October 29, 2023 - An Encounter that will Transform Your Life, Pastor Paul Vallee

October 29, 2023 - An Encounter that will Transform Your Life, Pastor Paul Vallee
Living Stones Church, Red Deer, Alberta
October 29, 2023 - An Encounter that will Transform Your Life, Pastor Paul Vallee

Oct 30 2023 | 00:54:42

Episode 44 October 30, 2023 00:54:42

Show Notes

John 3:1-21

Soren Kierkegaard, the noted Danish Theologian, once said: “God creates out of nothing.  You may say, that’s wonderful. But He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners.”

No person ever became a Christian apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. The reason is that the natural mind is hostile to God, but when God’s Spirit begins to work in the hearts and minds of people, something spiritual and supernatural happens within people.

Here is how the apostle Paul describes it in Romans 8:5-9:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so [This explains rebellion in the heart of man. The sinful mind is hostile to God and will not submit to God’s word.]

Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

One expression we use to explain the spiritual transformation is conversion. Too often, we focus on the human side of conversion, the person responding to the call of God. But conversion begins as a work of God. This is what the apostle Paul pointed out in Romans. Our natural state is hostile to God, and it takes the Holy Spirit influencing, challenging, and guiding our lives.

Briefly, I want to explain how we enter the kingdom of God. One of the great stories from the New Testament that explains the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion is found in John’s gospel. A religious leader came to Jesus by night to gain a private audience with him. In Nicodemus’ encounter with Christ, we find three elements in an encounter with God that explains how we enter God’s kingdom.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] And how many recognize you know, every time the weather changes, it affects people. Anybody noticed that? We went from summer to winter in relatively fast speed? I think about a day, it looked beautiful. I knew we were in fall, but it sure was beautiful. The weather was like summertime weather, and then boom, it's winter with that flu season, cold season. [00:00:26] I've been chatting with some people. They've even got COVID going. So lots going on, right? And not only that, my heart goes out. There's so many in our church family right now. They're walking through loss and they're grieving. [00:00:39] And then there's other people, there's relational tensions. And so let's pray today. How many know God is interested in every situation? [00:00:48] I've been listening to a song. God is in the story and he's in every detail. I don't know if you know that song. What a beautiful thought. God is in the details of our lives. He cares about each one of us. So let's pray today that he would invade those places in our soul that need a divine touch this morning, and he would open our heart as we hear this message. So, Father, we thank you today for grace, abounding grace. We thank you for the measure of Your love. And Lord, your word declares that your mercies are new every morning. And so today, like the Israelites, we're coming out into this wilderness of life and we're gathering the manna that you're providing for us today. This manna that is to nourish not only our bodies, but to nourish our soul. The bread of life. You are the bread of life, Jesus. And we want to receive from you words that will instruct, words that will encourage, words that will challenge, words that will bring hope and grace and good cheer. Father, we believe for that. We pray for those that are afflicted in spirit, soul and body today. We pray for those that are struggling in relationships. We ask, Lord, that you would be the healer and that you would bring about transformation in people's thinking and in their relationships. And we thank you for that. In Jesus name and God's people said. Amen. You may be seated. So we are beginning a series here recently on the Gospel of John. And I'm in John, chapter three, probably one of the more famous chapters in the entire Bible. I bet you if I said John 316, many of you would immediately know that verse, right? So we're going to look at that context of that beautiful verse. Soren Kirkegaard, who was a Danish theologian, once said, god creates out of nothing. And some of you may say, that's amazing. It's wonderful. Can you imagine creating out of nothing? But he went on to say, but God does something even greater than that, even more wonderful than that. He makes saints out of sinners. How many know that's the greatest miracle? There's a lot of miracles we can see in life but the transformation of the human heart, that's powerful because how many know some of us can be a little ornery right, we can resist and we can fight God, and we do that to our own hurt so often in our lives. How many know no person ever becomes a Christian apart from the work of God, the Holy Spirit, god's Spirit has to be at work in our lives. [00:03:25] The reason for that is simply we have a natural mind. And that natural mind is actually in hostility towards know. We always think it's interesting. Why don't people respond to God? Well, they're at war with God. There's a hostility, there's a state of rebellion. We want to do our thing. We want to live our way, we want to go our way. And yet it says here but when God's spirit begins to work in the hearts and minds of people, something spiritual and supernatural begins to happen. And here's how Paul describes it in the Book of