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The Kingdom of God
“A New Birth Required”
Without controversy the greatest need of the human race is to come back into the Kingdom of God; to come back into and under the rule and reign of God, which humanity left back at the Garden of Eden with the sin of Adam and Eve.
It is with this understanding of life’s greatest need that finds people drawn to one of the best-known stories of the New Testament and the gospel accounts. It is Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisee Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a teacher of Jewish law and religion, and he comes in the middle of the night to seek and interview with Jesus.
Now, in rabbinical thinking, Jesus was not really an official teacher of the law, yet he was teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God, working miracles wherever he went, and the common man and woman were gathering to Him, along with religious leaders to witness this phenomena.
And so it was that one evening Nicodemus comes to Jesus seeking this most basic and fundamental need to humanity. And Jesus’ response puts the whole thing about entrance into the Kingdom of God more clearly and distinctly than at any other time.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NKJV)
What I find interesting about Jesus’ response is that He never allowed Nicodemus to finish his thought or ask the question that was so near and dear to his heart. He only got as far as stating what he thought of Jesus and his ministry, and how Jesus was not only a teacher of the law but how God was with Him as well.
Jesus suddenly interrupts Nicodemus and answers his question even before he asked it. Notice it says Jesus answered. Answered what? Nicodemus never asked.
Jesus interrupts because He’s teaching Nicodemus and all of us one of the most profound truths about the Kingdom of God; how it can be entered. And the reason Jesus interrupted is because He didn’t have to hear the question; He already knew what was in Nicodemus’ heart.
There’s a perfect illustration found earlier.
“But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25 NKJV)
Jesus didn’t have to wait for Nicodemus’ question, because He already knew it. Why didn’t Jesus wait? It may have been because as an instructor of Jewish religion and law he may have been embarrassed because it should have been something he knew.
And it’s no different with us. When we come near to Jesus through reading His word and prayer we need to come with our hearts wide open to meet with Him and ask,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 23:24 NKJV)
If this is our prayer then Jesus will meet with us, search our hearts, and tells us all about ourselves, even those things we’re afraid to ask.
Jesus will interrupt our carefully laid out speeches, thoughts, ideas, and rationalizations. He will read us like an open book, because nothing can be concealed from Him. He tears away our camouflage and makeup and shows us as we truly are.
And this is exactly what we need. We need our hearts interrupted along with all of its evil intents.
From John 3:3 there are three basic propositions that I’d like us to consider.
Nothing can be substituted for it. In the King James Version Jesus said, “Verily, verily.” What this means is that this is something serious and cannot not be missed. It’s important.
The phrase, “born again,” is translated several ways. Some say it means to be “born from above,” while others say, “born anew.” Both are correct as they apply to the Greek word.
But if Jesus spoke this in Aramaic, which is probable because it was the language spoken at this time, it would have been interpreted as,
“Except a man has another birth, he will never see the Kingdom of God.”
This goes a long way in explaining Nicodemus’ reply.
“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4 NKJV)
Yet either the Greek or Aramaic is acceptable because we cannot enter the Kingdom of God in our present condition; a new birth is required, and Jesus makes it clear that this is a spiritual birth.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5 NKJV)
What does this mean? Many see this as the natural birth, water, and spiritual birth, spirit, as Jesus pointed out in his next sentence.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6 NKJV)
So first there needs to be a natural birth before there can be a spiritual birth.
But if you would let me present another possibility that I see matching what John the Baptist said.
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11 NKJV)
The water represents baptism, but not the act of baptism, but rather what baptism signified back then, and that is repentance. And the spiritual birth would then represent a spiritual baptism, or an inner renewal and regeneration.
If I could be so bold but also referential, I would paraphrase what Jesus said this way,
“Except you are born of all that water baptism signifies, which is repentance, and that which Spirit baptism accomplishes, which is regeneration, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
Unless there is repentance and a work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a person, no one can be born again and enter the Kingdom of God.
Christianity isn’t just an addition to something we’ve already got. It doesn’t mean a little bit of improvement on what we were before. It isn’t some new idea or theory that supplements what we already know. Christianity is something radically different and we cannot enter into it through conventional means.
