It has been a year since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, many people hoped some Russian leaders would stand up against him and remove the tyrant from office. So far, he is still standing strong after sacrificing so many lives. We might wonder when this will this end, or will it escalate to a world war?
History teaches us that dictators are symptoms but not the root cause because when a dictator is removed, the situation worsens, and the world could become more dangerous. Who knows what would replace the tyrant? A recent example would be that we removed Sadam Husein, but the country is still unstable after over a decade of effort, thousands of deaths, and billions of dollars.
In 1988, the democratic movement in Burma removed three presidents within a few months. After the last president resigned, the country went into chaos. The military junta stepped over and killed thousands of citizens in the name of enforcing law and order. It seems easier to fight for freedom but much harder to maintain it.
Dictators serve a purpose. They stabilize a weak society—repeat: a weak society. In other words, we have a government we deserve. It’s a hard pill to swallow. We might ask, “Can the United States fall into the hands of a dictatorship? How do we prevent it? What lesson have we learned from the history of dictatorships? Most importantly, what does the Bible reveal to us about handling tyrants?
The answer is that we need more butterflies than caterpillars. They are the same creature but have two different ways of life. Humans are born as caterpillars, but some of us metamorphose into butterflies, but some don’t. A country with more butterflies than caterpillars will sustain freedom. Otherwise, she is in trouble.
Two weeks ago, I shared a message titled “Listen to the Butterflies.” You can find it online. Today I would like to apply that truth in a real-life situation.
As Benjamin Franklin walked out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, a lady asked, “Doctor Franklin, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin answered, “A republic, if you can keep it!” The wisdom is in that clause. “if you can keep it.”
It means the quality of the citizens determines the quality of the government. Many countries want to copy America without considering the quality of the Americans. I’m not saying we are superior humans, but we have more butterflies than caterpillars. If we have more caterpillars than butterflies one day, we will lose the republic.
Our founding fathers designed this republic that requires more citizens of butterflies to keep it. Butterflies have eyes and wings, but caterpillars are blind, so they must creep. A proverb says, “Among the blind, the one-eyed man becomes king.” Dictators can lead the caterpillars, but not the butterflies.
We see in the Bible that Jesus didn’t come to topple the dictators but to open our eyes so that the one-eyed man cannot become our king. In other words, Jesus came to show us the metamorphosis and turn us from blind caterpillars to seeing and flying butterflies so that no one could enslave us.
It applies to all situations, not just government. What enslaves you today—poverty, debts, relationships, employment, money, emotions, fear, or anger, you name it? Nothing can rule over you when you metamorphose into a butterfly life. Jesus calls it “being born of the spirit,” which gives us a strong ethos.
In today’s scripture lesson, Jesus reveals what is required for us to be born of the Spirit. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to John 3:1-17. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:1-17).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s Word. Thanks be to God!]
I wonder how many of you have watched “The Chosen,” an episodic show about Jesus’ life, the first of its kind. It’s very well made, with beautiful cinematography, realistic settings, excellent acting, and fantastic storytelling. I watched it on Amazon Prime, but you can also download “The Chosen” app to watch it on your smartphone or tablet. It’s free.
I just finished the first season—of seven. The first season ends with the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well. The story was so touching that brings me to tears. The show is not perfect, but very well done. So far, it has about ten thousand five-star reviews on Amazon. Some fundamentalists opposed this show, but what’s new?
This conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is in the seventh episode of the first season, but Nicodemus has been there since the first episode.
Nicodemus was known as the Rabbi of rabbis. He was intelligent, erudite, open-minded, and influential. The Roman authority put him in charge of the Jews and asked him to report any signs of insurrection. They threatened the religious leaders to pay a high price should there be any rebellion from the Jews.
When he heard Jesus was the Messiah, he was concerned because, in those days, the Messiah meant a political leader for insurrection. The show brilliantly balances his concern for his position and the desire to know Jesus. He realized Jesus had God’s presence based on Jesus’ miracles. As the story begins,
He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” (John 3:2).
Jesus’ answer in the next verse sounds disjointed, but the show fills in the gap. Nicodemus asked Jesus, “What have you come to show us?” Jesus said, “a kingdom.” That makes Nicodemus nervous because it could mean insurrection. But Jesus said, “Not that kind,” but the following statement confused him because Jesus was talking about an invisible kingdom.
Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (John 3:3).
Jesus was saying unless one becomes a butterfly, one cannot see the kingdom of the butterflies. Nicodemus was confused, understandably.
Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4).
Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6).
Jesus says everyone has two births—a physical birth and a spiritual birth. It’s like we are born as caterpillars but born again as butterflies from a cocoon. Until then, we cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus could not conceptualize what Jesus meant, so Jesus gave an analogy,
The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8).
The word Spirit is translated from Greek “Pneuma” and Hebrew “Ruah.” Both mean “Breath” or “Wind.” So, it’s appropriate to use wind as an analogy. We can’t see the wind but hear, feel, and observe its presence. To allow the Holy Spirit to give birth to us, we need to let go of our ego, enter the cocoon, and let God take us through the metamorphosis. We don’t know how it happens, but we must believe.
The next question is, “How do you know you are born of the Holy Spirit?” You bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; these are the evidence of the Holy Spirit—the beauty of a butterfly.
Now, Jesus reveals His plan to save the world.
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).
Again, notice the word “believe.” After Moses took the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, they kicked and screamed, wanting to return to slavery. They said at least they had enough food to eat in Egypt. They had developed a slave mindset. Then they made an idol of a golden cow to worship. Weak ethos worship idols.
Idol worshiping made God mad because it revealed their weak ethos. So, God punished them by sending poisonous snakes. After Moses pleaded with God, God asked Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole so that everyone who looked at it upon a snake bite was immediately healed. Today, it became the symbol of hospitals and healthcare.
In the first century, the Jews return to that slave mindset again, feeling powerless under the tyrant Herod and the Roman occupation. No matter how hard they fought, they could not escape it because the problem was not the government but their weak ethos. The Bible calls it “sin.”
Jesus said he came to be lifted up on the cross like the bronze snake on the pole to heal the sin of our slave spirit once and for all. The crucifixion of Jesus started a tidal wave of ethos reflection and cultural reformation worldwide for two thousand years. Then, Jesus made this most famous statement,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Again the condition here is “believe in him.” That belief requires us to renounce our ego and enter the cocoon to let God take us through the metamorphosis.
The eternal life is not only for us to enjoy after death but also to manifest in this life as people of strong ethos. God could have easily removed the dictators to set us free, but the dictators are symptoms, not the root cause. On the cross, Jesus addressed the root cause—the sin of weak ethos. The passage ended with Jesus saying,
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).
Jesus came to save us, not to condemn us because “we are condemned already,” as he said in verse 18.
In conclusion, believers have two births and one death. Unbelievers have one birth and two deaths. Believers are born of the flesh and then born again of the Spirit, but when we die, only our flesh dies, but our spirit lives on. The unbelievers are born once in the flesh but never born again in the spirit—never become a butterfly. When they die, they die in the flesh as well as in the Spirit. So they die twice.
So, let’s choose to have two births and only one death by being born again of the Spirit. How? Tame our ego using the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting, as we discussed last week, like a caterpillar submitting itself into the cocoon and allowing the Holy Spirit to beget us into butterflies. We can do it because God is there to help us through it. The benefit is a life of freedom, as Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.