Romans. Now, I've used the older version because the newer one says flesh, but I think that's confusing. When we think of flesh, we think of human material here. So I'm going to use the older rendition, speaking of what he means by that, the carnality, the sin nature. So he says, those who live according to the sinful nature have their mind set on what that nature desires. But those who live in accordance with the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, in accordance to what God wants, they have their mind set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. How many recognize that there's that showing you that distinct difference, life, death. He goes on to say here, the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God law, nor can it do so. And I think this kind of explains the rebellion inside of the human heart. The sinful mind is hostile to God and will not submit to God. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, now he's speaking to believers are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit. And if the Spirit of God lives in you, and if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. So how many recognize that the difference between a believer and a non believer is the Holy Spirit living inside of us? That's what he's telling us here. When God's Spirit is inside of us and God's Spirit is ruling and reigning within us, he creates a desire to please. So, you know, I always know when people are believers because there's a desire to please God. That's one of the characteristics of a true child of God. I want to do the right thing. I want to please God. I want to honor God with my life. [00:05:55] I think that's powerful one expression we use to explain the spiritual transformation in people's lives is a word called conversion. Something is happening. Too often we focus on the human side of conversion, the person responding to the call of God. But conversion actually begins as a work of God. This is what the Apostle Paul points out in Romans, our natural state is actually in hostility to God. It's not know, it doesn't begin with us. That's what I'm trying to tell us. It begins with God at work in us, drawing us, wooing us, creating a context so that you and I begin to inquire, begin to be curious, begin to seek out, begin to want to know more about the things of God and that Holy Spirit God. The Holy Spirit will influence us, he will challenge us, he will guide us. When we're praying for people that aren't believers, let me tell you something. We just have to say, Lord, I know that you're going to create the context for bringing them into your kingdom. This morning we were praying. Sometimes people are drifting spiritually. They're kind of floating down the river. So I prayed this real radical prayer this morning with the guys. I just said, Lord, could you just dump them in the river? [00:07:13] Just dump their boat. And how many know? You get a little water, it kind of awakens you, right? And then you realize, hey, where am I? Well, yeah, you're in the river, but you'll take a look at the bank and all of a sudden you notice, hey, I've been drifting. And I believe there's a necessity for an awakening in our souls. Do you believe that? Sometimes we're just kind of moving along through life, we don't notice that? So today I want to briefly look at how does a person enter God's kingdom? Do you think this is important? I mean, when you look at our world here below, how many go, it's pretty broken. Has anybody noticed the brokenness in our world? [00:07:55] But as a society, they're under a kingdom, the kingdom of darkness. Satan is ruling and reigning in this kingdom. There's enmity, bitterness, anger, all this nonsense that's going on. We're fighting a spiritual battle. But there's another kingdom. It's the kingdom of God, it's the kingdom of love, it's the kingdom of light, it's the kingdom of hope, it's the kingdom of grace. Wow, I want to be a part of this kingdom. How in the world can we be a part of God's kingdom? So I'm going to take a look at probably one of the most interesting stories in the New Testament, where Jesus is actually explaining to a religious leader the nature of God's kingdom and how to be a part of it. So there's going to be a real simple message on how to be a part of God's kingdom. And so I think there are three elements in this encounter with God, and the first one is the inquiry of a searching heart. Something will draw us. And we see that with people. All of a sudden there's no interest in spiritual things. And then a whole bunch of things happen in life, and all of a sudden we shift, and now we have an interest in spiritual things. Something is going on. The Spirit of God is working in that person's life, and that's always exciting. And I think many times it comes as a result of people praying for us, people praying, people concerned about us and praying and the gods hearing the cry and answering that prayer. And one of, I think, the greatest of miracles, of all miracles, is the transformation of the human soul, the transformation of a person's life. Nicodemus, as we're going to find out in John, chapter three, was a member of a religious group of people in the first century called Pharisees. And the know, I've been sharing a little bit about them. They were noted for their following an oral tradition of the law, the interpretation of law, and also they were concerned about purity issues. Okay? So it became very external with them. Their religious life became very external, and their inner life was unaffected by what they were doing externally. And so there was a divorce between what they appeared to be and what they actually wore