THE STORY IS TOLD OF A SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER
WHO WANTED TO EXPLAIN TO THE 6-YEAR-OLDS IN HIS CLASS
WHAT SOMEONE HAD TO DO IN ORDER TO GO TO HEAVEN.
IN AN ATTEMPT TO FIND OUT WHAT KIDS ALREADY BELIEVED ABOUT THE SUBJECT, HE ASKED A FEW QUESTIONS.
"IF I SOLD MY HOUSE AND MY CAR, HAD A BIG GARAGE SALE, AND GAVE ALL MY MONEY TO THE CHURCH," HE ASKED,
"WOULD THAT GET ME TO HEAVEN?"
"NO!" THE CHILDREN ANSWERED.
THE TEACHER WAS ENCOURAGED.
"IF I CLEANED THE CHURCH EVERY DAY, MOWED THE YARD,
AND KEPT EVERYTHING NEAT AND TIDY,
WOULD THAT GET ME TO HEAVEN?"
AGAIN THE ANSWER WAS, "NO!"
"WELL THEN," HE SAID, "IF I WAS KIND TO ANIMALS
AND GAVE CANDY TO ALL THE CHILDREN AND LOVED MY WIFE,
WOULD THAT GET ME INTO HEAVEN?"
AGAIN THEY ALL SHOUTED, "NO!"
"WELL THEN," THE TEACHER ASKED, LOOKING OUT OVER HIS CLASS,
"HOW CAN I GET TO HEAVEN?"
A BOY IN THE BACK ROW STOOD UP AND SHOUTED,
"YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!"
WELL, AT LEAST, YOU'VE GOT TO BE DEAD TO THE WORLD
AND ALIVE UNTO GOD
John 3:1-21 (NIV)
3 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.”
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!”
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.’
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.”
You can't see the Spirit in the person,
but you can see the result in their lives of the Spirit being there.
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
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. 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. 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.”
I wonder if Jesus is referencing the fact that Nicodemus came to see him under the cover of darkness.
Jesus is at least pointing out the fact that He is the Light of the World.
It seems to me that at first Jesus was a little too harsh on Nicodemus. Nicodemus seemed to be really seeking truth. He seemed to be trying to understand what Jesus was saying, but missing the meaning of Jesus' words. So he asked the question, "how can this be?". It doesn't sound like he was refusing to believe, only not understanding.
I think Jesus picked up on this too, because he continues on, to give Nicodemus the clearest explanation of the plan of salvation found anywhere in the bible.
THE FIRST THING WE'RE GOING TO DO IS;
I. LOOK AT THE MAN NICODEMUS.
1. FIRST: NICODEMUS WAS A RULER OF THE JEWS.
HE WAS LIKE A SENATOR HE WAS A MEMBER OF THE SANHEDRIN,
THE SANHEDRIN WAS THE RULING BODY OF THE JEWS.
THE SANHEDRIN WAS BOTH
THE JEWISH GOVERNING COUNCIL
AND IT WAS THE JEWISH SUPREME COURT.
IT HAD 71 MEMBERS AND WAS PRESIDED OVER BY THE HIGH PRIEST.
THE MEMBERS OF THE SANHEDRIN WERE MADE UP OF PHARISEES, SADDUCEES, SCRIBES AND ELDERS.
THE SCRIBES WERE ALSO CALLED LAWYERS,
AND THE ELDERS WERE LEADERS FROM AMONG THE PEOPLE.
THE SANHEDRIN'S LEGAL POWER TO PASS THE DEATH SENTENCE HAD BEEN TAKEN AWAY BY THE ROMAN GOVERNMENT, ABOUT TWENTY YEARS EARLIER.
2. SECONDLY: THE MAN NICODEMUS, WAS A PHARISEE
THE WORD PHARISEE MEANS THE SEPARATED ONES.
THE PHARISEES WERE STRICT RELIGIONISTS.
THE SECT OF THE PHARISEES BEGAN IN 175 B. C.
WHEN A SYRIAN KING, NAMED ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES,
TRIED TO STAMP OUT THE JEWISH RELIGION
HE WANTED TO REPLACE IT WITH GREEK CUSTOMS
AND GREEK PRACTICES.
A NUMBER OF JEWISH MEN STOOD UP AGAINST THIS THREAT AND DECIDED AMONG THEMSELVES THAT THEY WERE GOING TO SAVE THE JEWISH RELIGION.
