You Must Be Born Again

Footsteps of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:26
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We return to our series on the footsteps of Jesus. Previously, Jesus had called five disciples and performed his first miracle in Cana by turning water into wine. He also went to Jerusalem for Passover and overturned the money changers tables for running corrupt businesses in a house of worship. Today we pick up with one of the most fascinating dialogues in the gospels.
A man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, comes to Jesus at night trying to understand who this man is. Remember, a Pharisee was a professional interpreter of the law, or as we know it, the Old Testament. They participated in both the legislature and judiciary of Israel as well as teachers in the synagogues. Imagine if I was a local pastor, the county judge, and a state house representative all at the same time. Where we view these roles as separate in today’s society, you could have all of them in one with Nicodemus. He is a very smart man, a powerful man, and well respected man. This is the man that comes to Jesus at night, in stealth mode to hide this meeting from the public eye or the eyes of his fellow Pharisees.
Nicodemus already knows something about Jesus.
John 3:2 NASB95
this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Whatever Nicodemus has actually observed or has heard reports of, he knows that whoever Jesus is, God’s hand is clearly on him. There is no way he can do the things he does unless this is so. But look at how Jesus responds to him. He doesn’t say, “You’re right Nicodemus. I do come from God.” Rather, he says,
John 3:3 NASB95
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
It is as if Jesus sees through Nicodemus and gets right to the heart of the issue. “I know why you are here Nicodemus, and this is what you really need to know.” Nicodemus did not come to trap him like the Pharisees will do later in his ministry. He did not come to attack his teaching. He came to understand. If Jesus is really sent from God, he is teaching something the Pharisees have missed. What is that? Jesus s unfolding that before him.
Nicodemus does not understand what Jesus means.
John 3:4–5 NASB95
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
This is where we see our first point:

Rebirth is spiritual in nature, and therefore originates from the Spirit of God.

The kind of birth Jesus is talking about is spiritual in nature. When he said in verse three that one must be born again, that phrase is literally translated as “born from above.” Well that puts it in a different perspective. For Nicodemus this may be no less confusing, but this makes it clear that Jesus is not speaking of physical rebirth. We are made in the image of God, yet God is not a physical being. So among the many things that being made in his image means, being a spiritual being is one of them. There is a spiritual component to our being and it is that component that is dead and in need of rebirth. Genesis 3 teaches us how the spiritual component of our being died. It came as a result of our first parents’ rebellion against God. Rejection of God and his commandments resulted in a separation from God as a result of spiritual death.
The apostle Paul expands on this concept in Ephesians 2:1-2
Ephesians 2:1–2 NASB95
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Paul is telling the church in Ephesus they were dead and sin killed them. The last couple weeks we have been looking at Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23, which say the same thing.
Romans 3:23 NASB95
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 6:23 NASB95
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So every human being on earth starts out this way. We are physically alive, but spiritually dead. As a consequence, we are unable to understand spiritual things. If we have no spiritual life, there is no spiritual perception. Yet, we instinctively know something is not right. This spiritual awakening is not something we can accomplish on our own.

Rebirth cannot be seen, but its effects can.

