John 3:1-21

 

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus saith unto 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, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it lusteth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.  Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?  Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know and testify that we have seen: and ye receive not our witness.  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?  And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God”  (John 3:1-21).  [Wow!  Jesus just preached the whole gospel of salvation to Nicodemus in practically one breath!  This is what salvation is all about, folks.  You that are born-again believers, reread that again, and meditate on the spiritual process Jesus just described to Nicodemus.]

 

“Let’s turn in our Bibles to John chapter 3.  This particular text, there’s been some tremendous sermon preached.  Of course, John chapter 3, verse 16 is a Scripture posted everywhere, billboards in football games and baseball games.  So this is the text that we find ourselves in this morning….Let’s say a word of prayer, and we’ll then consider this man Nicodemus.  ‘Lord, we thank you that we can be here together this morning, and that we can study your Word together, and that we can consider these truths.  Some of these things, in a man’s eyes, in our human reasoning we can’t understand these things.  But by you Holy Spirit, by illuminating and giving light, we can then understand.  So I ask Holy Spirit that you’d be upon all of us, and indeed even now you’d draw hearts to you.  And even some if they’re here without Christ, would even make a decision for Christ, maybe even some listening in through the radio [or reading this on this website].  So we ask you this, Lord, I ask that you’d be upon all of us, and Holy Spirit that you’d even be upon me now as I just read and share your Word, in Jesus name, Amen.’

 

Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night

 

Well, starting with verse 1 of John chapter 3,  “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 and said to him, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (verses 1-3).  So, John introduces us to Nicodemus.  [Comment: “Nicodemus, a member of the high priest’s council, and belonging to one of Jerusalem’s most aristocratic families, the ben Gurions, probably became a member of the Jerusalem [Messianic Jewish] community.”  We Have Found The MESSIAH!, p. 27.  Interesting, David ben Gurion was one of the “founding fathers” and first leader of the modern State of Israel in 1948.  Coincidence?  Interesting family tree.]  Nicodemus, this man is a Jew, so not only is he a Jew, we’re also told he is a Pharisee, one of these religious elite, one of these religious leaders.  There were 6,000 Pharisees, these men dedicated themselves to following the Law of God.  They understand that the first five books of the Bible were the Law, were inspired by God, and they devoted their lives to follow the Word of God.  In fact, there were scribes that wrote interpretations of the Law, the Mishnah and interpretations of that, the Talmud, and there were pages upon pages teaching you how to follow, how to obey the Law of God.  So the Ten Commandments, thou shalt rest on the Sabbath, and obey the Sabbath.  These religious leaders tried to interpret what that meant, they had chapter upon chapter, this is how you fulfill that one command of God.  So he was a Pharisee, he was a man that was zealous, was determined to fulfill, to obey the Word of God.  We’re also told that he was a ruler of the Jews.  That means he was even more significant in the sense that he was one of the Sanhedrin, this ruling council, essentially the Supreme Court for the nation of Israel.  This man was a radical man, this man was seen by others as a man that was very devout, very religious.  We also know later, as we get to John chapter 19 that he was, at least he appears to be wealthy, because he shows up at the burial of Jesus, to help prepare the body of Jesus, with some very expensive mixture aloe and myrrh, about 100 pounds worth, something that would be very costly.  So this man is also a wealthy man.  So you consider the life of Nicodemus, if it were possible for a man to stand before God on his own merit, if it were possible for any individual to stand before God on his own doings, his own righteousness, here is a man that you could say that could be a good candidate for that, a man that could potentially, at least if it were possible could receive favor from God by his life, by what he sought to do.  But as we go on, very clearly, it is impossible for man to do that, even Nicodemus, as we see in those verses, it wasn’t possible for him to stand before God.  He was one of God’s elect people under the Old Covenant, he was zealously religious, he was a prominent religious leader, certainly a good man.  But even with that, we’ll see that’s not good enough.  And for all of us, it’s not good enough to be religious.  That just doesn’t do it.  It isn’t good enough.  It’s not good enough to be a good man or a good woman, it’s not even good enough to painstakingly seek to live a perfect life, to work with all your efforts, to do, to be a law-abiding citizen, and law-abiding in the eyes of God.  That’s not good enough.  Those things aren’t good enough.  We’re told that Nicodemus, it says that he came by night.  Some people, as they read that event, say ‘well, he came by night, a religious leader.’  As we go on Jesus grows less and less popular with the religious leaders.  He’s significant among them, so maybe he’s come at night so others don’t know, to conceal his meeting with Jesus.  But it’s also possible, you know, this is the time of the Passover, this man is very busy during the daytime, he’s a teacher.  So during the Passover he would be teaching, he would be ministering many, many hours during the week.  So it’s possible that this is the time he gets a break.  And of course, a lot of meetings would take place in the early evening, it was cooler.  So, there on the roofs in that culture they would have places where they would meet.  So it’s also probably more likely that he’s come at a time that’s really convenient, rather than trying to conceal his meeting with Jesus.  But Nicodemus comes to Jesus, and he says to Jesus there in verse 2, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a man, that you are a teacher that is come from God.  No one could possibly do the things that you do, these miraculous signs, these miracles, nobody could do them unless God was with him, unless God was working through him.  We (meaning myself, a Pharisee, other religious leaders, he’s saying), we know that you’ve come from God.’  So he confesses that, ‘Yea, I believe that you’re ministering under the power of God, God is with you.’  He’s heard about Jesus’ miracles, maybe he’s seen some of Jesus’ miracles.  So there’s no doubt in his mind that this man is from God, he’s a teacher from God, he’s maybe even a Prophet in the eyes of Nicodemus, and he’s a miracle-worker.

