Sermon – You must be born again. (John 3:1 – 3:15) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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The Book of John was authored by one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, John, who features in the gospel. John makes his mission for writing the book plain in 20:31; “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” He details the many words and claims of Jesus, as well as the various responses from those listening; in either faith, amazement, caution or rejection. Listen as Cornerstone preachers unpack the narrative and invite us to reflect on our own response to Jesus.

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Sermon 9 of 58

You must be born again.

Tom Sweatman, John 3:1 - 3:15, 13 February 2022

Tom continues our series in John’s gospel by preaching from John 3:1-15. Here we see Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and what it means for us today (what does it mean to be ‘born again’?)

John 3:1 - 3:15

3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 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 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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 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.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Okay. John chapter 3 versus 1 to 15. Now there was a pharisee, a man named nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.

For no 1 could perform the signs you were doing, if God were not with him. Jesus replied, very well I tell you, no 1 can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. How can someone be born when they are old, nicodemus asked? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born. Jesus answered.

Very truly, I tell you. No 1 can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the spirit. Flesh, gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases.

You hear it sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit. How can this be, nicodemus asked? You are Israel's teacher said Jesus, and do you not understand these things? Very truly, I tell you.

We speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe. How then will you believe if I speak to you of heavenly things? No 1 has ever gone into the heavens except the 1 who came from heaven, the son of man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the son of man must be lifted up that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

Thanks, Chris. My name is Tom. I'm 1 of the pastors here at the church, and a very warm welcome to all of you here to those online and especially if it's your first time with us this evening. This is a series that we began several weeks ago in John's John's gospel, and we've reached this amazing encounter here in chapter 3 And as we begin, let's ask for the Lord's help as we look at it together. Spry.

Father as we think about those unreached peoples of the world, we are amazed at the resources that we have, that we can have open bibles in front of us in a language that we can understand. We can load up your words on our phones. On our devices and our tablets, we can see it in big bold letters behind us on projected screens. We can have multiple translations. We can have study bibles, which help us to understand the meaning.

We can have cross references, concordances, dictionaries, commentaries, devotionals, hundreds and hundreds of things that make plain to us the things that really matter, the truths about who you And we just remember those in the world without without anything like that. And yet, we're sorry that so often our our education in the things of your word far exceeds our obedience to the things in your word. And we know a lot and obey little sometimes, and we're sorry for that. And we pray that you would help us this evening as we look at this most important truth about how we become members of the kingdom of God, that you would help us not to harden our hearts to the things here, not to despise the privileges of being able to read your word together. And we pray that as we look at the things of the spirit that you would give us the spirit to understand them, to listen and to obey, and to love the lord Jesus who was lifted up for sinners like us.

And we ask it in his name. Oh, men. Oh, men. Well, we are dealing with the most important question that any of us could ever deal with this evening. It is the most important subject that we could ever address and find the answer to, and it is that question of how we enter the kingdom of God.

How we actually become part of it, become members of God's kingdom. And the reason that is the most important question is because everything depends on it. Our everlasting salvation, our eternal joy, and peace with the God who made us depends on us, finding out the answer to that question of how we enter the kingdom of god. JC Ryal, who was the old bishop of the old bishop of Liverpool, He said this about John chapter 3. A man may be ignorant of many things in religion and yet be saved.

But to be ignorant of the matters handled in this chapter is to be in the broad way, which leadeth to destruction. And what he means by that is not that you couldn't be saved without knowing the terms and the language in this chapter. You could actually be born again without of having heard the phrase born again. But what he means is to be ignorant of these things in the sense that we have not experienced them. We do not have the reality that is described here is to be on the broad way which leads to destruction.

This subject really, really matters. 3 times in these 15 verses, in verse 3 5 and 11, Jesus says very truly, I say to you, truly, truly, I say to you, It's a formula which underlines the importance of the things that he's dealing with. Very truly. This is true, true information. That you need to understand.

