To be born again. What does that mean? What is that Scripture all about? Jesus answered a question of a man who wants to know about the key to the kingdom, the key to the entrance into the kingdom of heaven. And he gets this seemingly cryptic answer. "You must be born again." Confusing even to the person who asked the question. I want us to look at this conversation today as we look at the matter of The Entrance, that which every man, woman, every child, when honest with themselves, wants to know…wants to be able to enter into the kingdom of God.
I want to invite your attention this morning to the third chapter of John. We're going to look together probably about the first 13 verses of this. As we look at the story of Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus. In John, chapter 3, beginning in verse 1, it says, "There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews." So two things we know immediately about Nicodemus, first of all he was a Pharisee, and secondly he was a ruler, indicating he was a member of the Sanhedrin council. So this man is in the upper echelon of the Jewish society of the Pharisees.
Verse 2, "This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.'" Just a couple things we note right here, he refers to Jesus as "Rabbi," a term of respect unlike most of the encounters we see between Jesus and the Pharisees, here is one that is not insincere, but a man who refers to Him and compliments Him, and refers to Him as a teacher.
And then you notice he says we…we know. There were others of the council, and we'll learn at least one other name throughout the gospels who believed that Jesus was more than just a crazy man, that he was more than just a blasphemer. There was something to His life. And so he says, "We know that you are a teacher come from God himself." It's obvious because of the signs, because of the miracles, the things You're doing that these are things that have the power only God can provide; therefore, You must be from God because You could not do these things unless God was with You.
In verse 3, "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.'"
"Nicodemus answered and said to Him, 'How can these things be?' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, we speak what We know and testify what we have seen, and you do not receive our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.'"
Nicodemus comes and approaches Jesus and that, in and of itself, is strange. The Pharisees were dogmatically opposed to Christ and everything He stood for, and yet we see that Nicodemus went. He goes to Christ. I submit to you at least three reasons why Nicodemus went to Jesus, and really three reasons when someone truly comes to inquire about Christ we find in any life, in any person who is seeking to know the entrance into heaven. We see it in Nicodemus' life.
The first thing we notice is he comes because he had an open mind. Now really, he had an open mind. I'm disturbed about people who do not have open minds, people who have preset, predetermined notions it seems about everything. You can't come to Christ, you certainly can't learn new things, can you, if your mind is already made.
I was watching TV just yesterday. There was some news show they were promoting and they had snippets of these man-on-the-street interviews where people were responding. One says, "You need to read the Bible." The next one said, "I'm a free thinker." They were set against each other, and it's as though they were two opposite things. One, you read the Bible, or you're a free thinker. When did reading the Bible mean you're not a free thinker? When did reading the Bible mean you are not able to think? If we're to follow that logic then it would suppose that the free thinker doesn't have the freedom to believe the Bible, does he? Or if he were to believe the Bible he would not longer to free to think. We need to have an open mind, and the things of God and the words of God do not necessarily close one's mind.
So here comes one who has an open mind. Nicodemus had this kind of an inquisitive mind about matters he wanted answers to. Now think about it. He's an old man with grey hair coming to a young man, Jesus. That's something, isn't it? Here is an aristocrat going to a commoner. Here is a man of position going to One who has no standing at all. The only way that can be accomplished is if you have an open mind. The aristocrat who thinks himself above the commoner is not going to go to the commoner for answers to questions. The scholar who thinks himself above the uneducated would not go to the uneducated for an answer to questions, and yet we see that Nicodemus does just that. He went to Him. He went to Jesus because he had an open mind.
It's like when Phillip went to Nathaniel; we studied this just a few weeks ago, if you were with us. He goes to Nathaniel, and he says, "We have found the Messiah. We have found the King of Israel, and His name is Jesus of Nazareth." And Nathaniel says, "Can anything good come from Podunk, I mean Nazareth?" Nathaniel is saying, "Can anything good come from this one-horse town?" So Phillip responds and says, "Well, come and see. Check it out for yourself." And Nathaniel goes. He goes to see.
You see, Nathaniel had an open mind. If he had allowed his prejudice against the residents of Nazareth, his superiority to those of that second-rate country village of Nazareth to control his mind, he would have never thought, much less gotten up and gone to check and inquire about Jesus, but he had an open mind, and his open mind led him to discover the truth about Jesus for himself, that in fact yes, He was the Messiah. He was the Son of God, and his prejudices and his presuppositions had to be set aside and he began to trust Him.
Nicodemus goes because he has an open mind. If you're to learn the things of God, if you're to find the answers to the questions that are just circling through your head, you're going to have to have a willingness to listen, a willingness to have an open mind to gain and understand new truths. But there's a second thing about Nicodemus. Not only was he a man with an open mind, but also he was one who was sincere. He was earnest. He comes to Jesus not facetiously, but he comes as an earnest seeker of the truth.