 

“You must be born again to see the kingdom of God”

 

But as you go on, as you see, that’s not enough either.  Being a religious man isn’t the basis for me to stand before God and find favor with God.  But also believing that Jesus is a great teacher isn’t enough.  Or believing that Jesus is a great man and a good man isn’t enough, or a great Prophet or religious leader.  Even believing that Jesus is God, God the Son isn’t enough.  We’re told in the Scriptures that even the demons know who Jesus is, and they shudder [see James 2].  And of course, demons aren’t going to be standing in heaven with God.  So this is not enough as you see as we go on.  It’s not enough for man to stand before a Holy God on his own merit and find favor with God.  All these things together won’t give you access to heaven.  So then the question, what does it take to get to heaven [gain access into the kingdom of God, as Jesus words it here, and in reality, that’s what it means]?  What does it take for you and I to have a right standing with God?  Look at Jesus’ reply.  “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly this is the truth.  I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (verse 3)  Now it’s interesting, Nicodemus doesn’t ask him any question that would bring that response.  It seems that Jesus just goes for the heart of the matter.  Just like Al Serino with this lady, Pam, she came in and made a comment.  He discerned, this lady has a heart right now, she’s open, she’s ready for Christ.  Jesus in the same way, he discerns Nicodemus’ heart, and it doesn’t even seem to relate to what Nicodemus says, but he comes out and he says ‘Here’s the deal.’  A religious leader, a man that has all that standing, works so hard, so zealous, so painstakingly to have a good standing before God, and Jesus comes out and says “Unless a man is born again he will not see the kingdom of God.”  The only way a person can see the kingdom of God [or even gain spiritual comprehension, cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11-13] is that he is born again.  And if you can’t see it, then you can say that you can’t be in it, because how can you be in the kingdom of God if you can’t see it.  [There are two levels of being ‘in the kingdom of God’.  One is to have spiritual comprehension by being ‘born again’, as Jesus is bringing out here.  Then ultimately, in the resurrection to immortality (1 Cor. 15:49-56) believers will actually physically enter into the kingdom of God, as spirit-beings, like the holy angels, but on a higher plane, as Hebrews brings out.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/mkg1.htm.]  You can’t see it unless you are born again.  In fact, Jesus will say, another time, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you’ll by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  So he says, these guys, these religious zealots, unless your righteousness exceeds theirs, these guys that are so devoted, you’ll by no means enter the kingdom of God.  The words of Jesus are very clear, you can never, ever, ever, ever enter the kingdom of God by your own merits.  You can never, ever, enter the kingdom of God by being religious, no matter how dignified you think you are, no matter how many good things you think you’ve done.  You can never earn God’s favor by what you do.  And even believing nice things about Jesus, even recognizing his greatness and his goodness is still not enough.  I mean, there are a lot of people that say ‘Yea, he’s a great teacher, man, what a guy.  Man, he’s effected history, he’s had an effect on understanding in lots of societies.’  People will even acknowledge that [See Bruce Barton’s book, “The Man Nobody Knows”].  But that’s still not enough.  In fact, attending church, doing Bible study, praying, reading the Bible, even that isn’t going to gain you access to the kingdom of God.  As Jesus said, there’s only one way.  You have to be born again, period.  That’s the teaching of Jesus himself, God the Son, the Son of God.  This is the only way to see the kingdom of God, this is the only way, to be born again.  Now when he says the ‘kingdom of God’, as we’ll go on in the Gospels, you see the kingdom of God obviously in the future, heaven [he says heaven, but in reality, Jesus brings that ‘kingdom of God’ with him at his second coming, when he returns to establish the kingdom of God physically on earth, cf. Zechariah 14.  See again http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/mkg1.htm.], the kingdom of God also is present.  Wherever Jesus is ruling and reigning [i.e. within a person’s heart], that technically is the kingdom of God.  So we’ll see in other parts of the Gospels that when the Holy Spirit enters a person’s heart, the kingdom of God is there.  So the kingdom of God for Christians and Messianic believers in Yeshua is also here and now, in our midst, in our hearts, but also completely fulfilled in the future….So when he says ‘seeing the kingdom of God’ it means all of that, when he uses that term.  [And in reality, once the plan of God is wrapped up and completed for mankind, and the heavens and earth have been recreated, Revelation 21:1-17 show us that God the Father’s actual throne, now within the New Jerusalem, comes down from heaven and resides over the area that is modern-day Israel, so that God the Father along with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, will reside on earth with resurrected immortal mankind, on earth.  That’s the actual literal truth about heaven, it’s coming to earth!  Earth is special to God, very special.]  So, the question then to you this morning, are you born again?  Are you born again?  That is the most important question that you could ever ask.  Am I born again?  Jesus says if you’re not born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.  You cannot see the kingdom of God.  That is the only way.

