Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” ~ John 3:1-15 ~
In his book Tortured for Christ - Richard Wurmbrand tells the following story: “When the Russians occupied Romania, two armed Russian soldiers entered a church with their guns in their hands. They said, “We don’t believe in your faith. Those who do not abandon it immediately will be shot at once! Those who abandon your faith move to the right!” Some moved to the right, who were then ordered to leave the church & go home. They fled for their lives. When the Russians were alone with the remaining Christians, they embraced them & confessed, “We, too, are Christians, but we wished to have fellowship only with those who consider the truth worth dying for.”
The true story Wurmbrand was relating is a sad tale of deception. Those who were deceived were the people in that church who moments before the soldiers burst in, had thought in their hearts that they were truly “right” with God. They thought, because they attended church and they gave mental assent to the things of God or fed the hungry or said their daily prayers, that they were bound for heaven. You see, the devil had deceived them, just as the devil had deceived Nicodemus.
By all accounts Nicodemus would have been a very religious person. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin. Pharisees held to a belief that the Torah (the old testament) could not be interpreted or applied to contemporary problems without rational human reasoning. This philosophy is still foundational to modern day Jewish theology. In an effort to be spiritual, the leaders of that day followed a very strict code of oral and written Jewish traditions. Over the centuries they had devised numerous laws that had to be obeyed and followed to the letter in an effort to get right with God. In other words, they tried very hard to be “religious”. Nicodemus was one of these people. And, according to biblical accounts, he was probably a likeable person who stood up for Jesus in the Sanhedrin and who had also helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus after the crucifixion. In other words he tried very hard to live a moral life and would have been regarded in this age as a true “Jesus Follower”.
But our Lord Jesus went right to the core of Nicodemus’s problem and right to the core of the problem with millions upon millions of “Jesus followers” over the centuries. The problem with Nicodemus was he needed to be born again.
You see, it is not enough to be a Jesus follower. It is not enough to give mental assent to His teachings or even to try to live by His commands. It is not enough, my friends, to faithfully attend church, to teach Sunday school, or even give your life to feeding the poor.
You must be born again. God must reach down and supernaturally transform you into a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: …. “
We can give our lives to following Jesus and feeding the poor but unless we are born again by the Holy Spirit it will all amount to nothing. Now some might say how can this be? Didn’t the apostle Paul write in Romans 10:9 that: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”? He did indeed. But passages like these must be read in context. In Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Henry writes: ”The scope of the apostle in this part of the chapter is to show the vast difference between the righteousness of the law (that the Jews were practicing) and the righteousness of faith (that the believers were practicing), and the great pre-eminence of the righteousness of faith above that of the law; that he might induce and persuade the Jews to believe in Christ, aggravate the folly and sin of those that refused, and justify God in the rejection of such refusers.” Indeed, this same apostle Paul exhorted the believers at Corinth to examine themselves to prove that the Holy Spirit lived in them (if indeed He did that is). In essence what Paul was saying is that there is a possibility that the Holy spirit DID NOT live in them in which case they believed in vain. So the confession of faith from Romans 10 coupled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit leads to salvation. In fact I would go so far as to say one will not to “truly” believe until they ARE born again.
Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758, one of America’s greatest theologians once wrote: “They who are truly converted are new men, new creatures; new, not only within, but without; they are sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul and body; old things are passed away, all things are become new; they have new hearts, new eyes, new ears, new tongue, new hands, new feet; i.e. a new conversation and practice; they walk in newness of life, and continue to do so to the end of life.”
How many times have we heard of the foulest of sinner who has been supernaturally changed into a born again believer? They are freed from a life of slavery to sin and transformed into a radiant believer. That is the miraculous story of each one of us who has gone from death unto life.
Just as the lowly caterpillar is marvelously transformed into a beautiful butterfly, so the Holy Spirit transforms us into Children of God.
In closing, let’s take a moment to explore one final thought. Have you ever asked yourself why some people who call themselves Christians don’t act like it? Take the crusades, for example, how could so called “Christians” justify murdering and pillaging whole societies in the name of Christ? Or, closer to home, what about the person who faithfully goes to church on Sunday but who lies and cheats the other six days of the week? Are they Christian? I will let bible answer that question:
“The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:8-9 ~
So I ask you dear reader, are you born again? Have you called upon Christ to save you from those sins that have made you an enemy of God? Has He indwelt you with His Holy Spirit and changed you into a new person? If not, I beg you to consider doing it today. The bible says today is the day of the Lord’s favor.
Tomorrow might be too late.