by Alan Carr
Intro: Over the last several weeks, we have looked at several of the personal encounters that Jesus had while He was here, walking upon the earth. We have watched Him as He interacted with sick people, dead people and lost people. We have watched our marvelous Lord do that which most people would have considered impossible. We have seen Him heal the sick, raise the dead and reach out to the lost.
In this passage, one of the best known in the New Testament, Jesus has a personal encounter with a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was one of the most powerful and influential men in all of Israel during this time period. Nicodemus is a wealthy, powerful, religious man. Yet, he is a man with an itch that neither he, nor his money, nor his power can scratch. During the course of their conversation, Jesus refers to Nicodemus as "a master of Israel". This title means "teacher". This tells us that Nicodemus was an educated man, but despite his learning, there were some things this man did not know. But, one night, this rich, powerful, educated man found himself alone in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. What Nicodemus learned that night would prove to be the greatest lessons of his life!
I want to eavesdrop on this conversation between the Lord Jesus and Nicodemus today. I want us to hear for ourselves the great truths Jesus shared with this man. You see, Nicodemus came to Jesus for some answers about religion, what he received were some answers about redemption. He came to Jesus with questions about Jesus. He went away with more knowledge about Jesus and about himself than he could have ever imagined. He came to Jesus that night to ask some questions about life. He left with information about the new birth. Letís listen in as the teacher gets taught. I want to preach this morning on this thought: A Teaching Moment. As Jesus teaches Nicodemus the truth about salvation, He shares a few insights about the new birth that we need to hear.
I. v. 1-7 THE MUST OF THE NEW BIRTH
(Ill. The New Birth! It has become part of the common language of America. 70% of Americans claim to be born again. President Jimmy Carter claimed, during his presidential campaign, that he had been born again. Since Carter, every American president has said that he has had a religious experience, which they have all referred to as being "born again". And, I hope they have been! But, this is not a new phrase! 1 Pet. 1:23 speaks of the new birth. James mentions it, James 1:18 as does John in the epistle of First John, 1 John 3:9; 4:7; 5:1; 5:4; 5:18. Well, what does it mean to be "born again"? The little phrase literally means "to be born from above."
It carries the idea of getting a fresh start, a new life from Heaven. We call this experience "being saved" or being "born again". In Titus 3:5, Titus uses the term "regeneration". It means the same exact thing! It means that when you are regenerated, you get a new life! You get a new start!
So many people have this thing confused! They are seeking reformation. That is, they are trying to "turn over a new leaf" or "get a new lease on life". What the world needs is not reformation, but regeneration! Every person under the sound of my voice needs regeneration and not reformation! You see, reformation is just whitewashing, but regeneration will wash you white! Reformation will put new cloths on a man, but regeneration will put a new man in his cloths! What the world needs, what you need, and what I need is regeneration! You see, if you have been born only once, then friend you are going to die twice! But, if you have been born twice, you will never die, because death has been swallowed up in life, John 11:25-26; 1 Cor. 15:54; 2 Cor. 5:4.
With all that in mind, let me share with you the Must Of The New Birth. Let me show you why it is necessary, if you want to get to Heaven!
A. The Nature Of Humanity Makes It A Must Ė Old Nicodemus has received a lot of criticism for approaching Jesus at night. Some people have suggested that he came at night because he was ashamed and was trying to hide what he was doing. I donít think that was the case at all! I think he came at night because he was a busy man and he knew that Jesus was also a busy man. I think he came at night because he wanted some uninterrupted time with Jesus!
Now, you will notice that when this man came to Jesus, he came humbly and was very complimentary to Jesus. He came with some serious questions, but I dare say that he did not expect the answer he received. Jesus told him, "You must be born again!", v. 3, 7. Surely, Nicodemus must have thought this was a mistake. After all, if you looked at this man and at all that he had going for him, you would never expect him to need to be born again! Not Nicodemus! Maybe that wino needs to be saved and born again. Maybe that wayward woman needs the new birth. Well, that wasted life down in the gutter needs to be born again, but someone like Nicodemus, well surely that doesnít apply to him. If you looked at this man you would have thought that he had everything going for him. He had all the plusses and none of the minuses from a human perspective. Look at all this man had going for him!
