John 3: You Must be Born Again!
So this past week in 12:13 we studied John 3:1-15.
John tells us that a man named Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.
John explains that this man was a Pharisee – the strictest group among the Jews (Acts 26:5). These men were Bible scholars and teachers. They knew the Bible better than almost anyone else. But not only did they know the Bible, they possessed an unparalleled rigor in their efforts to obey it. If anyone was going to enter the kingdom of God, surely it would be a Pharisee. Jesus, however, says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This gives us a sober warning: a person can do Christian things, and not be a Christian (born again). What is a Christian then?
Jesus tells us that it’s not enough to be a good person in our own eyes and the eyes of those around us. We must be born again. In the words of one preacher, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people live.”
And so we asked three questions: 1) why do we need to be born again? 2) What is the new birth? 3) How are we born again?
Why do we need to be born again?
God made us in his image; we were made to live as God’s children (Genesis 5:1-3). But our first parents turned from God and as a result we were separated from our maker. All of us are born dead in trespasses and sins and are by nature deserving of God’s judgment (Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:1-3).
What is the new birth?
Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus is probably referencing Ezekiel 36:25-27 in which the Lord promises to cleanse his people from their sin and to give them a new heart. This is the new birth: washed clean from sin and made new.
But it’s also more than that. When a person is born again, they are born of the Holy Spirit – they are born of God. That means that all who are born again are children of God (John 1:12-13)! We are restored to our maker.
How are we born again?
A few verses later Jesus went on to tell Nicodemus, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (v. 14-15). Jesus is referencing the story of the Israelites and the fiery serpents in Numbers 21. God was leading his people through the wilderness and providing for them, but they complained against him and against God’s appointed leader – Moses. So God sent venomous snakes in among the people. The people then cried out to Moses to have the Lord remove the snakes. The Lord then gave this instruction to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” God provided a way for the people to be saved.
In the same way, Jesus says, the Son of Man (Jesus himself) must be lifted up. He was referring to his crucifixion. He willingly laid down his life to take away our sin. He took the judgment that rightfully belonged to us on his own shoulders (John 1:29, 1 Corinthians 15:3). But that’s not the end of the story: three days later he rose again and is now alive forevermore as the Lord of heaven and earth!
What do we do? Like the Israelites who were bit by the snakes, we simply look to him. We simply trust that what he did was enough to take away our sin and bring us back to God and receive him as our Lord and savior. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).