The DEEP

Repentance on Steroids

The old you just won't cut it.

John 3:3–8

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, 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. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The kingdom of God is different. Repentance (metanoia in Greek) is more than mere remorse or regret. It’s a turning away from what you regret. That’s significant.

But this is something else. Conversion to any religion can involve repentance. Entering the kingdom of God is much more than that. You don’t “join” the kingdom of God; you’re birthed into it. That’s metanoia on steroids. You don’t just turn away from the old; you turn into something new.

But by wording this so that it sounds like a repeat physical birth, Jesus confuses Nicodemus. That gets his brain fully engaged. So he 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?”

Jesus clarifies that this is not being “born of the flesh,” but being “born of the Spirit.”

Then it gets really interesting. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” What’s that all about?

This analogy is based on the fact that in their language the same word means both spirit and wind. In Greek, it’s pneumatos—from which we get pneumatic and pneumonia. In Hebrew its rue-akh. The fact that both Biblical languages don’t distinguish between wind and the spirit speaks volumes. And note that Jesus first said that unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Jesus’s point is that people can’t see, much less understand, the spirit of God. It’s like the wind. And you can’t even see, much less enter, the kingdom of God unless you do something much more than just repent.

The old you just won’t cut it.


And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. — Romans 12:2

So, it gets even more interesting. Spiritual birth happens once, but transformation happens over and over.


These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.