1. Nicodemus Was A Rich Man Ė Tradition tells us that Nicodemus was one of the three riches men in Jerusalem. He had more money than he knew what to do with! What we have does not change what we are! You can have plenty of money, but it does not change the fact that you are still a sinner in need of a Savior! Your money can buy you many things here in this world, but it can buy you nothing in Heaven!
2. Nicodemus Was A Respectable Man Ė When he walked down the streets, people knew who he was and they pointed him out to their children. He was held in great esteem by all who knew him and saw him. He was, after all, a rule in Israel! Still, what we achieve does not change what we are! It is good to be respected and to have a good name among men, but that will not provide you a place in Heaven
3. Nicodemus Was A Religious Man Ė He was a Pharisee! He kept the Law. He was morally pure to a degree that you and I cannot imagine! Even Jesus recognized the religious efforts of these men, Matt. 5:20. He paid his tithes, did everything the Law said to do; he kept the written Law and the traditions of the elders. He never touched a woman; he probably avoided looking at them when possible. He would not come into contact with a sinner. He was a holy man! Still, what we do does not change who we are! In spite of the outward attempts at righteousness, Nicodemus was a religious man in need of a Redeemer! It is good to live clean and holy, but that will not save your soul! Your religious activities will not do the job either!)
(Note: Here is where many well meaning people are confused. They think that of they can be good enough or do enough, it will guarantee them access into Heaven. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Salvation only comes through the new birth! Why? Because, no matter what you have, what you do or who you are, you are still a sinner, Rom. 3:10-23; Rom. 5:12. Nothing you have, do or are changed what you are: a sinner in need of a Savior! That is why the new birth is not an option. It is not a take it leave it proposition. It is a divine must! If you want to miss hell and go to Heaven, then you must be born again! The nature of human nature demands it!)
B. The Nature Of Heaven Makes It A Must Ė In verse 3, Jesus says that without the new birth, you cannot "enter the kingdom of God." Notice what kind of place Heaven is. It is the "kingdom of God." Do you understand what He is saying? It has been said that Heaven "Is a prepared place for a prepared people." Did you know that this is true? One of the most precious benefits of the new birth is the fact that we receive a new nature when we are saved, 2 Peter 1:4. When you get saved, you receive Godís nature; a nature from Heaven! The new birth prepares you for life in a new kingdom! The only way for you to get into Heaven is for you to first get Heaven into you!
Besides, if you went to heaven with a lost, fallen nature, you would be miserable! Heaven would become Hell for you! You would never enjoy that land unless you had a new nature! All the worship, the praise, the glories of Heaven would be offensive to you if you went there lost! It would be against your nature to enjoy anything in that land. That is why we need a new birth; it prepares us to enter in and to enjoy that new land! It gives us a new nature and it gives us a new life!
(Note: This business of the new birth got me to thinking! You will never see a bird swimming laps in a pool. Why? Itís against its nature! You will never see a cow dancing in a Broadway show. Why? Itís against its nature! You will never see a pig flying from tree limb to tree limb. Why? Itís against its nature! My friends, you will never a see a lost sinner in Heaven! Why? Because itís against their nature! If you are going there, then you need a new nature. The only way to get that new nature is through the new birth. Why? Your first birth provided you with a physical, fleshly nature. You need a new birth, a birth from Heaven to provide you with a new, spiritual nature, v. 6. That is why Jesus says, "You must be born again!" It is not an option! Donít settle for a maybe so, hope so or think so kind of salvation. Get born again and you will know so! The new birth is a must!)