He's underlining that. Last week, we were having to think about the weightiness of God's character, his glory that is seen in Christ. And these words we're dealing with are weighty words, weighty words that come from the weighty, glorious God. How does any man or woman or child enter the kingdom of God? Jesus says they must be born again.

And so it really matters that we know what that means. 1 old Scottish puritan, wrote a book called The Life of God in The Soul of Man. And he describes True Religion as a Union of the Soul with God. A real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God. Drawn upon the soul.

George Whitfield, 1 of the greatest evangelists this country has ever seen, said of that book, the life of God in the soul of man, I never knew what true religion was until God sent me this work. This is true religion. It is to have the life of God in the soul of man. It is to be born again to have the spirit of the Almighty dwelling upon us, writing his image upon our soul. It is to be united with the living God to have a new birth, a birth from above, to be born again.

That's what it is to be a Christian. I never knew what true religion was until God sent me this work. So let me put that to you even as we begin. Are you born again? Have you been born again?

Do you know what is described even in that introduction? Are you born again? This evening, we're looking at an amazing encounter between Jesus and this man called nicodemus, as he emerges from the dark and comes into an understanding of these things. And we're just gonna keep rubbing that question home. Are you born again?

Do we know what it is to be born again as we see Jesus' gracious encounter with this with this man. So the first heading is this nicodemus, his confession, and his confusion, his confession, By that, I mean, his belief, the things that he said and believed his confession and his confusion. And the first thing I want you to notice is his pedigree. Have a look at verse 1 with me. Now there was a pharisee, a man named nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.

The word pharisee means to be a separated 1, 1 who is separate from other people, and it started, lots of people think, as a good campaign, the Faracy campaign. 1 commentator says the Faracy campaign was 1 of great vision to separate people to God, but very quickly, it degenerated into an exclusive movement to separate faracies from ordinary people. So the idea of it, at least in its conception, was a good 1. We want to have this system whereby we can separate people for God. We can consecrate them.

Teach them what it means to know and love the covenant God. But as with all man centered religion, it quickly took a turn for the worst, and it became about how do we separate our selves from ordinary people. How do we set ourselves apart from the riffraff, from the underbelly, from the dirt of society? And become the special religious ones. Nikodemus belonged to that group.

He was 1 set apart. We're told that he was a ruler of the Jews, which means that he was part of the ruling religious council of the day, the Sanhedrin. So not only was he a separated 1 in terms of religion, he was a significant 1. He was part of the ruling council, making the big decisions about God and the worship of God. In verse 10, Jesus says, you are Israel's teacher But actually, in other translations, they put the definite article in, which it is in the original, are you the teacher of Israel?

Are you the teacher Jesus says. In other words, he's not just 1 who teaches, he's famous for his teaching, he is the teacher, the 1 people look to the 1 by which doctrine and truth comes to the people of God. And so when we read about nicodemus, We read about a man who was exclusive, even within an exclusive world. He was set apart within the set apart world. A separated 1, a member of the ruling council, 1 who was known not just as a teacher, but the teacher of Israel.

This is a highly significant person that Jesus is talking to here. 1 other commentator says there could be few Jews if any in the entire city that night, whose credentials were more impressive as far as acceptance with God was concerned, few Jews, if any, in the entire city. Whose credentials were more impressive than nicodemus's. That's his pedigree. Secondly, let's look at his arrival in verse 2.

He came to Jesus at night. He came to Jesus at night. Now why does he do that? Why does he decide to come to Jesus at night and not in the light of day? Well, we're not explicitly told why he comes at night here.

But there is a clue in John 12 verse 42 as to why this might be. His John 12 verse 42 to 43 on the screen. Many, even among the leaders believed in him, this is Jesus later on in his ministry, but because of the pharisees, they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear, they would be put out of the synagogue for they loved human praise more than praise from God. So there were some people, even among the leaders who were beginning to believe in Jesus, who were on a journey to accepting him for who he truly was, but they would not acknowledge it publicly. They wouldn't say so out loud in the light of day for fear that, they would be put out of the synagogue.

