What Jesus Demands from the World
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by John Piper
Description: In What Jesus Demands from the World, John Piper has gathered many of Jesus' demands from the four Gospels. He begins with an introduction that puts the demands in a redemptive-historical context, then concisely examines each demand. The result is an accessible introduction for thoughtful inquirers and new believers, as well as meditative meat for veteran believers who want to know Jesus better.
eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [563 KB]
Reading time: 360-504 min.
Demand #1 YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
Jesus answered ... "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'"--JOHN 3:5, 7
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."--JOHN 3:3
n the third chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus is speaking to "a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews" (John 3:1). Pharisees were the experts in the Jewish Scriptures. This is why Jesus was astonished that Nicodemus was baffled about what Jesus meant by "You must be born again." Nicodemus asks, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:4). Jesus responds, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?" (John 3:10).
A NEW SPIRIT I WILL PUT WITHIN YOU
In other words, an expert in the Jewish Scriptures should not be baffled by Jesus' demand, "You must be born again." Why not? Because there are so many clues in the Jewish Scriptures that Jesus and Nicodemus had in common. God had promised a day when he would cause his people to be born again. One of God's clearest promises is in the book of Ezekiel. Jesus echoed Ezekiel's words when he said, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Being "born again" is described as a birth from water and Spirit. Those two terms, "water" and "Spirit," are linked in Ezekiel 36:25-27. God says:
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.
God promises cleansing from sin and the gift of a new human spirit by the presence of his own divine Spirit. Jesus thinks Nicodemus should make the connection between his demand to be born again and Ezekiel's promise of a new spirit and the gift of God's Spirit. But he doesn't. So Jesus explains further by describing the role of God's Spirit in bringing about this new spirit: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).
THE DEAD CANNOT SEE
Flesh is what we are by nature. It refers to ordinary humanity. By our first birth we are only flesh. This natural human condition, as we experience it, is spiritually lifeless. We are not born spiritually alive with a heart that loves God. We are born spiritually dead.
That's what Jesus implied when he said to a would-be disciple who wanted to go home to a funeral, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead" (Luke 9:60). In other words, some are physically dead and need burying. Some are spiritually dead and can bury them. He implied it again when, in his parable of the prodigal son, the father says, "This my son was dead, and is alive again" (Luke 15:24). That's why "unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). The dead can't see. That is, they can't see God's kingdom as supremely desirable. It looks foolish or mythical or boring. So they "cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). They cannot because it is foolishness to them.
Jesus sees all of humanity divided into two parts: those who are merely born once--"born of the flesh," "the (spiritually) dead"--and those who are "born again" by the Spirit of God--those who are alive to God and see his kingdom as true and supremely desirable.
THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WILL
Nicodemus is not entirely wrong to be baffled. There is a mystery. Jesus says so in John 3:8, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." In other words, "Nicodemus, you need new spiritual life--a second birth."
And what Jesus demands from Nicodemus, he demands from all. He is speaking to everyone in the world. No one is excluded. No ethnic group has a greater bent toward life. Dead is dead--whatever our color, ethnicity, culture, or class. We need spiritual eyes. Our first birth will not get us into the kingdom of God. But we do not cause ourselves to be born again. The Spirit does that. And the Spirit is free and blows in ways we do not comprehend. We must be born again. But this is a gift of God.
Look away from yourself. Seek from God what he alone can do for you. Moral improvement of the old you is not what you need. New life is what the whole world needs. It is radical and supernatural. It is outside our control. The dead do not give themselves new life. We must be born again--"not ... of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). That is what Jesus demands from the world.