3 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,[a] you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.[b] 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.[c] 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
A common misconception many of us believers make in our faith walk is this. “Jesus died on the cross to make me a better person.” Although this sounds good and right, it's not the whole truth. Yes, we are eternally better for the sacrifice Jesus made. Although Jesus did not go to Calvary to make you a better version of yourself. Sanctification is not the process of you becoming a better you. That's not the point of Jesus’s shed blood. Jesus never promised a better life, He promises a new life (Ephesians 4:24). The goal is not to make you a nicer, more patient, more joyful, holier version of yourself. The goal is that you would walk in Jesus' kindness, patience, joy and holiness. Jesus came to earth and went to the cross so that through His sacrifice you could be reborn. A new creation in Christ. Where you once were dead in sin you have been resurrected in Christ, through your confession of faith, repentance from your sin, and the power of Holy Spirit.
This changes everything about your approach to living a satisfied life in Jesus. Instead of looking inside of ourselves for the strength to change, we look to Jesus to see the image we were created for. With our eyes set upon Him and by His power we become what we behold. This is why man made religion will never satisfy the appetites of life. We were made for so much more than ourselves. We are not the point nor the purpose of our own lives, Jesus is. Being reborn in Him gives us the ability to understand that. Rebirth means, we can let go of our former-selves as we transform into His image. Though the responsibility to change ourselves is done away with, we have to be willing to let go of control of the outcome. This in many ways is harder. Like Nicodemus we all are born into a fallen world, that from a young age tells us to believe that we are missing the mark and God is not pleased with us. Like Adam in the garden of Eden, this fear of not being pleasing before God causes us to take our life into our hands. Like Adam we look inward toward ourselves, become afraid of what we see and then try to fix ourselves by fashioning fig leaves to hide what we don't like about ourselves from God. This type of control over our identity is born from the fear that we are unacceptable to God the way we are. Which would be true only if God had not already decided to accept you through Jesus’s atonement on the cross. Like Adam, this plan of fixing ourselves on the behalf of God, only results in us being further from God and less satisfied then we were before. Like Nicodemus we are all hardwired to search for God and know Him. Whether we like to admit it or not, because of the fall we typically try to control how He sees us when we think we have found Him. Nicodemus couldn't understand what Jesus was saying, not because he lacked intellect, but because the Father that Jesus was presenting was outside the box Nicodemus had spent his life building to put God into. Father God wants all of our hearts, not just the parts we are willing to reveal. He wants to transform us with His love, not watch us try to fix ourselves. Author Kevin DeYoung says it like this, "...,the will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: Be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God."
Like Nicodemus we tend to come to Jesus and see how broken we are in light of His perfection, and then hide what we are ashamed of from Him, so that we can work on ourselves in our own power. Whether we realize it or not, this form of religious striving is rejecting the new life Jesus intended for you to live. God does not want your works, or your fig leaves. He wants your heart yielded to Him. He wants to consume you and renew you with the power of His love. He simply wants you to let go of the box you’ve constructed for Him so that you can say yes to who He really is and the life He is offering you.