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Born Again?

October 25, 2009

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Nicodemus

Nicodemus was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the strictest of all Israelites. They where the most righteous, the most educated, the most devout of all Israelites. A good Pharisee would memorize the entire Old Testament (the New Testament was not yet written). There were likely never more than 6,000 Pharisees in Israel at any point in time. Not only was Nicodemus a Pharisee, he was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was like our Supreme Court. We also learn from Jesus that Nicodemus was a teacher. Nicodemus was likely a wealthy man as well. We read in John 19 that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus in a tomb and Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes (about 75 pounds). These were expensive spices used in accordance with Jewish burial customs. The new tomb may have belonged to Nicodemus as well.

Jesus Teaches the Teacher

Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. He is often criticized because people believe he wanted to avoid others knowing that he was seeking the teaching of Jesus. This could be true, but there is another possibility. Perhaps he was desiring some “quality time” with Jesus. It would have been very difficult to carry on a conversation with Jesus when the crowds were around, so Nicodemus interrupts Jesus’ at night when the crowds were not around.

Nicodemus wisely lets Jesus lead the direction of there conversation. He didn’t come to Jesus with a bunch of questions, he simply acknowledged that Jesus was a teacher who came from God. Jesus then begins to teach Nicodemus that people must be born again to receive eternal life.

Salvation involves the death of the old you and the birth of the new new you. Salvation is more about being who you are in Christ (a new creation) not about doing the right works. To be saved, you and I must be born again. We must be born of the water and the Spirit. I think it is sad that so many believe they should pray “the sinners’ prayer” to be saved rather than submitting to the waters of baptism. Once we come to that point of faith in Jesus as our lord and savior, I believe we should quickly submit to be baptized. Baptism is a beautiful way to demonstrate dying to the old self and being raised to walk in newness of life. It is what the early Christians did. I believe it is what we should do. There are many accounts of people being baptized in the new testament, but I cannot think of a single example from the Bible of someone praying for Jesus to come into their heart.

Don’t take my point the wrong way. It is by grace we have been saved, through faith—and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. Our salvation is about what God does in us when we reach that point of faith. We cannot earn our salvation by what we do. Our good works are only a manifestation of our changed life. They do not save us. God saves us by grace through faith in what Jesus did at the cross.

When we are saved, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. John uses a word play to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for Spirit also means wind (and breath). John’s point in comparing the Holy Spirit with wind is that the Holy Spirit is sovereign. The wind blows where it pleases. Likewise, the Holy Spirit works his sovereign will in us. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter; the Seal and Deposit of our salvation. The Holy Sprit works in us to sanctify us. Do you want to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? Then “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The Snake in the Desert

Jesus then compares his crucifixion with the Snake that was lifted up in the wilderness The Israelites were bitten by venomous snakes in the wilderness because they spoke against God and Moses for delivering them from Egyptian slavery. God instructed Moses to put a bronze snake on a pole. Those who wanted to live were to look on the Snake that was lifted up. Similarly, Jesus was “lifted up” on the cross of crucifixion. If we want to be saved we must look upon him. It is Jesus who saves us by offering himself as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. We should follow his example and be living sacrifices.

Do you want eternal life? Then be born again!

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