ďThe New BirthĒ†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† October 19, 2014

John 3:1-15

 

INTRO:I Googled:How to become a muslim and a bunch of websites popped up.

†† I perused several of them and they all said the same thing.

They advised that before you become a Muslim

†† you should really understand what you are doing, the commitment making.

†† So study some Islamic texts, talk to an imam, a Muslim minister,

†† visit a mosque and talk to other Muslims about converting.

 

They also all told what you are supposed to do after you become a Muslim.

†† How there is a ceremony can go through at mosque to make conversion official,

†† how your are to commit to studying the Koran, growing in your faith

†† and understanding and living by all the rules and customs of Islam.

 

But when it came down to the actual step or procedure that makes you

†† a Muslim, the heart of the matter, the defining event that changes you from

†† an infidel, bound for hell, into a true believer with a hope of paradiseó

It happens when you say these words in Arabic:

†† La il-aha ill-allah, Muhammadun rasul-ullah

†† I testify that there is no other god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.

That is called the Shahada.When you say it sincerely, you become a Muslim.

 

Now, if you asked many Christians or Christian churches,

†† How do you become a Christian?

They would say, well before you become a Christian,

†† you should understand what you are doing, the commitment you are making.

Read some Christian literature, talk to a pastor, visit a church, talk to Christians.

†† And after you become a Christian, there is a ceremony to make it official,

†† and then you study the Bible and learn how supposed to live, grow in faith.

 

But when it comes down to the actual step or procedure that makes you a Christian,

†† the heart of the matter, the defining event that changes you from an unsaved

†† person bound for hell, into a true believer bound for heavenó

It happens when you say these words or something like them:

†† O God, I repent of my sins and ask your Son Jesus to come into my heart and save me.

If you pray that prayer sincerely, trusting Jesus, you become a Christian.

 

Is that right?Is that how you become a Christian?

Yes, thatís right, as far as it goes.Itís not incorrect.

But it doesnít sound very different from how to become a Muslim.

†† That should give us a clue that something is missing.What is it?

†† Whatís missing from that description of how to become a Christian?

Letís focus on the heart of the matter, the defining event that changes you from

†† unsaved, lost, hell-bound sinner into a saved, believing soul bound for heaven.

 

Is the defining event really a prayer that you pray sincerely

†† or a confession about Jesus Christ that you make?

Well, from a human perspective it is.Paul says in Romans 10:9,

ďIf you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart

†† that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.Ē

At that point in time when a person professes his faith in Christ sincerely,

†† and trusts him, at that point we can say the person is saved.

But whatís missing?

†† Whatís missing is the defining event from the divine perspective.

†† The real defining event is not anything you do or can do.

†† It is something that God does to you and in you,

†† over which you have no control whatsoeveróYou must be born again.

 

How do you become a Muslim with a shot at paradise?

†† You say the Shahada sincerely.

†† Itís ultimately in your hands, itís a decision and action on your part.

†† Itís not something Allah does to you or for you, itís you, you, you.

How do you become a Christian, forgiven and bound for heaven?

†† Jesus says:You must be born again.

 

And you can no more cause yourself to be born again than you caused yourself

†† to be born the first time when your mother delivered you.

God must do a miracle in you and to you, and then and only then are you are

†† enabled to respond by sincerely professing your faith in Christ.

We have before us this morning one of the highest and holiest and distinctive and

†† gracious and loving doctrines in the Christian faith, the doctrine of the new birth,

†† the doctrine of regeneration, being born again, being made alive.

 

And we have the greatest passage in the Bible on the new birth.Three points:

†† 1.What is it?

†† 2.Why is it necessary?

†† 3.How does it happen?

MP#1First, what is it?What is the new birth?

Itís life.New life.Have you ever held a child just born?

The new birth is not new beliefs, not new morals, not new religion,

†† not new resolve, not new direction, not turning over a new leafóitís new life.

Itís very significant that Lord had conversation about new birth with Nicodemus.

