Nicodemus was a Pharisee—a learned man of the law and member of the rabbinical council known as the Sanhedrin. People of his day would have assumed that such credentials guaranteed his spiritual well-being. Nevertheless, Jesus told him that the only way to enter the kingdom of God was to be born again.
Many people today are like Nicodemus. They’re religious. They’re moral. They compare themselves to others and, as a result, feel pretty good. They reason, Somehow, our loving, gracious, wonderful God will make it possible for all of us to end up in heaven. Yet this is absolutely false. The Lord Jesus said, “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again”’ (John 3:7).
Our sins separate us from God. Being good cannot close the gap, because no matter how well we try to behave, all of us sin. It is our nature to be sinful, and our nature is something we cannot change.
The great self-deception has to do with thinking, I can perform well enough to be acceptable to the Lord. The only way to be acceptable to God is to be born from above, by an act of God. Then the soul and spirit are radically changed forever. When a person places trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, he or she experiences a regeneration—a giving of divine life to the spirit. In other words, at the moment of salvation, we become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV).
You may be “performing” well by serving God, reading the Bible, giving, and praying. But has there ever been a radical change in your soul—a time when you came into a personal relationship with God? Do you have a new nature through the work of the Holy Spirit? If you cannot answer yes to these questions, then perhaps you need to be born again.