Sunday, March 8, 2009

Born Again – Jesus and Nicodemus

John 3

 1 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 and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

[Nicodemus was a religious man, a teacher of the law, a member of the ruling council. Well known, respected, the like of guy people could look up to. But Jesus had stirred up something within him, and he wanted to meet Jesus personally. So under cover of night Nicodemus makes his way to the place Jesus was and starts a conversation very respectfully, even honoring Jesus calling him Rabbi and expressing a belief that Jesus was sent from God, and just when he is about to start asking questions (everyone who calls Jesus "teacher" would follow with a question), Jesus interrupts. Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again to see the kingdom of God. You see, despite all his religious status he was still spiritually dead; a son of Adam, a child of the fall. ]

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, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

[ Understandably, Nicodemus is startled by the idea of the new birth. He is a grown man and mother if she is still living, is likely long past child bearing age. So physically speaking being born again sounds impossible. But Jesus was referring to the spirit not the body. Some take the phrase "born of water" to mean baptism, but Jesus is creating a contrast. The mother's water is the amniotic fluid that protects the child and must be spilled before the baby is delivered. This Nicodemus had already experienced, what he lacked was a spiritual birth. ]

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 the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"
10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.

[ Child-birth is a traumatic event, So is the new birth. It's a change of heart, soul and spirit that restores man to a right relationship with God. Yet because it is spiritual there is no physical change. Like the wind you cannot see a spiritual change, but you can see it's effect. ]

[ As Jesus followed the preaching of John the Baptist he mostly used the same message "repent" you're not ready for God the way you are.

Mark 1: 14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom[e] of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Gospel means good news, the Greek word is euaggelizo (yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo), and it's where we get the word "evangelize" to spread good news. The Greek word for repent is metaneo, it means reconsider or re-evaluate. Think of it as that Dr. Phil moment when someone is making their excuse for why it's not their fault that their life is so messed up, and Dr. Phil says "How's that working out for you", and they realize it's not. The best example of repentance in scripture is in Luke 18 where Jesus told about the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and the Pharisee thanked God he was not like the tax collector.

Luke 18: 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

It's amazing how many people approached Jesus crying "have mercy". The repentant soul asks for mercy realizing they have nothing worthy of God. Repentance less a decision to change, or even feeling regret or sorrow, than it is a surrender of the will. "Lord I give up. I've got nothing left. I surrender." You see why "I surrender All" is such a popular invitation hymn?]

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.[a]
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but[b] have eternal life.

[ In Exodus many were bitten by venomous snakes called "fiery serpents" God told Moses to put a snake on a staff and hold it up and that those who looked at the staff would recover. Jesus foretold his own death on the cross, the he would be lifted up for the salvation of man. ]

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

[ This is the most well know verse in the Bible. And that's good because people know of God's love, his gift and eternal life. But it's also bad because people see the word "believe" and think they can "decide" to be saved. But they can't. The Greek word for believe is pisteuo (pist-yoo'-o) it means to commit, to trust. James refuted intellectual belief:

James 2: 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

Romans 10:9 says you must "believe in your heart", not your mind. The best analogy I can think of for pisteuo is repelling down a cliff. Surrender to gravity, trust the rope.]

17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, [(but sneaks around in the dark Nicodemus), I know, it's not in the bible but it fits] lest his deeds should be exposed. 21
But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

[Ephesians 2: 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

So when we repent (surrender to God's grace), and believe (commit to faith or trust that only Jesus can save us), then God shows us mercy when we are born again. Our spirit is made alive and we are, only then, capable of good works.

II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Romans 12: 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Philippians 2: 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

Romans 14:23 … for whatever is not from faith is sin

I Thessalonians 5: 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

So renewing our mind to think like Jesus, walk by faith, and avoid quenching the spirit is the job of every believer. This is how we keep our first love and obey the two great commandments.]

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