Today, we’re continuing our message series entitled “New Life.” In this series, we’re looking at the stories of Jesus encountering different people. In these encounters, Jesus is offering new life or eternal life to those He meets. This new life that Jesus offers is unique among all the religions of the world. Each of the world’s religions has a unique belief system, yet only Christianity offers eternal life. The eternal life that Christianity offers is backed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He rose, never to die again. Every other religious leader is dead and gone, only Jesus is alive today.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
This verse describes the new life that Jesus offers as making a believer a new creation. They literally become a new person with a new life. Our message today is entitled “Searching for Truth.” We’re going to be studying the story of Nicodemus in John 3, who came to Jesus searching for the truth. Last Sunday, as we studied John 4, Jesus talked about the truth.
John 4:23 (ESV) But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
God wants people to worship Him in Spirit and truth. In order to know the truth, you must know the Spirit. We’ll learn more about the Spirit today.
John 8:31-32 (ESV) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Knowing the truth begins with abiding or living in God’s Word. As you allow the Word to shape your life, you will know the truth and that truth will set your free. Jesus wants to set people free from their old life, so that they can live the new life He offers. The old life is characterized by sin, bondage, following your own plans, not having a relationship with God and headed for eternal destruction. God wants to set you free into a new life of righteousness, freedom, following Jesus as a child of God and headed for eternal life with God.
Last Sunday, we looked at Jesus’ encounter with an uneducated Samaritan woman who had lived a promiscuous life. Today, we are going to look at Jesus’ encounter with an educated Pharisee who was outwardly upstanding in all regards. Jesus begins by telling him …
Our story begins with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. He was a ruler of the Jews. As such, he was well educated in the Hebrew Old Testament and well regarded by the Jews.
John 3:2-3 (ESV) 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.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus came to Jesus secretly at night. Undoubtedly, he feared being discovered talking to Jesus by other Jews. Nicodemus begins by complimenting Jesus as a teacher from God, evidenced by the miracles that He did. Nicodemus wants to know more about Jesus, but he’s not even sure what question to ask. Jesus answers Nicodemus’ unstated question anyway. Jesus says, if you want to see the kingdom of God, if you want to understand what I am doing, you must be born again. In the Greek, the word for again can mean either again or from above. Both meanings are in play here, you must be born again and you must be born from above. What is this kingdom of God that Jesus is talking about? The kingdom of God is the spiritual sphere in which God reigns supreme. Only those born again can see it.
John 3:4-5 (ESV) 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 say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus is taking the term born again literally and saying that it is impossible. Perhaps he is also somewhat sarcastic, saying that what Jesus says doesn’t make sense. Jesus answers again to define what born again means, it means to be born of water and the Spirit. Commentators argue over what being born of water and the Spirit means. Scripture is always best interpreted by Scripture. In John 7, Jesus tells us that the living water in the heart of a believer is the Holy Spirit. So, a more accurate translation would be born of water, even the Spirit. Now Jesus adds that those so born can enter the kingdom of God as well as see it.
John 3:7-8 (ESV) 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.”
Since in order to be born again, one must be born of the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells us more about what the life of a believer is like. In the Greek, the word for wind and the word for Spirit are the same, pneuma. Just as you can’t see the wind, but can hear it and see its effects, so is the effect of the Spirit in a person’s life. The Spirit directs the believer in every aspect of life, even though He cannot be seen. In order to see and enter the kingdom of God, you must be born again.
Although the term born again has been ridiculed in our culture, it is a thoroughly biblical term used by Jesus Himself. It conveys the dramatic transformation that happens when a person becomes a believer in Jesus Christ. A person who is not a believer cannot see or understand the spiritual reality of God’s kingdom. They may even know what the Bible says, but it makes no sense to them, it seems as foolishness.
The dilemma is how can an unbeliever who cannot see spiritual reality ever be born again? The answer, as we’ll see is faith. Believing in someone and something you don’t fully understand, choosing to receive the truth. It’s often referred to as a leap of faith. Once you take that leap of faith, then you will begin to see, as you enter into the kingdom of God. In order to be born again, you must …
John 3:9 (ESV) Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
Nicodemus does not understand, he cannot see the spiritual reality of God’s kingdom, even though he has been a student of the Old Testament. Jesus confronts Nicodemus …
John 3:11b-12 (ESV) … 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?
Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he has not received the testimony that has been given to him. In fact, Jesus has been telling him earthly things and he has not believed. Jesus has been seeking to explain spiritual reality with physical metaphors, being born again and the wind as the Spirit. So, despite Nicodemus appearing to be searching for the truth in his encounter with Jesus, he has not yet received the truth, nor has he believed. Actually, in the Greek, the you pronouns are plural, so Jesus is speaking of the overall group of Jewish leaders of which Nicodemus was part. Overall, they have not received the truth that Jesus has been teaching, nor have they believed.
