YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN
Turn in your Bible to John chapter three.
"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night " (John 3:1-2)
It says Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. There are a lot of people who would like to come to Jesus by night. They want to come when no one else can see them. It is amazing. They want to come to church on Sunday, but they don't want to tell anyone about it on Monday, because they don't want anyone to associate them with that religious fanatical crowd. But this man came to Jesus by night, and the Bible says:
"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. 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. 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? 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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." (John 3:2-7)
There was a man named Nicodemus. He was a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night, probably because he doesn't want the other Jews to know he is coming. And he comes up to Jesus and says to Him, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God." I find it interesting that Nicodemus addressed Jesus as Rabbi. You know, Nicodemus himself was a Rabbi. So when he addressed Jesus as Rabbi, basically what he was saying was that he and Jesus were on the same level. If Nicodemus was a Rabbi, and Jesus was a Rabbi, when he called Him Rabbi, he said,: "Now Jesus, I want to talk to you as one Rabbi to the other." He said, "We know thou art a teacher come from God." But what he didn't understand was that Jesus literally was God in the flesh, because if Nicodemus realized Jesus was God, he wouldn't have come and said, "Rabbi," but he would have come and said, "Lord." So Nicodemus came and said, "Rabbi." He thought he and Jesus were equal.
There are a lot of people like that today in religious circles. They are many so called preachers, and teachers in religious schools. They wear their collars backwards, (Catholic & Lutheran) and many other denominations that stand behind pulpits on Sunday morning and think that Jesus wasn't really God. He was just a good man or a religious teacher, or a good moral man, but He wasn't really God come in the flesh, to save men. And that was where Nicodemus was at this point. He didn't understand that Jesus was God. All he thought was that Jesus was a Rabbi.
"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" (John 3:3).
He said, "Nicodemus, it is not enough for you to accept me as a good man. It is not enough for you to simply acknowledge that I am from God. You have to acknowledge that I am God. It is not enough that you just acknowledge that I am a teacher, but you have to understand that I am the teacher." He said, "Nicodemus, you missed the point."
You see, Nicodemus thought he would go to Jesus and that Jesus would talk to him, one teacher to the other, and say, "You know, Nicodemus, you are all right. You are a Jew and you are a Pharisee and part of the San-he-drin, you are a good guy. You know Nicodemus, every time the synagogue doors are open, you are there. Every week you pay your tithe. You help widows. You do all those things that the Bible says that you are supposed to do. You are a good guy, Nicodemus, so don't worry about it. Just keep on doing what you are doing, and one of these days, you will go to Heaven and God will say, 'Well, come on in'." But no, Jesus didn't do that. Jesus looked at Nicodemus and said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
You see, maybe Nicodemus thought he would go to Jesus because this Jesus guy, well, he seems like he is a pretty good teacher. It seems like he is lot better a teacher than I am. He gets better results that I do. More people follow Him than follow me. So maybe I'll go to Jesus, and I'll ask Him to share something with me." Maybe he thought Jesus would teach him a new teaching method. Maybe he thought Jesus would share with him a new way to perform the Old Testament sacrifices, or some new Old Testament law that Nicodemus had overlooked in all his years of training. He thought, maybe Jesus would expound the truth of the law, so that Nicodemus could be a better Rabbi. But Jesus said, "No, Nicodemus. It is not the law. You must be born again."
You know, there are a lot of folks today just like old Nicodemus. They come to Jesus and don't realize that Jesus is God and we are sinners. They think that Jesus is just a good man, or Jesus is just a teacher, so they think they are good and God is good, so they are equal with God. So when they come to God, they have no humility. They have no respect. They have no repentance of their sin. They come in pride and in arrogance, like Nicodemus. They think they are going to impress God with their goodness. They think they are going to come to Jesus and say: Now Jesus, you know, I go to church every Sunday, and I'm a member of the church. I'm not just a member, but I am a charter member of the church. And I'm not just a charter member of the church, I'm a deacon in the church, and a Sunday school teacher. I tithe in the church and sing in the church choir." And they think God is going to say, "Well, I'm glad to hear it." But you know, the Scripture says, "Ye must be born again."
The Bible teaches that good works saves no one. The Bible says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). You see, there are those like Nicodemus who would come and say that they expect Jesus to tell them that everything is going to be okay, and they think because they have been baptized, they are okay.
Others say, "Well, when I was twelve years old, I went through a catechism class at a Lutheran church." Well, I am glad you went through a catechism, but the Bible says, "Ye must be born again." Or maybe you were confirmed, and I'm glad you were confirmed. But the Bible still says, "Ye must be born again."
