JOHN 3: 1-17
Now there was a man of the
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and 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
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but 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.
Today is the second Sunday of Lent. Lent is a preparation period within the church calendar where we work to prepare our hearts to reflect on the passion of Jesus on the cross and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. This is a time of both reflection (we draw Gospel realities to mind through fasting) and renewal (we work Gospel change into our hearts to transform mindsets and habits).
Our text gives us a conversation that happened late at night between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a part of the ruling counsel of the Jews called the Pharisees. The Pharisees set policy, not only for the Jews in Jerusalem, but for the Jews throughout the world. There were about 6,000 of them that had taken an oath to spend their lives following the 10 commandments to the letter. Another group, called the Scribes, would write out the details of what it looked like for the Pharisees to live out the 10 commandments. The thought was that obedience pleased God.
Nicodemus had memorized the Torah. He was in the scriptures all the time. Nicodemus came for some good teaching and knew that he was good at obeying. Jesus says something very unnerving to Nicodemus (John 3:3). For Nicodemus, these words caused his world to spin out of control. Jesus says, knowing and pleasing God is not about doing, it’s about being. In a moment, Jesus removes all the tools, pride, and all the ability that Nicodemus believes that he has to stand in front of God blameless.
Nicodemus had all of the trappings of a prosperous, successful, and deeply religious man. Jesus knew what was on the inside.
Our Hopeless Condition
Jesus’s teaching about the new birth makes us confront our hopeless spiritual, moral, and legal condition apart from God’s grace. Before the new birth happens to us, we are spiritually dead. We are morally selfish and rebellious. And we are legally guilty before God’s law and under his wrath. When Jesus tells us that we must be born again he is telling us that our present condition is hopelessly unresponsive, corrupt, and guilty. When we’re born of the flesh, we’re born with this disharmony, into this fractured universe.
We Cannot Have New Birth On Our Own
This truth is what rattled Nicodemus and must be clear to us. Peter drove this truth home (1 Peter 1:3). God causes the new birth. Being born again is out of our hands. It is out of our control. This shows us our helplessness and total dependence upon God. We are told that we cannot see the Kingdom of God unless we are born again, and we are not able to be born again on our own. We are spiritual corpses that can do nothing to bring back life to our spirits.
A New Birth Brings New Life, Not New Religion
All of Nicodemus’ religious actions, study, discipline, and law-keeping did not replace the need for a new birth. His trust was in the wrong place. What Nicodemus needed, and what you and I need, is not religion but life. A birth brings a new life into the world. In one sense, Nicodemus is alive (physically). Jesus thinks that there is no spiritual life in Nicodemus. Spiritually, he is unborn. He doesn’t need more religious activity or zeal. He needs life!
You Must Experience The Supernatural, Not Just Affirm It
Nicodemus genuinely sees Jesus as divine and doing supernatural things. In verse 2 he admits that Jesus is from God and does the work of God. Jesus does not affirm his affirmation. Instead, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must experience a supernatural rebirth (verse 6). Everyone must experience this within themselves. The Holy Spirit is not part of this natural world - but is above all natural things. The Spirit is God and He is the One who causes the new birth. God’s Spirit must come upon you and bring about new life in you. Jesus is the life that the Holy Spirit brings into you.
Our lives are to be a response to what God has done. Once you are born again, the Spirit has control over us rather than our sin. We need to deny the power of sin that holds us hostage. There may be hurts, habits, and hangups that hold us in their grip.
Repentance and denying the power that sin has over our life is a key element to finding renewal during Lent (John 3:16).
There is no spiritual life - no eternal life - apart from
new birth and faith in Jesus!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?