Born Again

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I do want to introduce our guest to you this morning. We had a men’s retreat this weekend, if none of you knew. And yes, I ate an ungodly amount of bacon. It was enjoyable. And by the way, the heat is off today, that’s why I’m in my coat. So it’s snuggle Sunday. We are trying to get our heater working but it’s a little possessed I think, as far as today goes.

So snuggle together. Enjoy your time. And get each other warm, but we had a men’s retreat this weekend. And we had a wonderful time. We had a special speaker come share from God’s word with us. Gabriel Hughes  from Junction City, Colorado … Or, not Colorado. Kansas, Kansas … I’m all over, I’ve been saying this from Missouri all week. Whatever. He’s east of here, all right? He’s from First Baptist Church in Junction City, Kansas. He also does a podcast ministry called WWUTT. You can look it up that way. It stands for When We Understand The Text. WWUTT. Father of four. Married. Enjoys ministry.

And one of the things we’ve learned together as men, just being in his presence as he shared God’s word with us, he has a deep love for God’s word. And so if you could do me a favor this morning, you put your hands together and welcome Gabriel Hughes, to share God’s message.

It’s not in my character to come in a brother’s house and correct his teaching but I do have a correction on Nathaniel’s teaching already this morning. There’s no such thing as an ungodly amount of bacon. So we enjoyed that greatly.

I had to come to Utah to get to warmer weather. Where I’m from it is a zero degree windchill right now, and there’s four inches of snow on the ground. They actually canceled church this morning. Blizzard like conditions, whiteout across the highways. And so, they said, “We want to keep everybody safe, and tell everybody to stay home.”

So I’m in warmer weather in Utah than I would be out in Kansas. I’m not originally from Kansas. I was actually born in South Carolina. My wife is born and raised in Kansas. My dad used to travel around and plant Christian radio stations. And when we was moving us out to Kansas, the only thing I knew about Kansas was from one of my mom’s favorite movies of all time. You probably know which film I’m talking about. The Wizard Of Oz.

So all I knew about Kansas was there were tornadoes and it was in black and white. That’s all I knew. But I’m here to tell you there’s a little bit more color in Kansas than just black and white. But tornadoes aplenty. We do still have that, every tornado season; April, May and June, is what’s considered tornado season when conditions are most favorable for tornadoes.

So I might be coming back out here to visit you guys in the spring. I said this in another church and somebody said to me, “Tornado season? Does that mean you go hunt tornadoes?” Actually yes. You would think when the tornado sirens go off, everybody should be running to their basements. No, they go out to the front yard. They’re looking for it. Everybody’s looking up at the sky. We all go hunting for tornadoes.

So I bring you greetings from the great state of Kansas. There is a state in between Missouri and Colorado. It is Kansas. And it has been a pleasure to be here. Everybody’s been so wonderfully kind. And I’ve eaten lots of great food, including bacon.

Today we’re going to be in John, Chapter 3. If you would please open your Bible to John 3, if you got your Bible this morning. Or turn on your Bible, if that is the way that you go, reading in on your smartphone or your tablet.

And if you would so indulge me, in our church whenever we open up the word of God and we begin the sermon we all stand together for the reading of the word and then we’re going to go back through the text and come to understand it more clearly.

In honor of the word of the King, would you please stand. As I’m a Baptist preacher, we all stand up and sit down multiple times throughout the service.

For the reading of the word of God I’m going to be reading together at least for the beginning here, these first eight verses, John, Chapter 3, verses 1 through 8.

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a rule of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 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?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I saw to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is Spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Let us pray. Our great God and Heavenly Father, we thank you for your word. That you have spoken to us, and have spoken to your people across generations, that we might hear the will of God as given to us by your prophets and your apostles. That we may hear the word and know it and believe. What do you expect of us? God is not silent. For He sent His son Jesus into this world, to reveal to us the father. To die on the cross for our sins and rise again from the grave, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

And therefore in Christ, as new creations, we can sing as we have sung this morning. Life is worth the living, all because He lives. We ask that you be with us today and show us your word as we come to it this morning in the name of Christ. And all God’s people said, “Amen.” Thank you. You may be seated.

Here at the start of John, Chapter 3, a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a rule of the Jews, came to Jesus by night. And over the course of the Gospel, John uses this motif of night to convey darkness. Now this does not only describe the time of day that Jesus and Nicodemus met with one another. John also means to convey to us the condition of Nicodemus’ heart. He was in darkness. He did not know Christ, the son of God, the light who had been sent into the world, as John had explained in the first chapter of his Gospel.

So Nicodemus, though he was what we might call today a man of the cloth, a man who was a teacher of the Jews, a guy who knew the word of God and his responsibility was to teach it to the people of God. Yet he was among those described by the prophet Isaiah and even Jesus said of them, “They acknowledge me with their lips but their heart is far from me.”

