From the Word
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”
John 3:4–8, RSV
How a man is born again may easily be told in words. When, however, it is a matter of experience, as it was with Nicodemus, it is a hard matter to understand and it requires effort to attain the experience. To persevere in this, when it becomes a matter of experience and when we are really tested, requires pains and labor.
Now the beginning of this birth is in baptism. The water is baptism, the Spirit is that grace which is given to us in baptism. The result of this birth is clearly seen in the hour of death or in times of test by poverty and temptation. He who is born of the flesh fights to defend himself, looks hither and thither, employs his reason to make his living. But he who is born anew reasons thus: I am in God’s hands who has preserved and nourished me before in a wonderful manner; he will also feed and preserve me in the future and save me from all sorrow and misfortune.
When we are about to die we feel that we must depart and we know not whither; the house of shelter is not ready and we know not whether it will be white or black. Where there is flesh and blood there is still the old Adam, who knows not whither he shall go, nor on what he shall rest his soul. There is anxiety and misery in the nature of a real hell; for the torments of hell are nothing but fear, terror and despair. But if I believe in God and am born anew, I close my eyes and do not grope about. I am willing that the condition of the soul be changed entirely. I think: O God, my soul is in thy hands; thou hast preserved it during my life and I have never known where thou hast put it, neither do I wish to know to which place thou wilt assign it. I only know that it is in thy hands and thou wilt take care of it. Thus we must abandon the life of the flesh and enter into a new life, being dead to the old. There must be a real change and an entire transformation of nature; the state of nature and feeling must be completely overthrown.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 247–48.