A MAN CALLED NICODEMUS
John 3: 1- 21
These two words, “Born Again”, have come to be very important for the modern-day Christian who desires to share salvation with his friends. It has become so popular that the non-believing world has borrowed it and changed its original meaning. Although the word must do with change, it is a change that takes place inwardly not outwardly. You hear it used by many to describe somebody's new batting stance or a way of pitching or a style of playing some other type of sport, having nothing to do with the purpose for which Jesus used it. The term "born again" is used so often by Christians that it has become a reason for ridicule. We don't want that so it is necessary at times to describe the new birth in another way. It has lost its significance because of overuse. If that happens we must change our presentation to make our faith easier to understand
The words "you must be born again" were used only one time by Jesus. Nicodemus was a very religious man and a leader of the Pharisees sect of Judaism. He was morally good, well trained in the Jewish religion and a leader, how else could he have been respected and looked up to unless he was a good example. Now the question that arises is, why did he come to Jesus? That is the question of importance.
I. The Dilemma That He Faced
It appears from the total discourse that Nicodemus had been watching Jesus, and John as well and their ministries. He observed and saw something different. He saw in Jesus something more than religion; he saw Him reaching out to people in an unselfish manner and performing many great works. Nicodemus recognized him as a man of God because he reasoned, no one could do the works that He did unless God was present.
There seems to have been a great emptiness in the life of this moral religious person. That brings us to our point on the need for the new birth. Nicodemus knew that something was missing in his life that was present in the life of Jesus, and if we are to conclude anything, we must conclude that it was his empty life and the workings of the Holy Spirit that led Nicodemus to Jesus that day.
II. The Savior That He Sought
We might wonder what Nicodemus expected to happen when he met Jesus? Surely, being born again totally confounded his sense of logic. We know by his questions and statements that he didn't ask Jesus what he meant by that. John, in writing this gospel mentioned at the end that there were many things that Jesus said and did that are not written in this book. So, because it is not stated does not mean that it couldn't happen. What I'm referring to is Jesus answering all questions to help him understand. We know also that Nicodemus, in time, counted the cost and became a follower of Jesus. Somewhere Jesus took the time to help him understand. But for now, when Jesus said to Nicodemus that he must be born again, he was telling him that outward forms of religion couldn't do it. They were merely the best that men could do and they could not satisfy the holiness of God. God demanded perfection and religion fall short of God's requirements. But Jesus was saying that a change from within had to take place and that change could only take place through the operation and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said "that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of spirit is the spirit. Marvel
It is difficult to know everything that Jesus told Nicodemus that day but there are a few verses of the Old Testament that make this matter of being "born again" very clear. In Ezekiel chapter 36:25 -27 we have these very clarifying words as to what being born again is all about.
Hear these words: "Then shall I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them." This is a remarkable section of Scripture because it specifically tells us that this new birth is a work of God. He causes things to happen, which in turn helps us to evaluate our relationship to Him.
As we approach the subject, we come to what I believe is the most important part of why it is necessary to be born again. When Jesus said to Nicodemus, "unless a man is born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." I believe he elaborated to Nicodemus more than what the statement tells us. For instance, how would Nicodemus have acted upon this unless he understood what Jesus meant? Here is what I believe. Nicodemus needed to understand.
First, Nicodemus was fully aware of the Ministry of John the
Baptist. If he wasn't, Jesus is now explaining it to him.
Second, Nicodemus had to listen to the message of John. What was that message? John was talking about the problem of sin.
Third, Nicodemus needed to understand the fact and presence of sin. That is how the Holy Spirit works.
The fourth thing Nicodemus needed to know and experience were the guilt of sin. He had to know that the problem of sin existed in him as well. I'm sure that this was not easy, for a self-righteous man to come to grips with (the guilt of sin). At this point, Nicodemus could do one of two things. He could face the reality of sin or ignore the message. The water represents identification. Before the new birth could take place, the birth by water was necessary. He had to be baptized by John. I believe he did. That was the importance of John's ministry as the forerunner of Christ.
IV. The Salvation That He Found
We have considered what the new birth is and the need for it to happen. But we cannot close with this. There must be some type of action we can take to make being born again a reality in our lives. Jesus made an interesting statement to Nicodemus that says, "the wind blotch where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the spirit." As I was working one day, that verse came to mind and it was like a light to my understanding. Now I don't claim to fully understand everything that this verse must say but the thing that stood out in my mind was the fact that you can't put the Holy Spirit in a box. I think in modern-day evangelism, with the emphasis on the numbers to prove success, there is a tendency to produce Christians without conviction.
We do not know when, how, or what manner the Holy Spirit is going to work in other people. I understand that under most circumstances a person hears the gospel at least seven times before receiving the new birth. My part in this may just be planting the seed or preparing the ground. Even then, all we can do is be faithful. It's not our responsibility to control the Holy Spirit.
So, that's my simple interpretation of this, and I think it is true. Maybe it doesn't give the full meaning but this helps me to be faithful in the areas where I can work and be a blessing. What can I say to the question "how can it happen?" First, I must recognize how God has equipped me to do His ministry. No matter what my gift may be, I must always be faithful both in my personal spiritual life and in my public life that others see. When the Holy Spirit works in a person's life I am not always present to see it happening. There are many situations that occur when becoming a Christian. If I am unsaved perhaps consulting another Christian can help me to understand why I need to be saved and discover the steps necessary for salvation to take place.
In concluding this section, it is necessary to address the question, “will praying a prayer make me a Christian?” Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes no. Only the presence of the Holy Spirit can make the difference. Understanding the fact of sin, the consequences of sin, the importance of guilt and the sincere crying out for
When I received Jesus into my life it was the beginning of a new life. That new life continues for many years. For others, it may just be a short while but the most important thing is what we do with those years after the new birth. The Ministry we must share with others will have something to do with the reward that we will receive later. We do not know that Nicodemus became a Christian the same day that Jesus spoke to him. It's possible but time was needed for Nicodemus to think through what following Jesus would mean. There are two incidences that reveal that Nicodemus did make that choice, and stood up in trying times to reveal that he was one of Christ’s “Faithful Ones.”
One of the final words given by Jesus to Nicodemus was one expressing God’s great Love. This verse found in John 3: 16, has become the most quoted scripture in the Bible. Although the verse is known, it would be a travesty to not understand this great Love. To conclude this section, we will give an exposition of its contents.