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Summary: I dislike the term “born again”; being asked regularly; I mean, just how do you answer this question? I personally find it intimidating and off putting, but I don’t disagree with the logic nor the reasons why it is done, and I will now tell you why.

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Word Count: 2655

Genesis 12:1-4a Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 John 3:1-17 Psalm 121

Prayer. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit let these words bring honour to you so that your will may be known and understood. Amen.

Summary: I dislike the term “born again”; being asked regularly; I mean, just how do you answer this question? I personally find it intimidating and off putting, but I don’t disagree with the logic nor the reasons why it is done, and I will now tell you why.

This sermon was delivered to the congregation in St Oswald’s in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 20th March 2011: by Gordon McCulloch (A Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries).

Introduction:

Today’s gospel reading is a very familiar passage to the Pentecostal or Charismatic movement. Every member of that movement can recite this passage, particularly verse 3 which says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, that unless a man (or woman) is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven”

Now I must admit that I did not like this expression; I did not disagree with it; I just somehow do not like how it can be forced upon someone who struggles to understand it.

I have been on the receiving end of this, in a church of all places, with someone saying “are you born again”? I mean, just how do you answer that question like that?

I personally find it intimidating and off putting, but I don’t disagree with the logic nor the reasons why it is done and I will tell you why.

Let us start with our Old and New Testament readings, which focused on the faith of the Israelites, which gave birth to Christianity itself. It all started with the call of Abraham, and without knowing where this would take him, Abraham listened to and obeyed God, and God truly blessed him.

This relationship grew, and God guided Abraham and his descendants with his Laws and Prophets, and the teachings through the centuries, and finally, promised them a Messiah who will deliver them from the hands of their enemies.

So you must ask, “If God had truly blessed and guided them, why did he promise a Messiah”? There are many answers to this question, but the one I want to focus on is that God needed to send a messiah because what God had given them was not enough. God wanted to give his people more, but to do so, he needed to send his own son in order to clean them up and be presentable before Him.

This came from the Book of Job, the oldest book in the Old Testament; where Job had just been horrendously afflicted, losing everything including his family said, and I paraphrase “Who can stand before God and defend himself”?

Later in Job’s subsequent arguments, he came up with three points.

1. “Job could not contend (or compete) with God” (9:1–13)

2. “Job could not answer God” (9:14–35)

3. “Job could not understand God” (10:1–22)

Why, because of the barrier called SIN. God hates sin, but the bible tells us that God truly loves us and wants to communicate with us just like he did with Adam and Eve; but this SIN thing seriously gets in the way.

Job concluded then that we need a mediator between us and God, and we know that this mediator is Jesus Christ himself.

To move on, we now look at the Gospel story of Nicodemus, who was a Jewish leader and teacher; a senior member of the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Pharisees.

Nicodemus came from the right background, the right family and the right race. He was educated and was an academic. He knew his scripture backwards and could possible recite every law in detail. He was a very prominent and respected Jew; but he came to Jesus because it is clear that his Pharisees ways, (which were strict and totally devoted to God), were not enough for him. Nicodemus knew he was missing something, something that his Jewish teaching was missing, and he knew Jesus had the answer.

Nicodemus visited Jesus at night, probably because of his senior position in the Sanhedrin; who were after all in direct opposition to Jesus: but Nicodemus really needed to seek out Jesus for some kind of help; and if he was caught talking to Jesus, there would have been a price to pay. His desire for counsel certainly motivated him into this covert action.

Anyway, Nicodemus met with Jesus, and this is where the story gets interesting and colourful.

Think of it as a game of tennis; they toss a shekel to get started, and Nicodemus gets to serve. He serves his first shot, acknowledging Jesus as a teacher;

"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."

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