 

How is one born again?

 

So maybe then you ask, ‘What does it mean to be born again?’  Verses 4-8, “Nicodemus says 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, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of water and of 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 can hear the sound it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes.  So ever everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”  Nicodemus had the same question, ‘What does it mean to be born again?  He’s got a mental picture going on here, he is not understanding, he’s missing the point.  He’s kind of stuck with this one.  ‘You know, wait a minute.  How can an adult male, how can I….’  You know, my wife, she had three children, and I watched.  And she was thankful, I’ll tell you, that our babies weighted all around seven pounds, and they weren’t anymore.  You know, she was glad she didn’t have any of those big babies, some of you ladies have had big babies, and she was thankful she didn’t.  But a male, a grown male, Nicodemus saying ‘How could he go back into the mother’s womb?  How can he come out?  That just doesn’t work.’  He’s kind of stuck on that one.  He’s missing a spiritual truth, so he has these strange images in his mind.  But Jesus says to him, ‘Most assuredly, this is the deal, I say to you unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’  Born again, born of the water and born of the Spirit.  What does that mean?  What is he saying when he says ‘born of the water and born of the Spirit’?  What exactly does that mean?  Now let’s kind of take this in part.  Born of water.  What does he mean “born of water”?  There are different theories.  You may have a different theory than I do.  There are those that believe, when he says ‘born of water’ he’s referring to the water of baptism.  There are those that when it says ‘born of water’ there, they believe it’s the Word of God.  Certainly we have even in 1st Peter, we studied it not long ago, Peter wrote “having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible seed, through the Word of God, which lives and abides forever.”  So, the Word represented in the water.  That’s a second theory.  The third theory is it refers to physical birth, just as in the birthing process, there’s water, when the mom’s water breaks, you know it’s time.  And the water is associated with the birthing process.  Personally, I personally believe it’s the third, the physical birth.  And the reason why I believe that is because of the following verse, although there are others that have different opinions, and that’s fine too.  But I lean more towards that of physical birth.  Although it is true that the Word of God, when I hear the Word of God, and I receive it in faith, and I then turn to God, I mean, that plays a big part of my salvation experience.  When Peter says ‘You were born through the Word of God’, that is a true statement.  And also when I am born-again, it is important that I need to be baptized.  We’re having a baptism again in a week.  [Comment:  The early Church in Jerusalem and throughout Judea during the time of the Book of Acts baptized as a way of receiving the Holy Spirit, even though God actually gave the Holy Spirit before the baptism of Cornelius.  But the norm back then was to attempt to repent of any known outward sins, and then be baptized, and then the Holy Spirit would come on that believer.  I personally believe the Holy Spirit actually comes on people a bit ahead of baptism, for those who use this older method of receiving Jesus into your heart and life.  The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ.  This particular denomination as well as many others believe all that is necessary is to ask Jesus in your life, and he then places the Holy Spirit within you.  Then they recommend you get baptized.  Both methods work, as I have witnessed the changed lives in people that employ either method.  The Sabbatarian Churches of God follow the old Judeo-Christian method of baptism first, as their way of asking Jesus into their lives.  It is the apostolic way, and not wrong at all.  But you see in Acts 10 and 11, Cornelius actually received the Holy Spirit ahead of his baptism.]  And a few people are going to be baptized.  It’s very important.  Jesus said “Believe and be baptized”, the two are very closely associated throughout the Gospel [of John] and the Book of Acts, of being saved and then being baptized [and as I pointed out, baptism usually occurred first, as their way of asking Jesus into their lives and the placing of the Holy Spirit within the one asking].  It is important.  Although, for those who believe the water refers to baptism, it certainly does not mean that it is essential to salvation.  [but those groups that do this, do believe it is essential to salvation, and we must respect their beliefs.]  There are some that will take that and say “You must be born of water, you must be baptized, or you cannot be saved.”  And that’s inconsistent with other teachings in the New Testament.  So that isn’t a possibility.  It’s through faith and faith alone, faith in Jesus Christ, that a man is saved.  [and that faith comes from God, the saving faith.  We don’t ‘work it up’.]   So I see it as physical birth.  [the early church probably saw it the other way, but the example of Cornelius shows us that baptism is not essential to salvation.]  That seems clear to me, because verse 6, he says “that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  So continuing the thought, equating the two, to be born of the flesh, born of the water, you have the Spirit in verse 5 and the Spirit in verse 6, equating the two.  So it seems to me, in my reasoning, he’s referring to physical birth.  You need to be physically born first time, as we all are, we all qualify for that this morning, but then there’s born again, the second, the spiritual birth.  No matter how you take those verses we all have to agree that to be born again is a spiritual birth.  That is very clear in all the teaching of the Scripture.  [cf. Romans 8:9, 15-16, “….]  We can all agree on that.  It’s a spiritual rebirth.  In fact, turn to Ephesians chapter 2, and let’s read Paul’s words there.  Ephesians, if you’re not sure where that is, you’re in the book of John, turn back toward the end of the Bible about halfway between where we are and the end is the book of Ephesians.  Ephesians chapter 2, being born again is a spiritual birth, this rebirth, this new birth.  Ephesians 2 Paul says “And you he made alive who were dead in trespass and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all had once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as others” (verses 1-3).  Paul describes our nature before Christ in these verses.  And what does he say at the very beginning there, he says that before Christ, I was dead, dead in my trespasses and sins, dead.  No spiritual life.  Then he says at the end of verse 3, by nature we were children of wrath.  By nature because of our sin, the sins we have committed we were under the judgment of God, the wrath of God.  And the Bible makes it clear that we are all sinners, and therefore before Christ, without Christ, we are all in that state.  But then as Paul explains in verse 1, he says ‘But a man or woman is made alive through Christ.’  When Jesus comes, enters their life, they’re made alive.  Before Christ they are dead spiritually.  They can hear things about God and it doesn’t excite them, doesn’t mean anything.  They can hear things about the Scripture, it just doesn’t connect.  They are dead spiritually.  Their spirit is not made alive.  But when Jesus enters them there is a tremendous transformation that takes place.  Their spirit is now made alive [spiritually speaking.  See Romans 8:1-16, 1 Corinthians 2:11-13].  There’s a spiritual birth.  They’re now a spiritual person, there’s a connection with God, there’s passion for God, there’s this ability to hear the voice of God, but also to commune with God.  That is to be made spiritually alive.  And that’s what Jesus is referring to in John chapter 3, and that’s what Paul’s referring to in Ephesians.  [Read a couple verses further in Ephesians, verses 4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)….”]  So back in John chapter 3, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit”, a spiritual rebirth, a spiritual birth is essential.  You know, our physical bodies were clearly designed for the environment that we’re in here on earth.  You know, the temperature range, we can only exist in a certain temperature range [a very narrow one, when you take in the wide range of temperatures in the universe outside earth].  We can only exist with a certain percentage of oxygen.  You start changing gravity and all that, we’d be in dire straits.  I can’t exist on the moon without special equipment, I can’t certainly exist on the sun.  I was designed, my body, your body, we’re designed for this place.  [And what a design that is.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/dinosaurs/molecularmachines.htm.]  And likewise, where God is, there has to be a transformation within me, from me to go from where I am to be where God is, a holy and perfect God.  There’s a spiritual transformation that has to take place.  It’s a radical transformation, and it is absolutely essential.