THEY REFUSED TO PRACTICE GREEK CUSTOMS
AND DEDICATED THEMSELVES TO PRACTICING
THE JEWISH LAW IN THE STRICTEST SENSE.
THEY FELT THAT BY CARRYING OUT EVERY LITTLE DETAIL OF THE JEWISH LAW
AND BY TEACHING OTHERS TO DO THE SAME,
THEY COULD SAVE THE JEWISH RELIGION AND THE JEWISH NATION AND KEEP IT FROM DYING OUT.
SEVERAL THINGS SHOULD BE NOTED ABOUT THE PHARISEES.
1. THEY WERE THE MOST ORTHODOX SECT OF THEIR DAY
THEIR SOLE REASON FOR BEING WAS TO PRESERVE THE JEWISH LAW
AND THE JEWISH RELIGION.
2. THEY WERE STRICT LITERALISTS.
THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES EXPANDED
HE JEWISH LAW INTO
THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS
OF LITTLE RULES AND REGULATIONS.
THESE RULES AND REGULATIONS WERE KNOWN AS THE SCRIBAL LAW, OR THE ORAL LAW.
IT TOOK MORE THAN FIFTY VOLUMES (OR BOOKS)
TO HOLD ALL THESE REGULATIONS.
SOUNDS LIKE THE INCOME TAX CODE.
3. THE PHARISEES WERE ABSOLUTELY THE MOST ZEALOUS OF ALL THE JEWISH SECTS.
4. THERE WERE NEVER VERY MANY PHARISEES—
NEVER MORE THAN 6,000.
THE STRICTNESS AND DEMANDS OF THE PHARISEE SECT WERE TOO HARD FOR MOST OF THE
5. THE PHARISEES WERE IN DEAD EARNEST—
THEY WERE DEDICATED, ZEALOUS, SELF-DENYING, AND MORAL.
NO MAN COULD GIVE HIS LIFE TO SO DESPERATE AND RESTRICTIVE
A TASK UNLESS HE WAS TOTALLY GENUINE.
6. THEY WERE ALSO, SELF-RIGHTEOUS, HEARTLESS, AND HYPOCRITICAL
THEY LACKED ANY SENSE OF NEED OR OF SIN.
7. THEY WERE BITTERLY OPPOSED TO THE SADDUCEES,
HATING AND DESPISING THEM,
FEELING THAT THE SADDUCEES WERE TRAITORS
TO THE NATION.
BUT, THE PHARISEES WERE FORCED TO COOPERATE WITH THE SADDUCEES
BECAUSE THE SADDUCEES WERE
THE PRIMARY RULING PARTY IN THE NATION.
8. THEY WERE THE MAIN OPPONENTS
OF JESUS CHRIST
AND THEY WERE UNSPARING IN THEIR DENUNCIATION OF HIM.
THEIR WERE TWO MAIN REASONS FOR THEIR SAVAGE ATTACKS AGAINST JESUS.
FIRST, HE WAS NOT A GRADUATE OF ANY OF THEIR RABBINICAL SCHOOLS,
NOR WAS HE A MEMBER OF ANY OF THEIR RELIGIOUS SECTS.
SECOND, HE ATTACKED THEIR RULES AND REGULATIONS WHICH HAD BEEN ADDED TO GOD'S LAW.
3. THIRDLY: NICODEMUS WAS PROBABLY WEALTHY.
HE SPENT A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY ON THE BURIAL OF JESUS.
4. FOURTHLY: NICODEMUS DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING TO DEFEND JESUS AT HIS TRIAL.
BUT TO HIS DEFENCE,
HE DID BOLDLY STEP FORWARD
AFTER THE LORD'S DEATH
AND PUBLICLY HELPED JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
IN THE BURIAL OF JESUS.
II. LOOK AT THE REASON NICODEMUS CAME TO JESUS THAT NIGHT.
1. JESUS WAS THE TALK OF EVERYONE IN ISRAEL.
HE WAS CLAIMING TO BE THE MESSIAH
AND HE WAS PERFORMING SPECTACULAR MIRACLES THAT HAD BEEN PROPHESIED ABOUT THE MESSIAH;
AT LEAST SOME OF THE JEWISH RULERS WERE QUESTIONING AND WONDERING
IS HE THE ONE? IS HE REALLY THE MESSIAH?