That they'd lose their jobs, that their reputations would be destroyed, that their separated status would be undone. They were afraid to confess him, and so maybe nicodemus comes at night for that same reason. He's genuinely interested in finding out more about this figure, but he's afraid because of who he is. Doesn't wanna be seen with this man in public in case it spells disaster for him? Or maybe, some people think it's more sinister than that.

Because in John's Gospel, darkness and light also have a moral component. So what happens in the light is associated with truth and wisdom and righteousness. What happens in the darkness is associated with deceit and wickedness. And so some suggest he comes at night because he's looking to trap Jesus in some way. There's something sinister about his motives that he comes at night.

I personally think it's hard to square with the way Jesus Jesus treats him here But maybe that's 1 reason he comes at night. Either way, I think it's symbolic. It's a symbolic thing of a man who is in the dark but emerging into the light. He comes at night to begin with, but he's about to talk to the light of the world. His pedigree, his arrival.

Thirdly, look at his confession. He came to Jesus at night verse 2, and said, rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. 4, no 1 could perform the signs that you are doing if God were not with him. So it's a simple formula that nicodemus has in his mind. You are a teacher you are doing signs to authenticate what you are doing, you are from God.

And God is with you. Teaching plus signs equals God is with you. And now what signs is he referring to? Well, if you look back at chapter 2 verse 23, There's this little note. Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs Jesus was performing, and believed in his name.

So Jesus was going around in Jerusalem, doing signs, and many people had seen them. So at this stage, he was well known as a miracle worker as a sign performer. And also, it's very possible. I think very unlikely that he would not know about what Jesus had just done in the temple. We saw that last week, didn't we?

In chapter 2, that Jesus comes into the temple. He finds a load of people pretending to love God and he makes an important scene of that, exposes that and starts driving out that false religion. Nikodemus, I guess, would not only have heard about that, but he may well have been there and seen that. And that was a sign in some way, wasn't it? Jesus performing a cleansing sign upon the religious establishment of the day.

And so in some ways, nicodemus in his confession is right. He's right in what he says. Jesus is a teacher. God is with him. He has been performing signs.

Those are true statements. In John 10 verse 26, Jesus says, the works I do in my father's name testify about me. So that was 1 of the reasons Jesus performed signs because the signs testified about who he was that he'd come from God. And so nicodemus says, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God for no 1 could perform the signs you are doing. If God were not with him.

But that's not the whole story. If you look back with me to 2 23, While Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind for he knew what was in each person. Now, the same verb is used for believe in verse 23 and in trust in verse 24.

So perhaps it's better to read they trusted in his name, but he did not entrust himself to them. They trusted in his name, but he did not entrust himself to them. Trusting in Christ on the basis of signs could be the real beginnings of saving faith, but it could also be counterfeit faith. People who are only seeing the signs and impressed with this mighty teacher taken up with this new guy on the block who's able to do things we've never seen before. 1 who teaches not as our scribes but with authority.

There's something in impressive about him, something magnetic about him that people are drawn to. But Jesus is looking for more than just fascination. With him. He sees through that sort of belief, and he won't entrust himself to people because he wants to see evidence of real repentance and faith on the basis of what he's doing. And so where is nicodemus?

When it comes to his confession. It is hard to know, I think. It is hard to know where exactly he is. Is he 1 of those people who's just seen the signs, heard the news, and is kind of deceitfully taken up with him? Or has nicodemus, as he's been pondering what happened in the temple, thinking about his teachings, is there a genuine sympathy with what Christ is doing?

The seeds, the beginnings of true faith, and he wants to come out of the dark to know more about Christ? It's hard to know exactly, but Either way, he is definitely confused about some very important things still. Even if he has come to understand them in a sense, He's still confused about the reality of them. And that's the next thing to notice. His pedigree, his arrival, his confession, and then look at his confusion.