 

“You must be born again”

 

So verse 7, in John chapter 3, Jesus says “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”  He uses the word must.  What does it mean when you use the word “must”?  It means you must.  You must be born again, no exceptions, at all.  In order for somebody to inherit the kingdom of God, to see the kingdom of God, they must be born again.  You know George Whitfield was asked, ‘Why do you always preach about being born again?’  His response, “Why do I preach ‘You must be born again’?” said Whitfield.  “Because you must be born again!”  [laughter]  It’s that easy.  That’s what the Bible teaches.  You must, you must.  If you’re here today without Jesus Christ in your heart [Yeshua haMeshiach for those of you who are Jewish], if you’re here today and you cannot say you’re born again, you must be born again to inherit the kingdom of God.  It’s that simple.  That’s what Jesus said.  Those aren’t my words.  These words were written thousands of years ago.  This is the teaching of Jesus Christ.  What does it mean to you?  Are you born again?  Are you born again?  If you’re not born again, understand what Paul says in Ephesians, you are children of wrath.  You are children of wrath, you are under the judgment of God because of your sin.  That’s the teaching of the Bible.  [It also means, since it mentions the prince of the power of the air, Satan, the term “children of wrath” also refers, and I think it more directly refers to ‘those children of wrath’ being the spiritual children of Satan, from whence the attitude of wrath comes.] 