God gives many earthly things or signs that point people to the truth of God. Creation itself is so vast, so complex, so unexplained, that everyone should acknowledge the existence of a Creator, but many do not. Our story began with Nicodemus talking about the signs that Jesus did. Jesus performed many signs to show that He was the son of God. He taught the Scripture with authority, He healed the sick, He cast out demons, He raised the dead, He fed thousands of people. Yet, the majority of people did not receive His witness. They saw earthly miraculous things, yet did not perceive the spiritual reality behind it.
The same is true today, a person must choose to receive the truth of God, as revealed by earthly things and by the revelation contained in God’s Word. Then …
John 3:14-15 (ESV) 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.
These are Jesus’ last words to Nicodemus. Jesus uses another earthly illustration from the Old Testament that would have been familiar to Nicodemus. Venomous snakes were biting the Israelites and many were dying. Moses put a bronze serpent on a pole and everyone who looked at the bronze serpent was healed. They had to look at an image of what was killing them in order to be saved.
In the same way, Jesus was lifted up on a cross, He took upon Himself, the sin that is killing us. When we look to Him in faith, when we believe in Him, we are saved and have eternal life. In Jesus’ final statement to Nicodemus, Jesus makes it clear that faith in Him is essential to having eternal life. Eternal life is life with God forever and ever. It begins in this life and continues in the next after physical death. At the resurrection, our physical bodies will be glorified and reunited with our spirits forever. The next verse if the most famous verse in the Bible, as it gives the entire Gospel in one sentence.
John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God loved the world, which is the sinners like you and me living here. He sent Jesus, His only Son, from heaven to earth, to die on the cross for our sins. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish, will not be tormented forever in hell apart from God. They will have eternal life, a life in relationship with God, both in this life and in eternity. This is the only way that people can be saved, only through faith in Jesus Christ.
Was Nicodemus saved? Did he become a disciple of Jesus? Not clear from this passage. We do know that after Jesus’ death, Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea to anoint Jesus’ body with a large amount of spices and put Him in a tomb. Most likely Nicodemus became a believer, but the Bible doesn’t say. The Bible does not answer every question we may have.
Jesus presented the truth to Nicodemus, as He presents to us. We must decide whether to receive that truth and put our faith in Jesus. The same is true with those that we witness to. We must present the truth, as Jesus did, and then pray that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of those who hear. So they will choose to believe in Jesus. Finally, John 3:16 is incredibly good news for those who believe and incredibly bad news for those who don’t. Those who don’t believe will perish. To perish means to spend eternity in eternal torment in the fire of hell apart from God. There is no fate worse than that. The same two options are offered to every human being, believe and have eternal life, don’t believe and perish. That truth should motivate us as believers to do everything we can to see people saved.
John 3:18 (ESV) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
To be condemned is to be guilty of sin and sentenced to judgement for our sin. God’s judgment for those condemned of sin is to perish eternally in hell apart from God. Those who believe in Jesus are not condemned. Believers sinned before they were saved and occasionally sin after being saved. Why are they not condemned? Because by believing in Jesus, they are forgiven through Jesus’ death for them on the cross. What of those who have not believe in the name of Jesus? This verse says that unbelievers are condemned already. They are sinners, condemned to spend eternity in hell apart from God. According to this verse, what condemns a person to perish? In one sense it is their sin, but this verse says they are condemned because they have not believed in Jesus. You see, the ultimate sin is not accepting the free gift of eternal life that Jesus offers to everyone, simply by believing in Him. When you believe in Jesus, every sin that have ever committed is forgiven, all condemnation is gone, you are set free. Why doesn’t everyone believe in Jesus?
John 3:19-20 (ESV) And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
The book of John begins by telling us that Jesus is the light of the world. Rather than coming to the light, people stayed in the darkness to hide their sins. That is why the first step in coming to Christ is to admit your sins, rather than trying to hide them.
John 3:21 (ESV) But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
A believer on the other hand, comes to the light of Christ. He has nothing to hide. A believer walks in the light, openly showing the world that he walks with God. He walks in freedom, not condemnation.
Today, we’ve looked at powerful teaching from God’s Word about what it means to be a believer. This teaching is of vital importance both for those searching for the truth and those seeking to be a witness to others. Jesus’ teaching refutes many popular beliefs, such as:
Let’s close with the most famous verse, John 3:16, which summarizes Jesus’ teaching.
John 3:16 (ESV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.