Look with me at verses 3 to 4. Jesus replied, very truly, I tell you, no 1 can see the kingdom of God, unless they are born again. Well, how can someone be born again when they are old? Nikodemosaurus, surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born. And then verse 9, how can this be?

Nikademus asked. Now we'll come back to what Jesus actually says to him in a moment. But as you can see, he is confused about spiritual realities. In his mind to be born again, means exactly that, to return to your mother's womb and to have a second crisis moment, to be actually born again physically. Now, it's hard to know, isn't it, where the nicodemus is just being sarky there.

But that he's actually being sarcastic because he really knows that Jesus is not suggesting that, and it's actually ridiculous for even to him to put the question or whether he's whether he genuinely thinks that Jesus is speaking along those lines. And that may well be the case because 1 of the errors of the day was that the kingdom of God was mainly just a physical thing. That when the kingdom of God came, it would mean the Romans would be overthrown. There'd be a demonstration of political power The Jews would be restored to their proper place. There'd be war and celebration and victory.

It was physical in many of their minds. And so maybe when Jesus talks about this spiritual reality, born again of water and spirit, born again, he's think he's stuck in this physical world. How can these strange things be? Jesus says in verse 7 of him, you should not be surprised. And the word there means to regard with amazement.

Have it, you should not marvel. You should not regard with amazement these things. And so that seems to be where he is. Probably not being sarcastic and facetious and trying to mock Jesus, but regarding it with amazement, with confusion, marvelling at what he's saying. Because he doesn't see the spiritual reality of it just yet.

And so it seems that nicodemus at this stage is a bit like the the blind man who Jesus heals in 2 stages. Remember him? He gets a partial recovery of his sight and he sees people walking around, but thinks they're trees. There's a kind of weird physical reality to that. He thinks there's trees moving around.

And then he has his sight fully restored. It seems like nicodemus is halfway through that journey. He sees partly But actually, he still belongs to this system which rejects. Do you see that in verse 11? We testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.

So is nicodemus confused certainly? Is he emerging from the dark? Looks like it. But does he belong to this system which rejects the Messiah still? Jesus says you people.

Do not accept my testimony. And so what is nicodemus so confused about? Well, let's move now to the second heading. We've looked at nicodemus, his confession and confusion. And now let's look at the Holy Spirit, his work, and his witness.

His work and his witness. And the first thing to see about this work of the Holy Spirit, which nicodemus has still not yet truly grasped. Is that it is an essential work. Have a look with me at verse 3. Very truly, I tell you, no 1 can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

Verse 5, very truly I tell you, no 1 can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the spirit The work of the spirit in the soul of man is an essential work. In Mark chapter 1, when Jesus begins his preaching ministry, he says the time has come, the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe the good news. So Jesus says, that's that's on us. The kingdom of God is at hand, you need to turn around from your sin, believe, and enter the kingdom of God. But this shows us that in order for that to happen, in order for us to come to a right conviction about our sin, have the capacity to turn back to God in repentance and believe in His son, we need the work of the spirit of God.

We need the holy spirit to have enlivened us to those things and enabled us to repent. We must be born again. You see how Jesus emphasizes it, unless you must. Very truly, I tell you. You must unless you must The work of the spirit is an essential work.

That's what he's saying to nicodemus, and it's what he's saying to us. Secondly, the Holy Spirit's work is divine. It's a divine work. Verse 3, again, very truly I tell you, no 1 can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. Very truly, I tell you no 1 can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water in the spirit.

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it's going. Well, so it is with everyone born of the spirit.

Now, this word or this phrase to be born again contains 2 ideas. 1 is about being born again. It's an experience word, something that happens to us. We're born once, we're born again. But there's also something about origins here, and it can be translated unless you are born from above.

