Becoming a new creature

Preamble:

If you want hunger to be satisfied

You must go to where food is supplied.

Listen to the recipe. cook the ingredients and eat the food.

One great hunger is the hunger for truth. In this present age of mass media and instant communication many expressions become part of our culture. One such expression which has been bandied about by the media; oft times as a term of derision, is ‘born again

We hear the remark ‘he/she i.e. a born again Christian’. There is no other kind. It is not possible to be a Christian unless one is " born again’

What has been used in a way which tends to suggest that a Christian who is born again is in some way ‘funny’ or not quite ‘proper’ is in reality found to be one of the basic truths of the faith. To absorb such truth is food indeed.

Discovery of this truth is our journey for today.

What does being born again mean?

John 3:4 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. [2] He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." [3] In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again . " [4] "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!" [5] Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. [ 6] Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. [7] You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ [8] 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 like our community was this city of nearly two thousand years ago. We so pride ourselves on the progress of modern man and yet when one digs deeper there is little to suggest that we have done more than improved the comfort of the body and the pride of the mind. The scripture with reason speaks of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life as being the great downfall of human kind. It was no different in the days of Jesus. Powerful groups held jealously to their opinions and privileges just as they do today. We are more likely to know the academic world that so strongly resists anything that hasn’t a degree attached to it or at least a PhD. Then the unions, and the established religions, the trades the clubs and on and on. The tight groups continue and the closed minds close even tighter.

From such a group came Nicodemus. He was a somewhat elderly Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin.

When we consider this man think how you would have reacted to this situation.

Perhaps when you are his age you may have risen to be a university professor, a leader of the faculty. perhaps the managing director of a big business. Perhaps a great political leader in your country. Perhaps a prominent religious figure.

Nicodemus was all these things and yet his heart would not let him rest when he came to hear of this man of God who had begun to show miraculous signs in front of all the people.

It is interesting to note that the name Nicodemus means" innocent blood" A suggestive name to us who came to know Him who shed His innocent blood for our salvation.

We should notice that the Pharisee (means separated ones) lived to devote his life to the study of the law of God, taking vows at the beginning before many witnesses. They were ardent nationalists and bigoted conservatives. It was the law, the law and nothing but the law.

Nicodemus is often spoken of as the man who came to Jesus by night. Was he afraid someone might see him? Was he seeking a long quiet talk with Jesus? It could be these or many other reasons but we can see clearly three aspects of Nicodemus which marked him out as a fair minded man and free of the malice which so easily afflicts us when our little world is threatened by new ideas. Let us read a few scriptures to illustrate this.

John 3:2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

He was humble enough to come and find out for himself……..

John 7:45-52 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn’t you bring him in?" [46] "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.47] "You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. [48] "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? [49] No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law–there is a curse on them." [50] Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, [51] "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?" [52] They replied, "Are you from Galilee too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee?

Having found out for himself he spoke up for Jesus……

John 19:39- 40 Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. [40] Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

He openly gave honour to Jesus …………..

These things took great courage in the days we speak of and could easily have led to dishonour or even death.

Notice that Nicodemus did not ask a question of the Lord. He made a statement. In it we can see the thinking of a learned man, a teacher who has come to a conclusion about the nature of this Rabbi who is wandering the streets and speaking to the people. Yet he is not satisfied…….

This is the common experience of all men when they come to the end of their strength be it physical or intellectual.

We scale the heights of Everest or plumb the depths of space.

Think our way to the heights of quantum physics, to the riches of art and philosophy But in the end there is no peace no

experience that leaves us satisfied Until we come to admit our need of God.

This Nicodemus came to realize, and he acted!

"Rabbi we know you are a teacher who has come from God!

AND WHAT A STRANGE REPLY HE RECEIVED.

Don’t be surprised at the reply you receive when you seek to find God. The Lord doesn’t deal in terms we are oft times wanting. He goes to the heart of the matter and this can often test your sincerity in ways that will surprise you. Certainly Nicodemus was surprised. Here a man of some considerable intellect, of undoubted learning and experience, he was told….

John 3:3 Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. "

Nicodemus came hoping for the conformation of what had been his life’s study, the revelation of how the Messiah would set up the state of Israel on earth. The work of the intellect and the law!

Jesus wasn’t looking for that. He brushes this aside and goes to the heart of the matter. Whether is saying here is that it’s not social change or renovation that is the kingdom of God but a spiritual kingdom which requires that each be transformed inwardly before they can enter.

This is all just the same as today. United Europe, Communist China , United States, The United Nations, these are no different and they all will fail for the same reason…..no inner change in the hearts of the man and women who are planning and working for their creation. The social gospel is a very secondary truth. The primary truth is WE MUST BE BORN AGAIN.

It is as well to note that the idea of new birth would not have been new to Nicodemus. In the Jewish faith a proselyte was said to be born anew after circumcision hence the term was common among the Jews. As it was also among the Greeks. In the pagan rites of Mithras this involved the bathing in the blood of a newly killed bull. The idea of new birth was not unknown in the world of that era. This may indeed have prompted Nicodemus in his somewhat derisive answer. He was not about to align himself with the pagan world of spiritism and hocus-pocus. He was a man of the intellect, Yes Sir!

John 3:4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!"

Again Jesus goes to the heart of the matter.

John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. [6] Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

What does the Lord mean by "born" of water and the Spirit? The understanding of this is surely crucial for without this experience we cannot see the kingdom of God.

This is the beginning point, the gateway, the starting gate, the place we must all come to as we come before the Lord of glory. This is the challenge to any who know that God is wanting them to enter into His kingdom.

You must be born of water

You must be born of the Spirit.

To the mind of Nicodemus who believed that to keep the law of God was the way this was new indeed. Jesus was saying nothing man can do was good enough….this was God’s work.

What does it all mean ….a question in Nicodemus’s mind and one for us also.

Born of water……the water of the Word of God, living water, the living Word who was standing in front of him.

Born of the Spirit….the regenerating or making alive by the Holy Spirit of our spirit so that we can become alive to God.

John 3:7

You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

This was hard to believe that man’s salvation, i.e. real knowledge of the truth could be brought about by an event in which man was passive. That it was a gift!

Surely I had to DO something to earn it? No; You don’t earn merit, get good Karma, do good works, study hard. On the contrary– something must happen to you. You must be regenerated.

Jesus went on to say to Nicodemus that this work of the Spirit of God was a sovereign act, incomprehensible and mysterious Jesus likened it to the wind.

John 3:8 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."

The reply from Nicodemus is very like the ones we get from many who do not believe," How can this be?"

But it is so………..

And this is the only way into the kingdom of God .

The steps are simple….turn away from your present understanding of the way to success

….turn away from your present system of belief.

…..believe in your inner self that Jesus is Lord

…. ask Him to forgive you of any wrong doing

…. ask that He come and make alive your spirit

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Sermon to Bega Baptist Church, Bega. NSW