“A Ruler Once Came to Jesus by Night,
To Ask Him the Way of Salvation and Light;
The Master Made Answer in Words True And Plain:
‘Ye Must Be Born Again!’
‘Ye Must Be Born Again!’
‘Ye Must Be Born Again!’.
I Verily, Verily, Say unto You,
‘Ye Must Be Born Again!’”
~William True Sleeper
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” ~John 3:1-5
In 1976 a new phrase became part of the American social consciousness. The phrase was “born again”. Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter said he was a born-again believer. Chuck Colson, former presidential advisor to Richard Nixon wrote a book entitled Born Again. Newspapermen and women began asking well known personalities if they were born again. The phrase was unfamiliar to a lot of these people, and many had to do some quick studying in the Bible to find out just what was meant.
The words “born again” come from the story of Jesus meeting with a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus. The Pharisees were a particular religious group in Israel that was dedicated to honoring all 618 commandments of the Law of Moses. The Pharisees were zealous to please God and that was the problem. How does a man please God?
By keeping the law?
That would please God to be sure but then who can really keep the Law perfectly? The standards are too high and too holy.
Individuals are weak and even the best intentions are mixed, good with bad. Self-righteousness emerges unless a soul is sensitive enough to be honest and the honest heart says, “I am not all I should be”.
There are people with the heart of a Pharisee today. In their minds they are religious, but they are not righteous. In 1976 a deacon at Saltsburg Baptist Church in Saltsburg, PA performed a funeral service for a friend. The mindset of this man was such that he felt he was a righteous man and yet,
he made no profession of faith, honored no church creed, did not offer prayers, nor did he have an interest in the Bible.
Nevertheless, this man believed God was kind and good, and, if there were a heaven, he felt he would go there when he died. On what basis did the man place his hope of heaven? What this man had to offer God was his morality.
He did not lie.
He did not cheat.
He did not steal.
He was faithful to his wife.
He had been a good provider and a kind father.
His friends were many and all spoke well of this man.
We do not minimize all the noble characteristics of a life. However, in the sight of God morality is not enough to merit heaven. Something more is needed because our lives are fields that primarily contain weeds. We cannot produce strawberries. We can mow the weeds, but that effort alone will never produce acceptable fruit. If we really want that fruit, we will have to go deeper. We must plow up the whole field and start again with new plants (Christian Theology in Plain Language).
When Nicodemus went to Jesus in the middle of the night he went as a zealous Pharisee.
He went as a ruler of the Jews.
Nicodemus went as a good moral man.
Nevertheless, immediately, and without hesitation Jesus still said to him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
To be “born again” is to receive from God a new birth. The new birth can be understood as nothing less than a radical transformation of moral character. It is being converted.
Conversion by way of definition is the decisive act in which a person turns away from sin in genuine repentance, and accepts the salvation that Christ offers. The imagery in conversion is that of turning.
A person is going along a road and realizes that he or she is on the wrong track. They will never reach the destination if they continue in that direction. So the person “turns,” or “is converted.” He or she ceases to go in the wrong direction and begins going in the right one.
Some people are on the wrong track morally. Multitudes today are living together more like unthinking animals with passion rather than as humans with a sense of honor and decency and commitment. Fox and Friends recently reported how the perfume industry is marketing its products by making women out to be objects of sensual desire without restraint or inhibition. The thinking is simple: sex sales. The Bible says sex is sacred. The author of Hebrews puts the whole matter this way. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). Potipher’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, but she was not successful because he fled from her presence. Joseph ran from temptation because he was morally moving in the right direction.
Some people are going in the wrong direction financially. Covetous eyes are cast about, and items are wanted that cannot be afforded or should not be sought. Ahab, the eighth king of Israel had covetous eyes. He reigned in splendor from Samaria from 874 BC – 853 BC. But Ahab was not satisfied with what he had. He wanted more. Specifically, he wanted a plot of land near his palace. The owner was a poor farmer named Naboth. When Naboth refused to give or sell the land to the king, Ahab began to pout. He went into a bedroom chamber, laid down on a royal couch, turned his face to the wall and pouted. When his wife Jezebel found the pouting king upset because of his greedy heart she arranged to have Naboth murdered, and the desired land confiscated.
The Bible teaches Christians not to have a greedy heart and seek to grab what cannot be afforded. Excessive debt will sneak up to destroy all happiness. It is easy to become trapped by grabbing for too much.
Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it’s simple. They’ve been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can’t get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him. When a Christian is free of grasping for the toys of time, resources are available to advance the kingdom of God. It is better to invest for eternity than for time. Move in that direction.
