10/22/10

John 3:1–8 – Born Again

John 3:1–8 (ESV) — 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.”



1) THE PROBLEM: STATE OF MIND – LIVING OUTSIDE IN

John 3:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 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.”

Nicodemus, at this point was expressing the same belief as those from our lesson last week in John 2:23-25.
• His mind believed and approved but his heart was still depraved.
• And this type of living is what I call “Living Outside In”.
• The spiritual flow we learned about last week, heart-mind-action, is corrupt because of our dead hearts.
• Our experiences naturally override any objective truth found in a born again heart, therefore one can’t help but “Live Outside In”.

To address this condition, Jesus makes the following statement:
• John 3:3 (ESV) — 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
• And as we know, this is not the first time in John’s Gospel that the idea of a spiritual birth is mentioned.
o John 1:13 (ESV) — 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Last week we learned Jesus didn’t believe in men because of what he saw in their hearts.
• This week, Jesus identifies what is needed by a man for Him to believe in them.
• Yet to this radical insight, Nicodemus expresses a lack of understanding.


2) STATE OF CONFUSION

John 3:4 (ESV) — 4 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?”

And not only does he reveal a lack of understanding, but scholars think, that as a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, he would have been startled by Jesus’ claim.
• “All of his life he had diligently observed the law and the rituals of Judaism. He had joined the ultra-religious Pharisees, and even become a member of the Sanhedrin. Now Jesus called him to forsake all of that and start over; to abandon the entire system of works righteousness in which he had placed his hope; to realize that human effort was powerless to save” – John MacArthur.


And for whatever other reasons we give for Nicodemus’ confusion, it can’t be due to a silence of the Scriptures he knew so well.
• Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
    o One can’t but help notice the heart-mind-action sequence we discussed last week.
    o This type of living described by Ezekiel is in direct opposition to the “Living Outside In” we have just discussed - it is "Living Inside Out".

One thing Scripture also makes clear about one’s ability to grasp its truths which would have applied to Nicodemus at this point:
• 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) — 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

But nevertheless, his question, it seems to me, is a fair one.
• Given what we learn of Nicodemus later in Scripture, it may reveal the presence of a seeking heart.
• John 19:38–39 (ESV) — 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.

POI – In John 3:2 of our text today, we see that Nicodemus came to Jesus under cover of darkness.
• One can suggest many reasons for this, not the least of which is that he didn’t want the rest of the Sanhedrin to know what he was doing (even though he was not alone – “we”).
• But in John 19, we see Nicodemus seemingly no longer concerned with being “found out”.
• He must of stood out somewhat carrying around so much stuff – even if he had help.

And so Jesus answers his question.


3) THE SOLUTION: STATE OF GRACE – LIVING INSIDE OUT

John 3:5–8 (ESV) — 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.”

The theological definition of “born again”:
• “It is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us” – Wayne Grudem.
• And curiously, “Exactly what happens in regeneration is a mystery to us” – Wayne Grudem.
• But it is being born again that makes “Living Inside Out” possible, as alluded to earlier in Ezekiel.
     o Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.


We also play no role in this act:
• Notice that in both our text in John and in Ezekiel, it is God who “causes” and the Spirit who “births”.
• And not only that, Jesus tells Nicodemus “The wind blows where it wishes”.
• With these words, Jesus is referring to the will of the Holy Spirit not of man.
• Something already alluded to earlier by John.
    o John 1:12–13 (ESV) — 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
• And in our lesson on John 1:12-13, we learned John was drawing a parallel between:
    o The complete lack of life we had physically before Christ breathed life into us.
    o And the complete lack of life we had spiritually before God willed us to be born of Him.

This profound truth is expressed elsewhere:
• Titus 3:5 (ESV) — 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
• James 1:18 (ESV) — 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
• 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
• Acts 13:48 (ESV) — 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

And Christ affirmed this sentiment in the negative as well:
• John 10:25–27 (ESV) — 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
• John 6:65 (ESV) — 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

But doesn’t belief happen just by doing the following?
• John 1:12 (ESV) — 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
• Mark 1:15 (ESV) — 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
• Romans 10:9–10 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
• Matthew 10:32 (ESV) — 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
• 1 John 4:15 (ESV) — 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

The answer is yes but we must dig deeper to be faithful to the truth of Scripture:
• Who receives Him?
• Who repents?
• Who believes?
• Who confesses?
• Who believes in their heart the truth of the resurrection?
• Who acknowledges or chooses Him before men?
• Who abides in Him?


In other words:
• How do these things happen?
• What initiates them?
• Are these the result of something we have done or are they the result of God’s work in us?

To answer these questions we need to allude back to the heart-mind-action relationship from last week:
• The flow is from heart to mind to action, spiritually speaking.
• A depraved heart produces “designs of the mind” and ultimately actions that are rooted in sin.
    o Philippians 3:19 (ESV) — 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
• But a saved heart produces “designs of the mind” and actions that produce righteous fruit.

Examples of this:
• Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
• 1 John 2:29 (ESV) — 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
• 1 John 3:9 (ESV) — 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
• 1 John 5:18 (ESV) — 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
• Matthew 7:21 (ESV) — 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

It seems to me that these verses make clear that all these things, receiving, repenting, believing, confessing, acknowledging, and abiding occur because we have been born again.
• They are the fruits of a new heart.
• They are the evidence that we are “Living Inside Out”.
• We are born of the Spirit and then we choose to do these things.
• If this is not the case, then it seems to me that the following is in jeopardy:
    o Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

We believe and do all the other things because, after being born again, we, for the first time in or spiritual lives, both desire to and are able to do them.
• Jonathan Edwards puts it like this, “Tis entirely in a man's power to submit to Jesus Christ as a Savior, if he will; but the thing is, it never will be that he should will it, except God works it in him”.
• And this is why the TDNT defines belief as not just “an act” but “a state” – and in our context it is a state of being born again.
• A belief whose motivations rest in anything other than a born again heart is contrived, clinical and calculated and simply not a believing faith.
    o Matthew 7:22–23 (ESV) — 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Lesson For Us:
So we are back to the question from last week.
• Does Jesus believe in you?

Or using today’s lesson:
• Are you born again?
• Do you “Live Life Inside Out”?