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Nick at Night

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Nick at Night

JOHN, the Book, the Man – Part 6

Feb 25, 2007    Dr. Rick Isbell

READ – John 3: 1-21


3:1  There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him.”

3 Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 “But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”

5 Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus.

10 “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. 11 “I assure you: We speak what We know and We testify to what We have seen, but you do not accept Our testimony. 12 If I have told you about things that happen on earth and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about things of heaven? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.

16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not judged, but anyone who does not believe is already judged, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.

19 “This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”

3:1. Nicodemus represented the best in the nation. He was a teacher (v.10), a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin, a ruler of the Jews.

-        The Sanhedrin had 70 members who were responsible for religious decisions and also, under the Romans, for civil rule.

-        The Sanhedrin put Jesus on trial (Luke 22:66).

-        Nicodemus later rebuked the Pharisees for condemning Jesus without hearing Him (John 7:50-51), and he helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus (19:39-40).


3:2. Why did Nicodemus go to Jesus at night?

-        Because of fear?

-        Because it was the normal time for visits?

-        Because he wanted a time of uninterrupted conversation without the distractions of the ever-present crowds?

-        John did not say why, but throughout this fourth Gospel, nighttime has a slightly sinister tone

-        Nicodemus began, Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a Teacher.

o    “We” probably means the favorable ones on the council.

o   The titles “Rabbi” and “Teacher” are polite and flattering on one hand, but they showed Nicodemus’ inadequate comprehension of who Jesus is.

o   The words “from God” are in an emphatic position in the Greek

o   Nicodemus wanted to talk to Him as one Rabbi to another.


3:3  But Jesus was not on the same level with Nicodemus.

-        I assure you, unless someone is born again

-        anōthen “from above” – both meaning to have spiritual transformation which takes a person from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light or the Kingdom of God (as Jesus expressed it).


3:4 Nicodemus was certain Jesus did not mean something absurd such as a reincarnation or

-        a second physical birth where you have to go back into the womb

-        but yet he could not grasp the nature of this regeneration that Jesus was referring to.

3:5  Threre are various opinions on what Jesus meant by the words in this verse when He spoke of being born of water and the Spirit

-        Instead of taking the time to rehearse all the views, let me give you the one that rings truest with me

-        The “water” refers to the repentance ministry of John the Baptist

o   Water would remind Nicodemus that he would have to repent in order to truly know God

-        The “Spirit” refers to the regeneration of a person’s heart by the Spirit of God through Christ.    application of the Holy Spirit through Christ to an individual.

-        John the Baptizer had stirred the people to repent

-        Jesus was going to stir them to change


3:6-7  Jesus points out that there are two very distinct realms:

-        One is of fallen man (the flesh)

-        The other is of God (the Spirit)

-        A fallen person cannot regenerate himself – Only God’s Holy Spirit can regenerate a human spirit.

-        They must be born from above.


3:8  There is a little wordplay here in this statement

-        The word pneuma means both wind and Spirit

-        The work of the Spirit (pneuma) is invisible and mysterious like the blowing of the wind (pneuma)

-        The point is – Man controls neither.


3:9-10  Nicodemus asked . . . how this spiritual transformation takes place.

-        Jesus answered that Nicodemus, as the teacher of Israel, ought to know.

-        The Old Testament prophets spoke of the new Age with its working of the Spirit (Isa. 32:15; Ezek. 36:25-27; Joel 2:28-29).

-        Jesus is implying that the nation’s outstanding teacher ought to understand how God by His sovereign grace can give someone a new heart (1 Sam. 10:6; Jer. 31:33).


3:11  But Nicodemus was ignorant of the realm of which Jesus spoke.

-        He represented the nation’s unbelief and lack of knowledge.

-        We speak what We know… Jesus and the prophets, spoke to the nation about divine themes but the Jews rejected His witness.

-        Martyrian  -- “Witness” (or testimony;) is a common word in John’s Gospel


3:12  Since Nicodemus could not grasp the basic teachings which Jesus presented in an earthly context, how could he ever hope to understand and believe the more abstract heavenly matters such as the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, and Glorification of Christ and many more?


3:13  Jesus said, No one has ever ascended into heaven and then come back to earth, able to give clear teaching about heavenly matters.

-        Except the One who descended from heaven

-        He is the “Ladder” between heaven and earth with access to both realms

-        We know from God’s Word that He “descended” in the Incarnation (became a human baby) and “ascended” in the Ascension shortly after the resurrection.