internally. And we can see that a lot of times. Sometimes people, they do a thing called managing your outer life, but you're giving everybody the appearance of this is who you are, but the reality is on the inside, that's not who you are at all. A lot of people look like they got their act together, but inside there's a brokenness, there's a woundedness, there's pain in their soul. [00:10:40] They're not totally whole, but they're compensating. Many times these people are extremely successful in life. You think, wow, they got it all together, but we're going to find out. A lot of that drive to succeed is actually compensating for the weakness and brokenness on the inside. And I think that's probably true of this man that we're going to look at here in the Scriptures this morning. [00:11:06] Let's pick up the story in John, chapter three, verse one, it says, now there was a Pharisee that's giving us the context of his religious expression, a man named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish Ruling Council. So this guy is a member of parliament in the Canadian context. He's part of the sanhedrin. This is the ruling body in Israel. They're working and functioning under the Romans, but they are self governing as long as they stay within the Roman parameter. Okay, so he's a leader. This is not just an ordinary personality here. This is someone who probably has had a lot of training in his life. He's a mature person and he's a leader in the nation. And he came to Jesus that night and said, rabbi, now I want you to notice the pronoun we everybody pick up that I haven't noticed that for a long time. But it struck me we we know you're a teacher who has come from God, for no one can perform the miraculous signs you were doing if God were not with him. So something about what Jesus was doing was drawing people's attention. Now, let's face it, I mean, if we were living in that hour, how many of you would probably be going, wow, I've been hearing about this person's name is Jesus, and things are happening. [00:12:30] People are being healed. People that couldn't talk or talking, people couldn't hear or hearing, people couldn't see or mean. This is getting people's attention. Right? [00:12:44] I'm talking about these are actual things that are happening, dramatic things that are happening. And so Nicodemus and some of the leaders are beginning to wonder, because I think the we there represents his social circle. Some people that he knew, some people that were probably in leadership were wondering, who is Jesus? Right? Who is this guy? I mean, obviously, you can't be pulling this stuff off and not have some element of God backing you in this stuff. And I talked last week a little bit about signs for the Jews were a sense of authenticating who they were. And obviously Jesus was doing some amazing things here. Incredible stuff was. [00:13:29] So these words imply that he had carefully examined what Jesus was doing and had rightly concluded that only a heaven sent person could perform such miracles as these. [00:13:42] FF. Bruce, who's a New Testament scholar, says, Nicodemus may have been deficient in comprehension, but at least he was not blinded by prejudice. Do you know, one of the great tragedies in society is we can become prejudiced against stuff and not give people a fair shake. We're not really hearing the other side. We're just locked in. Right? But some of the religious leaders were attributing the works of Jesus to demonic activity, and we know that from reading other New Testament texts there. So although Jesus did not belong to one of the acknowledged schools of sacred learning, this leading teacher in Israel saluted him as an equal with the title Rabbi, which was really a mark of respect. So Nicodemus comes in a respectful demeanor. I think that's think, you know, when we treat people with respect, you're going to go a lot further in life than to be demeaning or depreciative of who they are. Certainly Nicodemus wasn't doing that. [00:14:42] Even if he did not grasp the significance of the signs, he recognized by their character that this certainly was coming from the power of God, although Jesus did not belong. Oh, okay, I've already read that. [00:14:58] John, in describing the interview, gives a detail that I think that has really intrigued people for a long time. [00:15:06] He came to Jesus at night. Okay, why did he come at night? Lots of ideas, but I like what D. A. Carson relates. I think there's a remember, this is a very theological book John is writing after words. And he uses the word night and day a lot in his Gospel. And he says the best clue lies in John's use of the word night elsewhere in each instances, and he gives a number of texts. Here the word is either used metaphorically for moral and spiritual darkness or it refers to nighttime hours. But it still bears the same moral and spiritual symbolism. Okay, doubtless Nicodemus approached Jesus at night, but his own night was blacker than he knew. Isn't that interesting? So in other words, John is using words to convey a thought and he's basically saying, yeah, he probably came physically at night. But the symbolism is that Nicodemus was not walking in light. He was actually in darkness because he didn't understand what God was really doing at that moment. He was in the dark about it. And he comes to Jesus. That's a good place to go when you're in the dark, by the way. Go to Jesus. [00:16:26] So who were the people that he represented? I have already said it people in his social circle. D a carson explains the implied question. Because, think about it, we look at these and immediately Jesus jumps on something. There's an