What Must I do to have Eternal Life? John 3 (1)
- Read John 3:1-15
I believe the first president I heard much about growing up was President Nixon. I was in elementary school when he was president. It was a big deal the day he resigned. I remember when Ford, the Vice President took his place and then pardoned him. I remember those discussions.
I believe the first president I really knew much about though was President Carter. I remember in my 8th grade civics class, discussing whether we were supposed to be giving away the Panama Canal or not. I remember interest rates so high, that my dad put some of my bother and my savings into CDs where we were earning 14% interest.
I remember president Carter volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, building houses, which he still does to this day. I remember the Iran hostage issue, and the helicopters in the desert, and when each day the news would update us on how long our folks had been hostages. I remember him teaching his Sunday School class, and know folks who attended it. I remember our family being on vacation in the area of his home and our folks deciding to drive by the place. We got to see and he and Rosylnn, and a number of secret service guys on bicycles riding down the road.
I have a number of memories about that particular president, but like him or not, you must admit, there is one thing he brought into the public discussion and that is what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be born again.
A born-again Christian. What does that even mean, and is there any other kind?
In the passage before us, we find Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a religious leader among the people, coming to Jesus at night, to ask Jesus some questions, and right off, I believe there are several items we can learn from Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus.
1. We must learn the importance of taking time to think.
First, we learn the importance of taking time to think. Man, if there is something the Devil has gotten good at, it’s getting us so busy that we seldom take time to think.
We have families to take care of and jobs to work at, and bills to pay, and chores to address. This time of year we have presents to buy and wrap, and cards to send, parades to watch, parties to attend, and church programs to help with. Filling up all of the minutes between those items, there is TV to watch, and things to read, and radios to listen to and videos to watch, and folks to call, and e-mails to answer, and phones to play with. The Devil will do everything in the world he can do to keep you so busy that you seldom have time to sit down and think.
But Nicodemus took the time to think about what was important in life. He was wondering if there was eternal life and if so, how did one find it?
He took time to think.
Let me ask you, when was the last time you took time to think? When was the last time you thought about what was really important in life and what things were worth investing you life in? When was the last time you sat down and wondered if you would be pleased when you got to the end of your life, with the way you chose to spend it?
The Roman soldier on the hayride this year, ends up living with regrets at the end of his life, for the way he chose to spend his life.
I hope you’ll take some time this holiday season to think about what’s really important and decide to invest your life in a way you’ll be please with when you reach the end.
Nicodemus teaches us a bit about the importance of taking time to think.
Second, he teaches us a bit about being careful in the way we judge people.
2. We must be careful in the way we judge people.
Most of what we hear, and most of what we think about the Pharisees is usually negative. Jesus had a great deal of negative stuff to say about them. He called many of the “white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.”
The Pharisees were a strict religious sect. Many of them lived their lives very strictly, trying to make sure they didn’t break any of God’s laws or commandments. They were very legalistic. Many of them were teachers.
Jesus called them whitewashed tombs, because many of them were only concerned about fixing up the outside, and had no concern for their hearts and for what was going on on the inside. They wanted to fix up the outside and their actions so people would think well of them, and so perhaps even God would be pleased, but many of them didn’t care anything about the inside and for the reasons why they did the things they did.
That’s why Jesus was upset with many of them. They ignored their hearts, the true issue, and many of them wanted to be recognized by people as being religious. They wanted people to think they were good, so some would pray long flowery prayers in public so people would be impressed. Or, they would make sure everyone knew it, when they did something good, or when they gave something to the temple. Many of them wanted atta boys.
But, in the midst of all of this, there were some, there were a few, who were sincere. They wanted to know the truth. They wanted to please the Lord. They were doing right, the best way they knew how at the time. They simply didn’t know any better.
In the midst of almost any group, no matter how mislead, or ignorant they may be, there are usually some who are doing the best they know how. They are sincerely doing the best they know.
I remember working as a chaplain at a youth detention center in Memphis. I would volunteer with some of the inner city youth who would be locked up there. I would talk to some of them about the path they were own and how it would only lead them to trouble. I would talk to them about the importance of a relationship with the Lord and they would agree. But, after a week, or six weeks, or whatever, they would be sent home, right back into that same environment, with the same parents and the same community and the same friends, and they would end up in trouble again.
Be careful how you judge people.
3. When you have a question go to the right source.
When you have a question, go to the right source.
Nicodemus, when he had a question, when he had an issue, he went to the place where he could get the right answer, a correct answer. He took his questions and concerns to Jesus.
Sometimes, when we have questions, or when we are thinking about things, we take those concerns everywhere but to the place where we can find the correct answers. We ask friends,and we check the internet, which we know is always right. We look everywhere but where we can find the correct answer. We fail to take the question to the Lord.
