “spiritual upgrade” Jesus referred to. Through His Spirit, God replaces our default, insecure, fear-based connection with an upgraded, secure, love-based one.
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." Romans 8:15-16
The Spirit of God WILL NOT make you “a slave again to fear.” Someone who attempts to frighten you into obeying God still has much to learn about God. When the Bible talks about the “fear of the Lord” it’s encouraging us to revere and respect God, not to be afraid of Him.
When we’re driven by fear, we attempt to change our behavior in order to escape God’s punishment. This isn’t biblical. Children of God do not need to fear God’s condemnation. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
The Spirit of God encourages us to relate to God as “Abba,” or “Daddy.” God’s Spirit tells us that God is our Father and we are His sons and daughters. When we feel alone and afraid, we act in self-centered, self-serving ways. The Holy Spirit encourages us to trust in God’s fatherly care in order to promote loving actions and attitudes.
Since the Holy Spirit testifies to God’s love, you can recognize someone who truly speaks for God. They will focus your attention on God’s love for you and the promises He makes to you because He loves you.