“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, 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, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.'” (John 3:3-5)

When Jesus told Nicodemus that the way to heaven was not by keeping the Law but by being born again, the man was amazed because he did understand. Many of those who read this would confess the same amazement and ignorance. When I first heard this, I was at a loss. I kept trying to figure out what I had to do to become born again. But what Jesus meant was that what is required is a radical change of heart attitude. Works of righteousness may or may not indicate a radical change but they do not make us right with God. What God demands is a new person, one who has died to self with its sinful ways and pride and accepted his or her own sinfulness. Only God can effect the new birth by granting faith.

Jesus explained this faith to Nicodemus by citing the incident of the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The Israelites were punished by a plague of fiery serpents. Those bitten died unless they looked at the bronze serpent Moses had fashioned at the Lord’s command. There was nothing in the serpent that could save, but it was the faith in the promise of God that granted the healing.

That serpent was a type of Christ. He became sin on the cross. What was deadly to us brought life. All who look to His cross in faith are saved from eternal death. Those who refuse to look to the cross because they insist they know better or think that salvation by faith is foolish or unscientific and cannot possibly make a difference to them will die. They fail to grasp or accept God’s promises. He is always faithful to His word. We cannot inherit eternal life apart from His work and His will.