A few items we learn from Nicodemus. We learn:
1. The importance of taking time to think.
2. We must be careful in the way we judge people.
3. When you have a question, go to the right source.
Now, let’s think about Jesus’ response.
II. WHAT MUST I DO TO HAVE ETERNAL LIFE?
Jesus tells Nicodemus in verse 3
- Read John 3:3
You must be born again. This is why we call ourselves, born-again Christians, for there is no other kind, but what does this mean?
Save your places and turn with me please to Acts 16.
- Read Acts 16:25-34
What does this passage say you must do to have eternal life? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. What else? Just believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To put all of your faith and hope and trust in Him.
- Read Matthew 16:24
What does Jesus tell us to do in this verse? Deny ourselves, take up our cross and to follow Him. As a matter-of-fact, He says basically the same thing in Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, and Luke 14:27.
Now turn with me please to Matthew 19.
- Read Matthew 19:16-21
What did Jesus tell him he had to do to have eternal life? Sell all you have and follow Him.
You know, the place in John where Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again is only recorded one time. This event, where Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell all he has and to follow Him, is recorded in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18. Then in Luke 12:33 Jesus says,
> Luke 12:33-34 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We refer to ourselves as born-again Christians. why is it that we don’t refer to ourselves as self-denying Christians, or cross-carrying Christians, or possession-selling Christians? Could it be that that those things are too difficult and we don’t want to give those things up, and if we claimed to be those things that people could measure the accuracy of our claims by our actions, while when we claim to be born-again, they can’t tell, all that well?
Jesus and His disciples told people different things in different places. Why would they do that? It is because of what the people had in their lives that they considered more important than God, or it was things in their lives that they were counting on for salvation.
Turn back to John 3.
- Read John 3:1
Nicodemus was a Jew. He was an Israelite. He was counting on his birth, his family, his heritage, God’s promises to the nation of Israel to get him to heaven. That’s why Jesus specifically mentioned to him that he needed to be born again, because the birth he was counting on wasn’t going to get him there.
He’s not the only one. In Matthew chapter 3, we read,
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
“Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Those folks were counting on their families, and their heritage, and their blood lines, to get them into heaven.
Let me tell you my friend, I don’t care how good a person your mother was. I don’t care if your dad was a preacher, or a missionary or whatever; family heritage or national origin will not get you into heaven.
The rich young ruler came to Jesus hoping to find eternal life. Jesus pointed out the commandments to him and the guy said he had kept all of those from his childhood. I’m surprised Jesus didn’t laugh in his face. But Jesus went on to say, “Sell everything you have and come follow Me.”
This man was counting on his possessions to get him to heaven. He figured that since he was rich that showed God favored him.
Jesus said, “No boy, you have that confused. You love your stuff too much. You care too much about that stuff. Go sell it and come follow Me.”
Jesus’ point? He must be first in your life. He will not settle for being something you do on the weekend, or on Sunday morning. He says, “Deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me.
How do we find peace with God?
Four Steps to Peace With God
Some of you are familiar with the Four Steps to Peace With God by Billy Graham. These four steps summarize how a person can be born again. Two steps deal with God and two steps deal with man.
Step 1: God wants to give you peace and eternal life. John 3:16 tells us that God offers “eternal life” to anyone who will believe in Jesus Christ. God makes the same offer to you that he makes to the entire world. He truly wants you to be forgiven and to spend eternity with him in heaven.
Step 2: Your problem is sin, which separates you from God. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” That simply means that no one is perfect because all of us have sinned in thought, word and deed. Do you know how many sins it takes to send you to hell? Just one-and most of us can take care of that first sin before we ever get out of bed in the morning.
Step 3: God’s remedy for your sin is the cross of Christ. Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrates his love toward us, in what while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. By his death on the cross, Jesus Christ took your place, died the death you should have died, and paid the penalty for all your sins.
Step 4: Your response is to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Revelation 3:20 reminds us that Christ stands at the door of your heart knocking, knocking, knocking. Perhaps you’ve seen that famous painting of Christ standing outside a lovely English cottage. He’s obviously come for a visit but no one will let him in. Everything seems normal in the painting until your pause to look at the door. Something is missing. There is no doorknob! Why? Because the door to the heart is always locked from the inside.
Christ is a perfect gentleman. He will not barge into a life that does not want him to come in. He always waits for someone to open the door.
So let’s go back to Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus.
You must be born again. Good people need a new birth. Religious people need a new birth. Church members need a new birth. We must be born of the Spirit. How do we do that? We do it like Nicodemus did.
1. Admit your need -
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
2. Come to Jesus personally
No one else can do it for you. . . .
3. Place all your trust in Him.