One time, I was meditating John 3, particularly Nicodemus’ meet with Jesus one night. Being the first time that the term “born again” was used in the history of the universe, naturally, Nicodemus knew nothing about it.
So he asked Jesus how anyone could be born again. But Jesus didn’t answer it. He just stressed how important being born of water and Spirit was. If we were Jesus, we’d automatically say, “Repent of sins, receive Jesus Christ, and surrender your life to him.”
But Jesus said nothing of the sort.
So, why didn’t Jesus answer him?
In the Spirit realms, it’s useless to explain truth to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Well, you may try to, but often it won;t work. Saul was a topnotch Pharisee knowing all the bible doctrines of his time, yet he didn’t understand a thing until he experienced it. When he went blind, that was time he asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
In ministry, I have seen how it’s useless to preach to people who haven’t experienced their real need for salvation—a real desperation in life.
Jesus then explained everything to Saul and he just obeyed everything. Without experiencing truth, you have nothing, even if you are so active in church or ministry or if you memorize all Scripture.
If people receive Christ as Savior just because they are afraid of hell—or because they need recognition, a pat on the back, new friends, position, entertainment from the choir or worship team, etc. they will never understand church as Jesus designed and builds it. A lot of people are church members because they need to go to a church on Sunday. Any church. They think not doing so makes God angry.
Like “born again.” Church people know about it. They know where it can be found in the bible, memorize the passage, teach and share about it, evangelize people on it, post it on Facebook, make doctrines and human theologies out of it. But the problem is, so few have genuinely experienced it.
The same with “peace.” You go around churches and you’d see people who don’t know what peace is about. They’re stressed and tired and sickly.
Evangelicals keep telling people born again is not a religion. And yet, look at them—they do nothing but religion. They have nothing in their churches and ministries but religion. Obviously, they don’t know what they’re talking about. You compare how Jesus did ministry with what they are doing today, and you’d see how they are worlds apart.
Churches don’t look anything like Jesus. In fact, they look more like Pharisees. No kidding.
Unless truth is genuinely experienced, it remains a fact. A head knowledge. Head knowledge does not save. Even demons believe and shudder, said James. It’s not believing with our minds that saves. Believing with our hearts does.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. [Romans 10.9]
Imagine how many are in “born again” churches who know everything about it except experience it genuinely?
Genuine Experience radically transforms, as in the case of Saul on his way to Damascus. Jesus breathed on his disciples and they received the Holy Spirit [John 20.22] and several days after the Spirit was on them in Acts 2. They were radically changed forever.
If you’re truly born again, you’re radically transformed forever. Like Jesus, you will be different without meaning to. Like Jesus, you will think, live and do things differently, and lots of people will hate you for it—especially church people. God’s bible-based people were the first to hate Jesus Christ and were the first to want him crucified.
Before the experience and the change, Jesus specifically told his dicsiples not to do anything but to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Father [Acts 1.4].
The passage in Luke 24.49 is more revealing:
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.
It is clear then. You cannot do anything for God or his Kingdom unless you genuinely experience the truth first hand.
In church today, you get to do any ministry if you have credentials—after you have attended bible school, seminary, seminars or conferences, earned units, earned titles or degrees, etc. Your genuine experience of Jesus alone won’t qualify you.
If you want to lead in worship, you have to have a good voice, know how to play an instrument, have good stage presence and projection, and all that crap. You have to be an expert stage performer.
You get easily elected in a position if you are a professional—doctor, teacher, engineer, etc.
Nicodemus was “teacher of Israel,” said Jesus. Now that was a big and powerful credential. The best, in fact. Yet, Jesus said Nicodemus didn’t know a thing about the genuine born again experience.
You are Israel’s teacher, said Jesus, and do you not understand these things?
Just because you have the facts or you know a lot about the bible, doesn’t mean you have the experience.
If Nicodemus were alive today, churches would surely put him in the highest positions in their churches. Jesus would not. Only those with genuine experience of the truth fit a position in God’s Kingdom.
The Born Again Experience
Paul explained it clearly enough in 2 Corinthians 5.17. Anyone in Christ is a new creation. This is radical. In a way, Nicodemus was right—you re-enter a womb and come out a baby again. Hence, newbies in Christ are babes in Christ. They feed on spiritual milk. They need to grow.
What most churches do today is grow people still in their old, fleshly nature. All they get in the end are religious old people who have become experts in church politics, skillfully able to maneuver and control things using some passages in the bible their theologians have adulterated for the purpose.
You have nothing if you don’t start with a new creation in Christ—the old is passed, the new has come.
Imagine what disaster it will be if all the people in church know everything about God and the bible and church and religion, but have no genuine experience of Jesus Christ.