implied question. He hasn't said anything yet. [00:16:46] Formally, Nicodemus has not yet asked anything, though the implied question seems to be something like who are? [00:16:54] Like, in other words, we know that you're a teacher from God, but are you more than that? Are you a prophet? Could you be the Messiah? Like questions are going on in their minds of who is Jesus? And I believe that that's the most important question you and I will ever ask in life. Who is Jesus? [00:17:17] Who is know? That's a question that's rung throughout the pages of Time. People today would like to minimize who Jesus is, but Jesus keeps breaking out all over the place. Time magazine shows Jesus you have revivals that all of a sudden the church comes alive again and you got 2000 years of church history. And what many of us don't realize here in North America, because sometimes we see the church maybe struggling or numbers are depreciating going down. But other parts of the world, the church is just exploding and expanding. And here's the good news. There are more Christians alive today than there has been in the totality of human history. We have more people on the planet for one 7 billion plus people. But there are more Christians today than ever before. How many think that's amazing? [00:18:08] So sometimes we can look around and we feel like, oh, we're a minority. And we feel like we're barely hanging on. Actually. The kingdom of God has been expanding since the very day it started. And it's continually expanding. Did you realize that? And it's never going to retreat. It's going to keep expanding. [00:18:26] So I think you and I need to get the right picture because I think the enemy wants to create in our minds that the church is on its last leg and we're barely gasping and we're hardly holding it together, and society seems to be overrunning this world. And that's actually a false picture of reality because we got to put everything in its context. When we look at the whole society, yeah, there's evil in the world. And, yes, sometimes in a spiritual battle or a battle, the darkest hour is actually the moment before the greatest victory. And I think we're right there, guys. We're at that moment where the apex of battle is intensifying, intensifying, intensifying. And I do a little bit of reading on history, and I study a lot of this stuff, and I realize that most of the darkest moments in human history, all of a sudden, boom, everything changed. And that's where we're at that very moment right now, where we're ready to have that happen. [00:19:25] Now, what's fascinating about this encounter is Jesus's response to the greeting, and I want to look at that. The second is the shocking response by Christ to Nicodemus's query. He's looking into, who is Jesus? [00:19:42] Jesus doesn't even wait for the question. Well, first of all, Jesus even knows what the question is. A lot of times when I'm reading the Gospels, he's reading people's minds because he's human, yes, but he's also God, and he knows the hearts of people, and he dresses Nicodemus's greatest need, and it's our greatest need. He addresses the core issue of each of our lives. He says, truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he's born again. [00:20:15] Now. What is he saying? He's saying the kingdom of God right now is not material. [00:20:21] The Kingdom of God is spiritual. As a matter of fact, Paul writes to the Romans, and he says, the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink. It's not ritual, but it's righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. It's a spiritual kingdom. And so a lot of people who are relating to this life strictly on a materialistic level totally miss what's going on and never comprehend what's happening in society, because they're looking at life through a very naturalistic and materialistic. [00:20:56] But Jesus says, no, no, you have to be born again to see and understand and comprehend what's really happening here. So let's take a look at a couple points of clarity. I think that'll help us understanding just how shocking this statement was to Nicodemus. First of all, the Jewish people felt that God's kingdom would only come at the last day. [00:21:19] I never knew that. I just picked this up here this week when I was studying. They felt it would all come at the end. That's why they kept asking know, is this the end? Is this the end? Is this the end? Okay. And even in the book of Acts, after Jesus rose from the dead, and he's talking to them, and he's sending them out to preach the kingdom. They go, when is the kingdom coming? See, they're just totally locked into a certain mindset. And I think sometimes as people, we get locked into certain ways of looking at life. Jesus is going to shatter this man's worldview, and for you and I to change, sometimes we have to have what I call shattering moments where everything changes for us and we begin to see things differently as a nation. They also believe that they were God's covenant people and were part of God's kingdom. But, you know, Paul now in the New Testament, says not everyone is a Jew who says he's a know, because circumcision outwardly isn't what the whole thing is about. There has to be a circumcision of the heart. What is Paul telling us? He's saying God's covenant people is not based on race. [00:22:31] It's not a racial thing. But for the Jewish person, they felt themselves as I'm in God's kingdom because I'm racially a Jew. [00:22:41] But it's not that way. Actually, God's kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and it extends beyond race to a relationship. [00:22:50] And so a lot of people hide behind things like