“The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.” A person might read this and think, “How can I attain life since I am already breathing and my heart beats? Am I not alive already?”
One man who came to talk to Jesus made just that statement when Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The man replied, “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:3-4) Nicodemus was being sarcastic for he was as righteous as his society and religion defined it.
Since Nicodemus was a truly righteous Jew in the first century why did Jesus tell him, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again?” The seeming contradiction between verse 19 (our BDBD verse) and Nicodemus is in Jesus’ answer, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
The Spirit of God makes a person righteous and so they attain life. So why doesn’t everyone attain life? Why wouldn’t Nicodemus see the kingdom of God? Why do those who pursue evil go to their death (19)? Was Nicodemus pursuing evil? The Holy Spirit is very picky about whose spirit is born and whose spirit remains lifeless. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus the action that the Spirit is looking for so that he may grant any person’s spirit life. He declared, “Everyone who believes in the Son of Man may have eternal life.” (John 3:15) The truly righteous confess and live the belief in Jesus, the Son of God.
On this day of Thanksgiving (as celebrated in the US) I am thankful that the Holy Spirit who is very picky has granted my spirit life. He has made me a truly righteous man through faith in Jesus.