There was a guy named Ross Cochrane whose son and daughter in-law were wanting to renovate their home. They need more space with a new baby coming. As it is, my granddaughter sleeps in what was once a large walk-in closet. So they really need some space. Even then the house will still be small.The house next door to my son’s house is full of asbestos. The neighbors want to do something about that but they have decided not to renovate, but to start again. They have decided to demolish it completely and rebuild. They want a completely new house. RENOVATE OR DEMOLISH? It seems to me that Jesus is saying He didn’t come to patch things up for me. He isn’t into patching up my old way of life. He wants to make everything new! New birth in Christ is not just a renovation of an old way of life. It is a complete demolition of a condemned structure. [END OF ILLUSTRATION].
We begin Chapter 3 of John’s gospel with Jesus making a startling and dramatic statement about the depth of the transformation required for people to live for him.
John 3:1-8 (NLT) 3 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
At night, Nicodemus tracked down Jesus. He said rabbi we know God sent you to teach us. Nobody could those miracles if not sent by God. Jesus got straight to it, and said you have to be born to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus asked how a grown man could enter his mother’s womb again. Jesus said he would have to be born of water and the Spirit. What is natural gives birth to what is natural. But the Spirit births spiritual life. Jesus said not to be surprised at this. The wind blows where it wants and does what it wants. U can’t contain it, but can only hear it and feel its affects. This is the same way with Spirit and His influence on people.
Upon studying this passage, in the original Greek, Jesus is actually telling people to be born from above, to experience a heavenly birth, a birth from a higher place. Born again means born from above The words for “born again” are “gennao (gen-nä’-ō),” and “anothen (ä’-nō-then).” Gennao means to procreate, to regenerate, bring forth, or conceive. Anothen means being from a higher place. So being born again means being conceived from a heavenly place.
Think about it this way…when you were born, there was no YOU…EVER…before that point, right? Folks may have the same first, or even first and last name. You may even be a twin or have a sibling that is close to you in age and appearance, but when you were born, that was the first time you ever existed. This is what Jesus is trying to say to us. Basically, your life doesn’t begin until you begin to follow Christ.
Life only has meaning after Christ
When we came out of our mothers, we came into this world spiritually stillborn. Now, once we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit resuscitates us. We literally become a new species that this world has never seen.
2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
It’s like Jurassic World when they made that dinosaur from scratch! That is you in Christ, made from scratch! It’s like if you ever play an Xbox or Playstation game where you get killed but then you press the button and “respawn.” The Call of Duty character, the Destiny character, the Halo character could never respawn by itself, right? You as the guy with the controller, who exists outside the game, has to press a button to resurrect that character. That’s what happens when we come to Christ. He presses the “paid in full” button on the controller to our lives and we respawn. [caterpillar to butterfly].
So you have this country prophet from a small fishing village of Nazareth, not so different from Misawa. To make things worse, Jesus also came from a sketchy background —- Remember Mary had him when she and Joseph were engaged. But regardless, Jesus straight up told Nicodemus, who was probably twice his age, and was an Old Testament EXPERT. He was the walking dead and had to be born from a higher place. Thank God for his Spirit, right?
1 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT) 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
Now this new birth…what I want to say to you all is to be very careful that you think, “Oh I get this, I’m born again.” Don’t miss the incredible, powerful truths Jesus is giving here. I mean if Nicodemus, a Pharisee, an Old Testament EXPERT, struggled with this, let us not get to cocky. Nicodemus is courageous enough to ask Jesus what he is really trying to say…
John 3:4-6 (NLT) 4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” 5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.
Nicodemus asked Jesus what he meant by “born again.” Jesus said no one can enter the kingdom of God, meaning heaven, without being born of the water and the Spirit.
Jesus was NOT telling an old man to pop back inside his mother’s belly! But was Jesus was saying was being a Holy Spirit-directed person. And also, Jesus said we were to be born of water. What was he talking about? Well no where in the Bible does it say that water baptism is required for salvation. The thief on the cross…Jesus said today, you’ll be with me in paradise. In John’s Gospel, “water” is mainly used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit, who will lead the recipient to eternal life. By placing both the terms, born of the water and the Spirit together, John stresses the twofold function of the Holy Spirit: life-giving and empowering. Both are related experiences in the realm of God’s rule.
Kanagaraj, J. J. (2013). John. (M. F. Bird & C. Keener, Eds.) (Vol. 4, pp. 30–31). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
So what Jesus is saying is that to enter the kingdom of God, you have to experience that initial conversion, and then the Spirit of God will give you continual power for a continual commitment.
The Spirit comes inside, then we keep getting filled
You see, what Jesus was saying is after you start following Christ, you must continually be filled with the living water of His Spirit, you must be baptized with his Holy Spirit, which means to be submerged, to be completely under, the Spirit’s power. What happens to our devices, our phones and iPads? they lose power if they stay unplugged forever, right? In the same way, not only do we need to pray to communicate, but we pray for POWER. I don’t know quite how, but when you pray you store up spiritual power [Jude]
Acts 1:8 New Living Translation (NLT) 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
This passage was after Jesus was resurrected. He told the people to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit, that baptism in the Holy Spirit, that submersion. It came after they had been seeking the Lord for 50 days. Notice this too..these were all apostles, so they all followed Jesus already, for at least 3 years. But back in verse 4 Jesus said …do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends the gift. Then he says you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. So the disciples were already Christians, right? they had been following Jesus or 3 years already, at least. So they were already born of the Spirit, but now they would receive that living water of the continual presence of the Spirit, of being completely submerged in the Spirit. You know that Psalm, “ as the deer,” thirsts from the brook? At that time, the deer used to completely submerge so nothing could pick up their scent. If you are baptized/submerged in the Holy Spirit, the wolves and the hunters of your soul can’t track you.