There are some folks who say they are going to go to Heaven when they die, because they have taken the holy communion, or because they prayed the rosary beads to the Virgin Mary, or because they tithed and confessed their sins to a priest, but the Bible says, "Ye must be born again."
I've had some people tell me that they know they are going to go to Heaven when they die, because they have kept all the Ten Commandments. First of all, they are a liar, and they make God a liar
I Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Rom 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Ps 14:3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
But because they think they have kept the Ten Commandments, they think they are going to Heaven. Why, Nicodemus did his best to keep the Ten Commandments, and he came to Jesus, thinking he would get him some Brownie points, but he didn't. Jesus said, "Ye must be born again."
There are those who think that because they are a member of the Masonic Lodge, they are going to go to Heaven when they die. Well, God doesn't give a rip if you are a member of the Mooses, Gooses, Elks, Buzzards or whatever.. The Bible says, "Ye must be born again."
Just praying the sinner's prayer doesn't get you to Heaven. There are a lot of people who will walk the aisle of a church and pray a sinner's prayer, and be baptized and put on the church roll, given a pack of tithing envelopes, and if they are still coming six months later, they will be a Sunday school teacher. But if they were to die, they would go to Hell. Why? They have not been born again. If you are going to go to Heaven when you die, "Ye must be born again."
Nicodemus came to Jesus in John chapter three, to find out how to go to Heaven, and Jesus told him, "Ye must be born again." He said, "Nicodemus, it is not the keeping of the law. It is not the Old Testament sacrifices. It is not the fact that you are a religious person. "Ye must be born again."
Hebrews 9:27 says, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." The day is going to come when everyone will stand before God, and give an account. And when you stand before God, God will not ask you if you were good. God is not going to ask you if you were in church. God is not going to ask you if you were baptized. He is not going to ask you how much money you gave. God isn't going to want to see your membership card in Mooses, Gooses, Elks, Buzzards Nats, Flamingos or Squirrels. God is going to want to know one thing. Are you born again?
So you say, "Well, preacher, how can I be born again?" I'm glad you asked that question. Nicodemus asked the same question in John 3:4. "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?" And Jesus replied to Nicodemus' question. "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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:5-6). You see, Jesus told Nicodemus, "Nicodemus, no, you are not born again by going into your mother's womb the second time. You have already been born a natural birth. You were in your mother's womb and when she gave birth to you, the water broke and you were born naturally of the water. Now, Nicodemus, that natural birth, that birth of the flesh brought you into the earth. But if you are going to go to Heaven, Nicodemus, you have to be born again." That being born again is not the physical birth, but rather it is a spiritual birth. So you need to know how to be born again.
Jesus told several people how to be born again. In John 12:24-25, Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
For you to be born again, it is real simple. Before you can be born again, the flesh must die. Just like that corn of wheat. That seed had life and you put it into the ground, and that life must die. When the seed dies, then a new life comes forth. That is called a plant. And if you are going to be born again, then your old flesh must died. When the old flesh dies, then you can have a new life, which is a spiritual life. That is why Jesus said, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life shall keep it unto life eternal."
Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." When Jesus told them to take up the cross, they had no idea that He was going to die on one. They didn't know as yet that Jesus was going to die on the cross and rise from the dead three days later. All they knew was that the cross was a means of death, the most horrid way to die in Rome that day. And when Jesus said to take up the cross, Jesus was telling them to die. The flesh has to die before the spirit can be born.
That is why Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." The cross means death, and for our spirit to be born, then our flesh must die. We must die toward sin. We must decide that if we want the forgiveness of God, and want to live a life that is pleasing toward God, then we want to abhor the pleasures of sin for Jesus.
Take up your cross means to die to sin. It means we must decide to die to goals. We must decide that we desire His will more than we desire our will. It means our very essence must die. It means we must love God more than we love ourselves. The first command is this, "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:5). And we must come to the place where we love God more than we love ourselves. This is the meaning of being born again. The old self dies. The old sin dies. And it is "not my will, but thine be done" (Luke 22:42). That is what it means to be born again.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus he wanted to pray a prayer. He wanted to write a check. He wanted to go through a ceremony. If Jesus would have given Nicodemus a list and said, "Okay, Nicodemus, if you do these things, you will be okay," Nicodemus would have said, "Yes, I will go do it all by tomorrow." No, Jesus wanted Nicodemus' life, because until he had Nicodemus' old life, He couldn't give him a new life.
You see, the reason so many people don't understand what it means to be born again is because of preachers. It is because the preachers don't have the courage to get up and preach the truth. Too many preachers "soft soap" it. They easy peddle it because they want people to like them. The preacher asks you to "accept Christ into your life." I've never read one place in the Bible where it said to "accept Christ into your life." I've read a lot places where it says to give your life to Christ, but you see, if you could accept Christ into your life, then what you could do is keep all your sins, and all your wickedness, and all your self-centeredness. "Well, I'm going to keep all this, but I'll clean out this one little corner for you. That is the Sunday corner, but I'll still have my sins. I'll have my Sunday corner here just for you." No, you don't accept Christ into your life. You give your life to Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ comes into your heart (Ephesians 3:16-17).