I THINK, NICODEMUS CAME TO JESUS
REPRESENTING THIS GROUP OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS
AS WELL AS HIS OWN DESIRE TO KNOW THE TRUTH.
ACTUALLY SOME OF THIS GROUP EVENTUALLY
DID BECOME BELIEVERS.
IN LUKE 13:31; SOME OF THE PHARISEES CAME TO JESUS AND WARNED HIM THAT HEROD WAS OUT TO KILL HIM.
ACTS 6:7; SAYS THAT MANY OF THE PRIESTS BELIEVED IN HIM TOO.
ACTS 15:5; ACTS 18:8, ACTS 17
WHAT WAS NICODEMUS TRYING TO FIND OUT FROM JESUS?
MATTHEW 21:23b (NIV) GIVES US A CLUE
ONE DAY,WHILE JESUS WAS TEACHING,
THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND THE ELDERS OF THE PEOPLE CAME TO HIM. AND ASKED; “BY WHAT AUTHORITY ARE YOU DOING THESE THINGS?”... “AND WHO GAVE YOU THIS AUTHORITY?”
THIS WAS THE QUESTION,
THIS WAS THE THING THAT NICODEMUS WAS COMPELLED TO FIND OUT.
HE ACKNOWLEDGED JESUS
ONLY AS A TEACHER FROM GOD.
HE AND OTHERS SAW THE MIRACLES JESUS DID,
AND THEY KNEW THAT ONLY A MAN FROM GOD
COULD DO SUCH MIRACLES.
BUT WAS JESUS A MAN OF GOD, OR WAS HE MESSIAH?
IN ESSENCE, NICODEMUS WAS ASKING, "WHO ARE YOU?
THE MIRACLES SHOW THAT GOD IS WITH YOU,
BUT YOU'RE CLAIMING TO BE THE MESSIAH,
THE SON OF GOD.
SO ARE YOU—TRUTHFULLY—IN ALL HONESTY, ARE YOU?"
JESUS DIDN'T ANSWER NICODEMUS DIRECTLY.
HE LOOKED INTO THE EMPTY, SEARCHING HEART OF
NICODEMUS AND SAW THE HONESTY OF HIS QUESTION.
SO JESUS WENT RIGHT TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER. MIRACLES AND SIGNS WERE NOT WHAT WAS IMPORTANT.
WHAT WAS IMPORTANT WAS FOR NICODEMUS TO BE CHANGED:
CHANGED WITHIN, CHANGED SPIRITUALLY,
AND BECOME COMPLETELY NEW—
TO UNDERGO THAT KIND OF SPIRITUAL CHANGE
COULD ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS BEING BORN AGAIN.
III. LOOK AT JESUS' RESPONSE TO NICODEMUS QUESTION
I THINK JESUS REALIZED THAT NICODEMUS WAS SINCERELY SEEKING THE TRUTH.
AND BECAUSE OF THIS, JESUS GAVE NICODEMUS
THE CLEAREST EXPLAINATION OF SALVATION
IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE.
JESUS CALLED IT BEING BORN AGAIN.
BEING BORN AGAIN IS RADICAL,
THERE'S SUCH A CHANGE IN A PERSON'S LIFE
THAT IT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS BEING BORN AGAIN.
WHEN YOU'RE BORN AGAIN, SOMETHING WONDERFUL HAPPENS IN YOUR SOUL.
IT'S A SPIRITUAL BIRTH,
THAT'S WAY BEYOND MAN'S ABILITY TO MANUFACTURE.
IT'S SO RADICAL, SO LIFE-CHANGING, AND SO WONDERFUL THAT IT CAN ONLY HAPPEN TO US,
THROUGH THE LOVE AND POWER OF GOD HIMSELF.
WHAT IS THIS NEW BIRTH?
1. THE NEW BIRTH IS NECESSARY.
BECAUSE A PERSON WILL NEVER SEE OR ENTER
THE KINGDOM OF GOD UNLESS HE'S BORN AGAIN.
2. THE NEW BIRTH IS A SPIRITUAL BIRTH,
IT'S NOT THE REMAKING OF OUR OLD NATURE.
IT'S THE BIRTH OF NEW SPIRIT
IT'S THE BIRTH OF NEW POWER IN OUR LIFE.
