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Born Again?

Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Ask Questions and Expect Answers

At the end of chapter 2 we see there were some who intellectually and emotionally believed Jesus to be someone important. But this is not enough for conversion. This is not the kind of faith that saves. One such person comes to Jesus in the cover of night to inquire concerning the identity of Jesus…Nicodemus.
Nicodemus — Was a ruler of the Jews. Eventually, we see from chapter 7 and 19 of this Gospel, he became a Christian. But at this point he is just one of those who had a spurious and dead faith…an intellectual and emotional interest in Christ.
He had seen miracles and signs. It was obvious that Jesus was someone special and many were now of the intellectual honesty to admit God was doing something in the life of Jesus.
Jesus does not crush those who are inquiring but as of yet not believing. Scripture is clear that a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick He will not quench. There is nothing wrong with being skeptical and asking questions as long as you are honestly seeking the truth and one day come to receive it!
Arguing against God is arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all. 
C S Lewis — “Arguing against God is arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.” God in His grace gives us a mind to use and a mouth with which to ask our questions…and He gives us His Spirit to convict and convince us of the answers He gives
This was the testimony of Nicodemus…and one day we will worship with him in heaven where he can tell us in more detail of his journey from skeptic or agnostic to genuine believer and follower of Christ.
Jesus answers Nicodemus’ inquiry with a bold statement which seemed nonsense to the rabbi, “You think you can see something of who I am but you cannot begin to see who I am unless you are born again.”
In his book, An Anthropologist on Mars, neurologist Oliver Sacks tells about Virgil, a man who had been blind from early childhood. When he was 50, Virgil underwent surgery and was given the gift of sight. But as he and Dr. Sacks found out, having the physical capacity for sight is not the same as seeing. Virgil's first experiences with sight were confusing. He was able to make out colors and movements, but arranging them into a coherent picture was more difficult. Over time he learned to identify various objects, but his habits--his behaviors--were still those of a blind man. Dr. Sacks asserts, "One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person. It is the interim, the limbo . . . that is so terrible." To truly see Jesus and his truth means more than observing what he did or said, it means a change of identity.
In his book, An Anthropologist on Mars, neurologist Oliver Sacks tells about Virgil, a man who had been blind from early childhood. When he was 50, Virgil underwent surgery and was given the gift of sight. But as he and Dr. Sacks found out, having the physical capacity for sight is not the same as seeing.
Virgil's first experiences with sight were confusing. He was able to make out colors and movements, but arranging them into a coherent picture was more difficult. Over time he learned to identify various objects, but his habits--his behaviors--were still those of a blind man. Dr. Sacks asserts, "One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person. It is the interim, the limbo . . . that is so terrible."
To truly see Jesus and his truth means more than observing what he did or said, it means a change of identity.
Kingdom — For the Jew this meant participation with God in His coming Kingdom at the end of the age. The popular teaching was that all Jews would be allowed to enter and participate in that Kingdom unless they had become apostate and walked away from their faith or become particularly wicked in their lifetime on earth.
Jesus says, “not so fast!” The only ones who are going to enter the Kingdom of God are those who are born again. There must be regeneration, an end to who you are, death to it, and a brand new life in its place.
Born Again — Transformation from above. Jesus is here talking about what is needed not how that need is met. The”how to” would come later in the passage. Jesus was talking to a man who was very moral, religious, wise and committed. Jesus wanted to be clear that these were not enough. You cannot know who Jesus really is, nor enter the Kingdom of God, unless God intervenes and makes you something different than you are.
the focus here is not on the potential convert’s humility, brokenness or faith, but on the need for transformation, for new life from another realm, for the intervention of the Spirit of God
“The focus here is not on the potential convert’s humility, brokenness or faith, but on the need for transformation, for new life from another realm, for the intervention of the Spirit of God.” — If Nicodemus couldn’t make it on his credentials then we are all in need of help! We needed God to intervene…Nicodemus needed to know that…and so do we.
You and I cannot earn our way to heaven. We cannot be good enough, moral enough, do enough good deeds. We cannot be religious enough, pious enough…there is nothing we could ever do in ourselves to bridge the gap between who we are and who God is…no way we could earn or warrant an entry into the Kingdom of heaven because none of this things really change who we are and a total transformation is the thing needed to enter a relationship with God and heaven.
