The God Who Regenerates

The God Who Is  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:16
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Trusting Faith in the New Birth is essential if one wishes to enter the Kingdom.

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How many of you have ever misheard a song lyric? Perhaps the most famous is the 1968 song by Iron Butterfly that most people think is “ina godda da Vida, honey” which is actually “in the Garden of Eden”.
Or perhaps you’ve seen some of the “bad lip-sync” videos that circulate on social media.
One of the misheard or bad lip sync lyrics that is connected to the Bible is a combination of Jer 13:23 and Luke 4:27/5:12. Jeremiah speaks of the unchangeable nature of an Ethiopian’s skin or a Leopard’s (big cat) spots. Luke describes the terminal condition of a person with leprosy. Which has led some (including yours truly) to mistakenly say “a leper cannot change his spots.”
I have heard some people use this misquoted verse as an excuse not to forgive another person. They reason that a person cannot really change — “once a drunk, always a drunk”, “once a cheater, always a cheater” after all “a Leper can’t change his spots”.
In today’s text we find that a person is NOT doomed to continue in the circumstance in which he was born. Jesus says, “even though a person is born one way, it is possible to be Reborn, to live a new life and to gain a new inheritance”.
It is possible to correct many birth conditions. Our society loudly and proudly announces, “I shouldn’t change. I was born this way.” Yet thousands of people with crooked teeth chose to go to an orthodontist. Millions of people with poor eyesight wear glasses, contacts or get surgery. My sister was born with toes pointing in, but after several months in painful braces, she walks straight and without even a limp.
A survey done last year by estimates that women “invest” an average of $80 and 11 hours each month on hair products. This works out to $55,000 in a lifetime with Californians averaging about 50% more and North Carolinians averaging ¼ of the national average.
If people devote that much attention to the color of hair they were born with, perhaps we ought to give some attention to the condition of the souls we were born with. Not only is this new birth possible, it is essential.
Transition: Join with me in the Gospel of John, chapter 3 where we learn that God is a God who gives New Birth, who gives spiritual life to those who are spiritually dead.

An Interview with Jesus (John 3:1-8)

John 3:1–8 ESV:2016
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.”


1. Who Is Nicodemus? (v.1)
· A Pharisee mentioned 3x in John’s Gospel
i. Here he doubts Jesus
ii. In 7:50 he defends Jesus by giving Him the benefit of doubt.
iii. In 19:39 he cooperates with Joseph of Arimathea in giving Jesus a dignified, proper burial.
2. Why did He come at night? (v.2)
a. Some claim he was embarrassed to be seen with Jesus
b. Some claim he didn’t want to be disturbed
c. Some claim night was when the teachers did their debate and study
d. Some claim he was trying to protect Jesus reputation from suspicious and hostile members of the Sanhedrin
e. I think John is emphasizing Nicodemus’ spiritual condition – last week as we looked at John 1:4 we saw the contrast between Jesus being the light that shines into the darkness of our human experience. At this time Nick is still in spiritual darkness.
3. “Predominant religious thought in Jesus’ day affirmed that all Jews would be admitted to that kingdom apart from those guilty of deliberate apostasy or extraordinary wickedness (e.g. Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1). But here was Jesus telling Nicodemus, a respected and conscientious member not only of Israel but of the Sanhedrin, that he cannot enter the kingdom unless he is born again.”[i]
4. This upstanding member of the community is introduced to a new birth/reality/kingdom/citizenship/way of life. (v.3)
5. As Nick contemplates Jesus’ words, the very idea that he might not be part of God’s kingdom is so bizarre that he asks Jesus to clarify. (v.4)
6. Jesus clarifies that Nick doesn’t need the same type of birth 2x, then need 2 types of birth. (v.5)
When I was a child, our Sunday School celebrated birthday’s very much like we do here at FHCC. Only the child would bring a “birthday offering”, receive a gift (a pencil or some other trinket) and the rest of the children would sing “Happy Birthday” twice. The 2nd verse was: Happy Birthday to You, Only 1 will not do.
Born Again means salvation. How many have you?
7. Verses 6-8 describes that spiritual birth is quite different than physical birth.
Transition: Let’s take a little time to drill down into how Jesus describes this 2nd birth