You know a lot of people display sincerity, but they're not genuinely sincere. You know the person who says, "Now what I'm telling you now, that's the truth." And immediately you begin to question, "So what you just told me a minute ago wasn't the truth?" Some people want to just emphasize certain things to try to play like they're really being sincere about something and really showing that they're just insincere most of the time.
But here comes a man who is earnest, a man who is without guile himself, a sincere man. Sometimes I think we approach God in an insincere manner. In fact, I think sometimes we get caught up in being too flippant about God, too flippant about the things of God, too casual about holy things. It particularly happens to church people, to deacon people, to Sunday night people. We begin to talk about God and say a lot of funny things about God, and take God very casually.
We want to just have a little talk with Jesus, when my friends, you can't have a little talk with Jesus, not the King of Israel, not the Holy Creator of the universe. He is holy and unapproachable but through the blood of Christ. I think sometimes we who have been believers or around religious things for a long time, we begin to take it too casually, and oh how the world thinks nothing of making fun of Christ, making jokes about Christianity, being very flippant about the things of God.
But here is Nicodemus and I want you to notice the one characteristic of him that's going to allow him to discover the truth is that he's sincere. He is earnest. He's not there to mock Jesus as so many of the Pharisees were. He's not there to try to trap Jesus, try to trick Him as so many had tried to do, but he sincerely wants to know the truth. He is a sincere man. He is a man with an open mind. Thirdly, he's also a man of courage…a man of courage. I think you have to have all three to approach Christ.
Now you might say, "Well, Pastor, he comes to Jesus at night." That's true. We don't know all the reasons why he came at night. Very likely it's because he was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a man of position and stature and an aristocrat among the Jewish people. He wants to come at night under the cloak of darkness so as not to be discovered, so as not to let the word get out that he is having company with this blasphemous teacher. But he does come. He does go. And that took courage.
You know there are two kinds of courage that people display. First of all there are the people who are just fearless, people who will just do anything, and they do it without fear. They're not afraid of anything. And they display their courage, and they walk into the face of danger, and it doesn't bother them at all. Then the second kind is the people who are very fearful. They're scared to death, and yet they still go. They're afraid of what they're getting into, but they still proceed forward. That's Nicodemus. The mere fact that he comes at night shows us there is fear that surrounds his inquiry, but the courage is that he still goes.
You see my friends, there are two kinds of people who will display their courage as they come to Christ. There are those who will just boldly just walk down an aisle at the invitation and they don't care what anybody thinks. They want to meet the Savior. They want to get involved and have a relationship with Jesus the Messiah, and it doesn't matter to them what anybody thinks. But then there are those who are fearful. They're fearful of what this new adventure is going to mean to their friendships, is going to mean to their job, is going to mean to their standing in the community, and is going to mean to their habits and to things they like to do. And yet, they still come. They still have courage.
I tell you, to come to Christ, you have to come like Nicodemus. You have to have a mind willing and open to the possibilities that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. You have to have a heart that is sincere, that's not looking for the got-ya's, that's not looking to try to win a debate, but that sincerely wants to know the truth. And you have to have the courage. It may be part of your bold character. It may be totally opposite of who you are. You may be one who will just boldly and publically proclaim. You may be one who has to privately inquire and examine as Nicodemus did. But if you have these characteristics of Nicodemus, you can come and meet the Savior.
Well, let's look then at how Jesus responds to Nicodemus. We see how Nicodemus comes, but look at Jesus' response because I think it speaks so much to those of us who know Christ as Savior. We're to model Christ in our life. We're to be a witness as He modeled being a witness before us, so we need to see…what was the model He set before us? How did He deal with Nicodemus?
What I want you to notice is first of all, Nicodemus comes to Him and he compliments Him. "Rabbi, You're a teacher. We know that You're from God." And I want you to notice Jesus didn't respond to the complimentary words from this great man of importance and influence. He didn't respond to that at all. We might have said, "Oh, thank you, my lord Nicodemus. I appreciate you recognizing I'm a miracle worker. I appreciate you recognizing I'm more than just a teacher. Wow, I'm very impressed about that." We might have tried to use him and to draw from him.
You know, that's what happens sometimes when you encounter somebody of influence and importance. Maybe it's your boss. Maybe it's a celebrity. Well, we're seeing on the news just this week the tragic story of a man my age that died and was surrounded by people who were just there to use him who had no sincere interest in him, but in what he could do for them. And Nicodemus is one of these people. He is a man of high standing. And we might be tempted if we're in a situation where they come to give us a compliment, wanting to find answers about God to just want to try to placate, to want to try to impress them, to want to try to use them. But Jesus didn't.