†† Because Nicodemus himself shows what the new birth is and isnít.

 

What do we know about Nicodemus?

†† He was a member of Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin.

You could only be a member of the Sanhedrin if you were an older man,

†† wealthy, well-connected, and learned, had to have degrees from right schools.

†† So he was a settled man, not prone to emotionalism.

 

He was also a Pharisee.

†† Were two main religious/political parties in Israel, Pharisees and Sadducees.

The Pharisees were the theological and social conservatives.

†† They believed in the supernatural miracles of the Bible, concerned for morality,

†† wanted the Jewish people to follow Godís law and commandments.

By contrast, the Sadducees did not believe in the miraculous, mostly concerned

†† with maintaining the positions of power they held at pleasure of Romans.

†† The moral and spiritual climate of Jewish people not that important.

 

Nicodemus was a Pharisee.That probably explains why he came to Jesus at night.

†† He was representing a group of Pharisees who thought they could work with

†† this brash young man Jesus who was causing such a stir.

They probably enjoyed seeing Jesus drive out animal sellers and moneychangers

†† from the Temple because the Temple operations controlled by Sadducees.

So Nicodemus was doing some backroom politicking.

†† Young man, most of the establishment is against you, but some of us want to

†† play ball with you.We see you are a teacher from God, we see your miracles.

We could help you, you could help us turn nation back to Godís law and morality.

Just because Nicodemus was politicking doesnít mean he wasnít sincere.

†† He was very sincere.He was Pharisees who took private and public morality

†† very seriously and saw in Jesus a man who could help achieve it.

 

But Jesus responded:

†† ďI tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.Ē

That shows that Jesus saw Nicodemus as a man in need of the new birth.

His morals and religion didnít make him alive, he had to be born again.

Nicodemus was taken aback by Jesusí words and asked how could this be?

†† Can you enter your womb a second time?

†† Thatís probably a little sarcasm from this PhD directed at young teacher.

And then Jesus gives this amazing description of the new birth.

†† The Spirit gives birth to spirit.You donít have a living spirit in you by nature.

†† The Holy Spirit gives you a living spirit by divinely connecting you to God.

Then he compares the Spiritís work in the new birth to the wind.Same word.

†† Point is that the wind has its own will.It blows where he wants to blow.

†† You canít contain, you canít control it, you canít even see itóonly effects.

We had that on Monday.The wind came, blew down huge trees in some yards,

†† but in yards next door left standingóand then it was gone.

 

The compelling point Jesus is making is that God is sovereign in the new birth.

†† He sends his Spirit where he will and when he will to whom he will.

When his Spirit blows on a person, there is new life.You are born again.

†† You feel the effects, sense something happening, but youíre not doing it.

Iíve told you before about one of the most remarkable conversions Iíve witnessed.

In 1993, a man in his 80s showed up at our church in Florida.

†† He was a retired army colonel, his wife had just died.

†† He wasnít looking for God or Jesus or the new birth, he was just lonely.

He was as disciplined and orderly a man as you would expect,

†† and he respected religion and the church but there was no spiritual life in him.

 

And then, how do I put it?The wind blew and he became alive.

†† There was no violent event. There were no tears or strong emotions.

†† But this man who was dead to God, woke up to God.

When you see life you know it.Two remarkable things.He started talking to God.

†† He talked to him as you would expect an 80 year old retired colonel to talk.

Favorite time was in prayer meeting:

†† Lord God, as you know, our church member David has this damn cancer.

†† We ask you to heal him, if you are willing to do so.

Other was that he didnít believe miracles in Bible.He would argue.

†† Then, one day he said all my life Iíve taken orders from my commanding officers.

†† Jesus Christ is my commanding officer, and he says believe, so I believe.

 

Did he do that to himself?Did an 80 year old, crusty, disciplined, anti-

†† supernaturalist, retired army colonel change himself with a sincere prayer?

God made him alive.Whatís the new birth?Life.Life of God in soul of a man.