This idea was so foreign to Nicodemus that he had no idea what Jesus was talking about at all. The best he could do was try and come to terms with what Jesus was saying was talk about physical birth. The man was completely clueless at this point.
A lot of us are clueless about spiritual things when we begin asking questions and investigating Christianity. Many, who are now a part of the family of God once began the journey to faith completely clueless about anything. And that is ok…even this great, well educated, religious man, approached God from a similar place.
Jesus begins to teach Nicodemus what He means by taking him to the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. He says, “Unless you are born of water and the spirit you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Now this learned man had a reference point from which to begin…
Water — In the Old Testament water is used figuratively in reference to renewal or cleansing, especially so when used in conjunction with the spirit.
And these words, water and the spirit, Nicodemus would have absolutely understood to be a reference to Jesus was making a point perfectly clear to Nicodemus…God will regenerate us…He will cleanse us, we will not do so ourselves. God will forgive us…He will give us a new heart and a new spirit. He will put His Spirit within us and cause or make us to walk in obedience to Him.
Ezekiel 36:25–27 NASB95
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
This reminds me of and
Philippians 2:13 NASB95
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Romans 1:5 NASB95
through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake,
Philippians 2:13 NASB95
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Romans 1:5 NASB95
through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake,
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Nicodemus has been living in a system of sacrifices whereby a man or woman could receive forgiveness of sins but never be changed from the person who did the sinning. Jesus is teaching him that God has something more in mind for those who will be a part of His Kingdom…they will be forgiven, cleansed and become a new creation in Him…a new creation in which His Holy Spirit would dwell and empower for a new life.
Human birth produces our flesh and makes a part of the family of humankind…but not children of God. Only God’s Spirit can make us born again and a part of the family of Heaven…a child of the King and citizen of heaven. God is looking for a people in whom to give a new nature…not the turning over of a new leaf but the beginning of a completely new person in Christ.
People on the outside cannot really understand this. Those born of the Spirit aren’t really ever understood by those who have never been so. They are of earth and we are of heaven. There is a mystery to the transformation which God brings to those who are born again. One can see the affects of the Spirit upon their life but explaining all the Spirit does within is something the unregenerate mind can never really comprehend.
Someone confronted Martin Luther, upon the Reformer's rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of justification, with the remark, "If this is true, a person could simply live as he pleased!" "Indeed!" answered Luther. "Now, what pleases you?" Augustine was the great preacher of grace during the fourth and fifth centuries. Although his understanding of the doctrine of justification did not have the fine-tuned precision of the Reformers, Augustine's response on this point was similar to Luther's. He said that the doctrine of justification led to the maxim, "Love God and do as you please." Because we have misunderstood one of the gospel's most basic themes, Augustine's statement looks to many like a license to indulge one's sinful nature, but in reality it touches upon the motivation the Christian has for his actions. The person who has been justified by God's grace has a new, higher, and nobler motivation for holiness than the shallow, hypocritical self-righteousness or fear that seems to motivate so may religious people today.
Someone confronted Martin Luther, upon the Reformer's rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of justification, with the remark, "If this is true, a person could simply live as he pleased!" "Indeed!" answered Luther. "Now, what pleases you?" Augustine was the great preacher of grace during the fourth and fifth centuries. Although his understanding of the doctrine of justification did not have the fine-tuned precision of the Reformers, Augustine's response on this point was similar to Luther's. He said that the doctrine of justification led to the maxim, "Love God and do as you please." Because we have misunderstood one of the gospel's most basic themes, Augustine's statement looks to many like a license to indulge one's sinful nature, but in reality it touches upon the motivation the Christian has for his actions. The person who has been justified by God's grace has a new, higher, and nobler motivation for holiness than the shallow, hypocritical self-righteousness or fear that seems to motivate so may religious people today.

