The Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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-I want to begin today by asking some strange questions but I am moving toward a point with the questions, so bear with me.
-How many here have been born?
{If you weren’t born, were you hatched out of a shell or something?}
-How many here remember being born?
-If you don’t remember being born, how do you know you were born?
{You know you were born b/c you are alive today. If you weren’t born, you wouldn’t be alive.}
-OK—now, how many of you have been born more than once?
{That is not a trick question, but it is one to get you thinking.}
-Not only is it possible to be born a second time, if you are to see God and be part of His kingdom, it is actually very necessary for you to be born a second time.
-But, of course, the type of being born that I am talking about is not another physical birth. You can only be born physically once—trust me your moms would not want to have to give birth to you twice.
-But there is another birth that is necessary—and that is the spiritual birth. You are born physically, but to relate to God you must be born spiritually, and that is found through Jesus Christ.
-So that leads to another question: how do you know if you have been born spiritually? And the answer is similar to one given before: You know you were born spiritually at some point if you have spiritual life within you today. If you have no spiritual life within you, you did not experience a new spiritual birth, and without a new spiritual birth you will not see God.
-In the passage that we are reading today, a religious leader named Nicodemus seeks Jesus out, and Jesus told him that if he (and anyone else) desires a relationship with God, they need to experience the new spiritual birth.
-So, my goal is today to lead unbelievers to the new spiritual birth in Jesus Christ, and also to lead believers to live like they have experienced the new birth.
John 3:1–15 ESV
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.” 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. 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.

I) Sincere religion is not the same as spiritual renewal (vv. 1-3)

-Nicodemus, a Pharisee who sat on the ruling council of the Jews (the Sanhedrin) came to Jesus at night, at a time when He could probably talk to Jesus without a lot of interruptions.
-He shows Jesus respect and courtesy which is an unexpected for someone like Nicodemus considering that Jesus never had any rabbinic training or went to any sort of rabbinic schooling. But instead of looking down on Jesus as someone inferior, Nicodemus recognizes that God has been working through Jesus’ ministry since Jesus did amazing signs and miracles that no one could do without God working through Him.
-Nicodemus wanted to see what Jesus was all about, and sincerely wanted to know the truth. However, Nicodemus started out with a wrong idea about how one is able to approach God, and he started out with a wrong idea about who Jesus actually is.
-Nicodemus refers to Jesus as TEACHER, which is not bad in and of itself, because Jesus did teach. The only problem is that Nicodemus’ concept of Jesus was deficient. As far as Nicodemus was concerned, Jesus was nothing more than another teacher to point people on a possible path of living. Nicodemus was sincere in his desire for truth and living for God, but he was sincerely wrong in how to go about it and sincerely wrong about who Jesus was.
-So Jesus cuts to the chase and tells Nicodemus what he needs to hear considering his sincere religion was taking him down the wrong path. Jesus tells him that unless someone is born again they cannot see the kingdom of God.
-The used for “again” can also mean “from above,” so Jesus might be saying you have to be born again, or he might be saying you have to be born from above. The apostle John sometimes likes to use words with dual meanings to convey a full richness for what he is trying to say.—so he was probably conveying both ideas—you need to be born again from above
-We all know that people are physically born—we established that earlier. But all people who are physically born (other than Jesus) are born with a sin nature that separates them from God. So one’s physical birth puts them in a state of separation from God because the sin nature was passed down to them.
-So in order to be in a right relationship with God, someone needs to be born again—meaning they need another birth that is a spiritual birth. But this spiritual birth does not come from anything on the earth, it comes from above, out of heaven from God.
-And this was explained earlier in John when in the prologue he said:
12 But to all who did receive him [that is, all who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (Jn. 1:12-13 ESV)
-This spiritual birth that renews and gives life to the spirit only comes when you trust Jesus as the Messiah who died on the cross and rose again.
-Now, there are a lot of people who have deficient ideas of who Jesus is, and deficient ideas about how to get to heaven. Some think that Jesus was a wise man or great prophet. Some people think that church attendance, mystical experiences, certain rituals and prayers, and other religious activity are a means of ingratiating themselves to God.
-These people are sincere in their beliefs—they really are trying their best to do right. The only problem is that they are sincerely wrong.----It’s like if I were to find a jar that is clearly labeled CAUSTIC POISON. But I sincerely believe that the poison won’t hurt me so I drink it anyway—I was very sincere in my belief, but I was sincerely wrong and I died for it.
-People are sincerely wrong if they think that they can have a right religion without a spiritual renewal through a new birth experience by trusting in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in Scripture. Unless you are born again, you will not see the kingdom of God.
-There have been innumerable people through the centuries who were sincere, church-going folks who did religious things and tried to do nice things, but they never were born again and went into a Christless eternity.
-There have been millions of sincere worshippers of other faiths who sincerely held to the beliefs of their faith (be it a form of Buddhism, Hinduism, folk religion, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) and sincerely thought they were going to be right with their god, but they were sincerely wrong.
-Don’t let that be you. It doesn’t matter how sincerely you believe in something, if you believe in the wrong thing you are still wrong. You need a spiritual renewal through a new birth in Jesus Christ.