 

Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not real

 

Now Jesus says, ‘Don’t marvel at that.’  Don’t say, ‘That’s surprising.’  Because he continues to say, maybe you don’t understand it.  [Saying this to Nicodemus]  Maybe you can’t see the Spirit, maybe you’re like a Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan says “I’ll believe in God when I see him.”  Well that’s foolish.  Because there’s plenty of evidence in the existence of God.  And you say you got to see him to believe?  That’s really foolishness, and Jesus addresses that, and he says “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (verse 8).  Maybe you don’t see the wind, but you certainly believe in the wind.  I was out striper fishing a few weeks ago, somebody in our church took my son and I.  So I was excited, my son could catch these big fish, he’s kind of into those kind of things.  So I was excited.  We went out to the Merrimac River, got really sunburned, you may have noticed, a couple weeks back.  But anyway, we were fishing, and I’ve got a big head, I can’t where baseball caps, they look silly on me.  But I had gotten one cap that looked cool, and it just seemed to work with my head, at least I thought so.  My wife told me later it didn’t.  [loud laughter]  She confessed that to me later.  But I thought it was cool.  My only hat that I’d ever wear, my favorite hat.  Well we were out striper fishing, you know, you’re out there on a little boat on the Merrimac River.  So it’s windy, and I know to keep my head down so it won’t blow off, and my son and I, we got hats on.  But anyway towards the end, I did good keeping it on, we’d drive around a bit in the boat, and it’d get windy, and it would stay on.  But at one point, we’re getting ready to leave, I got to pull up the anchor, I pull up the anchor, and it’s at that point where a lot of boats are going by, so now the boat is rocking all over, and I’m trying to get the anchor, so don’t you know, just the right way that I tilted my head at the right time, whew!, there goes my hat, right off my head.  Right?  Out into the deep blue.  We went looking for it, and we couldn’t find it, it was gone, and I was bumming.  But the wind was real.  I mean, I can’t deny the wind.  It took my hat off my head.  I didn’t see the wind, but it was very real, because it took my hat off my head.  It’s the same with God.  The Bible teaches that men deny God not because there’s no evidence.  They deny because they desire in their heart to do something else.  They willfully deny God.  That is the only reason.  [here is where I disagree somewhat.  You saw how non-believers are described as being spiritually dead, and also as being under the influence of Satan.  Well, Satan, as Revelation 12:9 says, has the whole world deceived.  Also, when someone is not born again, they are spiritually blind to spiritual truth, the truth of the Bible.  They cannot understand spiritual concepts and spiritual knowledge.  Unless God starts drawing a person, helping a person by starting to work with that person through the Holy Spirit, that person will remain spiritually blinded and ignorant.  This is also a Bible truth.]  It isn’t because of evidence, look around.  There’s plenty of evidence that there’s an intelligent and awesome God, whose even ordained and designed your life.  That’s the clear teaching of the Scripture.  In the same way, we can’t see the Spirit, just as we can’t see the wind.  But we can see its evidence, it’s validated. [The Bible indicates there is a human spirit within each person, which gives each of us our normal physical intelligence, far superior to any animal intelligence.  Paul takes of this in 1 Corinthians 2:11-13.  This same human spirit intertwines or combines with God’s Holy Spirit upon this spiritual rebirth.  Paul shows this in Romans 8:15-16 when he says “Our spirit bears witness with his Spirit, that we are the children of God.”  Our human spirit’s are also invisible.  Ecclesiastes says that humans have human spirits, called the ‘spirit of man’, and animals have a spirit coupled to their brains as well, helping to give them animal intelligence.  So this spiritual birthing process is where God places some of his Holy Spirit within our human spirit, which grants us spiritual life, called by Jesus here being “born again”.]  God’s existence is validated because of the evidence.  And thinking of the Spirit and being born again, you can say ‘Well, I don’t see it, I don’t understand, I don’t comprehend’, but the reality is there.  Just a few Wednesday nights ago there was a lady who came up from Florida, and she was visiting here with a man, he’s up in Bangor and she’s down in Florida, and they just happened to meet here on their way going somewhere else, old friends.  And I got talking to her, and she hadn’t been in church in years, but she was now curious and was interested in God.  Well her friend, Tony, she was with on this Wednesday night, he went to Calvary Chapel Springfield, MA.  This young man was a tremendous drug addict, alcoholic, this man had lived a lousy life, and made life miserable for others around him, his family, just deep into the pit of addiction, been to the Springfield rescue mission, been to different things, and continuing to go back into that lifestyle.  Well, he started to attend Calvary Chapel [affiliated with Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa] and Calvary Chapel learned about the situation, and they sent him up to U-Turn in Maine.  Well that guy began to go through a process, he received Christ, he began to change so much so that his old friend down in Florida said ‘Something’s going on in your life.’  In fact, after a number of months he began to lead the program in Maine….went up there, got right with the Lord, now he’s a different man, gonna be getting married, on and on, so many testimonies.  You can say ‘I don’t see the Spirit’, I can’t see a light or a glow come over them, but there is all the evidence.  [The angels and demons can see the light of God’s Holy Spirit within a believer.  And Jesus himself when he was a physical man in Judea, the demons immediately knew who he was, must have been glowing brightly.  But ordinary humans couldn’t tell who he was.  John the Baptist had to have it pointed out to him by a miracle.]  Something supernatural is going on, something.  Doesn’t mean their perfect, that’s for sure.  But there’s a work, and the evidence validates that.  As Jesus says, you can’t see the wind, but don’t tell me the wind doesn’t exist.  In the same way, spiritual rebirth, you might not be able to see it with your eyes, but don’t say it doesn’t exist, because the evidence is clear.

