You must be born again. (John 3:7)
I have been working with student-athletes for decades, a labor of love which God has allowed me to continue as a pastor. We started Cross University at our church, a vehicle for ministering to our college students throughout the school year. I write a word of encouragement each week and we send out a “care package” for the fall and spring semesters.
Each student is in search of a degree that will help them in the field they have chosen to pursue. But did you know that there is a degree that is available to everyone, one that transcends the degrees conferred by a college or university? And you don’t need to enter into massive debt to pay the tuition to obtain it; that debt has already been paid in full by Another. The degree I am speaking of is a divine degree: a BA from the College of Christ—Born Again!
Today’s text comes from the familiar New Testament passage in which Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, came to Jesus under the cover of darkness, asking some deep questions. During their conversation, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).
Nicodemus’ response made it clear he had no idea what Jesus was talking about: “‘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!’” (John 3:4) Obviously, Nicodemus did not understand what it means to be “born again.” And if he did not understand the meaning of the phrase, he certainly did not realize why that rebirth is necessary. Let’s look at both of these issues.
“Born again” means to be born from above by the Almighty. In the College of Christ, everyone who has—by grace through faith—placed their trust in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is born again by the Spirit of God.
Here are a few passages of Scripture that define this Divine Degree.
“My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Now that we have a basic understanding of the meaning of “born again,” we must know why it is necessary.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:1-2)
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. (Colossians 1:21)
Every one of us was born in sin, and that indwelling sin separates us from God and makes us blind and indifferent to the things of God. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Our condition was utterly hopeless and helpless; we were dead in our sins.
And now you will read the two most glorious words in all the English language: “But God.”
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4-5)
We could do nothing to save ourselves . . . but God in Christ offers eternal salvation to all who will transfer their trust from their own self-salvation projects to Christ’s atoning work on their behalf.
Of all the degrees we could pursue through higher education, the only one that truly matters—the highest, most exalted one of all—is the divine degree from the College of Christ. And here is the greatest news of all: Unlike every other degree that must be earned through your disciplined effort and financial commitment, your BA from the College of Christ is simply received by grace through faith. There is nothing you must do, indeed, nothing you can do to earn this divine degree. Simply by trusting in Christ alone—by faith alone, through grace alone, to the glory of God alone—you will receive the most important degree in the world: your BA from the College of Christ . . . Born Again!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!