IT'S THE ACTUAL CREATION OF SOMETHING NEW
INSIDE US. IT'S A SPIRITUAL BIRTH
A PERSON IS SPIRITUALLY BORN AGAIN:
3. THE NEW BIRTH IS A DEFINITE EXPERIENCE,
THE NEW BIRTH IS SOMETHNING A PERSON EXPERIENCES.
IT'S A REAL EXPERIENCE. IT'S THE REAL THING.
WE CAN HAVE THIS EXPERIENCE;
BY BELIEVING THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST,
THE SON OF GOD.
4. THE NEW BIRTH IS A CHANGED LIFE,
IT'S A TOTALLY NEW LIFE.
WE CAN SEE THE CHANGE IN A PERSON WHO HAS EXPERIENCED THE NEW BIRTH BECAUSE THEY BEGIN
DOING RIGHTEOUS ACTS
THEY NO LONGER PRACTICE SIN
THEY BEGIN LOVING OTHER BELIEVERS (1 JOHN 4:7).
THEY START OVERCOMING THE WORLD (1 JOHN 5:4).
1 JOHN 5:4 (NIV)
4 FOR EVERYONE BORN OF GOD OVERCOMES THE WORLD. THIS IS THE VICTORY THAT HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD, EVEN OUR FAITH.
THEY BEGIN KEEPING THEMSELF FROM SIN (1 JOHN 5:18).
1 JOHN 5:18 (NIV)
18 WE KNOW THAT ANYONE BORN OF GOD DOES NOT CONTINUE TO SIN; THE ONE WHO WAS BORN OF GOD KEEPS HIM SAFE, AND THE EVIL ONE CANNOT HARM HIM.
THEY ARE POSSESSING THE DIVINE SEED
WHICH IS THE DIVINE NATURE
1 JOHN 3:9 (NIV)
9 NO ONE WHO IS BORN OF GOD WILL CONTINUE TO SIN, BECAUSE GOD’S SEED REMAINS IN HIM; HE CANNOT GO ON SINNING, BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN BORN OF GOD.
(1 JOHN 3:9; 1 PETER 1:23; 2 PETER 1:4; CP. COL. 1:27).
5. THE NEW BIRTH IS A BEGINNING.
IN JUST THE SAME WAY THAT A PERSON IS BORN INTO A FAMILY, AND NEEDS SUPPORT AND HELP FROM THEIR FAMILY.
A NEW CHRISTIAN ALSO NEEDS SUPPORT
AND HELP FROM THE CHURCH FAMILY.
A NEW CHRISTIAN WILL NEED A LOT OF LOVE AND A LOT OF CARE.
THEY WILL NEED TO GET THE MILK OF THE WORD RATHER THAN THE MEAT.
THEY WILL MAKE MISTAKES
AND WE MORE MATURE CHRISTIANS WILL NEED TO TREAT THEM WITH CARING LOVE
AND HELPFUL INSTRUCTION.
WE AS A CHURCH NEED TO PROVIDE THEM WITH OPPORTUNITYS TO EXERCISE THEIR YOUTHFUL FAITH AND HELP THEM GROW THEIR NEW BORN SPIRITUAL SELF.
6. BEFORE PEOPLE CAN HAVE THE NEW BIRTH
THEY NEED TO BE TOLD
IN NOVEMBER 1964, ANARCHY BROKE OUT IN THE BELGIAN CONGO.
ASSEMBLIES OF GOD MISSIONARY J. W. TUCKER KNEW HE WAS AT RISK, BUT HE STAYED WHERE GOD HAD SENT HIM.
ONE DAY, A MOB ATTACKED AND KILLED HIM WITH STICKS, CLUBS, FISTS, AND BROKEN BOTTLES.
THEY TOOK HIS BODY, THREW IT IN THE BACK OF A TRUCK,
DROVE A GOOD DISTANCE, AND THEN TOSSED HIS CORPSE TO THE CROCODILES IN THE BOMOKANDE RIVER
IN WHAT IS NOW THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO.
J. W. TUCKER HAD RISKED EVERYTHING, YET IT SEEMED LIKE HE HAD NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT.
BUT 30 YEARS LATER, JOHN WEIDMAN, A CLOSE FRIEND OF TUCKER'S, WAS IN THE COUNTRY
(BY THEN KNOWN AS ZAIRE)
AND JOHN WEIDMAN LEARNED HOW GOD USED THAT MISSIONARY'S SACRIFICE.