Born again, born from above, unless you have a heavenly birth, unless you have a divine interaction Something comes to you from above, from God. Unless that happens, you won't see the kingdom of God. And actually, John in this gospel has been preparing us for both of those things. If you think back to chapter 1 and verse 12, or verse 11 to 12. Jesus we're told about Jesus.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet, to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, and here it is, children born not of natural descent nor of human decision, or a husband's will, but born of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, says Jesus. You know, we we cannot, in our fallen condition, suddenly decide just to break out of as we like. We are born in sin, as our fathers were born in sin, as their fathers were born in sin, our children will be born in sin, flesh gives birth to flesh.

We cannot suddenly decide that we're done with that cycle. We're gonna break out of it. Now Jesus says we must be born again. And this is what he's saying to nicodemus very graciously, I think. But don't don't think because you're Abraham's child you're automatically in.

Don't think because of your human descent or your status in society, or how other people revere you, don't think that all your credentials mean you're in. You must be born again. If the universe had to be created from nothing. If water had to be changed into wine from the outside, If the temple had to be cleansed from the Holy God without, do we think the sinful human heart is any different? Do we think that it requires less intervention, something less miraculous?

It needs the 1 from outside the sovereign gift of God above to give us a new birth. It is a divine work. That's what Jesus is saying. It's also an unpredictable work. In verse 6 to 8, We're told that flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit.

You should not be surprised at my saying you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, so it is with everyone born of the spirit. In nicodemus's world, everything is very predictable. Flesh gives birth to flesh, pharisee to pharisee, tax collector to tax collector, prostitute to prostitute, you you everything is predictable, everything is contained, everything follows a pattern.

1 commentator says, As a devout orthodox Jew, he presumed that his place in the coming kingdom was assured by virtue of his race and circumcision. It is a predictable world. But the spirit, Jesus says, cannot be contained and predicted and confined in those same ways. It's more like the wind. Both in the old testament and hear the words for the spirit and the wind are the same.

It's the same word. And still today, and I actually mean today, with all the weather technology we've got, we haven't yet mastered the wind. Have we? We cannot we cannot yet predict it fully. You just stand outside and look at the trees.

1 minute, they're swaying that way, and then they'll start swaying that way, and We just can't predict it. We can't say, here's where it started. The gust will be this strong and give up here. There is so much that we don't know, even about the wind. You know, Jesus is saying the spirit of God is like that.

He's not like a fan, you know, a domestic fan, where you can control the intensity of the wind You know exactly when you want it on. You know which direction you want it to face. You can put it on oscillating mode or whatever it is and have it. Spinning around. It's all controlled, intensity control, direction control, predictable patterns.

The spirit of God is not like that. Cannot be ordered. He cannot be booked in for 3 o'clock next week. He cannot be contained. He is not stuck in our systems of thought.

He is a sovereign gift of the living God who is given whom the living god pleases. On a podcast recently, when we were a dress some of the questions that came out of Romans, and, you know, 2 of those done. We love you to listen to to those. We were talking about election. And the work of God in salvation.

And 1 of the questions we discussed briefly was why why would it be that we or you if you're a Christian should have been made alive to the things of God and born again, whereas at this stage, your neighbors or people in your family have not yet had that experience. And the reality is sometimes we just don't know sometimes. We know that God did not choose us because of anything desirable in us. Was a sovereign work of grace. The spirit of God is like the wind.

He moves where he moves. And he does as he pleases. It's an unpredictable work. It's essential. It's divine.

It's unpredictable. That would have been a challenge for us, wouldn't it? Fourthly, it's powerful. Verse 8, the wind blows wherever it pleases, You do hear it sound. But you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, and so it is with everyone born of spirit.

