“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God? When they heard this they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, ‘So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!'” (Acts 11:15-18, HCSB).
Citizenship is generally a function of where you are born. You are a citizen of the country in which you are geographically born or of which your parents are a citizen.
The same is true for citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Kingdom citizens must be born of God; they must be birthed by the Holy Spirit.
“When Jesus heard it he said, ‘This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it'” (John 11:4, HCSB).
This meditation is Part 1 of a four-part series from the story of the raising of Lazarus from death. In this opening part of the story of Lazarus, Jesus received a message from Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, that their brother (and Jesus’ dear friend) was on his deathbed. They wanted Jesus to come and heal Lazarus so he wouldn’t die.
“There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?'” (John 3:1-4, NLT).
It has been said that perception is reality. In fact, this view could be the mantra of the post-modern era.
The well-known account of the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus is a story of how people often accept their own flawed perceptions and misconceptions as reality.
“Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22, NLT).
Jesus made these analogies in response to questioning from indignant Pharisees as to why Jesus’s disciples didn’t fast like the disciples of John the Baptist (vs. 18).
Jesus responded that the guests at a wedding celebrate with the groom; they don’t fast with the groom (vs. 19).
Jesus was saying that the customs and traditions of the old covenant are incompatible with the arrival of God’s Kingdom.
“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.” Jesus explained to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, that the Kingdom of God does not come visibly but comes as an invisible Kingdom into which one must make a spiritual entrance. New birth is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a supernatural birth appropriated by the Holy Spirit and enabling entrance into and participation in the eternal Kingdom of God. New birth–spiritual birth–is conceived through Divine Action on the part of God through His Spirit in the life of each person becoming a citizen of God’s Kingdom. Because citizenship is generally a function of where you are born, persons born of the Spirit are citizens of the Kingdom of God. When God’s Holy Spirit enters into us and we enter into the Kingdom of God, we begin to participate in eternal life. The Holy Spirit enables us to live our lives according to God’s will in God’s Kingdom in the present and in preparation for life in God’s Kingdom in the future.