And so Jesus tells us we must be “Born Again.” Jesus says we have nothing to offer, nothing to build God’s Kingdom upon. What’s needed is a brand new foundation, or a spiritual birth.
What we need is a brand new start. The old must be done away with before the new can be built.
Living in Las Vegas for all those years I’ve seen this time and again as an old hotel was demolished before a new one could be built where the old one stood. Like the old Desert Inn hotel had to come down before the brand new Winn could be built.
All we have to offer isn’t of any value and has to be done away with. It must be demolished so the new life in Christ can be built. Becoming a Christian and entering into the Kingdom of God isn’t about adding a new coat of paint. We have nothing good to add to God’s kingdom so we need a brand new start. We need to be born again.
The Apostle Paul said,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)
Further we dare not miss the fact that Jesus is speaking this to a Pharisee, not a publican or prostitute. He’s saying it to a very religious person. And so nobody inherits the Kingdom of God without a new birth, not matter how religious he or she may be.
Now there is something positive about this nightly visit. While some say that he came because he didn’t want his fellow Pharisees to know, I kind of think that he had some questions and needed some quality time alone with Jesus to get them answered.
But whichever, what this is saying is that he had been listening and recognized Jesus was speaking with authority, the type of authority that comes from God.
The second proposition answers the question as to why we must be born again.
A new life is needed because there’s something wrong with the old life, or the life we were born into.
There’s a misunderstanding that if we just stop doing some stuff, and start doing Christian stuff, then we’ll be Christians. Kind of like cleaning up our act! And while morality and ethical behavior are good, this isn’t what Jesus is saying.
What’s wrong with our old life is that it’s incapable of spiritual thinking. Nicodemus, a well-taught and instructed expert in the Jewish religion and law didn’t get it. He didn’t have spiritual insight. When Jesus said humanity needed a new birth to enter God’s Kingdom, Nicodemus responded, ““How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4 NKJV)
After Jesus said that a person must be born of both water and of the spirit He said,
“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:7-8 NKJV)
Paul said of humanity’s lack of spiritual perception
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)
The natural man, one who has yet to be born again doesn’t’ understand God’s word. To them it’s foolishness and it doesn’t matter how smart they are.
When the Mormons respond to the Trinity and Jesus praying to the Father they ask, “Who is Jesus praying to, Himself?” This is a Nicodemus question.
This is brought out in what Nicodemus asked. He said, “How can these things be?”
Nicodemus is spiritually out to lunch. He couldn’t understand and so Jesus called Him out.
“Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? … If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:10, 12 NKJV)
Nicodemus couldn’t think in the spiritual realm because he was still living and thinking in the physical realm. Nicodemus understanding what Jesus was saying would be like a blind person trying to be an art critic.
“For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.” (Romans 8:7 NLT)
The natural mind and sinful nature will always be hostile towards God. Our very natures are opposed to the truth of God, that’s why we need to be born again.
Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NKJV)
When we accept Jesus, He places within us the Holy Spirit. And it’s the Holy Spirit within us that translates God’s heavenly language into our hearts, because as the third person of the Godhead He knows the will of God for our lives.
“And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:27 NLT)
The last proposition found in our verse is that
This isn’t our kingdom we’re talking about. It isn’t about philosophy, science, or religion. It’s not a realm of views, ideas, or morality. It’s God’s Kingdom. It isn’t an external kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom. It’s our entrance into the spiritual realm and fellowship with the Almighty God.
It’s a realm of God’s light and glory, therefore before we can enter into it we must have something within us that corresponds to it. We need to be born again and have the light of life, the light of Jess Christ living within to help guide the way.
To Nicodemus Jesus said,
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12 NKJV)
What is this heavenly thing? Jesus went on to explain
“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13 NKJV)
The heavenly thing, that which can only be discerned spiritually, and that by which we can only enter into God’s kingdom is Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who came down from heaven.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must believe in the Son of Man, and for that to take place he must be born again.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but[a] have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 NKJV)
To be born again isn’t something that we can do on our own; rather it’s something God has already done. Being born again is the recreating act of God for everyone who will believe.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
To Nicodemus, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God cannot be entered through his own strength, goodness, or religion. Instead he had to give up try8ng and confess, repent, and believe.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study