There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, this was one very smart, very good guy. He knew the Scriptures perfectly. He could quote them back to you verbatim. He kept the law as well as any man could. He cared so deeply about the Law that he followed a whole lot of extra laws that were made just to be sure he didn’t break the 613 laws in the Scriptures in addition to the Ten Commandments. He was no dummy! He was not one of those low-down dirty “sinners” either. This guy was a religious leader and he knew his stuff. But he knew there was more, he knew that this Jesus guy that was walking around and teaching had the stuff he was looking for, so Nicodemus approached him. He couldn’t face the embarrassment of letting the other Pharisees see him so he went when it was dark and he wouldn’t be recognized and all his friends would be with their families at home. Most of the Pharisees recognized that Jesus was from God, but only Nicodemus had the gumption to ask Jesus about it.
John 3:1-21 records what happened. Verses 1-4 read,
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 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 knew that Nicodemus wanted to see more, that he wanted to know who He was. But He also knew that Nicodemus needed to understand that all the earthly, scriptural, and religious knowledge in the world was not going to give him the revelation he was looking for. So, Jesus gave Nicodemus this bizarre requirement, you have to be born again to get the answers you want; you have to be born again to see the Kingdom of God. And Nicodemus asked the question everyone wants to ask when they hear this, but most are too prideful to do. See, Nicodemus really wanted the answer and he acknowledged that Jesus was at least from God, so he was humble enough to ask, “What do mean???? I can’t be born again, it already happened. You can’t be born a second time! Even if I could fit, I can’t climb back into the womb.”
Jesus said, “HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME! I’m not just from God, I AM God!”
No, that wasn’t what Jesus said! He wouldn’t ever say that. He had affronted Nicodemus’ intelligence and the man had stayed and asked more questions so Jesus answered the questions. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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 may seem too difficult to understand so let’s read Jesus’ answer from The Message,
“You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
7-8 “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”
Jesus wasn’t talking about physical birth, He was referring to the spirit of a person being renewed in a dramatic way, the old spirit gone and replaced with a new spirt, His Spirit bringing new life and new identity, totally different from the identity and life the physical world gives.
But Nicodemus still didn’t understand. Jesus had put it in simple earthly terms and Nicodemus wasn’t able to mesh it with his understanding of the Law. He had not really looked at the Law with spiritual eyes, he had followed and loved the law but forgot to follow and love the LORD God. But Nicodemus didn’t walk away forlorn, he stayed and asked more. So, Jesus stayed and answered more. He even referred to the Scriptures that Nicodemus loved to help him make the connections.
He said, “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.”
And Nicodemus was still listening and Jesus got right into the deep but simple truth. He continued,
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”
God loves you so much, He wants a relationship with you, He wants you to know what real life is, He wants you to live that full eternal life He created you for. That love is so overwhelming that Jesus came down from His awesome home, Heaven and chose to live as a human example of Godly things to give you the chance at that eternal life. Without Jesus, we are under a death sentence, we have to die as punishment for living outside of what God wants for us.
Most people enjoy the ignorance of not knowing that, they are afraid to step out of the world of satisfying their stomach, carnal desires, bank accounts, and pride to find out what real life could be. They choose not to see Jesus and acknowledge what God did for them. But Jesus came to give you that chance, He came to give Nicodemus that chance.
You might ask, How do I get born again then? How do I become the new person Jesus was talking about?
Every person on earth has done things that are not God’s will for them. There is not a single person from Adam to Moses to John to Billy Graham that lived a life and kept the law God gave us to follow and be considered good. That is why Jesus came. God knew we couldn’t do it, it is impossible for us, but it is not impossible for Him. So Jesus came and lived and was tempted and still perfectly fulfilled God’s Law.
The first thing we do to live this new eternal life is we acknowledge that we have not lived in God’s will, we have sinned. Sin is doing anything outside of God’s will, such as lying, stealing, or thinking an angry thought against anyone (even ourselves). It is choosing our desires over God’s.
Once we acknowledge it, we repent. Repent is a fancy word which means be sorry you did it and choose not to do it anymore. It is to declare from now on our will is whatever God wills. As soon as Jesus was baptized, His ministry began and He began preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He was saying, “Heaven is open, I am the Savior you’ve been waiting for, I am here so stop living outside God’s will.”
Here’s what Jesus did. He taught us to live just as God wants us to and He lived exactly as God wants us to. But then, because He is God and was the only one who could satisfy the requirements of God’s Law, He became the sacrifice, He paid the price we owe and He chose to die in our place. He died a terrible death, the worst we can imagine so that we could live the best life imaginable and He could have the joy of being our friend.
Then, He came back to life! Really, He died and three days later God, the Holy Spirit, breathed life back into Him and He was alive again!!!! But this time, it was and is forever. And He has that same gift for us, we choose to put our old self to death by believing Jesus is who He says He is and simply accepting the gift of eternal life from Him. We say, “Jesus, you are God, the Christ, and you are in charge of my life from this moment forward.” We believe that in the depths of our souls and we are reborn! New! And it is from that moment forward that we get to enjoy this amazing eternal life.
It really and truly is that simple! Romans 10:9 puts it this way, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You are no longer the old person, you are a new creation, born again with a new identity. God doesn’t see any of your old self anymore. All the wrongs you did are gone! He sees you through eyes of complete forgiveness and you are now righteous. That means you are in the right relationship with Him and not a single sin is counted against you. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 in the Living Bible says it this way,
So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now! 17 When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!
18 All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. 19 For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. 20 We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. 21 For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!
Not one sin, past, present, or future is counted against us. And not only that but you now have the ability to live well, to choose to love God by choosing to not give into your own will and sin but to follow God’s will and love Him, obey Him, and love all people in the same way He does.
Knowing who He is and who you are in Him gives you the trust, the faith to be able to live the way He wants you to live. And I promise you what He has in store for you is bigger and better than you can imagine.
Find out who God is, get to know Him, read the Bible even if you think you can’t understand what it says. Pray even if you think you can’t. Simply talk to God like you would to anyone. He knows the depths of you better than you know yourself, so be completely open and honest with Him. You won’t shock Him or make Him mad at you. He loves you 100%, He will not love you any less for your honesty. Listen to what He has to say. Now you may have trouble at first recognizing Him or realizing that you do hear Him, but the more you sit quietly and choose to listen, the more you look for who God is and what He has to say the more you will hear Him and know Him.