-        Also, we must not forget what we learned in the first verse of John, that He also was in heaven before the Incarnation, from the very beginning of time.


3:14-15  This idea of Jesus being lifted up is repeated in a number of places.

-        Jesus refers back to story of Moses leading God’s people out of captivity and how they began to take their freedom for granted and turn their backs on God.

-        Numbers 21:4  Then they set out from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea to bypass the land of Edom, but the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you led us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or water, and we detest this wretched food!” 6 Then the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died.  7 The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede with the Lord so that He will take the snakes away from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.  8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover. 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered

-        Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man (Jesus) must be lifted up.

-        Moses lifted up the snake on a stick to cure the disobedience and sin of his people

-        We know now that Jesus was talking about Himself, being lifted up on a stick to cure your disobedience and mine.

-        Just as those dying sinners in the wilderness looked upon the image of the snake for their salvation, we look upon the battered and bruised, yet radiant face of Jesus for our salvation.

o   No longer doomed to die because of the venom of sin in our lives

o   Not perfect… not sinless… just forgiven

3:16  One of the most recognizable and most often quoted verses in all of the Bible

-        A summary of the entire Gospel

-        God’s motivation toward people is love.

-        God’s love is not limited to a few or to one group of people but His gift is for the whole world. God’s love was expressed in the giving of His most priceless gift—His unique Son (cf. Rom. 8:3, 32).

-        The Greek word translated one and only, referring to the Son, is monogenē, which means “only begotten,” or “only born-one.”

-        For man’s part, the gift is simply to be received, not earned (John 1:12-13).

-        A person is saved by believing, by trusting in Christ.

-        Perish (apolētai) means not annihilation but rather a final destiny of “ruin” in hell apart from God who is life, truth, and joy.

-        Eternal life is not just talking about living forever, even those in hell will live forever, but is a new quality of life, which a believer has now as a present possession and will possess forever (cf. 10:28; 17:3).

3:17  God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn

-        That is one of the hardest concepts for the average Joe on the street to get past, that God would send someone to hell

-        God sent Jesus as a light to illuminate the path away from hell

-        Unfortunately, light does cast shadows, doesn’t it?

-        It was dark in here when we came in this morning, we turned on the light to have church, but you know what, there are still shadows cast around the room.

-        The light of Jesus lights the perfect path, but it also reveals the shadows of sin in our lives and because some people choose not to repent of that sin and let Christ remove it, they are condemned by their own actions

-        According to this and many other verses in God’s Word, He desires that everyone be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).


3:18  The instrumental means of salvation is believing in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

-          But people who reject the light of the Logos are in the dark and are therefore already under God’s judgment.

-          They stand condemned.

-          They are like those sinful, dying Israelites who willfully rejected the divine remedy

-          A believer in Christ, on the other hand, is under “no condemnation” (Rom. 8:1); he “will not be condemned” (John 5:24).


3:19-20 Men love darkness not for its own sake but because of what it hides.

-          They want to continue undisturbed in their evil (ponēra, “wicked”) deeds according to vs 19.

-          The word used for deeds or “evil deeds” in vs. 20 is phaula, which means ‘worthless’… like folly.

-          Unbelievers have no ultimate meaning of life,

o   no worthy motivation,

o   no adequate goal, and

o   a destiny of doom.

-          Man’s love of darkness rather than God the Light, is idolatry.

-          Man worships and serves “created things rather than the Creator.”

-          And he fears that if he comes to the light his deeds will be seen as wicked or worthless, and he would need to turn from them.

-          So most reject the light.


3:21.  But those seeking to live for Christ are like a moth drawn to the light, so we are drawn to the light of Jesus

-          We welcome His revelation.

-          Though the light rebukes our sin, we respond in repentance and faith.

-          And because of the power of Christ in us, we live differently than their former lives of darkness.

-          The Spirit, working in our lives, gives us new power,

o   New life goals  ---  Changed interests

o   Transformed lives   ---  New character

o   New conduct



1. RECOGNIZE GOD’S PLAN - Peace and Life

God loves you.

Go back to John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world…”

-          Do you think that means the planet?

-          The dirt and rocks and seas?

-          It means you.

-          Replace the word ‘world’ with your name and say it to yourself…

The story of the Bible is a love story to you.

-          The story of Jesus is a love story to you.

-          The book of John is a love letter to you.

God loves you so much that He wants to give you Peace that passes all understanding…

-          and a life that is abundant and free from the shackles of this world and the pain of your past.

Unfortunately, many people go through their lives defeated and depressed not even knowing what the problem is:

-          Have you been watching the fiasco surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith?