II. v. 4-8 THE MYSTERY OF THE NEW BIRTH
(Ill. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again, it messed with his mind! Nicodemus could not grasp how that could be. He imagined himself going back into his motherís womb to be born a second time. I am sure his mother would have vetoed that idea! He wanted to know how this could happen, so he asked Jesus about the "How?" of the new birth. Nicodemus knows that he is in the presence of a mystery and he wants the answers.
There is no doubt that the new birth is a mysterious thing. None of us truly understands everything there is to know about it. It is still a mystery, even to those of us who have experienced it! However, donít let the fact that it is a mystery cause you to avoid it altogether! You donít let the mystery of electricity to cause you to sit in the dark do you? You donít let the mystery of how a brown cow can eat green grass and give yellow butter and white milk stop you from enjoying butter, milk and ice cream do you? There are many things that we do not understand in life, but we still believe in them. So, do not allow the mystery of the new birth to keep from being saved! Notice how Jesus addresses this mystery for Nicodemus.
A. v. 4-7 He Compares It To A Birth Ė Physical birth is a mystery! Even doctors who special in that field know that human birth is a marvelous mystery that no one can fully explain! When Jesus says "except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God", He is talking about physical birth and spiritual birth. He is telling us that for a man to get to heaven he must have two birthdays. There must be a day when he was born into the kingdom of men and a day when he is born into the kingdom of God! There are a few ways that physical birth can be used to illustrate spiritual birth.
1. Physical birth provides life Ė A babies have life because they are born! Likewise, spiritual birth provides a person with spiritual life, 1 John 5:12.
2. Physical birth only happens once Ė Physically speaking, you can only be born one time! (Ill. All the mothers said: Amen!) Spiritually, the same thing is true! Your spiritual birth is a one time for all time experience. It cannot be undone and it cannot be repeated!
3. Physical birth takes place because of the suffering on another Ė A mother enters the very jaws of death to bring life into this world. Jesus entered the cruel jaws of death so that you might be born again. The new birth rests squarely upon the pain and suffering of another!
4. Physical birth gives the infant a brand new start Ė No baby is born with a past! They have no past, only a future! So it is with the new birth. When you get saved, you get a brand new start. Your past is wiped away and a new, clean future lies in front of you!
The new birth is like a physical birth!
B. v. 8 He Compares It To A Breeze Ė Jesus tells Nicodemus that just as the wind can be felt, it can be measured and the effects of it can be seen; where it came from and where it went to remains a mystery. The new birth is the same way. You cannot see God do His work in a heart in this altar. But, you can see the effects of the wind of the Spirit in a life! When you see a drunkard leave his bottle, you know God has been working! When you hear clean language come from a mouth that used to be a sewer, you know God has been at work. When you see a vile woman become a clean woman, you know God has passed by. When you see a wicked, hateful man turn into a sweet, loving, holy saint, you know the wind of the Spirit has been blowing in his soul. It is a mystery because we do not see it happen. But, there is no denying the effects of the power of God when He works in the human heart.
(Note: Jesus is saying, "Nick, I can save you and when I do, you will never be the same!" That is what God does for all those who come to Him by faith. He changes them and alters their lives for ever, 2 Cor. 5:17!)
(Note: By the way, the wind of the Spirit was blowing in the soul of Nicodemus. But, he could not control that wind. It might be gone in an instant, never to return. The time for Nicodemus to heed Godís call was when the wind was moving in his heart. Friend, if the wind of the Spirit is blowing in your soul, the time to be saved is now! He will not always deal with you, Gen. 6:3. The best thing you can do is come to Him when He is near and calling, Isa. 55:6; 2 Cor. 6:2. The only time you can come is when He is calling you, John 6:44.)
III. v. 9-15 THE MEANS OF THE NEW BIRTH
(Ill. When Nicodemus hears these things, he wants to know how this is possible. Jesus takes these next few verses to explain to him and to us how the new birth can become a reality!)