ritual, religion and race to think that they're in God's kingdom. And those things are not what makes people a part of God's kingdom. God's kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. We need to understand that. And God is not excluding anyone from his kingdom. It doesn't matter which race we're from. It doesn't matter how young or how old we are. God doesn't exclude one single person from his kingdom. As a matter of fact, when I read in the Book of Revelation, there will be people from every language group and every race. Isn't that beautiful? So God has no problem with diversity because he created it. [00:23:35] Wow. [00:23:37] And every group has beautiful things to share with each other and with one another. And then every group has what I would consider areas in their way of life that is displeasing to God. And those are the things that hinder us from building real relationship with each other. That's called sin. [00:24:03] Now d a Carson says predominant religious thought in Jesus. They affirmed that all Jews would be admitted to that kingdom, apart from those guilty of deliberate apostasy or extraordinary wickedness. So they did see that some people would not be in God's kingdom. But here was Jesus telling Nicodemus, a respected and conscientious member, not only of Israel, but by the Sanhedrin, or Israel of the Sanhedrin, that he cannot enter the kingdom of God unless he's born again. So what is he saying? He says, Listen, it's not because you're Jewish or you have all of those credentials that put you in God's kingdom. He's moving him past that. He said, no, that's not what gets you there. You need to be born again. [00:24:52] In other words, neither his Jewish lineage nor his religious activities were a means to securing God's kingdom. He said, no, those things don't count wow. Now if this is true, then Nicodemus wonders, how can someone then be a part of God's kingdom? And Jesus basically says, you have to be born again. That's the key, that word, born again. So then Nicodemus asks the question how can someone be born when they are old? [00:25:18] Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born now? [00:25:23] Meryl Tenney says Jesus bluntly answered his question before he asked it, asserting that without a complete change, comparable only to rebirth, the natural man could not enter the spiritual kingdom. That's what he's telling. Cannot implies incapability rather than prohibition. So he says it's not that you can't be in God's kingdom, it's just that the natural person cannot be. There's something that has to happen. The natural man is not arbitrarily debarred from the kingdom. He's inherently incapable of apprehending it, just as a blind man cannot enjoy a sunset. God's mysteries are not the heritage of the learned, the moral or the religious simply because of learning, morality or religion. They are the heritage of the spiritually transformed. So that's the issue. We have to be spiritually transformed. Something's got to happen. There's got to be a transaction between ourselves and God. That's what he's getting at. To Nicodemus and to us, it's not about being religious or moral, but being transformed. And I think one of the great examples of this is the story of John Wesley. John Wesley grew up in a pastor's home and even studied for the ministry. So here's what I want you to notice. Sometimes we can grow up in a church, we can go through the religious movements, but never be born again. It can happen. [00:26:56] And I think John Wesley is a classic example. He was a pastor's son. He went to Oxford to study to be a pastor. Are we following this? He was so motivated. Oxford at that time was quite liberal. [00:27:11] Even as it is today, it was quite liberal. And some of these guys, like his brother Charles, George Whitfield was a part of that group. There was other guys there that were very motivated and they had a desire to please God. So there was something at work in their life and they became known as the Holy Club. That was a derisive term from the other students because they practiced the spiritual disciplines. They would fast, they would pray. They were very methodical in their approach to Christianity. And the Holy Club did more than think and pray. They even went to prisons. They tried to present the gospel to prisoners. They were ridiculed by their fellow oxidonians. From their small ranks came towering men of the age. [00:27:57] Eventually John and Charles went to America as missionaries to the indigenous people of Georgia. [00:28:08] And it was through that trip that John came in contact with a small band of people called Moravians on his voyage over to the colony. And it was these men and women, fearlessly sang hymns during dreadful storms at sea while he despaired, he was afraid to die. And they were just praising God. So there was something about their faith that he lacked and he wanted to know the kind of faith that they had. He could see there was a difference in what was going on here. His was an intellectual faith. Theirs was a real vital, practical faith. He could see, know. [00:28:43] And it's to John Wesley's credit that he asked. He was critical enough of himself to examine himself and say, you know, maybe I'm not in the faith. Maybe there's something deficient about my faith. These guys have something I don't have. And he met the leader of that group, Peter Bowler, who was a Moravian, and he said, Listen, John, why don't you just keep practicing preaching faith until you get it? [00:29:05] I thought that's an interesting approach. But anyways, so Wesley went to Georgia. Totally was a miserable failure there. Him and his brother came back to England, so