Reborn and Renewed
John 3:1-17 (NCV)
Nicodemus Comes to Jesus
3 There was a man named Nicodemus who was one of the Pharisees and an important Jewish leader. 2 One night Nicodemus came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we know you are a teacher sent from God, because no one can do the miracles you do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless one is born again, he cannot be in God’s kingdom.”
4 Nicodemus said, “But if a person is already old, how can he be born again? He cannot enter his mother’s body again. So how can a person be born a second time?”
5 But Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless one is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter God’s kingdom. 6 Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised when I tell you, ‘You must all be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wants to and you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where the wind comes from or where it is going. It is the same with every person who is born from the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus asked, “How can this happen?”
10 Jesus said, “You are an important teacher in Israel, and you don’t understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we talk about what we know, and we tell about what we have seen, but you don’t accept what we tell you. 12 I have told you about things here on earth, and you do not believe me. So you will not believe me if I tell you about things of heaven. 13 The only one who has ever gone up to heaven is the One who came down from heaven—the Son of Man.
14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, a the Son of Man must also be lifted up. 15 So that everyone who believes can have eternal life in him.
16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. 17 God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.
Do you remember “Do Over’s”?
They were part of the "Good Ole" Days. I know, Let’s play a little game… Everyone stand up. Now sit down when you can’t remember what I mention next…
How many of you remember…
90’s – Beanie Babies; Teenie Beanies; Grunge; and the phrase CHA-CHING!!!
80’s – PacMan; the Rubic’s cube; Leg Warmers; the Fraggles TV show
70’s – 8 track Tapes; platform shoes; and leisure suits
60’s – LP’s; Troll dolls; and the first lava lamps!
50’s – Wax coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside Hula-hoops and putting peanuts in your ten-cent 7 oz glass coke bottle before you drank it.
40’s – Party lines on your telephones; and Big Band Music
All of us can remember the good ole days… When you could happily catch fireflies for an entire evening.
When money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in "Monopoly." And it wasn’t odd to have two or three "best" friends. When being old referred to anyone over 20 years of age and the net on a tennis court was the perfect height to play volleyball – with no real rules. Remember when the worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was "cooties" and it was magic when dad would "remove" his thumb. Remember when you were finally be tall enough to ride the "big people" rides at the amusement park and when a foot of snow was a dream-come true. And the best part for me was how you could correct any mistake by yelling, "do over!"
Well the good ole days are not done! God gave us a “Do Over”! It’s called being “born again” and it is a wonderful gift! What is this Born Again thing?
It’s a Personal Thing
Nicodemus was a Sincere Religious Person. He was really trying to find and follow God. This isn’t exactly impossible but it is fairly rare! Religious and Sincere! He was following all of the rules; he checked all the boxes; went to all the services; gave to all the needs; responded to all the opportunities for service – yet he was unsettled and unsatisfied. He drank and ate from 8 to 5 and in the evening he was thirsty and hungry.
I met a man like that recently. He attends church regularly and has for most of his life – he follows all the rules and works to check all the boxes yet at the end of the day he is completely unsatisfied. He feels lost and passionless. His life is black and white in a world he knows has color.
Why was Nicodemus lost? Why are so many sincerely religious people unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives?
Why? Because they are depending on what they know and what they do to provide the purpose and peace in their lives – and it does not work. It didn’t with Nicodemus and it doesn’t with you and me today.
You see it’s not about what you know and what you do. It is about whom you know and who you are! Look at what Jesus said to “Nic at Night”, in a very private meeting. Jesus said it twice because it was so important. We see it first in verse 3.
“I tell you the truth, unless one is born again, he cannot be in God’s kingdom.”
Huh? What is Jesus talking about? He is answering a question that was not asked! There was a reason he came to Jesus… and it wasn’t tell him that he must be from God because he did miracles.
He was there to ask what was wrong in his life. What was wrong with him is what is wrong with every one of us – a little thing called sin.
Sin separates us from God. Sin is the rejection of another person. Separation dynamic: See how it works…
Separation cannot be fixed by anything we do… it is up to the one who was hurt!
Eddie’s mug shot from his arrest in New Jersey
"What it basically was, was sexual addiction," Eddie says. "I put down drugs and alcohol and stuff like that and I just started to get involved with, you know, lewd women. And slowly but surely that became an addiction. And I eventually got hooked up with a young girl and I got in trouble that way."
Eddie got caught having sex with a teenage girl. He was sentenced to five years’ probation, but was then arrested on a similar charge in Virginia. A New Jersey judge sent him to state prison for multiple counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He served five years and two months. He’s now getting treatment for sex addiction as a condition of his parole. Eddie left prison in December of 2001 with no job, literally no money, and little support from his family.
"Because of what I had done, my mother told the rest of my family that they were forbidden to mention my name in her house ever again," Eddie says. "My brother’s a police officer. I mean, we were so close when we were kids and he just doesn’t answer any of my letters, he doesn’t want anything to do with me. And then when I needed two hundred dollars because they were going to turn off my phone and they were going to turn off my water, he told my father to tell me to go someplace else to find it, to take it out of the garbage can where I’ve taken everything else from. It hurt."
