Let’s jump straight into the story.
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
Nicodemus – what do we know about him?
- He’s a Pharisee. Pharisees were members of a Jewish sect noted for strict obedience to Jewish traditions. So he’s a religious leader, but not just any ordinary person.
- A ruler of the Jews. He held a high position in the Jewish nation. An honored member of the national council. Rich and learned
But yet he came to Jesus by night. Scared of being seen since he was in such a high position? It would be humiliating someone of his rank coming to Jesus. MAYBE he didn’t want to set a bad example because Jesus wasn’t openly accepted yet
But look at how he addresses Christ:
- Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
- It seems like he is being polite. He is being formal. He is trying to make a good impression by addressing Christ rightly.
- BUT actually it is quite the contrary. Even though his words are trying to praise Jesus, it really shows his unbelief. He does not acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah but just a teacher sent from God.
However instead of recognizing the greeting that Nicodemus gives to Jesus, Christ cuts straight to the chase!
- John 3:3
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
- Jesus tells Nicodemus that he has to be born again! And maybe right now you don’t know what that means. Maybe Jesus was even teaching something new to Nicodemus.
- But there is one thing that is clear that Jesus is trying to tell him – that he is NOT born again. And unless he is – he cannot even SEE the kingdom of heaven!
- So what is Jesus really telling Nicodemus. Presently as you sit here before me – you are lost! You can’t even see the kingdom of heaven!!
- What a startling news of someone of Nicodemus’ stature. Remember he was a pharisee! And not just any Pharisee. He was a ruler of them. He was a teacher. He was like a pastor, or the pastor of the pastors.
- And Jesus, you’re telling me that I am lost? What a shock to his system.
You know when someone tells you news that is shocking to you, sometimes we react is really crazy ways.
- Well this is Nicodemus’ moment. Look at his reply.
- John 3:4
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
- It’s not that Nicodemus didn’t know what Jesus was referring to. But Christ was being pointed to him telling him that he was lost.
- And so Nicodemus felt irritated, his pride was rising up with him. But he comes back with an illogical response. Jesus – how can I go back into my mother’s womb and be born again?
- But his response just showed how much he was struggling with Jesus’ assessment of him. Christ wasn’t being respectful of his position as a ruler. He didn’t respect that fact that he came out just to look for Christ. He wasn’t being hospitable!
- Nicodemus was shocked and his response showed it.
But Jesus doesn’t entertain his response. He doesn’t try to explain. But simply presses home the point and expounds on what it means to be born again.
- John 3:5
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
- Jesus makes it very clear – just in case he didn’t understand before, now there is no misunderstanding at all. Jesus made it clear that Nicodemus was lost! If you aren’t born of water and the spirit, you can’t enter into the kingdom of God.
- In verse 3 it was – you can’t see it.
- Now in verse 5 – you can’t enter into the kingdom of God!
- Nicodemus, you are lost!
What does it mean to be born of water?
- That’s water baptism. That’s the seeming easy part.
But that’s just half of the equation
- What does it mean to be born of the Spirit?
- Titus 3:5
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
- It is the renewing of the heart by the Holy Spirit
- Psalms 51:10
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
God wants to give us a clean heart. The baptism is the outward – but it is only symbolic of what God wants to do with our heart, the inward man.
- Job 14:4
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
- Romans 8:7
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
- Matthew 15:19
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
- The problem is our heart. And unless that is changed, it doesn’t matter how many times you are baptized with water baptism, it isn’t enough! The fountain of the heart must be purified if our works and actions are to change. And the only way for that to happen, is that we must be born of the Spirit.
Let’s keep reading Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus back in John.
- John 3:6-8
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
- In these next 3 verses Jesus focuses on what? He doesn’t talk about born of water anymore.
- In verse 6 – born of flesh vs born of spirit.
- In verse 8 – He gives illustration of what it means to be born of the Spirit, it’s like the wind. It is a mystery.
- No one can explain the movings of the Spirit, but we can see its effect. You can see the leaves rustles, you can hear the sound, you can see how the trees bend. BUT you can’t explain where the wind comes from and where it goes after that. We can’t explain the movement of wind. It’s invisible. But the effects are obvious.
- And like the wind, so the Holy Spirit works in the same way. We can’t explain the working of the Holy Spirit. We just know that when you are born of the Spirit, you can see the effects. Our lives are different. The man is changed.
- From a drunkard, to sober.
- From a wife beater, to a loving husband.
- Curse words are put away.
- The way we spend our time is different.
- Our hobbies, our entertainment, our recreation.
- The way we spend our money is different.
- Even the way we dress changes.
- The effects are obvious! They can be seen by others and even by our own selves. We can know whether we are born again or not.
But how is this accomplished in our day? How can we be born of the Spirit? There are 2 ways.