he went to a Moravian meeting at a place called Aldersgate. And while he was there, he writes in his journal it was Wednesday, May 24, 1738. He said, My heart was strangely warmed and I knew I had faith. Something happened inside of him. He moved from an intellectual apprehension of faith to the experience and reality of it. He experienced God's presence and from that point on his life was revolutionized. Then he started preaching that people needed to come into God's kingdom by faith and it changed his whole life. Now, what Jesus said took Nicodemus a little bit by surprise because he was basically saying he got to start over again. Now, in the Jewish thinking, they were trying to win gentiles to Judaism. So they were proselytizing people. They were trying to win people to their faith. But in their minds, a proselyte in effect, entered on a new life and thus assumed the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. The proselyte, it was said, was like a newborn child. So this idea being you have to be born again or like a new child, was not foreign to Nicodemus. What was shocking about it was Jesus was applying it to him, not a gentile. This was like mind boggling. Jesus was basically saying is, you're not in yet, you haven't got it yet. You're kind of like, you know, you've got all the outward trappings you're in the right spot, but you're not quite connected. [00:30:53] Look at it this way. You're like a computer. You got all the software downloaded, but you haven't plugged in yet. You need the power, you need to connect, to operate. It's all there. You've been taught all the right things, but it's not connected to the source of power. In order for it to be activated. Such a person might fittingly be described as born from above or born anew. [00:31:19] So on this occasion, Jesus had been talking of proselytes from paganism. Nicodemus would have. Understood him well enough, but it would have appeared that this enigmatic or mysterious words were intended to apply to Nicodemus himself. But in what sense? What does Jesus mean when he's talking about being born again? Now, Nicodemus was a moral person. He was a religious person. You could say he was probably a churchgoer. He probably went to the synagogue every week. He was at the temple. This guy was doing all the right things, but he wasn't connected. And Jesus said that. And, you know, there's a lot of people like that. I remember years ago, when I went to Bible college, there was a senior couple that were attending classes with us, ralph and Ethel and Falstadt, and they shared their story. [00:32:09] He had been in the military in World War II. He had helped rebuild Japan. Nice couple, beautiful people. But he said, you know, we went to church. We served on our church. Know, we did a lot of nice things for a lot of people. But then his son in law, who was wounded in Vietnam, came home, gave his life to Christ. So he, his son in law and their daughter Nancy, she said to him, Ralph and Ethel, these really nice people said, mom and dad, you think you're Christians, but you're not. I was a shock. [00:32:41] How many be a little shocked? You don't go to church every week. You're on the church board. And Nancy says to them, you guys aren't Christians. [00:32:48] But they could see the transformation in their son in law and their daughter. They could see this change in their life. They could see something was different about their life, and so it shook them up a little bit. They started asking themselves the question, and they realized something very powerful. They were committed to church, not to Christ. [00:33:08] And when they asked Jesus to come into their life, it changed their whole life. Man then these beautiful, moral, committed people, now we're moving forward in a very profound way. Now, when translator des Altridge, working in Papua New Guinea, was trying to translate the word born again, how many know you're trying to find a word that fits in that culture. And so he's talking to the people there, and he's asking his native Co translators to think of a good way to express this. And a man there said, Listen, we have a custom sometimes when a person goes wrong and will not listen to anybody ever met people like that? [00:33:49] We all get together in the village and we put the person in the midst of us. And the elders talk to him for a long time, and they tell him things like, you've gone wrong. All of your thoughts, intentions, and values are wrong now. You have to become a baby again and start to relearn everything right. [00:34:07] And he goes, that was the answer that Des was looking for. The word of John in John three three. And Benamarion reads, no, one can see the kingdom of God unless he becomes like a baby again and relearns everything from God's word. Well, I think that's a pretty good translation of what we're talking about here. We're starting over again. It's a reset button. Hey, I've got to learn. [00:34:30] I got to learn a bunch of stuff I never learned before. And when you become a follower of Christ, you can be a teenager, you can be a child, you can be an adult, you can be an older person. But you know what? You end up starting over again in some ways. You start rethinking. You start retraining your mind how to think and look at life through a different lens. You see, up until this point, you and I have been looking at life through our own worldly point of view. But then when you become a Christian and the Spirit of God comes in you and you start reading the word of God, you start looking at life through God's lens. And how many know God's ways are so different than human ways? You see, in human beings, when somebody