-          Have you seen the videos of her from the last few years and heard about her depression and sorrow over the death of her son in recent months.

-          A Hollywood starlet with it all, fame, money, beauty, celebrity, living in the paradise of the Bahamas…

-          But have you ever seen such a sad display of human defeat and hopelessness in your life?

-          She never realized her real problem…

2. REALIZE OUR PROBLEM - Separation from God

People chose to disobey God and go their own way.

There is a sin nature that has been passed down the line of Adam to each of us that

-          causes us to be naturally more interested in sinful things than Godly things.

There are also sins of the will where we flat out decide that I am going to do this no matter who says it is a sin

-          especially if no one is looking.

Either way, we are hopelessly separated from a sinless God because we have sin between us and Him.

-          And He, as a perfect, Holy God will not have anything to do with sin.

-          Therefore, we are separated from Him

-          We are naturally separated in this life

-          If we die in those sins then we will be forever separated in eternity

Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1-3,
"You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient... Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."

Rom 3:23,

"For everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence and glory."

Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man?

-          The rich man was in hell, but could see Lazarus over there talking to Abraham, and

-          the rich man wanted Lazarus to bring water to him, but

-          Abraham told him that the chasm between the two could never be bridged.

-          So the rich man was condemned to forever perish in a lake of fire – separated from God.

There were two men who lived in the same condominium complex, both with the same name – Paul Johnson. One was a sales representative and the other was the pastor of a local church. One day, Paul Johnson, the salesman, went on a business trip to Brazil, and the same day he left, Paul Johnson, the pastor, up and died.

-          Well, two weeks went by and finally the salesman sent a telegram back to his wife. Unfortunately, it was delivered to the widow.

-          All the telegram said was, "Arrived safely. Heat unbearable. Made arrangements for you to come down here next week."

-          She fainted.

3. RESPOND TO GOD’S REMEDY - Cross of Christ

Doesn’t the whole concept of the cross seem like a crazy idea to save men?

How can the death of a man in such a brutal way possibly help me today?

Paul said in I Cor. 1:18

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Christ died, was buried and resurrected from the dead to pay the price for the forgiveness of all

-          your past sins,

-          for all your present sins

-          and for all your future sins

if we will respond to Him with saving faith.

It is not enough to just say we believe in the person of Christ

-          We must place our trust in Christ

-          Allowing Him to become the substitute for our sins

-          That is the message of the Cross

-          as the substitutionary payment for the

Rom 5:8

"But God has demonstrated his own love for us. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us...

Jesus is the remedy, the medicine, that we respond to in order to be healed of our sin condition.

4. RECEIVE GOD’S SON - Savior and Lord

We talked about the separation between God and man

-          Jesus is the bridge that spans that separation

-          That is His role as Savior

John 1:12

12 But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

Then when our life is transformed, we place ourselves in God care and make Christ the Lord of our life

-          That word means ‘boss’

-          Make Him in charge

-          Make His ways, our new ways

-          Make His Word, our life play book

-          Make His desires, our desires

-          Make His will, our game plan for tomorrow

The greatest news of all of this is that the price has already been paid and the deal between God and Jesus has been already been cut

-          Our freedom is already secured

-          We just have to claim it and live it

The year was 1968. The place was Viet Nam. There was a little hamlet along the Mekong River and some Viet Cong were holding some American’s captive. The jails were pits that were dug into the muddy ground with stone and mortar on the sides and a bamboo grating over the tops act as doors, and they were high enough off the floors to keep anyone from unlocking them. Sometimes, the Viet Cong would stand there and ridicule them or throw food on top of them, or worse.

Early one morning, the enemy received communication that the Americans were getting ready to overrun the hamlet, and in fear of their lives, they unlocked the bamboo cages and then fled into the jungle. The American prisoners didn’t know the gates were unlocked, though, so they just stayed there, not knowing what was happening above. Later that day, when the Americans came, all they had to do was to open the cages and let the prisoners climb free.

Just like the United States military sent its army to liberate those prisoners on the Mekong River,

-          God sent His Son Jesus, not to condemn us

-          But to liberate us.

-          Now, nobody has to be a prisoner of this world any longer.

-          You do not have to be a prisoner to sin

-          Sadness or sorrow

-          The good news is that you are already set free by the blood of the Jesus.

Repent (turn from your sins) and by faith receive Jesus Christ into your heart and life and follow Him in obedience as your Lord and Savior.

"Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and my life. I receive You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me right now.  Amen."

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