"YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN TO SEE (UNDERSTAND) AND ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD"
(SEE A DESCRIPTION OF OUR FALLEN CONDITION FROM ROBERT LEWIS AND THE AUTHENTIC MANHOOD STUDY)
Note the contrasts: light vs. darkness, physical (birth, wind) vs. spiritual (birth, wind of the Spirit), earthly vs. heavenly,
life (bios, psuche) vs. life (zoe). If we are born once we die twice (physically and spiritually). If we are born twice we die once (physical) and enter immediately into the presence of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) The trip to heaven is a very short trip — only a breath away.
John 3: 1-21 Nicodemus, a ruler of the Pharisees, comes to Jesus at night. He had seen Jesus’ zeal in cleansing the temple and the miracles (signs) Jesus performed as He stayed in Jerusalem for the Passover. (John 2:13-25) Nicodemus was impressed with Jesus and wanted to spend time with Him. Whether he came at night out of fear of being seen with Jesus or because he wanted an intimate, personal conversation with Him is unclear. But he seized the opportunity to meet with Jesus while Jesus was there in Jerusalem. And as seen later in the gospel, became a follower of Jesus. Carpe Diem- Seize the day!
Jesus "knowing all men" (John 2:24-25) knew that Nicodemus needed more than a teacher (Rabbi), he needed a Savior from sin. Like most Jews, Nicodemus was trusting in his Jewish heritage and his obedience to religious rules (good works) to get to heaven. Nicodemus thought that man could renovate himself but Jesus knew it takes God to regenerate (make anew) us. So Jesus went right to the point: "You must be born again to see and enter into the kingdom of God." Why? Because that which is born of the flesh is flesh (physical birth) and all flesh (humanity) since the fall of Adam and Eve is born corrupted with a sin nature — at odds with God and others. Psalm 51:5 "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."
Nicodemus didn’t understand but he continued to ask questions. This shows his humility and his sincerity. Jesus says you must be born of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. "Water" could mean the cleansing baptism of repentance or the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, which washes us from sin when we receive Jesus by faith. Titus 3:4-6 "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth (regeneration) and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior." Though baptism is not required for salvation (the saved thief on the cross wasn’t baptized) it is a public testimony of our new birth and new life and a sign of obedience as we follow Jesus in the waters of baptism — a sign of humility and repentance.
V. 7 When we consider the holiness of God and the depravity of man we should not marvel that we “must’ be born again.
The wind (pneuma — means both wind and Spirit) blows where it wills — man can’t control either and man desperately wants to control God. But Nicodemus, being a teacher of Israel, should have understood the work of the Spirit. Ezekiel 36:25-27; 37: 9-10
Nicodemus represented the unbelief of the nation of Israel who rejected the witness/testimony of the prophets and now Jesus’ testimony. Their unbelief dulled their spiritual senses and if they couldn’t understand Jesus’ earthly analogies (being born again) how could they possibly grasp heavenly matters such as His incarnation, God in-fleshed — Jesus’ descending from heaven and ascending to heaven. (Vv. 11-13)
Vv. 14-16 In Numbers 21: 1-9 we see the Israelites murmuring against God and Moses, and the Lord sent venomous snakes among them and many died. But the repentant ones confessed their sin and pled for mercy and the Lord told Moses to make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." (Numbers 21:8) Even as venom from a poisonous snake bite will kill us physically the poison of sin will kill us spiritually and eternally. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."’ (Also see Hebrews 2:14-15) As we look on Jesus, lifted up on the cross as the cure for our sins, we will not perish but have eternal life. God loves us so intensely that He gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins and give us eternal life — both a new life now, born again of the Spirit, and everlasting life with Him forever. But remember what it means to "believe" in Him, from last week’s message. (E.g., observe a plane flying; believe that a plane can fly; get on the plane and fly — this takes personal trust.)
God sent Jesus to save us not to judge us (yet He will judge us at His 2nd coming). But for those who love darkness (and try to hide their sins, i.e., not come to Jesus) they are under God’s judgment now and, unless they repent and believe, will be for all eternity.
2 Thess:7-9 "This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power."
A DESCRIPTION OF OUR FALLEN CONDITION
Romans 3:10, 23 "As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even oneÃ‚Â¼ "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." "We started out bad, being born with evil natures." (Ephesians 2:3 LB)
We are fallen and defective creatures at odds with God and each other.
We are bound to a life of futility. Ecclesiastes 1:14 "I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
We are separated from God and under His judgment. Ephesians 2:12
We are depraved. Depravity does not mean we are totally immoral and evil but that all mankind is bent toward self-centeredness.
Depravity means we are dysfunctional by nature. We don’t function (live, relate) like God designed us to.
Depravity means most of my real problems are "in me" not "out there". We blame others for our problems.
Depravity cannot be changed by education, a better environment, self-understanding (psychobabble) or willpower. We must be delivered from our depravity by God.
Depravity can wear all kinds of sophisticated masks to hide itself.
The education mask
The personality mask
The rule-keeping mask
The religious mask
Depravity means we must not trust ourselves alone. We cannot see our sins without God’s Word and Spirit and honest friends who will tell us the truth about ourselves.
Depravity means men have a natural tendency to avoid domestic responsibility. Ephesians 5:25-31
Depravity means men have a natural tendency to "rule harshly" over women and children. Colossians 3:19, 21; Genesis 3:16
Depravity means men tend to get lost in their careers and personal pursuits and ignore God’s greater purposes for their lives. Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 (NIV) "I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well–the delights of the heart of man. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun."
Admitting my depravity is the first step to finding a real relationship with God. Romans 7:18, 24,25 "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Progress in my spiritual growth will parallel my growing understanding of the depth and extent of my depravity.
Matthew 5: 3-6; John 15:5; 1 Timothy 1:15; Compare Revelation 3:17