II) There is an internal transformation that leads to an external manifestation (vv. 4-8)

-Nicodemus doesn’t really get what Jesus is saying. He can’t imagine someone being born a second time—but Jesus is obviously not speaking about another physical birth.
-So Jesus puts it another way: to be born again is to be born of water and Spirit—which some people might think (OH, THAT REALLY CLEARS THINGS UP)
-Now, to make it clear, the reference to water does NOT refer to baptism. In no way, shape, or form is Jesus saying you have to be baptized to be saved or be baptized to receive the spiritual birth. The baptism, like we had today, is an outward symbol that someone has been spiritually born again.
-Instead, water and Spirit here refers to the inner cleansing done by the Holy Spirit within a person who has been born again.
-What occurs in a spiritual birth was foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, where God said through him in Ezekiel 36:25-27
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. (Ezek. 36:25-27 ESV)
-The spiritual birth that Jesus speaks about, and that Ezekiel prophesied about, is an internal transformation brought about within a person by the Holy Spirit.
-When someone receives the spiritual birth, they are completely cleansed of all their sins, they are given a new heart that reflects the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit indwells us to empower us to walk according to God’s Word.
-Going through religious motions does not change a person—but when you believe in Jesus Christ to be saved you are spiritually reborn and you are transformed from the inside out.
-Trying to change from the outside in does not work. Trying to do things in the weak flesh just leads to more weak flesh. Trying to muster up enough strength to change your heart and spirit does not work. God has to do the work inside of you, and you are transformed—meaning you are changed. If you claim to be Christian and have never been changed, then you are not a Christian. Not that you are perfect, but you are different from what you were before.
-But even though it is an inner transformation does not mean that what you do on the outside isn’t made different. The internal transformation of the new birth brings forth an external manifestation, such that the new life you have within you can’t help but bubble up inside of you and work its way out into your life.
-So, people may not be able to literally see the change made in you on the inside, but it is going to manifest itself on the outside.
-Jesus uses the picture of the wind. Nobody can literally see wind. You can’t see wind. But you can see the effects of wind. You can feel it on your cheek, you can see the branches in a tree sway back and forth, etc.—but those are the effects, that isn’t the actual wind.
-So it is with someone who is born again. The Holy Spirit does His work within you and changes you, and no one can see what goes on inside of you, but it leads to your life being different, reflecting the life of Christ.
-If you have not had an internal transformation that then led to a different way of living, you must ask yourself if you have had a spiritual birth

III) Earthly mindsets cannot grasp heavenly truths (vv. 9-15)

-Nicodemus still doesn’t get it (he’s a little slow on the uptake like we are quite often)—and Jesus chides him for it—Nicodemus who teaches others about God doesn’t understand the ways of God himself.
-Jesus asks him that if he doesn’t understand how God does things on the earth, how can he understand the higher truths of God?
-Nicodemus lives in the flesh, so he is thinking in the flesh—his mindset is set on earthly, fleshly, worldly things—you cannot understand the truths of God when you merely think humanly.
-The wisdom of God doesn’t make sense to someone who is relying on the wisdom of man—so much so that God had to descend from heaven to earth to reveal Himself otherwise mankind would have been completely in the dark.
-Jesus tells Nicodemus that no man can ascend to heaven to receive heavenly truths, but God descended from heaven to reveal them—but these heavenly truths are not apprehended by someone who is still in the flesh (that is, still in their sinful nature).
-After someone is born again, they then have the ability to seek out and understand heavenly truths, but even then they have to put the effort into grasping them.
-So, even the plan of redemption makes no sense to people whose minds are not heavenly. Jesus explained that the truth of God is that just like in Numbers chapter 21 when Moses raised an image of a serpent on a pole so that those who were bitten by poisonous snakes in would look to it to be saved from the snakebite, so too the Son of Man would be lifted up on a cross where He who knew no sin would be made sin for us and anyone who looks to Him for deliverance would receive eternal life.
-For those whose minds are worldly, that makes no sense whatsoever. Even Paul warned:
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18 ESV)
-You need to stop using human wisdom and open yourself up to what God has done in Jesus Christ—receive the new spiritual birth and be saved.
-But the funny thing is, even after someone receives spiritual birth, they can revert back to old ways and still think earthly, fleshly things, using human wisdom instead of relying on God’s wisdom—making decisions in the flesh and not the spirit.
-Paul warns us: seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col. 3:1-2 ESV)
-Nicodemus missed out (at least in this passage) because he had an earthly mindset that used human wisdom. You must set aside human wisdom and rely on God’s revealed wisdom which points to a crucified, but then risen Savior, who empowers you to do things God’s way, not in your own way.
-So after receiving the spiritual birth, know His Word, rely on His wisdom, don’t lean on your own understanding, in all you ways acknowledge Him, and then He will direct you on your path.


-If you have never been born again—if you have never trusted in Jesus Christ…
-Christian, maybe you’ve relied on your own wisdom for too long, or your new birth is not showing itself in your life…
-Maybe you are looking to serve in a church that preaches and teaches spiritual life coming through Christ, and you want to grow in knowing Him…
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