Complete: Spiritual People need Jesus
Love Rock Hall Day
I went to Michigan this week for a couple of days to spend a little time with my daughter. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas. Anyway, I also got to meet her new boyfriend. The first day I met him, she asked me that night, so what did you think? Did you like him? Short answer …not really. But not because of him. He’s in the Air Force, he seems to be a nice enough kid and seems pretty responsible, but still.
Now normally I am pretty comfortable with applying the GOOD ENOUGH principle, but this is one of those times where GOOD ENOUGH isn’t good enough.
Why is that? It’s not because of him…it’s because of my love for my daughter. I love her so, that only the best would ever be good enough for her…in my mind.
Spiritual People need Jesus
Spiritual People need Jesus
We are in this series COMPLETE…in these series of messages from ch 2-4 of John, we are going to see that the people around Jesus believed that their way of knowing God was the best way, but Jesus knew there was more. He had come not only to complete what was lacking, but also to ultimately bring completion to us.
A couple of weeks ago Scott taught a message from John 2 titled Religious people need Jesus. What we found was that religion over time…becomes our God. We begin to serve our religion rather than the one who religion is designed to point us. That religious people need the real Jesus, because he is the point of it all.
Today we are looking at this interaction with Nicodemus, we are going to see that even the most spiritual person needs Jesus too.
But let’s start in chapter 2
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25 He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
Now.....John says, let me show you how God knew ever man’s heart…how he knows every man and woman’s heart today.
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 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.”
Who was Nicodemus?
He was a Pharisee…temple, prayer, tithe, study, fast
He was a member of the sanhedrin…a federal judge & senator…one of 70
He was a believer in Jesus, why? Because he has seen the miracles.
Nicodemus isn’t asking a question yet, but the implied question, the one Jesus understands he is asking because he understands the heart of man is “Jesus, are you bringing the Kingdom to earth?”
Jesus interrupts the politeness of Nicodemus.
3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 4 “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!”
Jesus’s response is “Nicodemus, you are going to hell.”
That’s right…all his spirituality was worthless when it came to seeing the Kingdom of God.
Jesus tells him he will never see it, unless he is born again.
Seeing for a Pharisee meant participating in it.
In the NT the Kingdom of God is understood as more than a future event. In the NT, the kingdom of God is being seen in Jesus. He’s saying to Nicodemus, unless you are born again, You won’t see it in the future and further....if you aren’t born again, you can’t see it right here in front of you.
He says your church going, your prayers, your fasting, your teaching, your tithing is doing nothing to get you to the Kingdom of God if you aren’t born again.
Now if a spiritual leaders like Nicodemus can’t be saved…what does that mean for us?
That’s the tension in the text. Jesus leads Nicodemus and us to see that at our best, we are still in desperate need for his saving grace.
We hear that this troubles Nicodemus....he loves Jesus and wants to do what is required.
Nicodemus was confused with this idea of being born again, and he asks his first question of Jesus…how can I experience rebirth as an adult.
This has become a common phrase today…when Chris Davis starts hitting again we will say that he has new life; when a company reinvents itself and become profitable we will say they are born again...
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
Jesus still doesn’t answer Nicodemus’ question…HOW? instead he explains to him this isn’t a recommendation, it is a requirement.
Verse 5 has been interpreted in different ways over the centuries, from Christian baptism to natural birth to repentance of John the Baptist, and others. But rather than try to discover a deep meaning, I believe we should look at the text and when we do we see in v 4, Nicodemus was asking about a natural birth, and in verse 6 Jesus was comparing natural and spiritual birth. Given this, when I read verse 5, Jesus saying that we must be born of water and the Spirit, I understand Jesus to be saying that it’s not about being born Jewish, but we need to be born spiritually as well.
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
We need a new birth that cleanses us completely and renews us from the inside; not just the outside.