Yet Nicodemus wanted to inquire of Christ about these things that he taught and these miracles that her performed. So though his heart is in darkness and he does not truly seek the Lord his God, with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength. Yet he comes to Jesus and he says, “Rabbi,” which means teacher, “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.”

So Nicodemus at last knew the prophets well enough to know that when somebody’s performing miraculous signs and wonders, they have to be from God. These were the signs that the prophets did. So you know that the word of the prophet was truly the word of God when they were able to do these miraculous things.

I know that your pastor right now is taking you through the story of Elijah, which we have on the banners up here. Elijah performed great and incredible signs to show that the word that he spoke to Israel at that time came from God. It was not just the word of a man. For no one can do these signs unless this word was spoken by God.

So at least Nicodemus recognized that. At least he knew his Old Testament well enough to recognize that Christ performing these miracles meant that he had a message and a word that came from God. So he says, “We know you can’t do these signs unless God is with him.” And Jesus replies to him, in verse two … or verse three, I’m sorry. Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Now at first you might look at that reply of Jesus and you might think, “Well, he ignored Nicodemus’ statement. He didn’t even reply exactly to what it was Nicodemus said. Nicodemus said, “We know you’re a teacher come from God because of these signs that you do.” And Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus didn’t even ask about the kingdom of God. He didn’t say anything about being born again. But when you understand the way that Jesus started his answer, you realize that Jesus directly replied to what it was that Nicodemus had said. “Truly, truly, I say to you,” or for those of you who love the King James, “Verily, verily.” What does this word mean? What does truly, truly mean?

Well in the Greek it’s the word amen. Ah, I’ve heard that word before. That’s the way we conclude our prayers. We finish prayers with amen. What does that mean? It means so be it. To say amen at the conclusion of a prayer means to be in agreement with everything that was said in that prayer.

But we don’t begin our prayers with amen. Jesus begins this statement with, “Amen, amen, I say to you.” Why? Because Jesus is speaking from authority and he is saying, “What I am going to say to you is authoritative,” because the word he is speaking to Nicodemus is the word of God, not just in the sense that Jesus heard it from God, but because he is God.

So Christ reply to Nicodemus was to say in such a way, “I’m not just a man who is sent from God. I am He.” Like why didn’t Jesus just say that? Well, because what we read at the end of chapter two is that Jesus knew what was in the hearts of man, and so he did not entrust himself to them. Because he knew, if he were to proclaim himself to be the son of God, which he certainly does much later on, the people would kill him, which it was not yet time for. This was still a couple of years away from that Passover in which Christ would give himself, as a sacrifice for our sins. That time had not yet come. So he was not yet willing or ready yet to say that he was God in human flesh, but nevertheless speaking with the authority of God when he says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again.”

Now what does this statement mean, born again? Maybe you are like me and you grew up in church and you’ve heard this phrase your whole life. You may have even described yourself as a born-again Christian. What does that mean? See, I grew up in church from the first Sunday that I was alive, breathing in this world, I was attending church. As an infant, my mom and dad took me to church.

And then all the way growing up, if the doors were open at church, we were there. We were there for Sunday school. We were there for Sunday evening service. We were there for mid-week service. If the janitor came in and was washing the windows during the week, we lined a pew and we watched him do it.

There was no getting out of going to church either. I couldn’t go to my dad and say, “Dad, I don’t feel good. I don’t want to go to church.” He would say, “Oh yeah? Throw up and prove it.” And if I did throw up he would say, “Aha, now don’t you feel better? Let’s go to church.” Going to church was the thing that we did.

So I heard all of this my entire life. I heard terms like born again. I’d even said I was a born-again Christian but what does that truly mean, to be born again? Jesus even says, so it’s going to be pretty important, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Now if you’re confused about this term, you’re in good company with Nicodemus because he didn’t understand it. 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?” Nicodemus is saying, “This sounds absurd to me. Like, am I supposed to crawl back up into my mom and be born again?” That sounds hilarious. But that’s the way it sounded to Nicodemus. It didn’t make sense. Be born again?

And so again, for us, we may have heard this term our entire lives, we may have even used it before. But have we ever really stopped to consider what this means? In Ephesians, Chapter 2, verse 1, the apostle Paul says, “You are dead in your sins and your transgressions in which you once walked. Following the course of this world, following the Prince of the power of the air, the Spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among whom we all once lived. Chasing after the passions of our flesh, indulging in the passions of our flesh and the body of them, and of the mind, and whereby nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.”