Cleansing & Power (Ezekiel 36:25 & 27)

1. What is meant by “water and of Spirit” in v.5?
2. Not physical birth/amniotic fluid – the rupturing of the amniotic sack is a precursor to actual birth and is not a common word picture for birth in the first century.
3. Not Baptism (as we think of it)
a. Jewish Proselyte baptism – conversion to Judaism was a 3-part process involving cleansing, sacrifice and ceremony.
b. John’s Baptism was a baptism of repentance, not of forgiveness.
c. Believer’s baptism (doesn’t start until after Pentecost) so our understanding of being identified with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ would not even enter Nick’s mind.
4. Parallelism again = water and Spirit (Jn 3:3 & Jn 3:5)
a. Just as in English one word can have several meanings depending upon how it is used. In the language John wrote this word can mean either “a second time” or “from above”. Commentators conclude that John intentionally chose this word because of the double meaning.
b. As an expert teacher in Israel (v.10), Nick would have been familiar with the prophecy of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 36:25–27 ESV:2016
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
5. Ezekiel prophesied and Jesus repeated that a new heart involves 2 steps – cleansing and power (Just as our salvation involves 2 steps – turning from sin and to Christ) .

Application (v.7)

1. This new birth is not only a good option, it is absolutely essential.
2. Jesus said to Nicodemus that night and he is saying to you this morning, “If you ever want to see God’s kingdom it requires that the Holy Spirit cleanse you from your past sin and that He gives you power to live a new way.”
Transition: This type of birth is a whole new idea for Nicodemus so he questions again.

Take It from Someone Who has Been There (John 3:9-13)

John 3:9–13 ESV:2016
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.


1. Jesus admits that Nicodemus (and the other Pharisees) don’t understand the things He does on earth (water into wine and cleansing of money changers in John 2).
2. He doesn’t expect them to believe about things related to Heaven unless someone who had experienced Heaven actually describes them.
3. Since Jesus came from Heaven He has the authority to speak of Heavenly things.
Last March I tried to take a picture of the Spring Burn at night, but the pictures just didn’t do justice to the sight. To truly understand it, you have to experience it.llustration
4. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he can trust Jesus’ description, because He has been there!
Transition: Jesus has described the new birth, he has spoken of his authority to talk about it, and finally He describes how it happens by drawing from an Old Testament experience.

The Prescription for Eternal Life (John 3:14-15)

John 3:14–15 ESV:2016
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Explanation (Numbers 21:5-9)

1. To understand the reference that Jesus is citing, one must understand and incident from the OT wanderings.
Numbers 21:5–9 ESV:2016
5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
2. The people complained against God
3. How many of us heard, “Quit your fussing, or I’ll give you something to fuss about”?
4. When the Hebrews were whining, God decided to give them an attitude adjustment.
5. God sent both the judgment and the antidote.
6. “Looking” wasn’t the cure, it was the trust to act upon what God said (no matter how simple or easy it seems).
How many of you have ever ridden a zipline, parachuted out of an airplane or done a Bungee jump?
All 3 of these experience require not only belief, but trust.
I can study the physics and mentally believe that the harness will hold me, the parachute will slow my decent, or the bungee will pull me back up before I splat on the canyon floor. But believing does me no good until I actually make the commitment to trust the device and jump.?



1. The interview in today’s Scripture begins with Nicodemus’ flattery about being a special teacher. It concludes with Jesus’ claim that He is the way to eternal life.
2. He said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again!”
3. Jesus still says to us today that “we must be born again” We must believe in Him (in the same way that one experiences a zipline or bungee jump). We must rely upon a new birth. We must depend upon Him for eternal life because the very next verse, perhaps the most famous verse of the Bible, says
John 3:16 ESV:2016
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
[i] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 189.
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