Some people are moving in the wrong direction by embracing inappropriate relationships. For example, no Christian man or woman should date or marry someone who denies the faith. It is forbidden. 2 Corinthians 6:14 states plainly, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” Charles Spurgeon has rightly said, “There is not a man or woman on earth who is worth going to hell over.” Christians should marry Christians. It is as simple as that. It is the will of God. Conversion changes the direction of one’s course of life from the wrong way to the right way, the way that God wants (The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook).
When Jesus spoke of being “born again”, He was not speaking of simply adjusting one’s basic attitude and actions; He was speaking of a radical transformation. To be born again is to become alive to a whole New World – the world of the Spirit.
The Bible says that God is a Spirit. Individuals must worship God in spirit and in truth. Harold Vaughan observes three truths about the new birth, and I share them with you.
First, the new birth is supernatural. No person can recreate a new life principle in his or her own soul. Jesus likened the new birth to the wind. The wind blows. No one knows where it came from or where it is going. So is everyone that is born of the Spirit. The secret Sovereign ministry of God the Holy Spirit moves in the hearts of men and women and young people alike.
Perhaps the Spirit of God is speaking to someone.
You have the Scripture.
You understand the message, and you realize Jesus Christ has come to save sinners.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
No one can tell what God will use to bring a soul to Himself. He might use a television program such as this. He might even use the playful voice of a young child.
Listen to St. Augustine as he tells how he came to faith. “I was weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when I heard the voice of children from a neighboring house chanting, “take up and read; take up and read.” I could not remember ever having heard the like, so checking the torrent of my tears, I arose, interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book and read the first chapter I should find. Eagerly then I returned to the place where I had laid the volume of the apostle. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: “Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not is strife and envy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” No further would I read, nor did I need to. For instantly at the end of this sentence, it seemed as if a light of serenity infused into my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” The new birth is supernatural.
Second, the new birth is spiritual. When one is born again, the heart is warmed, the mind is persuaded, the personality is purified, and the will is bent to obey God’s commands. The soul is alive to God. Billy Graham remembers the day after he was converted. He says that the whole world took on a new color.
The sky seemed to be much bluer.
The air was cleaner.
The grass was greener.
People were precious and not objects of ridicule or exploitation.
Religious services became a delight not a duty.
Billy Graham as a young teenager became alive to the spiritual side of creation.
Because the new birth is spiritual the soul must be sensitive to spiritual matters.
“There is a time, we know not when,
A place, we know not where,
Which marks the destiny of men
To glory or despair.
There is a line, by us unseen,
Which crosses every path,
Which marks the boundary between
God’s mercy and His wrath.
To pass that limit is to die,
To die as if by stealth.
It does not dim the beaming eye,
Nor pale the glow of health.
The conscience may be still at ease,
The spirit light and gay.
And that which pleases still may please,
And care be thrust away.
But on that forehead God hath set
Indelibly a mark,
Unseen by man, for man as yet,
Is blind and in the dark.
He feels perchance that all is well
And every fear is calmed,
He lives, he dies, he walks in hell,
Not only doomed, but damned!
O, where is that mysterious line
That may by men be crossed,
Beyond which God himself hath sworn,
That he who goes is lost?
An answer from the skies repeats,
“Ye who from God depart,”
Today, O hear His voice,
Today repent and harden not your heart.”
~Joseph Addison Alexander
Third, the new birth imparts holiness. The Bible says, “Follow holiness without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). The Christian will find no lingering delight in sin. Sin loses its fascination for it is sin that nailed the Savior to a wooden cross.
Nicodemus wanted to be saved and lead by the Holy Spirit, Nicodemus embraced Christ as His Lord and Savior.
A series of questions are asked of you.
“Have you ever become concerned over your soul?”
“Where will you spend eternity?”
“Have you searched out the Savior?”
“Have you ever heard Jesus say, ‘You too must be born again.’”
Hear now the words of Divine imperative. “You must be born again.” This is not only an invitation but also a command. Without the new birth, no man shall dwell in heaven in God’s place. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.
Notice the Divine urgency. Jesus did not respond to the kind flattery of Nicodemus. He went right to the heart of the issue. “Today is the day of salvation. If you hear His voice harden not your heart.”
A Welsh minister was speaking some years ago. He leaned over the pulpit and said with a solemn air, “Friends, I have a question to ask. I cannot answer it. You cannot answer it. If an angel from heaven were here, he could not answer it. And, if a devil from hell were here, he could not answer it. The question is this: ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.’”