YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
Nicodemus was a member of the strictest sect of the Jews: the Pharisees. No doubt he sought to keep all the man-made rules of his religion, as well as the law of God which was given to Moses. Nicodemus was a religious man; an upright man; a leader; a teacher; respected in society: yet Nicodemus knew within himself that something was missing in his life.
1. UNTIL WE COME TO FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, THERE IS INDEED SOMETHING MISSING IN OUR LIVES.
Because of his position, fearing what people may think of him seeking advice from Jesus, Nicodemus made his approach to our Lord secretly, and at night. Better that than not at all!
People may have all sorts of reasons for coming to church. It may be to give praise and thanks, or to ask for divine help in the troubles and crises of life; it may be out of obedience to parents, or to accompany friends; it may be out of curiosity, or to assure themselves that there can’t really be anything so very different about Christianity; it may be to seek after God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever reason brings you here, as with Nicodemus, God is already working in your life!
Nicodemus did not come asking what he must do to be saved, like another man in the Bible, because as a good Pharisee he probably thought he was guaranteed a place in heaven anyway. However, having seen or heard about Jesus, what He was doing and the impact He was having on the people, Nicodemus’s conscience was troubled. “What if I am missing something here?”
“Rabbi,” he said, addressing Jesus with the respect due to a teacher and to a holy man. “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2). In reply Jesus declared:
2. “NO ONE CAN SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD UNLESS HE IS BORN AGAIN” (John 3:3).
So Nicodemus was missing something. With the generality of mankind, he was presuming upon his own ability to qualify for heaven. Don’t be misled: if you think you can get to heaven by your own good works you will surely fail: “You must be born again.”
Still this teacher of the Jews faltered: "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" (John 3:4). Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5).
“That which is born of flesh is flesh”, says Jesus (John 3:6), but we must also be born of the Holy Spirit. To be born again, or born anew, is to be born from above, to be born of God. It is a spiritual birth in which God’s Holy Spirit bears us into the family of God, male and female individuals becoming heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
In a play on words that works in both the Greek and Hebrew languages, Jesus says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:6-8). The same word means both WIND and SPIRIT, and is also used to signify the BREATH of God!
So just as God first breathed the breath of life into the clay which He had fashioned into man, and just as He is said to out-breathe the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments [which is the literal meaning of inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16)], so God breathes into His people the breath of the new life in Christ Jesus. This is not to the credit of the preacher, nor of the convert to Christianity. It is all to the praise of God Himself!
Poor Nicodemus was still struggling:
3. “HOW CAN THIS BE?” (John 3:9).
Man cannot easily concede that heaven is attained not by his own merit, but only by the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. We love to think that we are good enough, and no-one, we imagine, should say otherwise.
Let’s get away from the notion that we are good enough for God, or that we can co-operate with Him in the mighty work of our salvation from our sins. Let us rather learn to turn to Him, wholeheartedly, relying on Him alone for our salvation, trusting not in our own righteousness, but in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray that we may have faith to believe these things, and to put our trust in Him: without Him we can do nothing!
Jesus wanted to tell Nicodemus more things but, like us, Nicodemus was dull of sense. Mere man cannot grasp the realities represented to him in “earthly” things, as Jesus put it (John 3:12). Jesus wanted to speak of heavenly things, of heaven itself from where he had come (John 3:13).
4. JESUS POINTED TO THE BASIS OF FAITH:
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:14-17).
Jesus was “lifted up” in the crucifixion, so that everyone who believes in Him, trusting not in themselves but trusting in His sacrificial blood, would have eternal life. This was, and is, the supreme act of God’s love.
5. SO WHAT HAPPENED TO NICODEMUS?
After this first encounter with Jesus, Nicodemus went away. We cannot tell what turmoil his mind might have been in, what doubts in his own position as a holy man of Israel were awakened within him.
The second appearance of Nicodemus in the Gospel of John was when those of his own party, the Pharisees, wanted to condemn Jesus. It was Nicodemus who stood up for Him (John 7:50-51): so from a secret admirer of Jesus, Nicodemus became a fearless upholder of justice on His behalf. We too must move beyond a mere admiration of Jesus to a public declaration of faith in Him.
Then, at a time when the inner circle of disciples had all but one deserted their Lord, Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimithea in bearing away the body of Jesus after the crucifixion (John 19:38-42).. These two secret disciples together were making public their adherence to Jesus, and all that He stands for. It is safe to conclude that Nicodemus is born again.
6. HOW ABOUT YOU?
Are you willing to submit to the work of God in your heart through the Lord Jesus Christ? Will you make your stand, and proclaim your faith in Him alone for your salvation?