I started two classes a couple of weeks ago - New Testament and critical writing. In my religion class
I read several chapters each week. The first week I read the chapters having to do with the Nativity Story, and the second week I read chapters having to do with Christ’s baptism and ministry. Each week’s assignments include one to read the assigned chapters and find three principles to apply to my life. I found one of my principles this week in the story of Nicodemus.
John 3 tells us that Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees and a ruler among the Jews, came to see Jesus at night. He had seen or heard about the miracles performed by Jesus and wanted to know more. Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus is in verse 3: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus was really confused at this point and asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (Verse 4).
Jesus explains to Nicodemus that he must be born again spiritually. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Verses 5-6).
You and I must be “born of water and of the Spirit” in order to enter the kingdom of God. This means that we must be baptized in water and then receive the Holy Ghost before we can enter the celestial kingdom or the place where Heavenly Father lives.
Since I have already been baptized and received the Holy Ghost, I chose this principle to apply to my life: “I must be spiritually born of God and live righteously to enter the celestial kingdom and receive eternal life.”
I wrote the following on the discussion board for my “Teaching Principles” assignment: “We come into this world in purity and innocence as newborn babes. We inherit physical and mental traits from our earthly parents, and we are dependent upon them. We take the family name, and we become like our parents as we follow their examples. We may even look a lot like them.
“In order to enter the kingdom of God, we must begin a new life and take the name of Jesus Christ. He becomes the father of our spiritual lives and helps us to become pure, innocent, humble, and full of love. He gives us His teachings and His example to follow as we become like our Heavenly Father and worthy to enter the Celestial Kingdom. As we become more like Him, we will take His image in our countenances.
“As I consider this principle I cannot help but think of Alma and his teachings in Alma 5 about receiving and maintaining “a mighty change” of heart (v. 12). I know that I have received a mighty change of heart, but I wonder if I am always “blameless” and sufficiently humble and loving. How do I retain the mighty change in my heart, have Christ’s image in my countenance, and stay worthy to enter the kingdom of God?”
In response to my question I received some wonderful suggestions. Some of them are as follow: “I think it is a constantly striving to always have Christ in our countenance and really want to have the spirit with us.”
“I don’t think being born of God is as quick as it sounds. It is a process that could take years. Through daily striving and changing we are born of God. There are a few examples of people who seemed to be born again after a miraculous experience such as Alma the younger and Saul and Lamoni the Lamanite king. For a few people it is one moment when they knew they were converted but I think for most of us it is a gradual change of heart.”
“I believe Christ’s image is in your countenance after you have had that change of heart. Even after we have these spiritually evolving experiences, Christ’s grace continues to carry us through the mistakes and weaknesses we all fall to. Sin is open rebellion toward God, but weakness is a gift from God. God forgives weakness, and helps us to become strong.”
I found the responses from my classmates to be very enlightening in answering my question: How do I retain the mighty change in my heart, have Christ’s image in my countenance, and stay worthy to enter the kingdom of God?” I must first desire to stay worthy to enter God’s presence. Then I must stay humble and make it a day-to- day way of life. Then I discovered a General Conference talk on this very subject that added more depth.
In his April 2007 General Conference address, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles uses cucumbers and pickles as an object lesson. “A pickle is a cucumber that has been transformed according to a specific recipe and series of steps.” He describes the process of transforming cucumbers into pickles with this summary: “To summarize, a cucumber becomes a pickle as it is prepared and cleaned, immersed in and saturated with salt brine, and sealed in a sterilized container. This procedure requires time and cannot be hurried, and none of the essential steps can be ignored or avoided.”
Elder Bednar uses the rest of his address to explain that we too must be prepared by learning the gospel of Jesus Christ, being cleansed by the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, and becoming born again by being immersed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He quoted Mosiah 5:7: “Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.”
Elder Bednar continues, “The spiritual rebirth described in this verse typically does not occur quickly or at once; it is an ongoing process – not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become align with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience…
“We begin the process of being born again through exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins by one having priesthood authority….
“And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity….
“The Holy Spirit of Promise is the ratifying power of the Holy Ghost. When sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, an ordinance, vow, or covenant is binding on earth and in heaven. (See Doctrine and Covenants 132:7.) Receiving this `stamp of approval’ from the Holy Ghost is the result of faithfulness, integrity, and steadfastness in honoring gospel covenants….” (See Bednar, “Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign, May 2007.)
What do you think? Do you understand a little more the process of being born again? We may not like being compared to pickles, but we should be able to see how the same process helps us to change. We all must be prepared, cleansed, immersed in water, and sealed by the Holy Ghost.