Living a Life That Pleases God
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESV)
Nicodemus thought he was a good person. He was one of the Pharisees, religious leaders who lived strictly according to the Law. They thought their overly moral lives pleased God. Then along came Jesus.
When Jesus went to Jerusalem, He didn’t check in with the religious authorities as one of them. In fact, he enraged them. He took a whip to the money changers in the temple and threw them out of “His Father’s house” (Matthew 21:12-13). This was blasphemy to the Pharisees, who refused to consider that it might be true.
Nicodemus came to Jesus one night, alone. He probably wore robes indicating his position, and his words “we know . . . ” showed that he spoke as one of the Pharisees. But Jesus was not impressed. “You must be born again,” He told him. Until Nicodemus was born again, he could not please God—he could not see God or His Kingdom! He was face to face with God in the flesh, and all he saw was a teacher.
Where was God in Nicodemus’ religious activities? Spiritual rebirth can’t be seen any more than the wind can be seen. But its presence can be seen in its effects. We know someone has been born again when what he or she does “has been done through God” (John 3:21).
I thought I was a good person. I went to church every Sunday. I didn’t curse or do bad things. I believed that I would go to heaven when I died. Then one day I confronted the truths that Nicodemus faced. My life didn’t please God; I couldn’t say that I saw Him or His Kingdom. I needed to be born again. I asked for and received new life from God.
Do you need to receive a spiritual birth from God? Do you do things you believe please God, or do you allow God to do the things that please Him through you?
Read more of Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus in John 3. Which verses show that God is more concerned that we know Him and believe in what He sent His Son to do than what we think we should do?
Read John 7:50-52 and 19: 38-42. How did Nicodemus later confront his fellow chief priests and Pharisees? What other bold action in broad daylight showed Nicodemus’ changed heart?
How does Ezekiel 36:25-27 illustrate being born of water and the Spirit?
Nancy J. Baker