Before we come to Christ that is exactly who we are. We are dead in our sins and in our transgressions, having rebelled against God, and we are under his wrath. The judgment of God that is coming against all the ungodly. How can we be saved from the wrath that is to come? You must be born again. You must actually be reborn in your dead spirit made alive in Christ Jesus.

See? When it comes down to it, all of us are born physically alive but we’re spiritually dead. All of us have inherited the sin nature of Adam, as Paul explains in Romans, Chapter 5. It is our desire to rebel against God and do our own thing, as Paul explained there in Ephesians, Chapter 2. We’re chasing after the passions of our flesh. We’re indulging in the things that we want to do with our bodies and with our minds. God has given us this body, he’s given us the very breath that we breathe with. He has given us the mind that we have, all of these things are to be used to glorify God.

But in our sinfulness, fallen from God, we did not glorify God with those things. Rather we took those things that God had gifted us with, meant for His glory, and we glorified ourselves instead. Having blasphemed God and God is so good and so holy and so righteous He will not allow His name to be blasphemed. The Bible says that God is good and He is just. Deuteronomy, Chapter 5, all of His ways are justice.

And so, God as a just God will punish sin. And we all deserve that. But as Ephesians 2 goes on to explain but God, being rich in mercy, didn’t leave us dead in your sins and in our transgressions but He made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved. And raised us up with Him, and seated us with him in the Heavenly places. So that we might know the immeasurable riches of His grace, which He has given to us for His glory.

Ephesians 2, 8 and 9. “By grace you are save through faith, and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God. Not a result of works, so that no man may boast.” This is the work of God in our lives and it is by His love and in His grace that He brings us from the dead man or woman that we were, into a new creature in Christ, that desires to love God and worship Him and obey Him. Previously rebellious against God.

Now in Christ Jesus we have been born again. And Christ says unless you’re born again, unless you have been transformed from a worldly dead creature into an alive, heavenly creature you cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus again finds this to be absurd because he has the mind of a man rather than the mind of the Spirit of God. First Corinthians 2:14 says that the natural man cannot understand spiritual things because they’re spiritually discerned. Jesus even rebuked Peter for having the mind of a man instead of the mind of God.

And so it is only with the Spirit of God that we can understand what it is that Jesus is calling us to when he says to repent and follow him, when he says you must be born again. How can a man be born again when he is old? That’s the thinking of the natural mind.

Jesus answered him in verse 5: “Truly, truly,” once again, the authority of God coming out in his answer. I say to you unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Now what does this mean, being born by the water and the Spirit?

Well, there’s a couple of different ways that this is interpreted. Some will say that you have to be baptized in order to be saved. But as I had just quoted to you from Ephesians 2:8 and 9, we are saved by grace through faith not of works. So baptism is actually an announcement. It’s something that you do to show that in your heart you have been changed by God, but baptism itself does not save you.

So some will take the verse to mean that. They will try to say that being born of water in the Spirit means that you must be baptized. There are others that take this to mean that being born of water means that we’re born of water of the amniotic sac. Just like you’re born in water when you were a baby in your mother’s womb. I know that sounds gross, but that’s the way they interpret it. And they’ll say being born of Spirit then, that’s that being born again. That’s becoming a Christian. So you’re born physically and then you’re born again spiritually.

That’s actually not what this is referring to. Jesus was actually calling Nicodemus’ attention to the words of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel, Chapter 36, beginning in verse 25, we read the following. This is God speaking to His people: “I will sprinkle clean water on you. And you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and I will give you a soft heart. And I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

God takes that rebellious heart from us and gives us a new heart. He sprinkles clean water on us. And he gives us his spirit. We are born of water and the Spirit. As God said to His people through the prophets, so this is being said again by Jesus Christ to Nicodemus.

And Nicodemus, as a teacher of the law in Israel, he should have been able understand this reference. And Jesus rebukes him when he doesn’t. We go on, verse 6, Jesus says, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is Spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” That also is a reference to Ezekiel.

The reference to water and the Spirit is Ezekiel 36. The reference to the Spirit “blowing where he wishes” is a reference to Ezekiel 37, the very next chapter. Ezekiel says, “The hand of the Lord was upon me and He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley. It was full of bones. And He led me around among them and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley. And behold, they were very dry.”

Remember what we read about being dead in your sins and your transgressions? This is the picture that Ezekiel is seeing. “And he said to me,” the Lord said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “Oh Lord God, you know.” And then He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, Oh dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones, behold I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

And so that’s what Ezekiel does. And he prophesied. And the bones stand up and sinew comes together on the bones but they were just standing there with no breath in them. “Then God said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath thus says the Lord God, come from the four winds, oh breath, and breathe on these slain that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet an exceedingly great army.”