Nicodemus’ incredulous question is not How can this be? (NIV), but ‘How can this happen?’ Doubtless he himself had for years taught others the conditions of entrance to the kingdom of God, conditions cast in terms of obedience to God’s commands, devotion to God, happy submission to his will; but here he is facing a condition he has never heard expressed, the absolute requirement of birth from above

D A Carson — “Nicodemus’ incredulous question is not How can this be? (niv), but ‘How can this happen?’ Doubtless he himself had for years taught others the conditions of entrance to the kingdom of God, conditions cast in terms of obedience to God’s commands, devotion to God, happy submission to his will; but here he is facing a condition he has never heard expressed, the absolute requirement of birth from above”
Nicodemus’ incredulous question is not How can this be? (niv), but ‘How can this happen?’ Doubtless he himself had for years taught others the conditions of entrance to the kingdom of God, conditions cast in terms of obedience to God’s commands, devotion to God, happy submission to his will; but here he is facing a condition he has never heard expressed, the absolute requirement of birth from above
Jesus basically responds, “You are Israel’s teacher. You know the OT and how salvation is meant to come through the ministry of Messiah. How can you NOT understand???”
Romans 1:3 NASB95
concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,
Romans 1:1–2 NASB95
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
Romans 1:2 NASB95
which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
The explanation had been given…Jesus met Nicodemus where he was and walked him through enough OT for him to understand and believe…but as of this moment he simply would not make the leap of faith.
Salvation apart from works is simply too difficult for many to accept. They simply will not allow themselves to depend upon God to do something for them…refuse to believe they are not captain of their own destiny and putting God in their debt by a morally lived and pious life.
Jesus said, “You do not accept our testimony.” You are not accepting the truth! You are choosing not to do so because it doesn’t measure up with the religion you have created for yourself. It was one thing not to understand but to understand and refuse to believe…this is reprehensible.
Nicodemus cannot be privy to any further teaching about the kingdom of God because he has rejected the teaching of how to enter it in the first place.
This is so often how God works…He reveals things to us and waits for us to accept and have faith for what He has given. Once we have faith for the truth we have He graciously reveals more of the truth to us…this is called spiritual growth. But God is willing to stop the train and wait until we will have faith for what we already have.
And Jesus makes clear to Nicodemus that He has much more He could teach. There was a lot of stories in that day about people who had died, gone to heaven and come back with to say about their experiences. Jesus says, I didn’t go to heaven and come back…I came from heaven and am now here…Truly, I am the one who has something to say and teach you about heaven but you must first have faith to be a part of the Kingdom of heaven.

Believe and Trust The Answer

Jesus would return to the glory He had before He came to earth through the cross…He would be lifted up and thereby be glorified as the Savior He is.
Again this is reference to an OT story which Nicodemus knew well. From . The Israelites were saved by their faith in God as they looked to His salvation…lifted high on a pole in the form of a serpent.
Now Jesus is getting to the “how to’.” Now that He has made clear the necessity that God would do something to save us…that Kingdom citizenship rested in the work of Christ and not in the works of man…He paints a clear picture, using the Old Testament as explanation , of how God would do this saving work and our part in the process.
Jesus would be lifted up to die for our sins. He would be lifted up to pay the price for us. We would be washed and cleansed through Him…by our faith in Him.
When Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court. The judge asked, "Guilty, or not guilty?" When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, "That'll be ten dollars -- a dollar for every mile you went over the limit." Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. "You have violated the law," he said. "The fine must be paid--but I am going to pay it for you." He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner! "That," said Billy Graham, "is how God treats repentant sinners!"
When Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court.
The judge asked, "Guilty, or not guilty?" When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, "That'll be ten dollars -- a dollar for every mile you went over the limit."
All of us are born of the flesh and guilty. Sinners, broken, lost, hopeless and damned to hell. Jesus was lifted up on the Cross so no one had to stay in the flesh and their sin. Faith unlocks the door into which we enter the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Our fleshly identity, our sinful nature, dies on the cross with Jesus and we are born again to new life.
Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. "You have violated the law," he said. "The fine must be paid--but I am going to pay it for you." He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner! "That," said Billy Graham, "is how God treats repentant sinners!"
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