That brings us to the next question:

MP#2Why is it necessary?Why did Jesus say, you must be born again?

Because Iím dead.

†† Yes, Iím a sinner and I need to be forgiven but I have a worse problem.

†† I canít even believe in him and ask forgiveness because Iím dead.

This is a fundamental aspect of the doctrine of the new birth

†† that is absolutely unique to Christianity.No other religion, no other philosophy

†† in the world has such a grim assessment of the human condition.

 

Jesus had a unique operating category for looking at worldóliving dead people.

†† ďLet the dead bury their own dead,Ē he told a man who wanted to follow him.

†† People whose bodies are dead, but even people burying them dead.

Jesus saw all people in their natural state as living a form of life that is more

†† like death than life because it is separated from a living connection with God.

†† ďFlesh gives birth to flesh,Ē is how he puts it.Flesh is humanity without God.

 

Itís quite amazing that American pop culture has produced a fine illustration

†† of living dead peopleóIím talking about zombies.

Will has a science fiction book called World War Z, which is very entertaining.

†† Itís about zombieís taking over world.There was a movie too, but book better.

What are zombies?They are living dead people.

They have a form of life.They have instincts and drives.

†† But they lack that animating spirit that makes the truly alive and human.

There are sober, moral, religious zombies like Nicodemus.

†† And there are drunk, down and out, in the gutter zombies, but theyíre all zombies.

 

Do you think Iím overstating the case?

†† Listen to how the Bible describes our dead condition, if these arenít zombies,

†† I donít know what is.Hereís why we must be born again.

 

1.Apart from the new birth we are by nature objects of wrath.Ephesians 2:3

†† By nature.That means I did not become bad by doing bad things, born bad.

And even as a Christian there is so much badness left in me that were it not

†† for the preserving, keeping work of the Holy Spirit I would leave God and

†† Jesus and the church and the ministry and my marriage in a heartbeat.

 

2.Apart from the new birth we love darkness and hate light.John 3:19.

We donít have a will problem, we have a love problem.

†† We sin because we love it.Nobody wakes up in morning and says:

†† I have to remember to commit one sin today so wonít become perfectionist.

3.Apart from the new birth, our hearts are hard like stone.Ezekiel 36, bulletin.

We have a deep antipathy to God and his truth.

 

4.Apart from the new birth we are unable to submit to God.Romans 8:7.

†† ďThe sinful mind is hostile to God, it does not submit to Godís law, nor can it do so.Ē

Unable, but still morally accountable because we love our rebellion.

 

5.Apart from the new birth we are unable to accept the Gospel.1 Cor. 2:14.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God,

†† for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them.

We do not accept, we cannot understand.You canít reason with a zombie.

 

6.Apart from the new birth we are unable to come to Christ.1 Cor. 12:3

No one can say, ďJesus is Lord,Ē except by the Holy Spirit.

An actor can say Jesus is Lord, can program computer to say it.

†† But to say sincerely, to pray, to call Jesus my commanding officer and mean it.

†† You canít unless the Holy Spirit first blows on you.

 

7.Apart from the new birth we are slaves to sin.Romans 6:17

Thanks be to God that you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart.

 

8.Apart from the new birth we are slaves to Satan.Ephesians 2:1-2

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

We canít say, the devil made me do it.Weíre flying in tandem with him.

 

9.Apart from the new birth nothing good lives in you.Romans 7:18

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.

†† In other words, nothing commendable to God that leads to salvation.

 

This irritates and infuriates people, donít tell me Iím so bad Iím dead to God.

†† But for us who understand it, we not only believe it, we embrace it,

†† because by seeing how bad my condition was, I see Godís grace.

Once, years ago I was talking to a man who was dying.

†† He was as dead man who was dyingóvery resistant to God, very proud.

†† He only allowed me in his house because he thought I might help his wife cope.

I read Ephesians 2:1ďAs for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.Ē

†† I told him that was his problem was sin, not the cancer that was killing him.