So Jesus scolded Nicodemus a little bit, but then he went on to explain himself a bit further:
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.
9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
Jesus told Nicodemus not to be surprised. He said that the wind does what it wants. You hear it but you cannot tell where it is coming from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is Spirit-born. Nicodemus asks how? Jesus then asks him how he can’t understand if he’s supposed to know? In 11, Jesus says I’m telling you what we have WITNESSED. If you don’t believe the earthly things, you won’t believe anything
The Holy Spirit will move differently in different people’s lives and situations — This is why you need God every day. Every day will have its own unique assignments.
[Illustration]: ELECTRIC SPIRIT. Nobody knows how much electricity exists in the universe. It’s not measurable, but it is available for us to use. It’s like that w/ the Holy Spirit. We plug into him, and it is he who powers our ministry, our witness to others, all that. So let us follow Gal. 2:25 to keep in step with him. So just like my mind is blown every time I crack open my Bible, and I’m sure your minds are blown, don’t worry, it happened to a Pharisee too! [END OF ILLUSTRATION].
Jesus asks Nicodemus he says how will you believe me about heaven if you can’t understand or believe earthly stuff. No one has ever gone to heaven and return…except me!! But who is the WE is talking about in verse 11?
So the WE Jesus is talking about in verse 11 has to be himself and the Holy Spirit, because that’s the best way to understand what Jesus says in verse 12 and later on in 13. So not only did Christ come to free us from sin, he came to each us about God and about heaven.
Christ came to teach us and to heal us
So Christ’s mission was to free us from sin, teach us about God, and give us eternal life. We all need the healing presence of the Spirit inside us, leading us and purifying us everyday.
So Christ summarizes his conversation with Nicodemus by giving him the big picture about why he came, and now we come to what is probably the most famous verse in the Bible.
John 3:13-15 (NLT) 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. ——14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
Jesus says look: God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that ALL who believe in him would not perish, but live forever. God sent his Son not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
No one has ever gone to heaven and returned, but Jesus has. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake, all who believe in him will have eternal life. And then Jesus says this was the way God proved his love for the world. God sent Jesus not to judge, but save the world. And then he moves in further. This is why he referenced Moses and the bronze serpent (Numbers 21:8-9).
It was pointing to the crucifixion, thousands of years before crucifixion was even invented. Do you know where else we see this symbol? In modern medicine:
Again…as we see with this Blue Cross symbol, Blue Cross helps heal what’s broken in human bodies. The cross of Christ is there to heal what’s broken in human souls. Our sins were laid upon Jesus. Christ is saying not only did he come to teach us, but he came to free us as well. And not only, but he came to free this entire universe. What does that mean?
So the world in the original Greek for world in this passage is cosmos. Why is this important? It means everything in our created order was set to rights by the sacrifice of Christ. I don’t know when exactly this will happen…Christ has a timing all his own. BUT! The church can bring traces of heaven to earth now.
Before Christianity emerged, there were several hospital-like centers in Buddhist regions. The ancient Greeks practised a very simple form of medicine. However, it was the Christians of the Roman Empire who began to change society’s attitude to the sick, disabled and dying. The weak and the sick were despised. Abortion, infanticide and poisoning were widely practiced. When Constantine issued the first Edict of Toleration in AD 311, Christians were able to give public expression to their ethical convictions and undertake social reform. A few decades after Constantine, Julian, who came to power in AD 355, was the last Roman Emperor to try to re-institute paganism. In his Apology, Julian said that if the old religion wanted to succeed, it would need to care for people even better than the way Christians cared. This was taken from the Christian Medicine Fellowship of the UK http://www.cmf.org.uk
All of this has happened because of Jesus and his followers. In fact a very prominent atheist, Matthew Parris, said this about a recent trip to Malawi. “In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”
Wow. The Gospel of Christ Jesus is truly transforming.
The cross of Christ changes souls and changes the world
What a powerful statement from an atheist, but this is just one story. I could give you stories from all 2,017 years worth of church history about the impact of Jesus, and about the impact of Christians who have been born again, who have been regenerated. Let us be people who, because we have obtained mercy, give mercy.
Titus 3:5 (NLT) 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
Here’s the Amplified Bible: Titus 3:5 Amplified Bible (AMP) 5 He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we have done, but because of His own compassion and mercy, by the cleansing of the new birth (spiritual transformation, regeneration) and renewing by the Holy Spirit.
Nicodemus publicly gave Jesus a burial worthy of a king in the 19th chapter. So it is safe to say that he truly became a disciple. To those that respond to him in faith, Christ gives them new birth through the Spirit, and they become a new creation. You can become a new creation today! You can be forgiven, healed, changed and cleansed! You can receive the eternal life that Christ provides freely.