And this is the thing, both with wind and other things like it, gravity. You know, in 1 sense, you cannot see it with your eyes. But you can see the effects of it everywhere. You can see the way it moves trees, the way it takes the petals off the flowers and scatters them across the garden, the way the birds hover there and are taken down and up in the currents of air. You cannot see it, but you can see the effects of it all around.

Jesus says the work of the spirit is like that. You do hear it sound. There's something you can see at work. In Ezekiel 36, this is a big old testament foundation to this chapter ezekiel 36, we're told this about the work of the spirit. This is ezekiel 36 24 to 27, and this is where the water and the spirit come together, which Jesus mentions in this chapter.

I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land, says the Lord speak, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from your heart, you, your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh and I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my law You see how the Lord there puts together both the cleansing of water and the gift of the spirit. As Jesus does here, the sprinkling of salvation water and the gift of the spirit.

And if there's 1 thing about that work is that you can see its fruit. You can see its effects. What does it produce? This cleansing water in this new spirit. It produces a desire to keep the decrees and the laws of God.

We have a new heart. We are given new affections We have new desires. We have a new will. We want to conform to the will of the God who saved us. There is newness about us.

There is salvation fruit. And so although when you're walking along the street in Kingston, you cannot visibly see which is a Christian and which isn't. They don't have special clothes on or arrows over their head. There's nothing physical that you can lay hold of. Actually, as you get to know a Christian, you see the fruit of the spirit's work in their lives.

Jesus says, you shall know them by their fruit. Not seen with the eye, but seen. See It's powerful. It's also foundational verse 7 to 10. You should not regard it with amazement.

You should not marvel. You should not be surprised at my saying you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit, how can this be, nicodemus asked, you are the teacher of Israel.

And you do not understand these things. You are the teacher of Israel nicodemus. And you do not understand these things. These are the earthly things that Jesus talks about. These are the things which have parallels in nature, the things that I can describe These are the basics when it comes to the kingdom of God.

If you don't understand this reality, how are you gonna understand anything else? How can you teach on any portion of God's word? If you don't understand these things. It's like when Jesus says of the parable of the sower, if you don't understand this parable, how then will you understand any parable? If you don't see these earthly things, how will you understand the heavenly things.

How can you regard this with amazement nicodemus when it's always been this way? How many times have you read about the new covenant as you've stood up in the temple and read the scroll? How many times have you turned to the prophet ezekiel? With your colleagues and talked about the new covenant promises. How many times have you read phrases like heart of stone exchanged for heart of flesh.

How many times have you thought about the circumcision, not of the body, but of the heart. A new spirit that would be given out to all of God's people. It was all there, nicodemus. How can you be surprised at these things? This is not something new.

It's it's been there soaking in the scriptures for all of your life as a teacher, you've probably even preached on these texts, nicodemus. And you do not understand things. This is a foundational work. It's foundational. Lastly, it's Christ Center And that's why it's not just the Holy Spirit's work.

It's the Holy Spirit's Witness. There's so much here in this chapter about the spirit and what he does. But as we see in the last few verses, we must not divorce the work of the spirit from the sun. Remember, Jesus is the 1 doing the teaching here. And you notice in verse 11, the plural language that he suddenly uses, Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen.

But still you people do not accept our testimony. Now who's he talking about? Some people suggest it's just his disciples. We. This is what we're all talking about, but it's unlikely that they would be fully on board with these things at this stage, isn't it?

No. He seems to be talking about God, father, son, and holy spirit. This entrance into the kingdom of God. This new birth is a father, son, and spirit work. This is our testimony about how you belong to our kingdom.

This is what we're saying to the world, nicodemus. And I think that's convincing because of where this ends, verse 13, Jesus then says no 1 has ever gone into heaven except the 1 who came from heaven, the son of man, finishing on himself, just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness so the son of man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. And so all of a sudden, the work of the spirit that we've been thinking about is driving us to the son of God or the son of man. This 1 from Daniel 7, who was led into heaven. You remember that vision?