See Jesus didn't care who he was. Jesus didn't care about his standing. As much as it might have made Jesus' life easier, as much as it might have seemed to have made His ministry even better, Jesus just goes right to the heart of the problem. He says, "Your real problem is you need to be born anew. You need to be born again." He comes and he says, "I know that you're from God, and you're a great teacher." Jesus says, "Do you know what your problem is?" You see how that response is? Jesus doesn't say, "Well thank you. I'm glad you noticed." He says, "No, you know you have a problem in your heart. You need to be born again."
I wonder what we would have done. You know we might have accepted Nicodemus' praise. Or another thing we might have done…when people come to us sometimes the tendency of the Christian, someone comes and they ask, "What do I need to do to assure that I'm going to go to heaven?" Or usually the question's not even worded that way. It might be, "I need for God to like me again. I want to get involved. I need to turn my life around." Some question like that.
And maybe our response is, "Well listen, here's what you have to do. You're going to have to quit drinking. You're going to have to quit smoking. You're going to have to cut off that affair. You're going to have to dress a lot nicer before you ever think about going to church. You're going to have to quit cussing. You're going to have to do this. You're going to have to do that." And we unload the Baptist rules to all of these people when what we need to do is ask them, "Do you know Jesus?" See that's what Jesus wants to know. "Your problem, Nicodemus, is you need to be born again."
Now listen, all those other issues can take their place on the other side of salvation, but none of those will be solved on the pre-side of salvation. The approach Jesus had was the proper approach we should always have to anyone who sincerely, with an open mind, courageously comes to us and asks us in any way that the question is worded, "What do I need to do with my life?" The answer is always, "Do you have Jesus?"
You know it's amazing how we're so scared to ask that question. We want to talk about church. "Well, where do you go to church? Do you go to church? You ought to come to church. You ought to do…" Sometimes we'll talk about their problems in their life and we'll deal with these earthly things when the real question is a heavenly one. Do you know Jesus? I think we miss the boat in evangelism on this point a lot of times. We put so many ethical requirements when we're trying to win somebody to Christ. We give all the ethical requirements of how we think a Christian is to life before they've ever had the initial experience of Christ.
Jesus didn't make that mistake with Nicodemus. He said, "Nicodemus, let's start at the foundation. You need to be born again." And Nicodemus apparently, by the text, must have said, "I don't understand. What do you mean born again?" So Jesus begins to explain it. He says, "Unless you're born physically of water and also born spiritually you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." Nicodemus is thinking, "I've already been born once. Can I go back into my mother's womb and be born a second time?" Jesus said, "No, I'm talking about two different kinds of birth here."
You of course have to have the physical birth, but you also have to have the spiritual birth. And when He speaks of that in that text He uses the Greek word that means to be born from above, not just born again physically, but He says you have to be born that way, but you also have to be born from above. There has to be a spiritual birth.
Nicodemus is confused and Jesus says, "Well, it's like the wind, Nicodemus. You know you can't tell where the wind is coming from. You can feel it though, can't you? You can tell when the wind is blowing. You can tell how strong the wind is blowing. You're not quite sure where that strong wind is coming from. You don't know how long it's going to last, but while it's there you experience it. You feel it. You know that it's windy." He says, "So it is with being born spiritually." It's one thing to try to explain it away, to try to scientifically rationalize it, but it's something you can experience."
Nicodemus tries to rationalize, and so many people do. It's amazing how people will be content to live such irrational lives, getting themselves involved in all sorts of habitual sins, things that are so irrational to even the proper conduct of their own physical bodies, and then suddenly out of nowhere you begin to talk about Christ in front of them, and oh they get rational. Well, prove it. You have to prove that. How do you know there's a God? How do you know this? How do you know that?
That's exactly what Nicodemus is doing here. And Jesus says, "I'm not going to give you a rational explanation. I'm just going to tell you you'll know it when it happens, just like the wind hitting your face." Just like gravity, you know the physics student…the teacher asked, "Does anybody know how gravity works?" And the student raises his hand. And the teacher calls on him and he says, "Well, I did know, but I forgot." And the teacher said, "Oh, no. The only person in the known world who knows how gravity works and he forgot."
You know gravity…we don't know. Now there are a lot of scientific explanations, and they all begin with the word theory, but we know gravity when we experience it. Right? When we fall off, we experience gravity and we land on the floor. Some of you here experience gravity more than others. We know what gravity does; although, we may not be able to scientifically explain it, we couldn't teach it to anybody, and yet we know it when we feel it. We know weightlessness when we experience that on a roller coaster or in a plane, and we know the feeling of gravity as well. That's the way He said the spiritual birth is. It's not going to be a rational explanation. It's going to be something you know when it happens.
My friends, that is both a glorious statement and an underlined warning to all of us, that you know that you know you're saved because you experience it. You know what it's like for that wind spiritually to blow on your face. You may not be able to explain it, you can't rationally give some sort of bullet points that everybody will agree with that explains their experience of salvation, their experience of being a born-again believer, but you know that you are. You know that. And if you don't, then my friends you need to examine your life.
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