Nicodemus (Part 2)
Nicodemus is born again and becomes a disciple of Jesus
Reading: John 3: 1-21
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again [born from above], you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You [you all, plural] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave [or…God loved the world so much that He gave…] 17 his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgement against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world but people loved the darkness more than the light for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light, so others can see that they are doing what God wants [or…can see God at work in what He is doing].”
A former England football manager was once asked if he was a born-again Christian… “No,” he replied, “I’m the ordinary kind!”
Sad to report, it appears that he has not continued to walk with the Lord…
The comment was amusing, perhaps, but it reveals a confusion that exists in many people’s minds, as to what constitutes a true Christian…
Are there two categories of Christian… the ‘born-again’ kind and the ‘ordinary’ kind?
- In fact, Jesus made it quite clear that there is only one category: The born again variety!
- Every Christian is, by definition, ‘born again’ and baptised with the Holy Spirit
- More than a “fresh start”… it’s a new birth… a new creation
There are numerous implications attached to the simple statement: ‘You must be born again’… I want to explore some of them in this message…
First, the reason that we need to be born again is because we were ‘born in sin’ at our natural birth… indeed, at conception
- That is, we have within our nature the capacity and inclination to sin and, when we reach an age where we make our own decisions, the freedom to choose to do so
The issue of ‘choice’ is important, not least because it helps us to understand better the situation regarding babies and children who die young… and adults with limited mental capacity…
- They are conceived and born in sin but do not reach the point where they choose to sin
It is not in keeping with the nature of God that all babies and people with brain damage are forever lost because they die while still having their sinful nature …
A commonly held view (with which I concur) is that the unborn, the aborted, young children and adults who lack the ability to comprehend salvation will not be condemned! God knows their hearts.
This message is not dealing with this tricky subject … The following statements and references are solely concerned with Jesus’ words directed to those with the capacity to make informed choices about accepting or rejecting His claim upon their lives…
Nicodemus was earnestly seeking the truth about life…
- He was a Pharisee of great intellect, training, wealth and status in society… but his life was incomplete
He probably came on behalf of other religious leaders who also wanted to know the truth about Jesus…
- Perhaps he was anticipating an academic debate or lengthy sermon… Instead, Jesus insisted that “You [plural] must be born again”
The expression “born again (anew)” may be familiar to most of us… but imagine hearing it for the first time, as Nicodemus did!
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
- We might smile at Nicodemus’ response… but what would you and I make of it in hearing the expression for the first time?
- And what will those outside the church make of it!
We use a number of expressions in life (not only in Christian circles) that are open to a variety of interpretations. For instance:
- Live and let live!
- Do your own thing!
- What goes around comes around!
- Have a nice day!
- Be a winner!
- Go for it!
Every person will interpret those expressions differently in the light of his or her intellect, maturity and life experience…
- But when Jesus said, “You must be born again”, it means the same thing for everyone, as Jesus explained…
- To be born again is a work of God the Holy Spirit
- It is not an experience that can be manufactured through determination or clever arguments or intellectual understanding
- Being born again is being born “from above”… it’s a spiritual transformation
Whether God has predetermined who will receive the faith to accept the transforming work of the Holy Spirit is a separate issue…
- What we do know is: (a) God knows who will accept His gracious offer of salvation in Jesus Christ and (b) a person has the choice to resist or reject the Holy Spirit.
- To be born again acknowledges the supremacy of God in changing lives through Christ’s death at Calvary
- It is part of God’s eternal plan of salvation
- Every person who believes in the Son of Man (one of Jesus’s names for himself) will have eternal life
I was struck by a newspaper headline a few years ago in which a war veteran was holding a young child during an Armistice Day service. The caption read: “I Did It For You” … ALL of you!
Similarly, Scripture makes it clear that salvation is from the Jews but not solely for the Jews… Every person, Jew or Gentile, can be saved through Christ
As our lives change after being born anew, people notice that we are different… perhaps, dramatically different…
- Damaging attitudes, habits and ugly speech crumble away (though we are never completely free from their influence) and is gradually replaced by Christ-likeness
- The fruit of the Spirit becomes evident in our lives… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
- Being born again saves from the penalty of sin (verses 17 and 18a)
- God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world but to save the world through him.
- There is no condemnation for anyone who believes in Him.
Without being born again, we are exposed to God’s judgement…
- We have no defence if we have rejected or neglected the way of salvation provided by God
- As the hymn writer, Philip Bliss so clearly expressed it:
‘In my place, condemned He stood… sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’
- Being born again transforms our lives from darkness into light
- Life takes on a fresh meaning… things that were a mystery begin to make sense!
- We find that even when life is difficult and the way ahead is hidden, we have the assurance that God knows the way, for Jesus is the WAY and He is the LIGHT of the world
Christ died that all who turn to Him by faith no longer come under condemnation but have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light… Thus, in Colossians 1: 12-13
Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you [or ‘us’] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.
When a person is born again, priorities change, conduct changes and we are sensitised to what is right and wrong.
- Being born again gives us an eternal hope beyond this life
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
- And the older you get, the more important it is to know that “in my Father’s house [home] are many rooms [plenty of room]. I go to prepare a place for you”
A QUESTION… Why didn’t Jesus mention the need for repentance?
ANSWER… Because Nicodemus and those who were seeking Jesus had already acknowledged that they were going in the wrong direction… They had already ‘repented’ in the correct meaning of the term
- Repentance isn’t a single decision made in an instant, any more than forgiveness or loving your neighbour is a once-for-all decision
- Prompted by the Spirit, it comes about through a gradual realisation that… your life is going in a direction that leads you away from God
Someone has described it thus: Repentance means a sincere turning away, in both the mind and heart, from self to God…
- Nicodemus had already repented and turned to Christ… now he had to allow God to give him new life through His indwelling Spirit
Note: Jesus had not yet been crucified and risen from the dead but repentance and being born again was still possible and necessary
SO WHAT HAPPENED TO NICODEMUS?
It seems that he yielded to the claims of Christ upon his life…
- In John 7: 50-51, we find him speaking up for Jesus amongst his peers where once he remained silent
- And in John 19: 39, he accompanies Joseph of Arimathea in requesting the body of the crucified Jesus to prepare it for burial (an extremely courageous thing to do!)
I wonder how much you and I speak up for Jesus Christ and the things of God… and are willing to be associated with Him in His suffering and death
Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, was travelling on a small boat from Shanghai to Ningpo when he heard a cry. His friend and companion, Peter, had fallen overboard. Hudson begged the sailors to throw a line to save him from drowning. They replied that it wasn’t convenient. Hudson offered them money; they said it wasn’t enough. In desperation, he gave them all he had…but it was too late! Peter had drowned. Later, Hudson Taylor wrote:
‘We condemn those fishermen. We say that they were guilty of a man’s death because they could so easily have saved him but did not do it. But what of the millions we leave to perish — and that eternally?’
Nicodemus was no longer the man who came secretly by night…
- He became a transparent follower of Jesus
- Born again of the Spirit
- Not ashamed to own His Lord
- Walking in the light of life
- With hope for this life and the life to come.
I began by suggesting that some people claim that there are two categories of Christian: The ‘born again’ type and the ‘ordinary’ type…
In fact, Jesus made it abundantly clear that to be His disciple and claim the gift of salvation through faith and trust in Him… you must be born again!
Nicodemus (Part 2)
Nicodemus is born again and becomes a disciple of Jesus