Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #290 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading John 3 today and our focus is on What Does it Mean to Be Born Again? How Can I Be Born Again? We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
The Pharisees – Jesus’ greatest enemies, right? Well…sort of. The Pharisees did indeed oppose Jesus quite frequently, but the Pharisees weren’t the enemies of God ALL of the time in the New Testament. In the book of Acts, a group of Pharisees defend Paul when he’s brought before the council, because the Pharisees believed in angels, spirits and resurrection, and Paul did also. As well, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, many Pharisees believed and became Christians. Even during Jesus’ time, there were at least some Pharisees that had a somewhat positive view towards Him, including a group that obviously didn’t want Jesus killed, which Luke tells us about in Luke 13:
31 At that time some Pharisees came and told him, “Go, get out of here. Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go tell that fox, ‘Look, I’m driving out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete my work.’ Luke 13:31-32
So – good on them for warning Jesus. And today, we have the most famous example of a Pharisee having a good interaction with Jesus in Nicodemus, who does come to Jesus at night (so he won’t be seen talking to Him.) And notice what Nicodemus says:
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.” John 3:2 WE know you are a teacher from God. Obviously other Pharisees believed too. And Jesus, seizing the opportunity, tells Nicodemus something incredibly important. He and we, MUST be born again. Let’s read the exchange:
3 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 “How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.7 Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. John 3:3-7
Nicodemus has the reaction I probably would have. What in the world does it mean to be born again – like get back into your mom and be birthed again? That’s what it SEEMS like Jesus means, if He was speaking literally, and – of course, He wasn’t. The trouble is, we THINK we know what Jesus meant now by that expression – we think He simply means, “We must become Christians.” But, actually, Jesus is saying something a good bit deeper than that. Let’s tag in pastor Tim Keller to help us understand:
You can’t just say, “Born again. Oh, I know what that means.” No, you don’t. You know what it has come to mean, but you don’t know what Jesus originally meant by it. If you’re going to understand what he originally meant by it, you have to not only get down into the metaphor of it, but you have to take a look and see who he said it to….Let’s think about who Nicodemus was. He was a ruler of the Sanhedrin. He was an older man. He was a religious leader. He was highly successful.First of all, he was extremely educated. He would be what we call a professor. Secondly, he was very successful, very pulled-together, and not in any way a broken man. But most interesting of all, he would’ve been incredibly moral and exceedingly religious. He would have been a person who, as a Pharisee, was living under hundreds of moral rules, and therefore, was as moral as a person could be. You may say, “Yes, I know about the Pharisees. They were nasty, bigoted people.” Not all of them, and not this one.
When Jesus Christ chose a highly well-adjusted, kind, generous, pulled-together, and successful man, a man who was perfectly happy and pulled-together, not broken, everything about his life was fine, and says, “You must be born again,” do you know what that means? That means we all have to be born again. There’s nobody that can be left out. It’s not just for people who need to get religious. Religious and irreligious people need to be born again.
It’s not just for broken people who are messed up. No. Extremely happy, very well-adjusted, everything working in your life, and broken people. You all must be born again. We all must be born again. Jesus’ choosing Nicodemus and saying, “You must be born again,” answers the question, “Who is the new birth for?” The answer is everybody.
That’s the reason why, for example, earlier in the gospel of John 1:12–13, we read this: “Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Did you hear that? As many as received him, as many as believed in Jesus Christ, were born again, born of God.
It’s not like here are the Christians and then there are these born-again types that are particularly broken, emotional, or need a lot of moral structure. No. To believe in Christ is to be born again. You have to be born again to believe in Christ. There are no types of Christianity, born-again Christianity and everybody else. That’s not what John 1:12–13 say. That’s not what the Bible says. You, me, we. It doesn’t matter. You need to be born again….When Jesus Christ looks at Nicodemus and in verse 3 says, “You have to be born again. [He is saying ] You have to start all over if you’re going to become a citizen of the kingdom of God.”…Nothing you have done counts. Nothing. You have to start all over, no matter who you are. If you want to get into the kingdom of God, you have to be born again.”. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a good person or a bad person. You need to be born again. Radical spiritual equality. Everybody’s the same before God.
The second thing it means is death and resurrection. Think of the implication of born again. To be born again means a rebirth. Rebirth happens after death. Something has to die for it to be reborn, and therefore, Jesus’ salvation is not moving from strength to strength. Jesus’ salvation only happens through death. That death is death to the ego, death to self-sufficiency, death to pride, and death to the thing which is ruining everybody’s life and ruining the world….
When my children were born, they weren’t born by their own effort. They were born by someone else’s effort. Even in modern times, it’s kind of horrendous. What Jesus Christ was saying is when you must be born again, your salvation, your connection to God has to be a birth. What is he saying? He’s saying it’s not of your works and it’s not of your efforts. It’s by the blood, by the labor, and by the pain of someone else. In those days, every time a woman gave birth there was far more pain, there was far more suffering, and there was far more danger. Every time a child was brought into this world, a woman’s life teetered on the edge of leaving this world. It was always touch and go. Many, many times, far more than now, children got new life through the death of their mother.
Do you know what Jesus is saying? “There’s absolutely no way for you to get this kind of grace unless it’s by the pain, the labor, the suffering, and the blood of another.”…
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
So – HOW are you born again? You are born again not by YOUR effort or works or goodness, but by the effort, works, goodness and sacrifice of another -of Jesus. Look to Jesus and believe, following Him wholeheartedly and believing in faith that He died to pay the price for your sins and that He rose from the dead to open up eternal life in Heaven for all who believe on Him and follow Him. It will be a rebirth – a new beginning, death to the old and eternal life to the new. Being born again isn’t simply a metaphorical way of referring to a Christian – being born again is rather an explanation – an incredibly deep one – of what it means to be saved and rescued and fitted for eternal life by Jesus.
Bible Memory passage for the month of October: 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
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