THE BOMOKANDE RIVER FLOWS THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE MANGBETO TRIBE,
A PEOPLE VIRTUALLY WITHOUT THE GOSPEL.
DURING A TIME OF CIVIL WAR, THE MANGBETO KING BECAME DISTRESSED WITH THE VIOLENCE AND APPEALED TO THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT IN KINSHASA FOR HELP.
THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT RESPONDED BY SENDING A MAN CALLED THE BRIGADIER,
HE WAS A WELL-KNOWN POLICEMAN OF STRONG STATURE AND REPUTATION WHO CAME FROM THE REGION OF ISIRO.
J. W. TUCKER HAD WON THE BRIGADIER TO THE LORD JUST TWO MONTHS BEFORE HE WAS KILLED.
THE BRIGADIER DETERMINED TO REACH THE MANGBETOS WITH THE GOSPEL, BELIEVING THAT SALVATION
WAS THE ONLY WAY TO PEACE.
BEING A RELATIVELY NEW CHRISTIAN, HE DID HIS BEST TO WITNESS, BUT HE WAS MET WITH NO RESPONSE.
THEN ONE DAY HE HEARD OF A MANGBETO TRADITION THAT SAID: "IF THE BLOOD OF ANY MAN FLOWS IN THE BOMOKANDE RIVER, YOU MUST LISTEN TO HIS MESSAGE." THIS SAYING HAD BEEN WITH THE MANGBETOS FROM
THE BRIGADIER CALLED FOR THE KING AND ALL THE VILLAGE ELDERS.
THEY GATHERED IN FULL ASSEMBLY TO HEAR HIS ADDRESS.
"SOME TIME AGO A MAN WAS KILLED, AND HIS BODY WAS THROWN INTO YOUR BOMOKANDE RIVER,"
THE BRIGADIER BEGAN.
"THE CROCODILES IN THIS RIVER ATE HIM UP. HIS BLOOD FLOWED IN YOUR RIVER.
BUT BEFORE HE DIED, HE LEFT ME A MESSAGE.
"THIS MESSAGE CONCERNS GOD'S SON, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, WHO CAME TO THIS WORLD TO SAVE PEOPLE WHO WERE SINNERS.
HE DIED FOR THE SINS OF THE WORLD; HE DIED FOR MY SINS. I RECEIVED THIS MESSAGE, AND IT CHANGED MY LIFE."
AS THE BRIGADIER PREACHED, THE SPIRIT OF GOD DESCENDED AND PEOPLE BEGAN TO FALL ON THEIR KNEES AND CRY OUT TO THE LORD. MANY WERE CONVERTED.
SINCE THAT DAY, THOUSANDS OF MANGBETOS HAVE COME TO CHRIST
AND DOZENS OF CHURCHES HAVE OPENED
AS A RESULT OF THE MESSAGE FROM THE MAN WHOSE BLOOD FLOWED IN THE BOMOKANDE RIVER.
WE'VE GOT TO DO THE SAME KIND OF THING THAT
J. W. TUCKER DID.
HE LIVED AND DIED FOLLOWING GOD'S LEADING.
GOD IS THE ONE IN CONTROL.
IF WHAT WE'RE DOING SEEMS LIKE A WASTE,
WE ONLY NEED TO CHECK IN WITH GOD AND MAKE SURE WE'RE DOING WHAT HE WANTS US TO DO.
THERE'S A RIVER OF PAIN FLOWING THROUGH ALBION TODAY.
THERE'S A RIVER OF NEED FLOWING THROUGH ALBION TODAY.
THERES A RIVER OF SIN FLOWING THROUGH ALBION AND MANY PEOPLE ARE CAUGHT IN THIS RIVER.
THEY NEED TO BE SAVED.
I'M PRAYING THAT GOD WILL SHOW US HOW TO REACH THEM.
I'M PRAYING THAT GOD WILL BLESS US WITH HUNDREDS OF NEW CONVERTS.
I'M PRAYING THAT GOD WILL HEAR MY CRY
AND ANSWER US WITH AN ABUNDANT HARVEST OF SOULS.
O GOD, COME ON US AND LEAD US INTO
THE BATTLE FOR SOULS
THAT'S RAGING OUT THERE IN ALBION TODAY.
O GOD, HELP US DO YOUR WILL IN ALBION TODAY!