Once a person is reborn, or the Spirit of God illumines one’s understanding, then he is able to perceive the spiritual. But this is not something we can see with our eyes. There is no visible mark we get when we become Christians that says to onlookers, “This guy is a believer in Jesus.” This rebirth is internal, but with external evidences. Jesus illustrates this to Nicodemus in seven and eight.
John 3:7–8 NASB95
“Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Just as we cannot see the wind, we can detect its activity. We can see leaves rustling in the wind. We can see dust clouds blown across the road. We can feel the wind as it blows across our faces. Our weather apps would not exist if we could not detect wind patterns. The airline industry probably would not exist if we could not detect and understand wind patterns. Even as much as we know about wind, we are unable to control it. So it is with the Holy Spirit.
Everyone who is born of the Spirit is unable to control the Spirit, but we are able to harness his power. But it is him working through us, not us claiming power to use ourselves. Think of it like a wind turbine. The wind turbine is useless if there is no wind. The turbine responds to the wind. It does not generate the wind. But we see the effects of the wind once the blades of the turbine spin. If one is born again, the evidences of that can be seen, though the rebirth itself cannot.
What then are the evidences you might ask? The apostle Paul answers this for us in Galatians 5:16-23
Galatians 5:16–23 NASB95
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Paul contrasts flesh versus spirit here and uses the metaphor of fruit. I’m no expert at fruit trees. You could drop me in an orchard and I wouldn’t know one tree from another. The only way I know an apple tree from an orange tree is the fruit which they produce. The same applies here. The deeds (or fruit) of the flesh are evident. Are you immoral? Impure? given over to sensuality? Are you an idolater, one who worships something other than God? Do you dabble in sorcery? Are you a generally hostile person? Are you always in conflict with others or overcome with jealousy? Do you have a me versus them mentality? Are you envious of others? Do you get drunk or high often? Are you the kind of person who gets out of control when the drugs or alcohol kicks in?
Look again at verse 21. “I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Why is that? Because this is the fruit of a life void of the Spirit of God. One who is not born spiritually cannot enter the kingdom of God according to Jesus and Paul.
But one who is born again is loving. They have a certain joy in their lives. They know peace like no one else. They are patient. They are kind. They are good. They are faithful. They are gentle. And they have control over themselves. Now we have to be careful. Someone can have a measure of these things and not be reborn. There are great moral people all over who are not born again. We cannot look at this list as merely moral qualities. Understood through a biblical lens, they present a different picture. Let me give you an example.
A mentor of mine named Victor would tell me stories about his dad. This guy was a man of faith. He had a joy about him where the house could be burning around him yet he still had joy. He was a man who was always at peace regardless of the situation because of his trust in God. His life was no cake walk. He faced hard circumstances and decisions every day. But the way he carried himself through those things were a testimony to the strength given to him by the Spirit of God. If you were to take an honest look at yourself, which of these lists best describes you?

Rebirth pardons us from condemnation.

This is the crux of Jesus’ message. He is unveiling all this to Nicodemus to help him understand the truth. He alludes to the story of Moses and the bronze serpent from Numbers 21. Because Israel was stubborn and disobedient, God sent serpents among them. They were bitten and many died. God told Moses to make a serpent out of bronze and hang it on a pole. Anyone who looked at it would be healed of their woulds and live. In the same way, Jesus is the one the bronze serpent foreshadowed. It is from here that the most famous verse in the Bible is spoken.
John 3:16–18 NASB95
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Just like the Israelites in the desert would die from their snake bites without a solution, so we have already died from a far worse ailment. There are many of us who have experienced this rebirth and the evidence of such can be seen in our lives. But there may be some among us who haven’t realized that the deepest problem they face is that they are already dead. My friend, you have to understand that you are already dead spiritually. But God sent his son that you might be made alive through him. Will you continue to live in darkness, or will you let the light shine through? No amount of good you can do can bring you to life. You must be born from above through trust in Jesus Christ.
Many of us have already experienced rebirth, but we are not experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised. This is a result of choosing our way over his way. We have come to trust in Jesus for our salvation, but we have not given him control over our affairs. So on the one hand we claim to be followers, but on the other, we have hardly given any thought to how he wants us to live our lives according to his purposes. This is where I believe most Christians are.
Then there are those who are experiencing a measure of the abundant life Jesus has promised, but there is one thing we still lack. We lack a consistent strategy for the mission of the church. We say our mission is to share Jesus to the world. But how often are we in the world sharing Jesus with it in an intentional and tangible way? I want you to know that strategy is in development. But what has your personal commitment to the mission? Are you sharing Jesus to the world? How so? Pray for the missions efforts of our local church. We have to remember we exist for the people who are beyond our walls.
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