Summary: You must be born again. Don’t be bitten by the ways of man who look to natural remedies for our separation from God. Don’t come and tell God you’ll do better. Simply look to Jesus with belief and receive him as Lord.
You Must Be Born Again
Pastor Jim Luthy
Not long after I became a believer, I sat down in a Denny’s restaurant and told a friend of mine about Jesus. He grew up in a Catholic home and was a bit familiar with the things I shared with him. He was a decent man and listened respectfully. He said he believed in God and in Jesus, but in the end he responded quite bluntly: “I don’t go for that ‘born again’ crap!”
That friend of mine was in a similar position as Nicodemus when he came to Jesus at night. Nicodemus was a man who knew the Scriptures. He was a “man of the Pharisees,” the most influential party of the Jews in his day. Jesus’ reference to Moses in verse 14 indicated that he knew Nicodemus was schooled in the Torah. Nicodemus was also a good man, well respected, and religious. He was a member of the Jewish ruling council, a respected member of the community. He was drawn to Jesus’ teaching, calling him “Rabbi…a teacher who has come from God,” claiming that “no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
So Jesus replied, just as I had repeated to this friend of mine, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
What are some of the ways you can relate to Nicodemus as he comes to hear Jesus in the night? Perhaps you, like Nicodemus, are familiar with the Scriptures. Maybe you are considered by many people to be a good man or woman, well respected, maybe even an active member of the church.
I was out witnessing door-to-door one time in Kelso, Washington. A man answered the door and I asked him if he knew for certain he was going to heaven. He answered affirmatively. When I asked him how he knew for certain that he would go to heaven, he told me it was because he attended such-and-such church and served on the board for 14 years. He was a modern day Nicodemus. I knew that if Jesus were able to talk to this man he would say the same thing I tried to tell him to no avail: “you must be born again.”
Are you drawn to Jesus? Are you captivated by his miracles? So was Nicodemus. But Jesus wants so much more for us than compliance. He came to give us life. He came to offer us citizenship in the kingdom of God. But there is only one way into that kingdom and Nicodemus lacked it. He lacked spiritual life. He lacked the vitality that comes from kingdom living. The entrance to that kingdom was not through the knowledge of the Scriptures. It was not through goodness or respectability or even religious activity. It required more than being drawn to Jesus or even believing in his miracles. If Nicodemus was to see the kingdom of God—if you are to have the vitality of life Jesus came to give—you must be born again.
Nicodemus’ lack of awareness of spiritual things is quite evident in his initial response: “How can a man be born again when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” When Jesus spoke of the need for supernatural power, Nicodemus could only think in natural terms.
Jesus explained, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” There are two sides to being born again—water and Spirit. Jesus’ entire conversation with Nicodemus was meant to explain that this knowledgeable and respectable Jewish leader had only scratched the surface of one of those sides.
You must be born again. You may have heard it called regeneration. It is often referred to as “new birth.” Whatever you want to call it, I want to assure you it is not “crap.” It is the doorway to the kingdom of God. It is the entrance to life in His presence. It is real life. It is spiritual life and vitality that builds in us hope, love, peace, and joy.
There are two characteristics, Jesus said, to being born again. First, the new birth is substantive. When Jesus says you must be born of water, he is speaking of the natural aspects of being born again. This was always the objective of Jewish law and tradition. Men and women sought to be right with God in their own actions, thinking wrongfully that by their actions alone they could find peace with God. It was this pursuit that led the Jewish rulers to incorporate all sorts of religious activity into the normal Jewish life. The God-fearing Jew was consumed with ceremonial washing, religious rites, and traditional practices that might make them clean and acceptable before God.