Summary: Explore what God means to be a Christian.
*What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “born again? “Freak,” Cult,” “Crazy,” “Weirdo.”
* Lady whose mom said, “Oh no! Please tell me you are not one of those born agains!”
* “Born again” has been done a great disservice by Christians, especially those on certain “Christian” networks. It gives that weirdo vibe to many, especially, I’ve learned, in the Northeast.
So, I want to settle the issue for our hearts. What does the Bible, namely Jesus Himself, mean, by “born again”? Why did Jesus choose that weirdo phrase? What does “born again” reveal about God? What does “born again” reveal about you and me? Does “born again” carry hope that can help us, improve us, free us, set us right? What does “born again” have to do with the meaning, significance, and joy in life?
Why this series “The Born Agains”? To Explore what God means to be a Christian.
Why “Born Again?” 1) We have seen hundreds people come to saving faith in Jesus in past few months! I want you to understand exactly what’s happened to you. 2) On a different note, I have considered how the majority of our nation considers themselves “Christian.” Yet, you look at the moral heart of our nation, and something’s off. So, how many consider themselves Christians, but are not? Let me get personal. I love you enough.... I’m for your joy and soul. How many of you, perhaps, consider yourself Christian, or even religious/spiritual, but have never been “born again?”
First, we find here that Jesus is God. There is only one other place where one is mentioned of knowing the hearts of men. And that is spoken in a prayer of King Solomon about God Himself in 1 Kings 8:39. This is a subtle allusion by John to tell us that Jesus is God. God Himself uses “born again,” even while people may mock it.
Then a crowd that “believed” in Jesus’ name when they saw his miracles. This is not saving belief (context). They just believed he was somehow connected to God because they were impressed with his miracles. A prophet of some sort. We’ll come back to that. So don’t ever think if you could just see a bona-fide miracle you will believe in Jesus. Miracles aren’t enough. The devil himself knows and believes that Jesus is a miracle-worker. And with that context, we now meet a man named Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was one of those in the crowd who believed in Jesus as a miracle doer, not Messiah. Jesus knew this too, despite how flattering his words are to Jesus. It reminds me of Pastor Allistair Begg’s words, when he said, “Flattery is like perfume. Sniff it. But don’t swallow it.” And we’ll see that Jesus didn’t even sniff it, much less swallow.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Many today hold the Pharisees in a negative light, as the ultimate hypocrites, ultimately responsible for Jesus crucifixion. But in the first century they were highly respected for their deep devotion and scholarship. They studied the Law (Torah) for hours every day, praying for hours every day, tithing on everything they owned. They were passionate about obeying every letter of God’s law (ten commandments) and living the perfectly moral life.
We find that Nicodemus wasn’t only a religious man, a Pharisee, but “a ruler of the Jews.” As one commentator put it, in 21st Century terms, Nicodemus was kind of like a U.S. Senator or Supreme Court Justice. In other words, he was an elected official who sat on a religious council of about 70 men who judged various disputes and settled legal matters to keep the Roman government from getting involved. Only the most highly respected, esteemed, leading men would be elected to such a prestigious position. // He comes to Jesus at night, perhaps not wanting to be seen publicly because it might cost his religious reputation and political standing.
Question shouldn’t be why did He come to Jesus at night, but why did He come to Jesus at all? Emptiness. Rule-keeping/religious perfection to earn God’s favor, political power that he worked so hard for, high esteem from not just the people but his colleagues, and perhaps he’s still empty. Something’s still missing. I like Nicodemus because he’s nearing the end of himself and risks to explore Jesus further. That’s a great first step. Coming to the end of yourself and exploring the claims of Jesus..
Oh no He didn’t!? Yes He did. Jesus just cut him off. And little do we realize that Jesus is backing him, and you and me (all humanity) into a desperate corner when he does so.
Why didn’t Jesus let him get his question out? Because John already told us that Jesus “knew what was in a man.” And what Jesus saw in Nicodemus’ heart was a heart far from God, though externally a very religious man. A “good” man, but a man separated from God. And though he didn’t finish his question, if his question lines up with two other encounters Jesus had with people in the book of John, his question was going to be, “How do enter into the kingdom of God? /How do I inherit eternal life? How must I be saved?” This is the ultimate question that runs like lava underneath our life’s crust. A search for meaning, significance, freedom from guilt and shame, something “more” that life, religion, and trinkets do not give us. But he had been seeking answers to life’s ultimate questions in his religion and rule-keeping/good works.