- Ephesians 6:17
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
- 1 Peter 1:23
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
- It is the word of God. We need to have interaction with the Bible. God speaks light into our hearts. He creates pure thoughts to replace with the bad and evil thoughts. He changes our hearts and mind through the power of His word.
- Friends, it is possible to go to church every week and not be born of the Spirit. It is possible to participate in church activities and not be born of the Spirit. It is possible to grow up in a Christian home and not be born of the Spirit.
- Unless we have interaction with the word of God, the possibility to be born of the Spirit is as much as possible for a plant to grow without water! What am I trying to say? It’s an impossibility!
- I’ve gone to church all my life, parents brought me to church. But I was never born of the Spirit by just going to church. Even though I brought my Bible to church, I never read it! I took part in a lot of church activities. CARE group, played piano, was youth leader, drove people around, church choir and pathfinders. But I was never born again.
- Why? Because I never read the word of God for myself. Sure the pastor preached the Bible, but I wasn’t focused, I wasn’t listening. I was busy folding paper boats and cranes, talking to friends, thinking about what to do after the sermon ends or that night after Sabbath finished.
- Born again is intentional. You have to take the time aside to read the word of God, to study it, to meditate on it. Not just listen to it while you’re driving or exercising, or cleaning the home. It’s intentional time with Jesus allowing Him to replace your thoughts with His, your ways with His ways, your character with His character.
- Nicodemus, he was a pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. But he didn’t teach the Bible, he taught tradition. That was always the problem of the Pharisees.
- Mattjew 15:1-3
1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
- He just regurgitated what he had heard from those before him. And they did things certain ways because that’s just what they did. That’s what tradition is. And sometimes, tradition doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just done that way because everyone else does it!
- Nicodemus, was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, a pastor. Yet Jesus saw through all of that and saw that he never read the scriptures.
- How else can we be born of the Spirit?
- Luke 11:13
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
- How do we receive the Holy Spirit? We have to ask. We have to pray!
- We must be more than just a Christian that goes to church. We must be a Christian to goes to our knees. That’s where the real heart operation is done. Our alone time with God.
Do you know why some of us, we still struggle all this while with things of this world? Whether it’s your appetite, or how you dress, or even the Sabbath?
- It’s because we are not born again! We are not spending the time where we allow Jesus to change our hearts. If we want a new heart, if we want to be born again, it has to be intentional. We have to go to Jesus and ask for it. We have to go to Jesus and spend time with Him just so that His life and rub off on ours.
As we spend that time with Christ, the word of God is making impressions on the heart. And at the point that a person changes, decides to give up a cherished idol or sin, it’s not because of they themselves, but it’s the Holy Spirit driving the truth and conviction home to the heart. When people respond to appeals of a preacher, it’s not the preacher, but the Holy Spirit that is working. Anything good that turns us to Christ, that is the wooing of the Holy Spirit!
Nicodemus was shocked!
- John 3:9-10
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
- He had no idea what it meant to be born again. His whole Christian life was just about forms and traditions. Nicodemus’ world had just been shaken by Christ. He was left speechless.
- But now Christ tries to deepen his understanding about this new birth experience.
- John 3:14-15
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
- Nicodemus was familiar with this story. When the Israelites were dying from the sting of fiery serpents in the wilderness, God directed Moses to make a brass serpent, put it on a pole and ask everyone to look at it. As simple as it sounded, many people didn’t look. It sounded TOO simple, that was the problem. All they had to do was look and live! Some might have questioned the efficacy of the brazen symbol. Others demanded a scientific explanation. But no explanation was given. They just had to accept the word of God to them through Moses and just look and LIVE!
And then Christ repeats the lesson in the famous text.
- John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
- All you need to do is to look to Jesus, look to the Son. If you look, you will live! But you have to believe in the word. You have to believe the instruction. LOOK AND LIVE!
- That’s it! Simple right? Not complicated. Don’t have to do anything else. Don’t have to climb the highest mountain or descend to the deepest valley. Just LOOK AND LIVE!!!
That’s how simple it is to be born again today. Look and Live. Look to Jesus. Look to the Bible. Turn your eyes away from the glitter of this world and look at Jesus today. Look fully at His word. Seek Him with all your heart. You will find Him!
Want to grow in Christ, want to go beyond a formal religion? Want to have meaning when you go to church? You have to find Jesus first. He gives the meaning. He gives the motivation. He gives the fulfilment in it all. If not, we run the danger of having a formal religion. The form but no power.
Today we need to go back to look at the Word. See Him in the Word. See Jesus in our prayer time. That is what matters. It’s not about working your way to heaven. No. It’s about seeing Jesus, beholding the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. May we experience today what it means to be born of the Spirit. God bless you!