Born Again

Nicodemus: Alive, 1 May 2011

Big Idea: Without a second birth we will never know true life.


Last Sunday was our celebration of the resurrection, the life of Jesus Christ after His death and the life that we can have because of His. Today we begin our 2WordStory series along with over 500 churches in the area...including these:

What makes you come alive?

Our Story

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” - John 3:1-2

Nicodemus was one of the most important men in his day. He was a teacher and a Pharisee. The Pharisees were powerful religious leaders. He was also a member of the the Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin. Suffice it to say, Nick was a powerful and respected man.

This is the original Nick at Nite! He’s not sneaking around at night to watch TV, though. Why does he go out at night? We don’t know! It seems that he was afraid, perhaps of the other Pharisees that condemned Jesus. He saw Jesus as something of a peer and wanted to have a Rabbi to Rabbi chat.

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” - John 3:3

Born again. This is an expression that has been used to describe Christians, bit Nick had no clue what Jesus meant.

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
- John 3:4

And every mom in the room said, “Ouch!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” -John 3:5-8

Born again or born from above is a spiritual transformation. We all have been given a physical birth, but being born again requires a spiritual birth. It’s about moving from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God.

Several interpretations have been given to this phrase “born of water,” but it seems most likely that Nick would see it as a reference to baptism, the water grave in which one dies to their flesh and is resurrected and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, coming alive.

I love Jesus’ use of the word
pneuma which means both wind and Spirit. We can control neither the wind nor the Holy Spirit, but we can place ourselves in their path and be moved by them.

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
- John 3:9

Notice how he still doesn’t understand, yet he doesn’t play it cool, pretending to get it. He honestly shares his confusion.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?
- John 3:10

I love that! This great teacher doesn’t understand. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t have understood this, either!

Jesus continues.

I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. - John 3:11-13

Jesus is fully God yet fully human. He is the ladder between heaven and earth. He descended in the Incarnation at His birth in Bethlehem and later ascended on the Mount of Olives to heaven where He will one day return.

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
- John 3:14-15

In Number 21, Moses raised a bronze snake on a pole as a cure for the punishment the people received from God for their disobedience. In fact, you’ve probably seen the snake on a pole in the universal symbol of healing.

Dying people who looked upon the bronze snake were healed. In the same way, Jesus is foreshadowing His death on a tree and saying that the dying sinners who look to Him will be given eternal life.

This is the central message of our faith—that Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again for us. He did all of this to restore our broken relationship with our Creator. In fact, the very next verse is likely the most famous and significant verse in the entire Bible.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

This is the Gospel, the good news. It’s about what Jesus did and our response. All other world religions are about what you DO, but Christianity is about what has been DONE by Jesus.

The love of God compelled Him to send His one and only, begotten, “only born-one” Son to earth for the purpose of dying.

As a dad, I have a much greater appreciation for this than I did prior. I have one son and I love him like crazy! I love my beautiful girls, too! When my son is gone overnight to a friend’s house, I miss him. When he’s away for several nights on a trip or at camp, I really miss him. I can’t imagine sending him away for 33 another die...for sinful people! That’s love. In the words of Francis Chan, that’s crazy love.

This is why we sing. This is why we worship. This is why we give and serve and go and tell and seek to follow Jesus. It’s not because He is a great teacher, though He is. It’s not because He changed the world, though He did. It’s because He proved His love and died for us.

The text continues...

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. - John 3:17-18

The purpose of Jesus coming to earth was not to condemn. He does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:22-23) but wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

We have a choice. We can accept or reject Jesus. We can have a relationship with God and enjoy Him forever or we can reject Him and live forever apart from Him.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” - John 3:19-21

Why do people love darkness? It’s not the dark itself that they enjoy, but what they are hiding. The Light exposes our sins and evil that lead to death. Jesus lovingly rebukes our sin and leads us to repentance and life. Jesus is the way, the truth, the Light, and the life!

We see later that Nick chose to follow Jesus. He defended Jesus when the Pharisees condemned Him (John 7:50-51). He even helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus (John 19:39-40).

So what’s the secret? It’s not about what you do but what He’s done that gives you life.

Nick realized it did not matter how good he was, it wasn’t good enough. It doesn’t matter how many soup kitchens you serve, how many times you go to church, or how much money you give away if you don’t know Jesus. Do you know Him? I don’t mean know about Him, but do you really know Jesus? Do you love Him? Have you received His gift of eternal life?

Have you seen the Light? Have you received the Light? Are you alive?

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