The problem was you see, Nicodemus, like other pharisees, was too confident of his own obedience to think he needed much repentance, let alone to have his whole life cleansed and his heart transformed, he didn’t need to be born again. He was a spiritual leader.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why in third world or global south countries, it seems the spirit is moving so much stronger than it is here in America.
Why is it so hard for influential people to admit their need to be born again? I think it’s because we are used to not really needing much. We have plenty of things to distract us from our spiritual need…we have many things to pacify our need.
If we feel it at all, in spite of all our stuff, makes it clear that what Jesus said is real, new birth is essential to living a new life.
Then in vs 27, Jesus finally answers his question…how am I to experience new birth? Jesus says, I do it.
There is nothing I can do, there is nothing you can do to be born again…it is something Jesus does in us.
Gives us a new life, new heart, new love, new hope.
Since I can’t do it, I must surrender to the one who can. That’s what we mean when we say Jesus is the Lord of my life. I submit to what he wants to do in me, and in return he gives me new life.
And how does this new life work?
8 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.”
The wind you see can’t be controlled or understood by humans. We can’t see it only it’s effects, we hear it, we see the waves, we hide in storms. So it is with people born of the Spirit. Their lives don’t makes sense to the world. The way they serve, the way they live. The direction of their lives is clear, the effects can be seen, but what empowers them is mysteriously spiritual.
You see it’s not about sights, smells, sounds. It’s not about the time and place of our new birth. Regeneration, what John Wesley referred to as Justifying grace comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
We are not improved caterpillars but by faith we have become spiritual butterflies.
When we are born again, we are transformed…we are made new. He takes addicts and turns them into sponsors. He takes cheaters and turns them into mentors. He takes gossips and turns them into prayer warriors.
That’s how you know if you have been born again.
This is too much for Nicodemus.
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
What does all this mean? he asks. I know the OT, how is this new to me?
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 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. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
Jesus says how do you NOT understand. The whole Bible has been pointing to this. John the Baptist and Jesus, and the prophets have testified to this yet so many don’t accept it.
Jesus says, if you can’t accept what is clear, how can I begin to teach you about the things of the Kingdom? The things that Nicodemus came wanting to know about remember.
Jesus then gives him the Gospel
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
It was a strange reference to Moses in Numbers 21 to the brass snake on the staff. If you remember, when the Israelites were on their way to the promised land, they continued to complain about God. To the point that God cursed them with poisonous snakes. Many died, but when they repented, God told Moses to make the bronze snake and lift it up on his staff and when people looked at it they woudl be healed from the poison that would kill them.
Jesus compares himself to this deliverance from death of sin and his removing our condemnation of sin. But instead of looking upon him, we are called to believe on him. That everyone is infected with the poison of sin, but he comes to be the cure.
I feel like we need to talk about this believing Jesus describes. And that’s where Jesus leads us.
18 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. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 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.”
You see we are born dead in sin as Romans explains very well. We don’t have to be taught to sin. You don’t have to teach a child to be selfish…it’s our sin nature. But through faith in Jesus, by surrendering to him, we get a new life. One built upon love and grace and spiritual power; and he takes away the darkness. Will we continue to struggle with the effects of sin? Yes, as long as we are in this world. But we will know of our destiny as we live into this spiritual birth. As we grow in the grace of God. We do that as we out of our relationship with Jesus, we grow in him…not in our knowledge of him…but in our relationship with him.
Spiritual People need Jesus
Spiritual People need Jesus
Are you born again? You can be today.
Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus? You can begin again today
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you,
Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
In love you made us for yourself; and when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, your love remained steadfast.
You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts and prepare with joy for the Easter feast, that, renewed by your Word and Sacraments and fervent in prayer and works of justice and mercy, we may come to the fullness of grace that you have prepared for those who love you.
And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ, whom you sent in the fullness of time to redeem the world.
He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in our likeness.
He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
He took upon himself our sin and death and offered himself, a perfect sacrifice for the sin of the whole world.
By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your Church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the Spirit.
On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
"Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."
When the supper was over he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said:
"Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ's offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of faith.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.
By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father, now and for ever.