- Sermon Notes
Born of the Spirit
In John 3, we have one of the most well-known conversations in all of the Bible. One of the leaders of Israel, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, came to Jesus at night for a private conversation. In many ways, however, it’s actually a conversation between God and all of mankind.
Out of this conversation with Nicodemus, we get some of the most important truths that are absolutely fundamental, absolutely essential to understand because it has everything to do with our eternal future.
We also receive some of the most quoted verses in all of the Bible in these verses. In verse 3, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Later He adds, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Then, in verse 16 Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
These verses are so familiar to some that they just sort of skip over them; “I know this one,” someone might say, let’s move to the next chapter. They might put this in the category of, “Things everyone knows.” There are, of course, certain things everyone knows. To quote the famous American philosopher, Jim Croce, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind; you don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger…”
But these verses are far deeper than many people realize and they contain some absolutely essential truths of life. There are some truths here that are absolutely essential to understand and that God expects us to understand.
At one point, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You are the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?” That reminds me of what God said to Israel in Isaiah 40…
Isaiah 40:21-23, Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. It is He who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. It is He who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
I. You Must be Born Again
- Nicodemus opens with a statement rather than a question, “We know that You have come from God as a teacher…”
- This is an amazing admission, especially considering what happened in chapter 2 where Jesus braided a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple. The leaders weren’t pleased, but no one could deny the power of His miracles.
- Jesus gets right to the point, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
A. Being born again is required
- Nicodemus is shocked by this statement and does not understand it, “How can a man be born when he is old?”
- What does it mean? Is it just change? A fresh start? A do over?
Illus - Many people like the idea of a fresh start. There have been whole series of reality shows based on people getting a new wardrobe, or a new face, or even a new house.
- We also love the idea of a do-over. In golf, it’s called Mulligan. In marriage, I actually think a do over is a great idea, “That’s a great dinner, honey, but not as good as my mom used to make.” That’s a good time for a do over.
- For many people, the phrase “born again” has lost its meaning. In a survey, 46% of those responding claimed to be born again, but almost half of those also said they didn’t believe the Bible was accurate and that good works is enough to get you into heaven.
- The world has pirated the phrase and given it back without meaning. But its meaning is absolutely essential because Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
- So what does being born again mean? It means that you died and have been given new life in Christ.
- Nicodemus responded, “How can these things be?” Jesus explained…
B. You are born again by the Holy Spirit
- In verses 5-6, Jesus explained that one must be born of water and the Spirit, saying “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
- Jesus used the illustration of the wind blowing where it wishes and that you only hear the sound of it.
- Again Nicodemus asked, “How can these things be?” Jesus responded, “You are the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things? In other words, God’s Word made it clear that the Spirit would give them a new heart.
Jeremiah 31:31, “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”
Ezekiel 36:26-27, 29 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you… And I will save you from all your uncleanness.”
- Can the nature of a man change? Is it possible to have newness of life?
Illus – We had a pet rabbit that used to love to sit on my shoulder and read books. We had a dog that our girls dressed up and we spoke to like a person, but a rabbit is a rabbit, a dog is a dog, a horse is a horse…
- Jesus explained to Nicodemus that we are born again by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, giving us a new heart because we have believed in the Son of God for eternal life.
- A new heart speaks of something that is alive, with new love, new desires, old things passed away.
2 Corinthians 5:17, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
II. Whoever Believes in Him has Eternal Life
- Beginning with verse 14, Jesus explains the most important truths man will ever know.
- First, Jesus explained that the Son of Man must be lifted up in the same way that Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.
A. Look unto Jesus, the serpent of our sin
- At first, that might seem like an extremely provocative statement, but that is exactly what Jesus is teaching Nicodemus in verse 14.
- When Moses was leading the people of Israel to the desert, they had to go around the land of Edom and the people became impatient. It was hot, they wanted more water, and they hated the manna. They were complaining terribly.
- God sent fiery serpents among them and the people said to Moses, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord, intercede with the Lord for us.”
- God then instructed Moses to make a serpent of bronze, lift it up on a standard; and anyone who looks upon it, will live.
- In the same way, then, Jesus said that He is that serpent lifted up, He became sin, our sin, and anyone who looks upon Him will live. You look upon Him believing that He is conquering death for you and giving you life.
John 10:17-18, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay down on my own accord. I have authority to lay down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
Illus - We know that power and authority are very important. We’re fascinated by things that have power. When someone lifts a lot of weight at the gym, I want to know how much. I had a car that had the sound of power. North Korea is trying to convince the world they have power; but there is a power so great, no one can defeat its power – the grave.
- But Jesus did, He conquered sin and death for us.
John 11:25-26, Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
B. God sent His Son to save
- In verses 16-17 Jesus gives us the heart of the Lord like no other scripture in the entire Bible.
- First, Jesus explained that He was sent because God loved the world so much. But the world He’s referring to is a world filled with sinners.
Mark 2:17, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
- But it is in believing that we have life in His name. The first thing we have to believe is that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
Illus - Nicodemus was a good and moral man, but Jesus said to him, “You must be born again.” We generally think of Pharisees in a negative light, but Nicodemus was sincere, he not only studied the scriptures, he studied the Mishnah, a Jewish book which expounded on the scriptures. There were 24 chapters on how to keep the Sabbath. He also studied the Talmud, a commentary on the Mishnah. Yet it was not enough, Jesus said, “You must be born again.”
- When you die and stand at the gates of heaven and are asked, “Why should God let you into the kingdom of heaven?” What do you say? I was a good and moral person? I’ve tried to keep the Ten Commandments? Jesus told Nicodemus it was not enough.
- God’s life is to be lived now.
- This is one of those essential truths that has to be taken hold of and applied. God is offering life because of the greatness of His love. God sent His Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The emphasis is on life.
- Being born again is the beginning of new life with Christ. As we are born again by the Spirit, so we should also walk by the Spirit. That means we are walking in a relationship with God Himself. And it’s that relationship that transforms and changes our lives.
Illus - One of the best illustrations of that is adoption. When we offered our adopted boys the opportunity for a relationship and they accepted, it was the beginning of a relationship, it is the beginning of transformation as we walked together.
Luke 15:22, 24, “Quickly, bring the best robe and put it on my son, put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet… For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”
John 3:1-17 NASB