Understanding What It Means to Walk According to the Spirit
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But now it was quiet. Jesus was staying with His friends Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Their home in Bethany was less than an hours walk from Jerusalem, but far enough to be away from the crowds.
The quiet of the evening was disturbed, however, by a knock at the door. All were surprised to see that their visitor was obviously a person of some importance. He was dressed as a Pharisee, a person who dedicated his whole life to studying and teaching the Scriptures. Jesus had created a great deal of consternation among them earlier in the week when He drove out the money changers from the Temple. Now the people were beginning to follow after Him and to declare that He was the Messiah.
The visitor introduced himself as Nicodemus, and all who were there recognized him immediately as not only a Pharisee but a member of the Sanhedrin, the governing body of Israel. What was such an important person doing here, and at night in secret? This was highly unusual.
Before anyone could ask him what the wanted, Nicordemus asked if he could speak with Jesus privately. So Jesus and Nicodemus went up on the housetop, where it was cool.
Rabbi, Nicodemus began, 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 spirit stirred within Him. This was such a superficial statement from one who had such a great knowledge of the Scriptures. There was such a little knowledge of spiritual matters.
Jesus responded, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
Nicodemus pondered this statement for a few moments, but he couldnt seem to get the sense of what Jesus was saying. Almost like thinking out loud he asked, How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mothers womb to be born!
Jesus patiently answered his question, I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit. Just as natural flesh gives birth to natural flesh, so it requires spirit to give birth to spirit. It should not come as a surprise to one of your training when I say You must be born again. The spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants. You have a sense of its presence, but you cannot determine its source or purpose with the natural senses. It takes a spiritual person, one born of the spirit.1
Nicodemus was trying to understand. How can this be? he asked.
You are Israels teacher, Jesus replied, and do you not understand these things? I have tried to explain this fundamental truth to you using illustrations in the physical realm, and yet you do not believe me. How can you possibly believe if I speak directly of the things of heaven?
The previous story is, of course, the well-known encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus from the third chapter of the gospel according to the apostle John. Just a few verses after Jesus asks the rhetorical questions of Nicodemus is one of the best known of all Bible verses: John 3:16.
Nicodemus apparently came to Jesus in secret. I believe that Nicodemus was a man whose motivations were good. When he came to Jesus in the night he really wanted to hear something that would make a difference in his life. Jesus presented a fundamental concept to him, the idea that there is a part of man missing, that he is not complete. He used the illustration of a babys birth to show that when a person is born he is born incomplete. There is a spiritual part of his being that is missing; man is not born with a spirit.
Jesus had a conversation with one of the top intellectuals of His day. He referred to him as Israels teacher. Yet He could not teach him the simplest spiritual concept, because spiritual things are not discerned with the mind; they are revealed by the spirit.
How is it that one who spent his whole life studying the Scriptures did not understand the most elementary spiritual concept put forth by Jesus? Is it possible that we can get into a mindset, a predisposed way of thinking, that keeps us from understanding spiritual things?
Today many Christians struggle and are unsatisfied with the way they walk out their faith. We face something of the same ignorance of spiritual matters that Nicodemus did. There is a major difference between Christians and non-Christians, i.e. between those that have been born again and those who havent. To be born again means that you have experienced a supernatural spiritual birth, that in addition to whatever you had before hand, you now possess a living spirit.
I have been a Christian for almost my entire life, yet since my teen years I have struggled with behaviors and attitudes that I knew were not consistent with my confession. It is only in recent years that I have come into the revelation of what I am writing about here, and that revelation has transformed my life.
I believe that there are many other Christians who need the same revelation, who are living frustrated lives on the edge of defeat by the enemy.
The purpose of this treatise is to explore what that means. What does it mean to be created in the image of God, to walk according to the spirit?