Ezekiel is being given a picture here of evangelism. This is exactly evangelism. This is going out into our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ, telling them to love Jesus and follow him. To turn from their sin and be born again. And by hearing the word of the Gospel, that Jesus died for sin and rose again from the grave, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life, that they who were once dead would have the Spirit of God enter their life and bring them to life and that dead creature becomes new and living in the presence of God.

Ezekiel saw a future picture of the Spirit of God working in evangelism. And it’s this exact same reference that Jesus uses with Nicodemus, though Nicodemus doesn’t understand it. Verse 9, Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” And Jesus said, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things?” He has given references to Nicodemus that Nicodemus is supposed to recognize, as a teacher of the prophets, just like Ezekiel. And yet he doesn’t get it. And Jesus rebukes him, “You should be understanding this.” Because the one who fulfills everything that was written in the prophets was sitting right there in front of him. Jesus Christ, the righteous one.

Jesus goes on to say, “Truly, truly, I saw to you. We speak of what we know,” making reference to himself and his disciples. “And we bear witness to what we have seen. But you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into Heaven except he who descended from Heaven, the son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Once again, Jesus making a reference back to something that Nicodemus would have recognized, the story and Numbers, where the serpents were sent in to the camp, the curse of God upon those who were grumbling against God. And when a serpent bit them, they would die.

But in an act of mercy, God told Moses to raise up a bronze serpent on a post. So that whenever someone was bit by one of those serpents, they could just look at the bronze serpent and they would instantly be healed. And so Jesus says that he’s the fulfillment of this. He’s going to be raised up and crucified and who ever looks upon him will be healed. Will be saved. Saved from the wrath that is to come and healed from the sins and the transgressions in which we once walked.

After that we have one of the most beloved glorious verses that we all share whenever it comes to sharing the gospel with somebody else. John 3:16. “For God so loved the world,” … Now let me explain to why that was so controversial, as Jesus was saying this to Nicodemus. He uses a story that Nicodemus was familiar with from the law, Numbers. The story of the bronze serpent on the post, and saying how that relates to himself. How he’s going to be raised up and whoever believes in him will have eternal life.

But then we get to verse 16 where he says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” In other words, Jesus is a savior not just for the Jews, which is what Jews like Nicodemus thought. Jesus is a savior for the whole world. That whoever believes in Him, from the world of men, will have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world. But in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned by whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Why did Jesus not come into the world to condemn the world? Because it was already condemned. We were already self-condemned because of our sin. Jesus came the first time not in judgment but to be a deliverer and a savior. But a day is coming on which Jesus will return again, and he will judge the living and the dead, all the nations gathered before him.

My friends, when we go out with the gospel of Jesus Christ we are sharing with the world the salvation from that day of judgment. You take one of the most evangelical sermons in the Book of Acts, Chapter 17 where the apostle Paul is preaching at the areopagus. He’s preaching to the Greeks there, even amidst their Gods, that are standing around there in the statue form up there on Mars Hill.

And even standing there, the apostle Paul said to the people that were gathered around him, he said, “The times of ignorance God has overlooked. But now he’s commanding all people everywhere to repent. Because a day of judgment is coming on which He will judge the world by one man, and he has shown who that man is by raising him from the dead.” That’s Jesus Christ.

And so we go out with the gospel of Christ that others may hear it and live. He is the only way to eternal life. John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way. The truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus did not say, “I am one of the ways, I am one of the truths. I am one of the lives.” I’m the way.

And that’s why the message of Christianity is so offensive to this world. Because we want to go our own way. Why? Because this world is still full of people dead in their sins and their transgressions. And it is only by the hearing of the gospel that they turn from their sin and follow Jesus Christ.

And then in following Christ he’s not some religious way that we add to like the synchronism all these other religions that we follow. We love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, with all our strength, as Jesus said, is the first and greatest commandment.

First Corinthians, Chapter 10, verse 21 says, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Our love must be exclusively in Christ and it’s his name that we proclaim for the salvation of the world.

We come to this table this morning remembering the body that was broken for us on the cross for our sins. Remembering the blood that was spilled for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus telling his disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

And when we come to this table we are unified as the people of God together in Christ, knowing that once we were dead in our sins and our transgressions, and together we’ve been made a live in Christ. And John says, in first John 5:2 and 3, that we show, that we are the children of God when we obey His commandments. And when it comes to evangelism, we love that passage John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.”

We’re not as big as fans of the verse that comes 20 verses later, John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God remains on him.”

My friends, I hope that that is penetrating to you. That you realize the need to turn from sin and follow Jesus, but it also places upon your heart a desire for this world, that they would not fall under the wrath of God. But that they would instead believe in the savior, and know Jesus Christ and live.

Let us remember as we come to this table today the great sacrifice that was needed to cleanse us from unrighteousness and make us right with God. And partake in this in a holy manner.