offends us, we get angry and we retaliate. [00:35:17] But when we come to the kingdom of God, the Bible says we need to forgive people because we've been forgiven. That doesn't mean we trust people, but we forgive. [00:35:28] You know what's happening in our culture today? People are all being offended. Anybody relate to this? I've never seen so much offense in my entire life. And I go, but what happened to forgiveness? It's just kind of disappearing in our culture today. And it's tragic, because what happens when we don't forgive is we remain wounded. We remain a victim. We remain controlled by whatever happened against us. That's problematic. [00:35:55] We need to learn how to forgive. [00:35:58] Listen, this work is so great that Paul says, in two corinthians, therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come. This is radical, folks. This means you're not the same person you once were. This is actually good news. You know, a lot of people I've talked to, they said, if I could only start over again, wouldn't it be great if you had a little button you could hit reset and all the stupid things you ever did in life? You could go back and have a second shot at it, right? [00:36:27] Reset button. There is a reset button. It's called coming to faith in Christ. It doesn't mean that your past changes. It means that your response to your past changes. It means that you learn that God's willing to forgive you. Some people may not, but God is willing to forgive you. It's a reset. It's a new beginning. And now you begin to learn to live a different way of life. And it's actually exciting to get to know God and to begin to live life differently than how you previously lived. You become a different person. You're not what you once were. And here's the good news, because no one in this room is perfect, otherwise you wouldn't be here. God is still working at changing us, and I think that's powerful. [00:37:10] Listen to what know it says. [00:37:13] God says, his divine power peter's talking about God's power has given us everything we need for life. And Godliness, through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness, through these, he has given us his very great and precious promises so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. You know what? God delivers us from this present evil world. How many think that's amazing? You say, yeah, but I'm still living in it. Yeah, but you're not a part of it. We're in it, but we're not of it. We see it and our hearts break for it. And yet we know that God is redeeming and his will ultimately redeem this whole planet. And I get so excited about that. [00:38:00] This is about to happen. It's going to get better, folks. I know a lot of people are walking around thinking, oh, it's getting worse. Pastor, I'm going to declare to you today, ultimately it's going to get better. [00:38:11] So let's not live in fear and anxiety and frustration, but let's live in hope and not that we have our heads in the sand. Yes, there's problems. Yes, we need to address them, but let's not address them out of a sense that everything's falling apart. I love what Elizabeth Cheryl writes in her book Journey Into Rest. She gives a very insightful nature and an understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating our nature. Listen to what she says. She said in a sentence of the books I was reading on osteoporosis, and I double checked this morning with our two physicians that I was online with because I didn't want to teach you something that wasn't true. She says, it struck me like all living tissue, bone is constantly being broken down and reformed. I didn't know that. Some of you in the medical field go, yeah, it's basic stuff, Pastor, but I didn't know that. [00:39:08] The words seem to apply not only to our bodies, but to the perpetual Christian emphasis on brokenness. And this really is resonating with me. We repent, we confess, we acknowledge our sinfulness. She says, I grow tired of this continual retracing of steps, impatient for the beckoning road ahead. But it was the word living that leaped out at me. It is living tissue that's constantly torn down and rebuilt. As long as my relationship to God is alive, this biological fact seems to suggest the tearing down process will be a part of it. She goes, the confession of sin, the admission of guilt will go hand in hand with renewal. There'll be no growth without pruning and no rebirth without death. [00:39:56] What's going on? This is what God says. [00:39:59] God is near to those who are a broken and contrite heart. [00:40:05] Don't you think that's powerful? [00:40:08] Do you know what I notice when I'm broken? I have a greater degree of sensitivity. How many know what I'm talking about? Anybody experience brokenness? [00:40:19] You're tender at that moment. You're the most tender in that state. And you're tender not just not about you. You're just tender and you're more sensitive to the people around you and their need. This past prayer and fasting time. I don't know what happened, but some people have told me it's one of the most moving times we've had. And I don't know if when I finished on Thursday morning, I just felt a sense of brokenness and a tenderness. I mean, I'm not given the tears you guys probably noticed that I see maybe a little indifferent or harder, whatever, but I was very tender. And I was talking to someone that I've known for a number of years. And I know that they're on the cusp of going into eternity. And I don't know if they're a believer, but they're a beautiful person. And I said, could I pray with you? And I could hear them saying please. And I could hear them crying on the