 

“You’re a teacher of Israel, and you don’t understand this?”

 

Verses 9-21 “Nicodemus answered and said to him, ‘How can these things be?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and you don’t know these things?’”  [Switching to King James Version due to tape switchover which lost some of the transcript]  “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen: and ye receive not our witness.  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?  And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up,”  [normal transcript resumes]  “that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  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.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.  He who believes in him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he’s not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may  be clearly seen that they’ve been done in God.”  Well, Nicodemus says ‘How can these things be?  You’re saying these things, I don’t comprehend, I don’t understand.’  And then Jesus responds and really sort of pokes at him, he says, ‘Man, you’re the teacher, you’re part of the Sanhedrin, you’re one of the elite, that’s your position, to be a spiritual overseer, to be one of these spiritual know-it-alls in the nation of Israel.  And you’re telling me you don’t understand this?  There’s something not right here.’  He says, ‘but we, we’ referring to John the Baptist, referring to Jesus, referring to all the Prophets, “But we,” all the Law, everything written, pointing to Jesus Christ, “but we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen.  But you do not accept our testimony.”  I mean, we know these things, we see these things.  Yet you’re supposed to be a spiritual teacher, and yet you’re not connecting here.’  Then he says in verse 13, “No one has ever gone to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of man.”  Meaning Jesus has a special position, nobody’s ever been to heaven, nobody can accurately tell you or describe to you heaven, other than Jesus himself, and the Holy Spirit then illuminating the truth in a person’s heart, because Jesus has been there [and is there again right now].  He can give accurate details, but not only that, he can give you instructions on how to get there.  That’s the whole point, how to get to heaven.  He can talk about it, because he came from heaven, as God the Son. 

 

The serpent on the pole points to Christ on the Cross

 