A. v. 13-14 The Role Of The Savior Ė Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Saviorís part in the new birth was to leave Heaven above, to come into this world to die for sin! Friend that is what Jesus did for you! He left Heaven, took upon Himself a human body, lived without sin and died a horrible, awful death upon the cross, Phil. 2:5-8; Mark 10:45; Isa. 53:1-12. Jesus reminded Nicodemus of the time Israel sinned and God sent serpents in among them to bite them. As they did, many people in Israel died, Num 21:4-9. When that tragic event took place, God commanded Moses to make a brass snake and put it on a pole. Jesus said that He was like that snake! He came to this world to be put upon a cross. He came to die a sacrifice for sin, 1 Cor. 5:21. He came to die that we, through His death, might live! And, friend, when Jesus died on that cross, He paid your sin debt in full, Heb. 9:12; 10:10-14! There is nothing more owing on your account if you will receive Him by faith! He did His part when He died and rose again from the dead. That is the role of the Savior!
B. v. 15 The Role Of The Sinner Ė What must the lost, hell bound sinner do to be saved? The answer is right here in verse 15. It is a one word answer: believe! Just like these people in ancient Israel who had been bitten by those fiery serpents. All they had to do was look and live! (Ill. How that scenario might have played out then.) If you need to be saved, there is nothing left for you to do, but to believe in Jesus and receive His finished work at Calvary as the payment for your sins, Romans 10:9! For you there is nothing to do, He did it all. So, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!" Have you done that? Are you saved and sure? You can be!
(Ill. The Greek historian Herodotus said that the ancient Egyptians believed in the new birth. They believed that when a person died they became whatever animal happened to have been born at the same time, and then they went from that animal to another animal life and then to another animal's life until they had gone through all of the animals of the animal kingdom, and then the Egyptians believed that you could be born again, that's what they called it, born again as a human being, and they believed the process would take 3,000 years. Really, they believed in reincarnation and they believed in a lie!
Well, friend, I've got good news for you today. You can be born again, and I don't mean become some animal, and I don't mean become another human being; I mean you can be born into the family of God and become God's child. And the best news is, you don't have to wait 3,000 years, you don't have to wait 3,000 days, you don't have to wait another second, you can be born again right now.)
Conc: What was it that drew Nicodemus to Jesus that night? I think it was the events of John 2:13-25. There, Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the Temple and proclaimed the fact of His Own death and resurrection. The Bible tells us that many of the people believed in Him because of His miracles, v. 23. However, Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew that their faith was superficial. It was based on the miracles and not genuine love for Him. No doubt Nicodemus saw what Jesus did at the Temple. No doubt Nicodemus heard what Jesus said when confronted at the Temple. What he saw and what he heard created a hunger within his soul to know more about Jesus. So, he came and he heard the Gospel. Did Nicodemus ever get saved? I think he did! Why? Nicodemus stood up for Jesus before the Sanhedrin, John 7:45-53. And, Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathaea bury the body of Jesus after the crucifixion, John 19:38-42. Nicodemus put his wallet and his wellbeing on the line for Jesus. That is the kind of thing a saved man does: he bears fruit!
As we close today, I want to draw your attention back to John 2:24-25 for just a moment. Before Nicodemus ever came to Jesus, Jesus knew what was in the heart of Nicodemus! Jesus knew what he needed when he came that night. Jesus cut through all the religious nonsense and all the foolishness and Jesus told Nicodemus exactly what he needed to hear! He told him how to be saved.
Did you notice that verse 24 says, "Öhe knew all men"? And, verse 25 says, "ÖHe knew what was in man". Friend, Jesus knows you too! He knows whether you are saved or not! He knows whether or not you have been born again. He knows all there is about you and He knows He loves you. He also knows that if you will come to Him, He will save you by His grace. He knows that if you will come to Him like you are, you can leave this building like you ought to be! If you are not saved today, let me invite you to come to Jesus for salvation right now.
Copyright 2003 by Alan Carr
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