Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 5 – Born Again

RH-NicodemusTalksToJesus3

Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)

‘Jesus’ answer seems to have been given in response to an unrecorded question. We may wonder if Nicodemus first asked, “Rabbi, what must a man do in order to see the kingdom of God?” Christ responded that he must be born again, but there are two equally correct interpretations of Christ’s response. The first is that one must be baptized in order to enter the celestial kingdom. The second is that one must be born again in order to recognize the kingdom of God on earth. Christ preached, ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mark 1:15), but there were few who saw it. “Some have a certain spiritual awakening which makes it possible for them to ‘see’ the kingdom of God-that is, recognise that the gospel has been restored and the true Church has been re-established on the earth. Then, if they are ‘born of the water and of the Spirit,’ they are able to enter the Church; and, if they endure to the end, they can enter into their rest in God’s kingdom.” (Glenn L. Pearson and Reid E. Bankhead, Building Faith with the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986], 107.)’

To be born again implies a new birth, a new life, a new reformed person. We have shown faith, we have repented of our sins and we have committed to bury our old self and become a new creature. President David O McKay said that for Nicodemus to be born again “his manner of thinking, feeling, and acting with reference to spiritual things would have to undergo a fundamental and permanent change.” (General Conference, April 1960). That is the challenge for each of us. We may have gone through the ordinances – we have risen from the water, we have had hands laid on our heads for the gift of the Holy Ghost – but have we gone through the transformation of self that truly constitutes being born of the water and of the spirit?

In 2 Peter chapter 1 Peter lists some of the characteristics of Saints – diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity – and adds in verse 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

‘…is blind and cannot see afar off..’ or in other words ‘he cannot see the kingdom of God’.

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Living water (John 4:10)

Spencer J. Condie

“When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, the Savior said that if she knew who He was, she would have asked a drink of Him who would be able to give her living water which would be ‘a well of water springing up into everlasting life’ (John 4:5-14).

“In his vision of the Lord’s second coming Zechariah foresaw that the Savior shall stand upon the Mount of Olives and ‘living waters shall go out from Jerusalem: half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea’ (Zech. 14:8). Of this same event, Ezekiel prophesied that these living waters would ‘go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters [of the Dead Sea] shall be healed. … And every thing shall live whither the river cometh.’ (Ezek. 47:8-9.)

“These dual prophecies are profound not only in their geographical and geological implications but also because of their metaphorical promise. Of all the places on earth, the Dead Sea is one of the most inhospitable to life. Even burning deserts of sand provide a home for hardy insects and reptiles and for certain plants with extremely deep roots. Concrete sidewalks and asphalt tennis courts sometimes crack, allowing a brave weed or two to survive above the surface. But the Dead Sea, because of its extreme salinity, harbors no life of any kind.

“Thus, using the example of the Dead Sea, the Lord’s prophets have chosen the worst possible case to illustrate the power of the living waters to heal that which is dead. The living waters of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His atonement can heal dead marriages, dead relationships between parents and children, dead friendships between business partners and neighbors, and spiritual death from years of alienation from the Church. His promise is sure: ‘Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me’ (D&C 19:23).” (Your Agency, Handle with Care [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 102-103.)

I was reminded of the well known story told by Elder Theodore A Tuttle in General Conference in 1975:

This difficulty of understanding about water recalls the story of a sailing ship that had become disabled in a storm. It drifted aimlessly for many days. The crew and passengers became famished and parched from lack of food and water. Finally another ship came into view. They signaled frantically for water. The other ship replied, “Let down your buckets where you are.” This communication made no sense at all, for they supposed they were far out to sea in typical ocean water. Again the famished ones requested water. Again the signal came, “Let down your buckets where you are.” They could not know that they had drifted into the mouth of a great river and that the water beneath them was fresh and could save their lives. The water of life lay just beneath them, yet they were dying for lack of this knowledge.

Like those passengers, multitudes of people are thirsting for “living water,” and they know not where to find it. Like the people on the other ship, we are signaling that we have found the “living water.” It has brought us the abundant life. It has made us happy, healthy, and serene. We who enjoy the abundant life want to share this happiness. You, too, may want to drink of this “living water.”

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