He went into heaven, led there. And he was given all authority in heaven and on earth. And then he descended and came down. And how did he use his authority? He was lifted up on a cross.

So that all who believe in him would have eternal life. You see, this is the thing about being born again. This is not just about sitting around, waiting for some kind of spiritual experience to zap us. And we're not quite sure where it's gonna come from or how it's gonna happen or when it's gonna be. What we see here at the end is that the work of the new birth is faith in Christ crucified.

That's how it comes. You see the son of God lifted up and crucified in your place for your sins, and you look to the crucified 1 and get eyes to see him. Lifted up, trust in his sacrifice on your behalf, and are born again. So what does the spirit want to do, he wants to witness to Christ, to show us him on the cross because it's through faith in the crucified 1. That all of this foundational, powerful, divine, unpredictable work will come to us.

It's about Christ. And so then, to recap, we've looked at nicodemus' confession and his confusion, a man from such a powerful world, but emerging into the light. And we've looked at the work and the witness of the Holy Spirit. And the question that we have to ask ourselves is, are are we born again? Do we know the reality of what is being spoken of here?

The life of god in the soul of man. A crucified Christ is the answer to our sins and our only hope, new desires, new affections, a new will that we want to submit to a new birth, a second crisis moment, a birth from above, a sovereign gift of God that has made us alive and has given us a taste for spiritual things. Are you born again? This week, a few of us went up to the University campus, and we're trying to speak to some students. So we haven't done it for a while.

It was great to be back up there. And I met 1 I met 1 man who's of a Indian heritage but grew up in South Africa and has had a strange religious upbringing and has now chosen 8 ism as his worldview. And he said to me he said to me several times that if there was enough evidence, there was enough proof if God proved himself, if he really gave enough evidence, then I would believe in him. And I think lots of our friends and neighbors do believe that the reason they reject Christ is a moral or rational choice. If only there were more evidence, I would believe in him.

If only his morality aligned more closely to mine, I would believe in him There is some kind of rational or moral threshold, which has not been met. If it were, I would believe in him. But something is lacking in the testimony. Something is lacking here. There isn't enough there isn't enough to meet the threshold of argument or morality.

And look, of course, we're not against rational arguments. We believe in rational arguments, and we do want to show the moral beauty of God. But unless the spirit of Christ works in a person to bring them alive, the threshold will never be met. It'll never be enough. There will be no amount of persuasion, no amount of apologetics that can argue people in what is needed is a sovereign work of God in the soul of man to persuade them of the truth and the beauty of the God of the Bible.

That is what is needed. And that's what we must pray for. And so again, do you have that? I think lots of us maybe we've thought we were Christians for many years, and we I've been coming to church for many years, or we've grown up in religious homes, and we think that we know what it's all about. But in reality, you know, our confidence can be elsewhere.

We're impressed with Christ and we like his teachings, but we haven't been born again. We've grown up in a Christian family and have had the blessings of that upbringing, but we haven't been born again. We've grown up with missionaries or even on the Mission Field, but we haven't been born again. If it could happen to nicodemus, it could happen to us. Right?

The separated 1. The exclusive 1, the teacher of spiritual things, and yet he was not born again. Henry Schugel, they person I quoted at the beginning. Said, I know not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed. Than by calling it a divine life.

You might come from an incredibly privileged Christian background But do you know what he's talking about? A divine life? Or maybe, you're somewhere on this journey that nicodemus was on. I mean, it is fascinating to chart his journey throughout John's gospel. Here he is.

Coming at night emerging from the darkness, from the cave. But you see how he progresses as the story goes on, and it's fascinating. So John 7, verse 50 to 51 Oh, I didn't put it out. If you turn to John 7, and have a look at verse 50 to 51 with me. Unbelief of the Jewish leaders.

