*Born from Above
Born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.
I Peter 1:23 NKJV
It does not matter if you have done no harm and do not live in any willful sin. You must go further yet, or you cannot be saved. Even if you also do all the good you can and have improved all opportunities of doing good, yet this does not alter the case. Still, you must be born again.
Without this, nothing will do any good to your poor, sinful, polluted soul. You may faithfully go to church and observe the sacraments, say ever so many prayers in private; hear ever so many good sermons; read ever so many good books. Still, “you must be born again.” None of these things—nor anything else under heaven—will stand in the place of the new birth to keep you from hell, unless you are born again.
If you have not already experienced this inward work of God, let this be your continual prayer: “Lord, add this to all your blessings—let me be born again. Deny me not this: Let me be ‘born from above.’ Take away whatever seems good to You–reputation, fortune, friends, health—only give me this, to be born of the Spirit, to be received among the children of God. Let me be born of the incorruptible seed by the Word of God. And then let me daily ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!’”
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this sixty-fourth lesson on prayer, Wesley distinguishes between what man is capable of on his own—church attendance, partaking of the sacraments, hearing good sermons, reading good books—and what only God can do; prepare man for eternity through the new birth. In a society in which so many equate doing “good” with righteousness, we are reminded that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23 NASB), and “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our wrongdoings, like the wind, take us away” (Isa. 64:6).
In John 3:1-7 we see a man named Nicodemus come to Jesus with all the right words, righteous acts, and the right connections, yet he lacked that which was of most importance. We read, “1Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ” Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 ” That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Nicodemus was focused on the flesh but Jesus kept pointing him to the Spirit.
Just as Nicodemus, we must go deeper. We hide behind other things as well and count it as “righteousness.” We equate the esteem of our neighbors, our reputation, our bank account, our friends, and even our natural health as a sign of our own righteousness rather than seeing those things for what they are, as good gifts from above. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus tells us of the Father, saying, “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Wesley ends with, “Take away whatever seems good to You–reputation, fortune, friends, health—only give me this, to be born of the Spirit, to be received among the children of God. Let me be born of the incorruptible seed by the Word of God. And then let me daily ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!’”