Preachers say, "Accept Jesus into your heart. Ask Jesus into your heart." The Bible never said to "accept Jesus into your heart." It says to give your heart to Jesus. That is what it means to be born again. It is to give your heart to Jesus. Jesus gives you a new heart. The Bible says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (Second Corinthians 5:17). It is not ask Jesus into your heart. It is to give your heart to Jesus, and He gives you a new heart. That is what it means to be born again.
Guess how the Apostles were saved? Peter and Andrew, in Matthew 4:19-20, "And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him." You see, they were fishermen. And that was where their heart was. That was where the desire of their life was. They were into catching fish and making money. But when Jesus said, "Follow me," they said, "No, we don't want to make money anymore. We just want to follow Christ." They left their nets. They left their boats. They left everything that was important to them, and they followed Christ. I'll bet you a bunch of good ole boys would have loved to been there that day. They could have had a free bass boat.
The same thing happened in Luke 5:27, "And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me." And what did Levi do? "And he left all, rose up, and followed him" (v.28). Matthew was a tax collector. Matthew was a wealthy man. And by the way, Matthew made his money by being a crook. Matthew was a dirty, rotten, lowdown no good thief. Most tax collectors are dirty, rotten, lowdown thieves. Matthew was a tax collector, and he cheated the people. He charged them more taxes then they really owed, and he kept the difference of the overcharge for himself. So he made his money by being a thief. But when Jesus called him, he left that dirty money behind.
Matthew did more than say, "Yeah, I'll come to church on Sunday and I'll pray a prayer and let you baptize me. But I'm going to keep all this dirty money." Had Matthew done this, would Matthew have been born again? No. Why? He wouldn't have really have given his heart to Jesus. His heart would still be down there in that dirty old money. Instead, he left the dirty money and gave his heart to Christ, and Christ gave him a new heart.
That is what Paul did. And my friend, that is what Nicodemus did. Nicodemus finally understood that it wasn't in the law. It wasn't in religion. It wasn't in ceremonies or sacrifices or ordinances. It was in a new birth. And Nicodemus understood that. How do I know that?
Because when Jesus died on the cross, it was Nicodemus who came and claimed his body. Nicodemus proclaimed Christ openly. Nicodemus finally understood what it meant to be born again.
Being born again means just what it says. It is just like the corn or wheat. We cannot be born again and have a spiritual birth, until first the flesh dies. Nicodemus had to understand this before he could be born again, and if you are going to go to Heaven one day, you must understand it as well.
The rich young ruler came to Jesus and Jesus said, "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. But the Bible says, And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions" (Mark 10:21-22). That rich young ruler really didn't want to give his heart to Christ. He was willing to pray a prayer. He was willing to do some ordinances and give some money, and if Jesus had given him a list of things to do, he would have gladly done it.
But he never really wanted to give his heart to Christ. The reason Jesus told him to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor was not because you have to give away all your money to go to Heaven. But what Jesus wanted to do was prove a point. He wanted for the rich young ruler to prove beyond any doubt that he was genuinely giving his heart to God. And if he would have genuinely given his heart to God, his heart would no longer set on his money any more, and he would have easily given it away. If the rich young ruler had said, "Yes Lord, I'll give my money away," then Jesus would have known that he had his heart, and knowing that, He might have even let him keep his money. I don't know. That is only speculation. But Jesus wanted to know whether or not he had his heart, and when the young man said, "No, I won't give away my money," Jesus knew he did not have the young man's heart.
Let me ask you this. Will you be like the rich young ruler? Or will you be born again? Will you give your heart to Jesus, or will you say, No, I have to have my sin. I'd rather have my sin. I would rather have my self-centeredness. I have to have my own way."
So you may say, "Well preacher, I've lived a good life." Well, have you? I'm glad for you. But the Bible says, Ye must be born again. So you may say, "Well preacher, I was baptized." Is that right? But have you given your heart to Jesus? You say, "Preacher, I prayed the sinner's prayer." A lot of people in Hell today have prayed the sinner's prayer. Prayer doesn't save anyone. It is whether or not you gave your heart to Jesus when you prayed that prayer for Him to save you. The rich young ruler was willing to do all those things and more. But he was not born again, because he would not give his life to Jesus. His money was more important and his status was more important. His position in the community was more important than Jesus.
In closing, remember John 3:6-7, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."