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Summary: Picture # 3 in the series: The 14 Candid Snapshots of the Maturing Christian as found in the Gospel of John. Nicodemus, a picture of the religious sinner who sits in the pew week after week but is not saved. John 3:16, preached to a religious sinner.

Picture # 3: The Religious Sinner, Nicodemus

John 3:1-21

The Surgeon General teaches us that the key to good health and physical fitness is plenty of exercise, a balanced nutritional diet, and the proper amount of rest.

The Surgeon General doesn’t mention that we have a body and a soul.

It’s just as important to stay spiritually fit as it is to stay physically fit.

If you want to stay spiritually healthy, put John 3:16 into practice!

John 3:16, the most famous verse in the Bible, was preached to the religious sinner.

Even the religious sinner can be born of the Word and of the Spirit.

Romans 3:9-18 gives us a good picture of what the human race is really like.

The religious sinner is a type of sin problem (Romans 5:12, 13). “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world.”

Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Nicodemus was somebody rather special in Jewish society.

He was a Pharisee, the aristocracy of Jerusalem.

The name Pharisee means “the separated one”, and the Pharisees were those who had separated themselves from all ordinary life in order to keep every detail of the law of Moses, as worked out over the centuries by the Scribes.

Their goal in life was the formal observance of religion, not a spiritual walk with God, but a holier-than-thou attitude.

Paul, the apostle, was once like this, but as he progressed in the Christian faith, the more unworthy he knew himself to be, calling himself “the chief of sinners”(I Timothy 1:15).

It reminds me of a dream I had last night about myself and our minister of music, Gratten.

Last night, I dreamed that I was on my way to heaven and before I could enter into heaven, I had to climb a long flight of stairs.

In my dream, as I started to go up the stairs, I was given a piece of chalk and told that I must put a chalk mark on each step for each sin I had committed in life.

When I was about halfway up the stairs, I met Rev. Tomlinson coming down the stairs.

When Gratten got to where I was, I stopped him and asked him why he was going down the steps, away from heaven, and he said, “Jimmy, I’m going back to get some more chalk!”

Nicodemus belonged to the "Burger King" theology and the salvation by works alone party.

He was also a member of the Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin.

We are, in many ways, like Nicodemus.

We may know many beautiful hymns of praise and prayer.

We may listen to many sermons preached, that rightly divide the Word and Truth of God.

But if we fail to continuously go to the foot of the Cross, and confess our sins before God, then we remain a religious sinner.

The word “sin” carries with it the idea of “missing the mark”, or “coming short of doing our duty.”

The Bible says, “All unrighteousness is sin.”

Yet, before any one of us can enter into heaven, we have to put on righteousness.

Where then can we gain that righteousness?

We don’t have it, we can’t earn it, yet we cannot get to heaven without it.

Nicodemus came to Jesus at night.

It’s significant perhaps that he came to Jesus at night.

First, for fear of being found out by his religious peers, or because he was afraid he might be criticized by other members of the Sanhedrin if he were discovered, he engaged in a conversation with this unconventional and unlicensed teacher, Jesus of Nazareth.

Or, perhaps it was because Jesus was busy during the day.

Also, we can mention that the night represents the darkness of sin that Nicodemus held within his heart.

Nicodemus asked Jesus some very important questions about his spiritual life.

He wanted to know how a person could be born again.

“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God” (Verse 2).

The answer Jesus gave Nicodemus was, “Nicodemus, you need to be born again” (Verse 7).

This is one of the secret things(Deut. 29:29).

How can a person be born twice?

Born of the flesh, and then born of the Spirit?

Nicodemus was one of the greatest religious leaders of his time.

But Jesus saw into Nicodemus’ heart, and knew that Nicodemus had only covered himself with a religion based upon works, and he didn’t have true fellowship with God.

Jesus knew that Nicodemus’ problem was an eternal problem, that of a person who wants to be changed but cannot change himself.

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