His son interrupted and said:Donít say that about my dad.Heís a good man.

His father held up hand and said, No, let him talk.I need to hear.Think heís right.

†† What had happened?For the first time, saw the necessity of being born again.

†† And that was the first sign that the wind was blowing.

Brings us to the last question.

 

3.How does it happen?Three events.

First, the Holy Spirit freely gives life.There is no ďhow toĒ in this at all.

†† The Holy Spirit sovereignly gives life to men and women, boys and girls.

†† He implants in them the life of God.

†† He gives them a new heart, a regenerate heart.

He decidesóRemember Jesus said, The wind blows where it pleases.

 

This is the most mysterious aspect of the new birth.

†† The invisible work of the Holy Spirit that we cannot see.

†† We donít even have the sense to ask for it until it has already happened.

 

Second, the good news of Jesus Christ is preached and heard and it engenders faith.

1 Peter 1 ďYou have been born again through the living and enduring word of God.Ē

†† Then Peter quotes Isaiah 8:The grass withers, flowers fall, word of Lord . . .

Then he says:

†† ďAnd this is the world that was preached to you.Ē

 

How are people born again?Through the good news.

The human agency for the divine awakening of souls

†† is the Gospel preached in its fullness.

The glory of the Gospel is that it awakens the dead.

†† You canít talk to dead people.But Jesus can.And he did.

†† He stood at the tomb of Lazarus and he said:Lazarus, come out.And he did.

 

Thatís what the preaching of the Gospel does.

And by preaching, I donít just mean standing in the pulpit.

†† Iím sure a great many of us here could give the testimony that it as through

†† your mother reading you Bible stories, or father sitting on bed praying

†† and talking about spiritual things you came to faith.

 

Third, in the Gospel, Jesus Christ is offered up and believed.

†† God has given eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

†† He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.1J5.

The awakened individual embraces Jesus.That embrace brings new life.

Those are the three events of the new birth.

The Holy Spirit sovereignly awakens.

Faith is engendered by the Gospel.

Jesus Christ is embraced and life in him enjoyed in all its fullness.

 

We have to understand that every Christianís experience of the new birth is not

†† the same.There are vast differences in experience.

There are some who are born again so early they have no consciousness of it.

†† The Holy Spirit even works at times on those in their motherís wombs.

†† Like David, who said he trusted in Lord from his motherís breast.

†† Or John the Baptist, who leaped in womb at the sound of voice of Lordís mother.

For little ones like that, they canít name a day and an hour when they didnít believe.

They believed the first time their parents read them a Bible story.

†† From earliest consciousness knew they were sinners and believed Jesus

†† died for them and prayed to their heavenly Father.

 

Then there are those who are born again in a violent convulsionólike Paul.

Struck down from his horse by a light from heavenó

†† a heart violent against Christ suddenly made alive to him in an instant.

†† We like those stories the best.Those conversions are our favorites to hear.

For others it is more like a slow sunrise on a cloudy morning.

†† Glimmers of light that take a long time to finally shine through.

Like CS Lewis who wrestled long and hard, got off bus one day,

†† and realized that he believed.

 

Some people have more dramatic stories than others, but those of you

†† who know you have been born again by the Spirit of God have reason

†† to be thrilled at the knowledge of what was don in you by the power of God.

And you ought to be shaken by the thought that you would never have believed

†† and would have all your life loved darkness rather than light,

†† if the Spirit had not come to you and made you a new being in Christ.

 

But there may be those of you who know you have not been born againó

†† but know, somehow you know that you need to be born again.

You need your heart to be different.You need to escape the bondage of life.

†† You know deliverance lies beyond your power.

†† Maybe youíve tried to change, God alone can do it for you.

Plead with him, and donít stop until you find yourself a new man, woman,

†† with a new life.

And above all, look well and look long at Jesus Christ.

Look to Jesus, trust him, and leave the changing of your heart to the Holy Spirit.

 

Lord, make me that new man,

for you alone can.

 

Amen.