Summary: We come this morning to one of the most familiar passages of scripture in the Bible. Certainly most of us have memorized John 3:16 than any other verse ion the Bible. Preschoolers can recite it. Football fans paint it on signs and sit in the end zone.
“From Religion to Relationship”
Billy Graham tells the story of the time early in His ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a revival meeting. He had arrived a bit early so he decided to finish a letter he was writing and get it in the mail. He finished the letter, got in his car and immediately so a young boy so he asked him, “can you tell me where the post office is?” So the boy gave him directions. Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “son if you will come to the Baptist church this evening you can hear me tell everyone how to get to heaven. The boy said well I don’t think I will be there then. You don’t even know how to get to the post office, so how could you tell me how to get to heaven?
We come this morning to one of the most familiar passages of scripture in the Bible. Certainly most of us have memorized John 3:16 than any other verse ion the Bible. Preschoolers can recite it. Football fans paint it on signs and sit in the end zone. Tim Tebow writes it on his face for games. It’s short enough that you could write it on a napkin over lunch to share with someone but this verse is solid enough that it has helped change the lives of millions of people. Here’s the thing .. If you know nothing in the Bible at all you should start with this passage and if you know everything in the Bble then you should return to this passage.
But before we get to this verse we have to set the stage. Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees. He was a part of the religious “elite” of the day. This crowd rejected Jesus because when Jesus came the power structure of that day was knocked completely down. The Pharisees were in charge of religion and Jesus came and brought in a whole new system ... this one based on grace.
Because Nicodemus was a part of this group he had to seek Jesus privately. No doubt this is why he went at night. To avoid the crowd.
Nicodemus says ... v.2 .
Jesus replies ... v. 3.
We see right away that Nicodemus was not an average citizen. He was wealthy. Respected. And very religious. He was a ruler. He had it all. Fortunately he also had a deep respect for Jesus. Nicodemus recognized that the ministry of Jesus was recognized by God. He says in v. 2.. No one can do ... Nicodemus believes in Jesus but only because of the miracles. Jesus knows His heart (2:24) so He cuts right to the heart of the matter and says ... v. 5. Former President Jimmy Carter helped make this phrase “born again” popular. He became president the year we got married. It was funny that a lot of people thought that he came up with the phrase. Obviously Jesus did. When Jesus uses this term He is describing a supernatural event. That is why Nicodemus didn’t understand. They believed that most jews except for the very worst of them were assured of a spot in heaven. But here Jesus is telling Nicodemus who was a respected scholar that he cannot enter God’s kingdom unless he is born again.
Nicodemus responds, “how can a person be born again when He is old?” Jesus is speaking on a spiritual level. Nicodemus is thinking on a physical level. How can I be born again? Any women here today who want to give birth to a 200 lb. man? Didn’t think so. Jesus goes further to explain. “Nicodemus, i am speaking of a spiritual birth. Unless one is born of the water and the spirit he cannot see the kingdom of God. You and I must be twice born. 1st time, physically, a woman’s water breaks... so we are born of water and then the 2nd time born of the spirit.
Jesus then tells Nicodemus that he should not be surprised by these words. He should not be shocked or confused. Just as we cannot explain the wind ...we see it’s effect but we can’t see it’s source; in the same way it is God that gives us new life. We can’t see Him but we can see the effect it has on people. But Nicodemus is still confused. He says ...v.. Jesus then replies ... v.10. “Nicodemus, you’re one of the main guys.” You have studied spiritual matters all of your life yet you don’t understand this one basic spiritual truth. You don’t know what it means to be born from above. You are very religious but you are also very lost.
Vv. 11-12. Jesus is basically saying that it should come as no surprise that your sinful mind cannot grasp this. You cannot understand God’s truth unless you have been born again. V. 14. To illustrate his point Jesus refers to an OT example/story. When the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness God sent poisonous snakes into the camp to judge them for their sin. As these snakes began to strike the Israelites, God told Moses to make a serpent from bronze and stand it up there in the wilderness. And the Bible says “all those who looked up at the serpent were saved. In the NT, Jesus would be lifted up on a cross and those who looked to Him would be saved. And that is the key to being born again. Trusting in Jesus ... looking to Him and Him alone for our salvation.