Summary: How do I come to Jesus once I realize my need? What steps do I take? Where does faith come into the process? How do I respond?
Series: What is Christianity #2
Becoming a Christian--How Could I Start?
INTRODUCTION: Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night because he didn’t want his colleagues to know that he was investigating the claims of Jesus. Although he was a Pharisee, he was searching; and he believed that Jesus held some answers for him. He decided to examine these claims for himself. He could have sent someone else to get the information for him, but he didn’t. Just the same today; we must examine Jesus for ourselves. Others can’t do it for us.
When Jesus began explaining the new birth to Nicodemus, it was a totally new concept for this religious man. Nicodemus’ religion was very important to him. Jesus wanted him to know that the kingdom of God was a totally personal experience begun within the hearts of believers. (Luke 17:21). Jesus was explaining to him that people don’t enter the kingdom by trying to live a better life but by being spiritually reborn. Nicodemus couldn’t understand this at first for he said, “how can a person be born who is old?” He did not understand what Jesus was talking about. He told Nicodemus, “unless you are born again you can never be a part of the kingdom of God” (John 3:4). Jesus went on to tell him that “unless a man is born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom” (John 3:5). He was trying to explain to him that there was another dimension besides the human birth experience. He needed to become spiritually alive. Being born of God makes a person spiritually alive and puts him/her into God’s family.
Sometimes we get turned off by the term “born again" because it has been used in a very self righteous, smug and Pharisaical way by Christians who think they are better than others. You all know people who are probably sincere yet become an embarrassment to God with these self righteous attitudes displayed in the name of being a “born again” Christian. Many times these people are “offended” by every little thing that people do.
In John 3, I don’t feel that there was this connotation to the word “born again.” Jesus was simply saying to Nicodemus, you were born once as a natural baby. You have this physical life, but what you need now is to be born in a different way so that you can be alive spiritually and receive from God in a spiritual way. It was a good thing--not something to be avoided because it was offensive to them.
Nicodemus asked a lot of questions that night, and we know from later mention of him that Jesus got through to him. In John 7:50 he spoke up for Jesus and later in John 19:39-40 he and Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of Jesus for burial.
Becoming a Christian. How could I start? There are some steps to salvation and sometimes they are arranged in a little different order. Today I want to look at it from the 4 R’s.
1. REALIZE: Nicodemus realized that he did not have all the answers even though he was a religious person who kept the laws. He was an educated Pharisee, and Jesus said, “you’re a teacher of the law and you don’t understand these things?” Nicodemus realized that he couldn’t save himself, and he humbled himself to recognize Jesus as more than a teacher but as the Messiah. Because he had come to this realization, he was receptive to what Jesus had to say.
Nicodemus was receptive to what Jesus was telling him, and he was intent on seeking answers. When coming to Jesus today a person must be OPEN to the message of the gospel. There are times when people are more receptive to the Holy Spirit than at other times. Sometimes there is a greater degree of receptivity during a crisis experience or some kind of a transition. Scripture says, “no one can come except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). You may recall a time when you were searching more for answers, praying more, or seeking God in the crises of your life. At these times you made it a top priority and reached out to God. Nicodemus apparently had more than a mere curiosity when he came to Jesus that night, for ordinarily the Pharisees were very critical of Jesus. I don’t think he would have made a special trip had he not been serious.
2. RESPONDING: How could I start? We must RESPOND to God’s invitation. Luke 14:25 tells of an invitation given to a banquet. All of the people who were invited had an excuse why they couldn’t come. One had bought some land, one had bought some oxen and had to go try them out, and one had just gotten married. People turned down the invitation because the timing was inconvenient for them. Scripture says that “now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). We can resist or delay responding to God’s invitation and our excuses can sound reasonable--family responsibilities, work duties, financial obligations. We can excuse ourselves out of the kingdom of God. God so loved the world--everyone. Salvation is available but not automatic.