We need a chance to be born-again! It can be your friend, your spouse, your parents, your children, or God. It hurts and the result is separation. It is always separation. What we need is a way to make it right – we need a chance for a “do-over”
It’s a Miraculous Thing
It sounds kind of radical doesn’t it… President Jimmy Carter made the statement during his election that he was a “born again Christian…” Some people think of a Baptist or Right Wing Radical Fundamentalist when they hear the words “born again Christian…” But it’s not a Baptist thing, it’s not a radical thing, IT’S A CHRISTIAN THING… for you can’t be a Christian without being born again…
What does it mean to be born again?
Well, it doesn’t mean turning over a new leaf – it’s not like going back on a diet for the umpteenth time – it’s not about a set of new resolutions – it’s not saying to yourself, “well, I’ve got to work on my morals…” or “it’s time I quit drinking; smoking pot; or having one night stands."
Nicodemus was a very moral person. He was a good man. A sincere man and a religious man. You couldn’t have got more moral than Nicodemus… If anyone “deserved” eternal life, it would appear that Nicodemus had all the right qualifications… He seems worthy of eternal life… But salvation is not about human effort or merit…
Being born again is not about us. Being Born Again is about being given a new life through a new birth.
When a baby is born is it about something they do. Is it their accomplishment? Do they find their way down the birth canal and jump into the doctor’s waiting hands?
The new spiritual birth is no more a personal accomplishment than the baby’s birth experience being the result of their efforts. It is not something we do, it’s something God does through the power of the Holy Spirit… and it’s a miraculous thing…
Being born again is an intervention from God… God brings us back to life as new people in the spirit… He changes us… This supernatural act of God takes the Holy Spirit & implants the Spirit into our hearts – He gives us a heart transplant… It causes us to be a changed creature…
It’s a Mysterious Thing
It is about the water... It’s very clear from the context that Jesus is talking about baptism. John’s baptism was the sensation of the nation at this time. Everyone was talking about it. The Pharisees had sent a delegation to John to ask him why he was baptizing. The meaning of John’s baptism was the central theological question of that day.
Jesus tells us here what baptism signifies. It’s not the water itself that changes anybody. Some people believe a doctrine called “baptismal regeneration”. This teaching implies that there is something about the water itself that saves you. That the words which are spoken have some power – like a magical incantation. “I now baptize you in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.” – and if you don’t say it just right, it doesn’t count! It’s not about the water… Water doesn’t change anybody. It may make you a little cleaner, you might even smell better, but it doesn’t make you any different in God’s eyes. The significance of baptism is that it is a response of faith in Christ and a response of repentance, an honest admission of need and it is an integral part of our covenant relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior! The significance comes from both Jesus who gave it to us to signify his death, burial and resurrection and from us to signify how we have died to our selves and given ourselves to Him.
It is also about the wind
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from, and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."(John 3:7).
Jesus says to Nicodemus that the new birth will result in a totally new lifestyle; he will never be the same. He illustrates this with another symbol: the wind. While Jesus and Nicodemus were talking they could probably hear the wind blowing through the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus said, "The wind blows where it wants to." It is sovereign; no man can direct it.
Isn’t it remarkable that this is still true today? The weather forecasters tell us every day where the jet stream is, but they cannot tell us exactly where it’s going to be tomorrow. It goes where it wants to go; nobody has been able to control it. We can’t even figure out what makes it move. This week in particular we are all wondering why it seems to be coming from Canada so much of the time!
That’s very similar to the life of someone who is born again. There is a different drumbeat in his life, a different Lord directing his affairs, and that will make him behave differently. Someone on the outside will have a hard time understanding that change. They can’t explain it any more than they can explain the wind. But it’s there.
A Christian in England
I heard once of a Christian in England who was asked to sign a church guest register. He noticed that a number of previous guests had entered their degrees after their names. He wanted to put some letters after his name, but had never been to a university. So he wrote, "John Smith, BA and MA." When he was asked what the letters stood for, he said, "John Smith, Born Again, and Marvelously Altered!"
Jesus is saying, "Do not marvel at that; that is to be expected." When God’s life becomes your life, you can expect a lot of changes. It may take awhile; there is growth involved. You are like a new baby at first, but you’ll never be the same person; you’re headed on a path different from the one which you used to travel. You’ve been born again.
It’s a Simple Thing…
Some think it’s too simple
The first instant cake mix was a big flop… The instructions said all you had to do was add water & bake… The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell – until their research discovered that the public felt uneasy about a cake mix that required only water…
Apparently, people thought it was too easy… So the company altered the formula & changed the directions to add an egg in addition to the water… The idea worked & sales increased…
Jesus words still apply today, “You Must Be Born Again”
I encourage you to have your own private talk with Jesus. I encourage you to honestly understand the need in your life. I encourage you to responding to Jesus’ invitation and command to be born of the water and the spirit.
Have you been born again?
Come to Jesus – today is the day of salvation!
Bow your heads please. Will you repeat after me…
Jesus, I know you are from God.
I believe that you the Son of God,
And I know that you loved me,
Enough to die on a cross,
For my sins.
Now Jesus I give you my life.
Take it and give me in its place a new life,
So that I may serve you as Lord,
And follow you for the rest of my life.
I turn from my sins and I turn to you.
I am yours.
Thank you Jesus
Now we are going to sing and share in a very special communion service… During the service I would like to encourage you to take the bulletin tear-off and let me know about your decision today so that we can make the arrangements for your baptism into Jesus.
You can place these in the offering boxes; you can hand them to me; or one of the staff and we will get in touch with you to make the arrangements. Let’s worship our Lord together in this song.