Do you enjoy spending time outside? I do and enjoy hiking, camping, fishing hunting or any sport. One hazard of being in the “great outdoors” is the possibility of being bitten by a venous snake. Let me show you some pictures of what can happen.
As you can see from these pictures, to be bitten by a poisonous snake is bad news. Snakebite victims need healing and a physician’s care. Today we will see that we are all in need of healing, and a renewal to our souls. We have been snake bitten spiritually. We need to seek the Great Physician to bring renewal and healing to our poisoned spiritual lives.
As we continue to look at the Gospel of John we see a dialogue with Jesus and a man named Nicodemus about this very thing.
Jesus is in Jerusalem, he just had celebrated Passover the last verses of chapter 2 tell us. While in Jerusalem Jesus does some more miracles that show his divine nature and gets a visit by a man by the name of Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a seeker – a person who was sincere in his quest for the kingdom of God but, nevertheless, a spiritual failure in spite of all his religious knowledge and enthusiasm. Here was a sincere man with a sincere hunger for truth who came to have a private talk with Jesus in the quietness of the night away from those who would distract. He was the original “Nick at Night” He came to Jesus at night so that he could have a private conversation concerning his own very personal needs.
Jesus had something he did not have. Nicodemus, like each of us, was seeking for that something more in life – looking, longing for spiritual bliss and truth to fill the hole that’s felt in the heart. Nicodemus was a man whose whole life was a religious exercise yet he realized that Jesus had something he did not have.
One of the messages of John 3 is just that! You may have all sorts of Spiritual activity having all the trappings of faith. You may have been to church more times than you can count, had a routine of Bible reading and praying, maybe even taught Sunday school or Vacation Bible School. But that is not enough to give you true eternal life that is born from above and felt deeply in the heart.
1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee.
Now, it must be said up front that Nicodemus was no ordinary citizen. He was respected. He was religious. A Pharisee who gave his life to studying and obeying the Law and traditions. He was a ruler. He had it all from an outward perspective. He was a well-respected, admired Jewish citizen that people would have considered a role model. Nicodemus stands as a contrast to what is needed to reach heaven.
In My Quest for Spiritual Renewal know that…
- Tradition or Heritage is not enough
Nicodemus was a Jew. The Jewish people believed that because of their heritage, because they were children of Abraham, they were God’s people who were headed to heaven. Jesus lets Nicodemus see that Tradition and heritage is not enough. The same is true of you if you are depending on the faith of your parents or your citizenship. They may be great and impressive but not enough to give you eternal life. It would be like being at the doctor for a snake bite and saying, “but I’m an American, won’t that heal me?”
- Position or Power is not enough
Nicodemus was one of the 70 who comprised the Sanhedrin. In essence, he was a member of the Jewish Supreme Court. Nicodemus was a part of the religious elite. He had a distinguished religious position.
But a certain position does not save you. Being a pastor does not save you. Being a small group leader or a children’s teacher does not save you. Positions do not save or give eternal life. Again if your at the doctor for a snake bite it does no good to say, I am a CEO of a large corporation I will not need treatment.
- Religion or Knowledge is not enough
Nicodemus possessed great religious knowledge. As a member of the Pharisees, he knew and lived what was considered right and wrong. He was religious to the core. The Pharisees went to drastic measures to make sure they obeyed the letter of the law. They fasted and prayed and studied the Scriptures. They went to great lengths to obey not only the law but also the man-made rules of tradition that kept them from breaking the law. They lived spiritually disciplined lives, but they were lost. He was religious and lost. The Pharisees were right in many areas of doctrine, but they made one primary mistake: they externalized religion. Outwardly, they lived above reproach.
Religion is not enough. You can come to church, tithe, go to Small Group, pray, witness, and practice spiritual disciplines and yet still be lost. You can do all the things that religious people do and be without Christ. Religion does not save. Knowledge doesn’t save you either you can read your Bible, lead a small group, even memorize the entire Bible-it is not enough. I have heard so many people say, “I live a good life. I try to do what is right. I go to church. Etc.” It is not enough to get you to heaven.
For Spiritual Renewal I Need to Seek Jesus
2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Nicodemus is a seeker; he had deep respect and interest in Jesus. He was right in seeking Jesus for his answers. This is the best place to start in your seeking of spiritual truth. His designation of Jesus as Rabbi shows great admiration for Jesus. To address Jesus with the title “Teacher” reveals Nicodemus’ deep admiration for Jesus. Nicodemus makes Jesus an equal.
He even recognizes Jesus’ ministry as blessed by God. “No one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him,” he asserts. He acknowledges the divine blessing of God upon Jesus. Nicodemus falls into the category of the believers described at the end of chapter 2, he believes in Jesus, but strictly because of the miracles. He is an admirer but not a genuine believer. There are many like that today. Let me ask you
Do I only admire Jesus?
We must move from admiration to action. Jesus moves the conversation in this direction. Have you ever been in a conversation where you were talking about one thing, and when you stopped to hear the response from the other person, they began talking about a totally different subject? It’s kind of aggravating because it gives you the impression that they either were not listening or do not consider what you had to say worthy of a reply. I don’t know what kind of response Nicodemus expected from Jesus, but he was shocked by what he heard. We may at times be shocked by what Jesus says, but we need to listen carefully.
I Need to Listen Carefully to Jesus
Of course, Jesus knows Nicodemus’ heart so he cuts straight to the heart of the matter. Jesus knows why Nicodemus is really there, so he immediately challenges him.
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“Born again” – back in 1976, Jimmy Carter was running against President Gerald Ford and you might recall that Jimmy Carter caused a bit of a sensation. Because during his campaign, Jimmy Carter said publicly that he was a “Born again Christian.” It caused a stir, and it was a term that was used about him over and over again. To say you are “born-again” has become somewhat trite. It is a familiar term.
But what Jesus is talking about here is a supernatural event. It could also be translated born “from above.” It is a spiritual new birth, a divine regeneration, a spiritual transformation. To be born again is to be made new by the Spirit of God.
Such language and teaching confuses Nicodemus. Predominant religious thought in that day affirmed that all Jews would be admitted to God’s kingdom. But here Jesus is telling Nicodemus, a respected scholar, that he cannot enter God’s kingdom unless he is born again.
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.
6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.
7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’
The very words “born again or born from above” tell us volumes about the process involved in becoming one of God’s children. Think about the first birth you went through, or what you know about it. First off, you were conceived. And it is obviously not anything you did that brings that about. So it is with our Spiritual conception–God, by the power of His Spirit, brings it about.
Our first birth is the same. It was the work of your mother, not you. There may be some help of course. Help from doctors and nurses who assist the mother in the case of our physical birth. Or help from spiritual midwives, from friends, from evangelists, from neighbors, and those who have been praying for our salvation in the case of our spiritual birth. In fact, the only thing we have to do on our own is do what our new bodies want us to do–all we have to do is breath. Breath the air of life, breath the Spirit—which in Hebrew is translated wind or breath. How can a person be born again?
All it takes is wanting to breath the breathe of God. Be willing to trust the Holy Spirit. Being born again involves surrendering. Being willing to be pushed out of the darkness, and into God’s light.
In the next post we will continue to see what Jesus says about how to have new life.