Verse 14, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness”---Numbers chapter 21---“even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever”---wherever they live, whatever their name is---“whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”  eternal life.  What does it all mean?  Numbers chapter 21, maybe you remember the passage.  The people of Israel, you know, they were in the wilderness, and they struggled in doing the right thing as examples to us on how to live.  And one thing they struggled with was complaining, and one particular time they began to complain again to Moses, about, ‘You know, this is a bad deal, this whole thing following God, and look what you’ve done in our life, Moses, you’ve ruined our life.’  One of these whole deals, they went through it.  Well God was angry at them for complaining, and he judged them, and how he judged them is he brought these fiery serpents, these vipers, you know these desert vipers came into the camp, and they began to bite people.  You can only imagine, groups of people suddenly scattering, somebody dropping to the ground, a child, an older person, being bit by vipers.  We’re told in Numbers chapter 21 that many of them even died.  And what was the result of that, well, God allowed it to get their attention because of their ugly hearts.  The people of Israel then came to Moses, repentant and broken, and said ‘We are being judged by God because of our own wicked hearts.’  They confessed that.  ‘Do something, help us!  Speak to God, intercede for us.  We need to be delivered from this awful situation that we are in.’  So, what do you do when somebody’s been bitten by a poisonous snake?  Well, when Moses gets instruction from God, he does something very different.  I actually looked in the Encyclopedia, and when somebody’s been bitten by a poisonous snake, I’m glad I read this, this week, I would have gotten the razor blade out and started sucking the poison out, that’s what we see on TV anyway.  But I was reading in the Encyclopedia, first aid for a poisonous bite is this: “Bites inflicted by venomous snakes require immediate first aid measures.  The victim should be taken as soon as possible to the nearest emergency medical facility.  In the interim the first aid provider should not cut the area around the bite, attempt to suck out the venom or apply ice to the wound.”  That’s exactly what I would have done.  The focus of first aid should be to prevent the venom from spreading rapidly through the individual’s bloodstream.  The victim should be kept quiet to avoid stimulating the circulation of the venom.  In addition the bite area should be kept at a lower lever than the rest of the body.  The wound should be washed thoroughly with soap and water and blotted dry and loosely covered with a sterile dressing.”  First aid, somebody’s been bitten by a viper or poisonous snake, you got to do the right thing in order to keep them alive.  I’ve known situations when I worked at Caterpillar in San Diego, somebody died from a rattlesnake bite.  Serious thing.  That’s happened in Numbers 21 to the people of Israel.  But what does God say to Moses?  They come to Moses for help.  God says ‘Take some brass and make a serpent out of brass, and then put it on a pole, and then lift it up.  And tell the people to look upon that brass serpent.’  And those that did, those that in faith---there could have been people going ‘Come on, that’s absolutely ridiculous, come on, suck my blood, cut me with a razor, take me to the medics.’---but those that said ‘All right, God said to do that, so I’ll do that’, and they then looked at that bronze serpent on a pole, it says they were healed.  And this judgment, this plague stopped among the people of Israel.  Now brass is interesting, because brass is a metal in the Scriptures that symbolizes judgment.  A serpent, symbolizes, the Scripture says, typically sin.  So you have this sense that God has passed this judgment, but also God has provided the means for the people to be delivered and be healed from their condition.  Well, with that picture, that truth, all those truths in the Old Testament, pointing to the reality, to the cross of Jesus Christ.  He says ‘even as Moses did that, and that serpent was raised up, even so the Son of man must be lifted up, put up on that cross, nailed to that cross, his blood shed.  Even so, he must do that, and then people who look to him in faith, will also be healed from their condition, that is the condition of the fruit of sin in their life.  Verse 15, “That whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  The cross, it’s all about the cross, it all points to the cross.  We as people are in a desperate state because of our sin, just as those vipers bit those people and they were in a desperate condition, that picturing sin.  We have been bitten by sin, all sin, and the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23].  That’s the teaching of the Bible, the wages of sin, the fruit of sin is death.  [And I would add here, that the annihilation interpretation of what “hell” is, is that those who do not ultimately accept Christ and become born again, do not go to some ever-burning hell-fire, to spend eternity in torturous hell-fire, but that those individuals die in the lake of fire, and from then on lose all consciousness.  Some passages say it will be like they never existed.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/plaintruth/battle.htm.]  There are quite a few interpretations about what hell really is, making this a secondary Bible doctrine.]  A spiritual death.  That’s the curse too on this planet, one day physical death, but even greater the second death, which is to be separated from God eternally, and to be judged by God, to be under his wrath.  But God has provided a remedy, and there’s only one way.  People can try other ways, people can ignore if they want to, they still got the sin in their blood, they’ve still got this nature, and they’re going to pay the price, and the price is death.  It’s killing them, and they’re spiritually dead even now, unless they turn to faith.  Jesus says you must be born again.  What does it mean?  It means to look to Jesus Christ, it’s to look to the cross, and say “I am a sinner, Jesus I see that you’ve paid the penalty for my sin.  I see it, and I believe, and I believe that you came to save me from my sin, so I turn and I look in faith.”  And anybody that does that [and says that with a sincere heart], anybody that does that will be saved.  You know, people around us without Christ are in a desperate condition, and the only way is to turn to Christ.  This week, one of the homeless men came in, and it was neat because this man we’ve ministered to for the last two years, but he’s never been like this, and he came in and he said, ‘Man, I want to change.  I don’t want to live this way anymore.  I’m sick, I need help, I need to change.’  And ultimately he even confessed he needed the help of God.  So we began to work with him.  And that’s what Jesus is saying here, turning.  We all need Christ.  We must be born again. Joseph was told there, “And she will  bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus [in the Hebrew: Yeshua, which means “God saves”], for he will save his people from their sins.”  There’s an old legend told of a traveler who circled the globe on foot, and he went everywhere, and somewhere along the travels as he traveled around this earth, he found himself trapped in the quicksand pit, in desperate need of help.  Well as he slowly sank in the quicksand Confucius came by and said ‘Confucius say it is evident man should avoid such situations’ and he went on his way.  Mohammed came by and said ‘Alas, it is the will of Allah’ as he went on his way.  Buddha came by and said ‘Let this man’s dilemma be an illustration for many’, and he went on his way.   Krishna came by and said ‘Better luck next time’, and he went on his way.  Jesus Christ came by, reached out to the man and pulled him out of the pit.  That’s the gospel.  Other religions don’t do that.  Jesus Christ says ‘You are in that pit’, the Word of God says ‘You’re in that pit.’  You can stay there, but there is a remedy.  You reach out and you take hold of Jesus Christ, you look to him, and you will be saved.  Verses 17-18, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”---But Jesus came to say, “Yea, I’ll pull you out, man, you want be pulled out, I’ll pull you out of your lifestyle, you want to be pulled out of that addiction, you want eternal life, you want hope?  I’ll do it.  Turn to me in faith and repent of your sin.  Accept the work that I’ve done for you.”   

