Summary: Being "born again" and being "born from above" are different sides of the same coin. Christ Jesus says, we cannot enter the kingdom of God without a dramatic, spiritual change. Putting it another way, we have to be born of the spirit from above.
Being Born From Above – John 3: 1 - 17
Intro: 3 men died and were standing at the pearly gates. “What have you done to deserve heaven?” asked Peter. The 1st man, a police officer, said, “I enforced the law and fought crime.” Peter said, “OK, go on in.” The 2nd was a wealthy man who said, “I gave lots of money to charitable causes and used my wealth to help people.” “OK,” said Peter, “You can go on in.” The third was the director of an HMO. He said, “I helped save millions of dollars for health care and insurance companies by cutting down on waste, fraud and abuse in the system.” Peter said, “OK come on in, but you can only stay for 3 days.”1
I. A lot of jokes are made about getting into heaven. But, for some like Nicodemus, it isn’t a laughing matter. Verse 1 – Nicodemus was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. The word Pharisee means THE SEPARATED ONE
A. Pharisees numbered around 6,000 known as chaburah (brotherhood) were people who had made a pledge to spend all their lives observing every detail of the scribal law. They lived compulsively and fanatically by the rules and regulations of the Talmud.
B. Perhaps you know people who claim to be “born again,” to have all the answers and live their lives by “obeying the religious rules.” They wear a façade and pretend their lives are all together and often sit in judgment of those who don’t live up to their standards. Their personal lives don’t always match what they claim to believe.
C. I believe such was the case with Nicodemus – He was “being” or “acting” religious. But following the rules was not enough. Perhaps his life was still in turmoil, unsettled. Something was missing but he just didn’t know what it was.
II. Attending church is important, but it’s no guarantee of entering the kingdom of God. Some people have religion but lack faith. It’s not enough to be baptized and belong to a church. It’s not enough to obey the rules.
A. Verse 3 – It’s almost like there is a verse missing here. Jesus answers a question that wasn’t asked.
B. Nicodemus has diligently studied and obeyed the “law” and believes that salvation comes by human effort. But Jesus declares to him that it doesn’t matter how good a person is at following the rules. What matters is that salvation is a work of divine grace.
C. Again in Verses 3 & 5, Jesus uses the word “unless” which signals a necessary condition. It’s like saying “this can’t happen unless this has taken place.” “No one, can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
III. Verse 7 – “You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born from above.”
A. The most difficult journey, the longest and hardest trip for some people is only eighteen inches. The average distance from the head to the heart is 18 inches.2
B. A “head” (intellectual) knowledge of the Lord, Christ Jesus, fully knowing and mentally agreeing to God’s plan for salvation is one thing. But without a “heart” acceptance that brings us into the personal relationship with Christ Jesus, it avails us little. It just isn’t enough.
C. It isn’t “head” or “heart” – it’s both! You must have the spirit of Christ Jesus in your head and in your heart. Being born from above means an inner renovation has taken place. A person has been “changed, renovated, reborn, remade.” Authentic faith results in new priorities; a new nature is created within us. And there is no other way to heaven but that of birth from above (being born again). Ezekiel 36:26 says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Conclu: Change is not a “swear word.” Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be willing to be changed into the person God would have him be. And I believe what Jesus said to Nicodemus applies to families and churches as well as to individuals. Families and churches must be born from above if they are to inherit the kingdom of God.
1Keith Manry, “What Does the bible Have to Say About Being Born Again.” Sermon found on SermonCentral.com
2 Robert Leroe, “Born-Again.” Sermon found on SermonCentral.com