Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (ESV) John 3:1-8
I frequently need to hear messages that I don’t necessarily want to hear. Sometimes it’s from the bathroom scale, sometimes the message comes from a trusted friend, but most of the time the news I don’t want to hear comes from God’s word. God’s inspired word serves to correct my thinking and acting while challenging me to leave my comfort zone or to acknowledge and repent of my own sin. I wonder if this need to hear the truth was true of our friend Nicodemus as he comes to Jesus for answers.
A member of the Jewish ruling council, Nicodemus was closely observing the signs that Jesus was performing and grew curious to learn more. And, as a student of the Old Testament law and prophets, Nicodemus was searching, trying to validate Jesus’ ministry by the revealing details of God’s word. One can almost hear him thinking to himself, “Could Jesus be the Messiah?”
The urgency to know Jesus better leads Nicodemus to visit our Savior at night, perhaps to avoid negative accusations and trouble from fellow council members. The verbal exchange between the two is instructive. Nicodemus pays Jesus a compliment, then Jesus flatly states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (v.5)
Instead of relishing the recognition, Jesus stays focused on the mission – saving this Jewish ruler’s lost soul. Nicodemus needed to hear that his heritage wouldn’t save him. Like Nicodemus, we need to hear the liberating truth that there is only one way to see the kingdom of God.
Only people who are born of the Spirit can enter God’s kingdom. What does Jesus mean when he says that we must be born of the Spirit? He means that the Spirit of God actively makes us aware of our personal sin and God’s coming judgement against us. Simultaneously, the Spirit makes us aware of God’s amazing grace, which as the old hymn says is “greater than all our sin.”
We are born again the moment when we respond to the gentle winds of the Spirit by confessing and repenting (to turn away from) of our sin. We do so trusting the finished work of Jesus on the cross to save us from God’s just punishment and his resurrection to give us new life for all eternity.
Jesus sees through all pretense to the true condition of our hearts, just like he did with Nicodemus. And, guess what? He still deeply loves us. Do you believe that God loves you no matter how far away from God you may be? That’s why Jesus went to the cross. Jesus willingly received unto himself the just punishment, shame, and guilt that our sin deserves.
The prophet Isaiah put it this way, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) The punishment that Jesus took was shameful, severe, and all sufficient.
The apostle Paul explains, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” (ESV) Titus 3:5-6
This truth confirms that no amount of spiritual tradition, church attendance, bible knowledge, or doing good will open the door to heaven. If we could earn heaven on our own apart from Christ, then Jesus died for nothing. God would never waste his Son like that.
Jesus’ evening talk clarified the matter for Nicodemus. He stood up for Jesus during his trial before the Jewish council (John 7:50-52) and later risked his reputation by preparing Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39-42). With the wind of the Spirit filling his soul, Nicodemus experienced a new birth and went from trusting his heritage to trusting Jesus as Lord.
Are you stuck in a pattern of sin and shame that you can’t shake? Could it be that you have not been born again by the Spirit and are powerless to overcome your sin nature? If so, simply trust Jesus to save you by confessing your guilt, repenting of your sins, and trusting the finished work of Jesus to save you. By doing so, the Holy Spirit will move into your soul and guide you safely into the kingdom of God.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
For those wanting to be born again: Jesus, I am guilty before you because of my personal sin. I confess my sins to you and repent of a lifestyle of sin that rejects you as Lord. Thank you for loving me just as I am. Jesus, I am trusting you to save me and free me from the bondage of sin through your death and resurrection on my behalf. Spirit of God, breathe new life into me and lead me forward in full obedience to the way of Jesus. I surrender my life to you Jesus. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus name, Amen.
For those already born again: Lord Jesus, thank you for breathing new life into me and making a way for me to live for you now and through all of eternity. Help me to remember that the gospel of Jesus not only had the power to save me, but has the power to make me into the image of Christ each day. Forgive me when I trust in myself. Help to remember that when I am weak, you are strong as I grow as an ambassador for your kingdom. In Jesus name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.