 

God didn’t send his Son to condemn the world, but to save it

 

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.  He who believes in him is not condemned….”  Man the Bible makes that clear, Romans chapter 8, verse 1, it says “There is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ.”  There is no condemnation.  Later in the same chapter “Who is he who condemns?”, meaning a Christian, who can condemn somebody in Christ?  “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, whose even at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.”  With Christ, there’s no condemnation.  “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.”  Just like those Israelites, if they didn’t turn, in their very state [of having been bitten], they were condemned.  They had the poison, they had the curse.  So for those who do not believe, they are condemned already, for the wages of sin is death. 

 

The world in general hates the light

 

And verse 19 says, “And this is the condemnation”---this is the reality of the situation---“that light has come to the world,”---Jesus is the light, he’s come into the world---“but men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.”  That is the reason, it’s not because people can’t see and understand, perceive, it’s because they don’t want to.  They love their deeds, there’s the light, but I want to do my own deal.  [That still doesn’t mean Satan hasn’t deceived the whole world, and a future redemption for the “unsaved dead” will not occur.  Jesus will state later in this Gospel that no man can come to him, Jesus, unless the Father draw him (John 6:44,65).  So there are differing interpretations on this subject.  We’ll most definitely learn more about the truth of this matter after Jesus Christ’s 2nd coming.  But anywhere from 95 to 99 percent of mankind, and I’m a serious history buff, has not responded to Jesus’ call to salvation.  And two-thirds of mankind existed before Jesus arrived on the scene.  One tiny Sabbatarian denomination may hold the key to this mystery, and it is a genuine Scriptural mystery that has baffled theologians for nearly 2,000 years.  To read this explanation log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/destiny/2ndResurrection5.htm.]  You know, when we were in New York City Friday and driving out, we drove through Times Square.  You know, you drive through Times Square, you know, you turn on the TV, in our culture, you pick up a magazine, the world’s going ‘Here it is, Come, come, come, We got this for you, we got that for you, We’ll offer this for you, Come check this out, Come try this out’.  The world, all the time.  You drive through Times Square, that’s like the Mecca of that, you know what I mean?  I mean, buildings, entire buildings that are just going ‘Come, come, come’, neon lights, TV screen, ‘Here it is, all this for you, come and enjoy.’  Right?  The world, and all that neon.  Yet the light, the real light is from Jesus Christ.  But men rather go that way, the other way, rather than turning to Jesus Christ, because their deeds are evil.  “For every one practicing evil hates the light….”---you see that in our world, that’s for sure.  People don’t like to hear about the Gospel message, they don’t like to hear that you need be born again, because they want to do what they want to do [yes, they are willingly deceived.  But they are deceived nonetheless.].  That’s the whole reason.  If you’re here today, and you’re saying ‘I can’t accept Jesus Christ.’  Understand God says ‘I know the reason why.  In your heart you want to do what you want, to continue doing what you’re doing.  You don’t want to change your ways.’  “For everyone practicing evil hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed” (verse 20).  The Bible says the man who covers his sin does not prosper (Proverbs).  “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen that they have been done in God” (verse 21). You know, maybe you’ve been as a Christian trying to invite somebody to church, and you know, they receive it, they seem to be interested, ‘I tell them about Jesus’, and there’s something going on.  But man, when it comes down to Sunday [or Saturday] morning, I call them, they don’t answer the phone, I come by, they’re like ‘Ah, I want to stay home’, there’s this battle going on.  And maybe in some of their cases it’s like ‘Yeah, I here ya, but no, I don’t want to go that way.  I really like what I’m doing.  I really want to continue to do that.’  And there’s this recognition that if they go that way, they have to turn from this way.  And that’s really the battle in many instances, as it says right there.  So that’s a battle to pray about.  “But he who does the truth comes to the light so that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”  I mean, there’s nothing to hide, I can come and stand in the light, because I know there’s sincerity, I’m not perfect, I have my struggles, but I ain’t trying to hide anything from God, and I ain’t trying to hide anything from anybody else.   I come, and I stand, because I’ve sought to live after the Lord….Let’s close in prayer….”[transcript of a sermon given in New England.]   

 

A remarkable phone call from a 12-year old boy to Houston radio station KSBJ FM 89.3.  So profound, the station has it posted on their website.  Click below to listen to it.  It’s short.

 

http://youtube.com/watch?v=zCdZwitrNoY