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The New Birth
There are a number of different kingdoms. The lower kingdom is what we would call the mineral. That is, the minerals, the rocks, and things that are placed in the earth. That’s the lowest stratum, that’s the lowest kingdom. [non-life]
And, then above that is a higher kingdom that we would call the vegetable kingdom. These are living things. And, so that makes them higher than minerals, but the vegetable kingdom doesn’t have conscience life. [unconscious life] You may talk to your plants, but I really doubt that it does much good. They used to say music helps, but I don't know.
Then, above that is the animal kingdom. Animals have conscious lives and so we put the animal kingdom above the vegetable kingdom, which is above the mineral kingdom, but animals don’t have a spirit like human beings do. Animals are not made in the image of God like human beings are. Humans have self-conscious life.
Above the human kingdom is the Kingdom of God. Now, the question comes. How can you move from one kingdom to another kingdom? It’s very obvious that the mineral kingdom cannot by its own efforts place itself into the vegetable kingdom. And, vegetables cannot by their own effort place themselves into the animal kingdom. And, animals by their effort cannot place themselves into the human kingdom. And, humans cannot by their efforts place themselves into the Kingdom of God.
But, the mineral kingdom may move into the vegetable kingdom. How? Well, those vegetables put down their roots into the ground and absorb those minerals and those minerals actually become vegetable. And, the vegetable kingdom may move up into the animal kingdom. Because the animal is grazing, or feeding on those green things and bringing those things up into the animal kingdom as they feed upon them.
And, then that animal kingdom may be a part of the human kingdom. Because we take old Bessie and turn her in to filet mignons, and rump roast, and such. And, then we serve her for Sunday dinner and she becomes a part of the human kingdom. And, she’s absorbed and lifted and brought up into the human kingdom and correspondingly, we can be brought up into the Kingdom of God, not by our own efforts, but God Himself can reach down and bring us up into His Kingdom. The Bible calls this being born again. We can’t do it by our own efforts.
I might illustrate this morning by asking a little boy to come up here today--to stand up here and put his hands under his shoes and see if he can lift himself off the floor. Of course he couldn’t do it. Now, I can lift him, but he couldn’t lift himself off the floor and no person by self effort can lift himself into the Kingdom of God. But, he can be born into that Kingdom. In the Greek language, “to be born again” literally says—“to be born from above.” Now, what we really need therefore is not a boost from beneath, but a birth from above.
I’m so glad that God used the figure of a birth, because that’s something we can all understand. Now, Jesus is talking to us about earthly things. You remember He told Nicodemus, “If I’ve told you earthly things, and you don’t understand, how shall you understand if I tell you heavenly things?” A birth is an earthly thing. We all understand the birth. Now, there are many figures for salvation given in the Bible and, they are all good, but we don’t understand them all necessarily. For example, being saved is like a sheep returning to the fold. Well, if you’ve never seen a sheep, you might have difficulty with that. Or, being saved is like a leper who has been healed of his leprosy. Well, if you’ve never had leprosy and never seen a leper healed, you might have difficulty with that. Or, being saved is for example like a resurrection. I don’t think any of you have had one or seen one, but being saved is like a resurrection, it’s compared to that. But, there is one thing I know about everybody here. We’ve all been born. We have. Did anybody get here any other way? You were all born, and so Jesus took something that was absolutely common to human beings, something that we could all understand and he used that to teach us a great tremendous spiritual truth.
You say, “Well, Pastor, I’m religious.” You don’t need to tell me that. It was a religious man whom Jesus Christ was speaking. Jesus Christ was speaking to a man named Nicodemus. Remember what the Bible says, “There was a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus.” His earthly name, “Nicodemus” means, “superior,” he was a superior man. He was a Jew -- the chosen race, he was a ruler of the Jews, that means that he was one of the Sanhedrin. There were less than eighty people in this Jewish court and he was one of them, a ruler of the Jews. And, yet Jesus said to Nicodemus that he had to be born again. But, Jesus told him, “Except he were born again, he could not see the Kingdom of God.”