So here's nicodemus. And look what he's beginning to do. Nicodemus who had gone to Jesus earlier, and who was 1 of their own number asked these religious ones who were hating on Jesus, does our law condemn a man without first hearing him find out what he's been doing. They replied to you from Galiley too, look into it, and you will find that a profit does not come out of Galiley. So often the way with people who are investigating and warming up to Christ.

They come at the dark First, they investigate at night. They maybe Google all of their questions. They're not ready to come into the day yet, but 1 sign that they might be on the way is they start arguing for Jesus. You know, they come with their questions, first of all, they're confused, but then a few months down the line, they check themselves and they think, hold on. I've just been arguing for him.

In the day, I wouldn't have done that before. I was afraid before my agitation. Now look at me, I'm arguing against the very people I was afraid of that we ought not to dismiss 1 like this. And then end of the gospel turned at me, John 19 39. Worth remembering that all of the disciples or most of them anyway fled at this point.

John 19, let's go to 38 after Jesus has died. Later, Joseph of Aramothiah asked pilot for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders When pilots with pilot's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by nicodemus The man who had earlier visited Jesus at night, and he was probably a rich man because he brought a mixture of myrrh and Allos About 75 pounds, taking Jesus' body the 2 of them. This is nicodemus.

Wrapped the body of the lord with the spices in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial custom So here he is at the end of the gospel. He's 1 of only 2 men who's still with Jesus. Wrapping him up, treating him with all the dignity he deserves not afraid to own him in the full light of day for he has been born again. And maybe you're on that journey.

You know, you're interested? Investigating, emerging from the night. That's okay. Jesus handles him very tenderly here, I think, in John 3. Okay?

To bring your questions to him, to do your investigation. But in the end, we all need the reality of what Jesus is saying here. We need to be born again It's not about waiting for a strange spiritual zapping. It's simply about looking to the Christ who was lifted up for you confessing him as lord and savior and having eyes to see his beauty. Let's finish there then.

And take a moment to pray. Be good, I think, after a passage like this, just to just to assess, to examine where we are before the lord, if you're a Christian, and you know the work of your spirit in your life. Why not just take a moment to rejoice that the suffering and kindness of God has visited you? Spirit has come to live within you that you're born again, wonderful privilege. And if you're not sure where you are, just take a moment investigate your own heart before the lord, and perhaps first, for the first time to see him as the 1 who was crucified for you Further we thank you that the majority of us in this room will know not just the theory, but the experience of these things.

That you and your amazing kindness and by the powerful work of your Holy Spirit have changed us, have removed the old stubborn sinful heart of stone and have replaced it with a living, beating God loving heart. We thank you for that gift And for that work of your spirit, lord, we could not predict it. We could not contain it. We did not book it in for a certain time in our lives. You graciously visited us according to your foreknowledge, your timing, your kindness, and we thank you for that.

And we pray lord that you would help those of us who are yours to keep in step with the spirit, to walk with him, to bear the fruits of salvation, in our lives. And all we pray for this world around us and this town that we live in, this road that we're on. And we know lord there will be so many reasons that people have while they don't follow Christ's reasons that they may rejected him in the past, bad experiences they might have had evidence not presented to them and order as much as we wanna help them, we know that this is what they need when they need to be born again. By the spirit of the living God, and we pray that you'd be pleased to use our our weak preaching and our weak efforts and our embarrassed evangelism sometimes to to bring spiritual life to people. That we would not give up on this doctrine of new birth, that we would say boldly with with sensitivity boldly that people must be born again that they need to experience.

This new life, if they're to be part of your kingdom. And lord, we thank you that all of this work of your spirit is connected to your darling son, who was led into heaven, given all authority, who gave it up and came and was lifted up for our sins and for our salvation. And lord we pray that as we lift up Christ and preach him crucified and risen, that people would be born again name. And we ask it in his name. Oh, man.

Preached by Tom Sweatman
Tom Sweatman photo

Tom is an Assistant Pastor at Cornerstone and lives in Kingston with his wife Laura and their two children.

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