John 3:1-15

Nicodemus was a teacher and a member of the "Pharisees" - a group of religious leaders that Jesus and John the Baptist often criticised for being hypocrites. Most pharisees were intensely jealous of Jesus, because he undermined their authority and challenged their views. But Nicodemus was searching and he believed that Jesus had some answers. Daylight conversations between pharisees and Jesus tended to be antagonistic, but he wanted to consider Jesus for himself, to separate fact from rumour. Perhaps he was afraid of what his peers would say about his visit, so he came after dark. A learned teacher, he came to be taught.

No matter how intelligent and well educated we may be, we need to come to Jesus with an open mind and heart, so that He can teach us the truth about God. Like Nicodemus, we must examine Jesus for ourselves - others cannot do it for us. If we believe that He is who He says He is, we will want to speak up for Him. Nicodemus left that evening’s encounter a changed man. He came away with a whole new understanding of both God and himself.

Later, when he understood that Jesus was truly the "Messiah" (God's anointed one), he spoke up boldly in His defence at the Supreme Court. (John 7:50-52) As the court discussed ways to eliminate Jesus, Nicodemus raised the question of justice. Although his objection was overruled, he had spoken up. He had begun to change.

Our last picture of Nicodemus shows him coming out of the darkness to join Joseph of Arimathea in asking Pilate for permission to take and bury Jesus’ body. (John 19:38-42) Fully aware of what he was risking, Nicodemus made a bold move. He was continuing to grow. God looks for steady growth, not instant perfection. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God would apply to the whole world, not just the Jewish people. (John 3:16) It would be ruled by God and take root in the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus wouldn't be a part of it unless he was personally born again. (John 3:5) This was a revolutionary idea: that entry to the kingdom of God should be personal and that the only entrance requirements are repentance and spiritual rebirth.

We are all wooed by the living God through the power of the Holy Spirit, often in response to the prayers of others. We are offered the free gift of eternal life through His Son, but it is up to us - because we have free choice - to choose to follow Jesus and receive the power to live and walk in the kingdom of God. As our natural birth comes about through the action of our parents, so our second birth takes place through the power of the "Trinity" (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). (John 3:6) All of us must have a change of heart. A new resolution alone does not change the basic heart of a person who is dominated by sin. Only when sin is put under the blood of Jesus can there be a permanent change of heart.

Being born again

We can see, then, that we are not Christians because:

  • We were born in a “Christian” country.
  • We have Christian parents. (God has no grand-children, only children. (John 3:6) Each generation needs to know God for itself.)
  • We do our best to live a good life and we don’t hurt anyone.
  • We were "christened" as a baby.
  • We go through some ritual or share in a sacrament (such as baptism or breaking of bread). (See Galatians 6:15 and Hebrews 10:11-14)
  • We belong to a church. (Luke 18:9-14)

None of these things is effective. We must be born again. This is an inward, spiritual experience - an encounter with Jesus Christ which puts us into a right relationship with God as His children.

How do we get this FREE gift?

We receive this free gift when:

  1. We see sin as the hindrance to being right with God.
  2. We recognise the futility of our own efforts to win God’s favour.
  3. We determine - with God’s help - to forsake our sin. (This is called "repentance".)
  4. We realise that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
  5. We recognise that trusting Him means submitting our life totally to Him as Lord.
  6. We receive Him personally, by faith, as our rescuer and Lord.

If we have taken these steps, we can now be sure that we have eternal life! We are saved! We are "born again"! We are in God’s family by faith in what God has promised. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

What happens when we are born again?

Here are a few of the wonderful things that happen. There are many more!

  • We are born of God. (See John 1:11-13.)
  • We become a new creation. (Write out 2 Corinthians 5:17.)
  • We enter a new kingdom. (Write out Colossians 1:13.)
  • We have passed from death to life. (See John 5:24.)
  • We have been redeemed (bought back). “You must know [recognise] that you were redeemed [ransomed] from the useless, fruitless way of living inherited by tradition from your forefathers, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but you were purchased with the precious blood of Christ, the Messiah, like that of a sacrificial lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 Amplified version)
  • We have been saved from sin. (See Matthew 1:21; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14.)
  • We have fellowship with God and all His other children. (See 1 John 1:3.)

John 3:16-21

There is now no condemnation. The word "condemnation" means “unfit for use”, like a building that is condemned and about to be demolished. Jesus never condemned anyone, but we can condemn ourselves by not believing in the name (character) of God’s only son. Jesus came to save the world - as we have seen. It is up to us to live by (and in) faith; then we are not condemned. The easiest way to live by faith is to live in the light. Jesus is the light of the world.

When we want to obey our old nature (be it body, mind, will or emotions), we have to hand these desires and attitudes over to the Lord and see whether what we want to do lines up with His word. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Then we need the go-ahead from the Holy Spirit to do what we feel to be right. This is the only way to live the Christian life. Otherwise, we are just living like those who are outside of God's kingdom. We must accept (and receive in our hearts) God’s forgiveness and know that there is no condemnation when we are in Christ. Whenever we have guilty thoughts, we must remind the lying demons of what God's word says and remember that guilt is no longer a part of our life.

The Christian life is a unique way of life because we live by the power of the Almighty God inside us. We cannot better ourselves. It is completely down to the work of His Spirit within us. There is nothing that we can do for ourselves. If we want to do something in secret, it is a fairly sure indication that it is not right. If we insist on doing it, we will firstly lose our peace, and then have to pay the consequences, which there always are to every sin, even if we do not suffer straight away. We reap what we sow.

  1. Recognise that God does not condemn us, so why condemn ourselves?
  2. Make His word the centre of our lives and speak it out of our mouths.
  3. Write out anything that still haunts us with guilt and put it under the blood of Jesus once and for all. So many problems come from false guilt. Along with worry, this is the cause of so many sicknesses and diseases. Guilt comes from the demons assigned to lie to us, so “we must take every thought captive to make it obedient to Jesus Christ”. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  4. Let the Holy Spirit flow through us to others.

The word of God says: “There is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

We must concentrate on the amazing love of God who knows our motives and actions. He is greater than our consciences. "My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practise real love. This is the only way we'll know that we're living truly - living in God's reality. It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves." (1 John 3:19-20 Amplified version)

We have it straight from God's mouth, so we must believe it and not let the enemy steal our peace by reminding us of our shortcomings. The blood of Jesus Christ is more than enough to cover every sin.

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