phone. And I was crying, and we were praying. That beautiful. It's moving. Then I met with someone afterwards, and I could see the pain in their face and the hurt in their heart. And there was tears in my eyes as I was entreating them. [00:41:27] I was entreating them about something in their life. [00:41:31] I could see that pain. And I don't know if I got through, but I'll tell you something. I was broken. There's something that is beautiful about a spirit of brokenness. I believe God wants to do that in our lives. Let me move on to the third is really the intentional act of faith towards Christ. In other words, how do we acquire this new life? How do I receive God's kingdom into my life? That's the most important question. Jesus describes for Nicodemus the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people, transforming them. He says, Verily, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he's born of water and of the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to flesh. [00:42:11] To be born again speaks of a brand new beginning. The concept was not foreign to Nicodemus. [00:42:19] He knew, as I'd already said, that in Judaism they have to become like a newborn child. It brings one into a brand new world. It gives an individual a brand new identity. As Jesus pointed out, it's not a physical birth. He says no one can come into the Kingdom of God unless he's born of water and of the Spirit. But what did he mean now? [00:42:39] He's probably alluding to, and some writers think this is alluding to Ezekiel. And Nicodemus is a teacher. He knows the Old Testament. So when Jesus is using this language, he's getting what he's laying down and DA. Carson says Ezekiel 36 25 to 27, where water and spirit come together so forcefully the first to signify cleansing from impurity or repentance, and the second to depict the transformation of heart that will enable a person to follow God. Holy. Wow. [00:43:14] He's basically saying, you got to change. This is the transformation that's necessary to someone who had already felt that they were in right standing with God and part of God's covenant. People to be told he needed to repent and have a transformed, life changing experience would strike at his personal pride. What do you think? Of course it did. If he was like some other pharisees, he was too confident. [00:43:40] Um, let's go back. Did I miss something? Oh, it's not in here. [00:43:46] Okay. It was like some of the pharisees, he was too confident in the quality of his own obedience to think that he needed much repentance, let alone to have his whole life cleansed and his heart transformed to be born again. Jesus is basically telling this religious person that religion won't get you into heaven. It takes a relationship with the person called Jesus. And Jesus said, you should not be surprised at my saying you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it's going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit. Both the Hebrew word ruha and the Greek word numa means wind or breath, as well as spirit. And generally in the New Testament, it's usually spirit, unless there are exceptions, it says, but they're rare. You know how many know? Before modern meteorology, people didn't understand how the wind worked. The point being that we don't control the wind, but we see its effects, basically. Carson raises the question, how is this relevant to the nature of the new birth? With everyone born of the spirit, they have their origin and destiny in the unseen god. So when Nicodemus asked about how this could come about, jesus uses a very familiar story. I love the story. Remember, the Israelites are going through the know. It's all a type, it's all a lesson, it's all an example. And they were complaining, and God allowed serpents to come, poisonous ones, and they were biting people, and they were dying, and they cried out to Moses, oh, have mercy. Talk to us. We're wrong, right? We're confessing. We're dying. Please do something. And God says, take the image of one of those serpents and out of bronze, fashion it and put it on a pole and tell people, if you look up, you'll live. What was he basically telling him? [00:45:44] This is an act of faith, right? I mean, all you're doing is looking up, and now you're living. [00:45:50] They had to believe what God said. And so what Jesus is telling Nicodemus was simply that Jesus himself was going to become that bronze serpent and he was going to be put up on a pole. You see, the Jewish people have a verse in Deuteronomy says, cursed is everyone who hangs from a tree. Do you know why Jewish people have a hard time with receiving Christ? Because they know the text of scripture that you're cursed if you're hanging on a tree. Jesus was hanging on a tree, he had to be cursed. But Paul explains it in the book of Galatians, he said, listen, the reason why Jesus went to the cross, the reason why he hung from the tree, he was cursed of God. Yes, you're right, he was cursed of God. But he was cursed of God not because of something he did. He was sinless. He was cursed of God because he took the sin of the world upon Himself so that you and I could have our sins dealt with once and for all. And if we will look up to Christ, he will save us from our sins. [00:46:55] You see Jesus at all? The Old Testament speaks of me. Isn't that a beautiful picture he's giving Nicodemus? I love that. [00:47:03] Know you go, well, why would he do that, Pastor? And here's that beautiful. [00:47:09] Know, god so loved the world. God so loved the world. He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. [00:47:24] It was God's love. That's what motivated him. [00:47:29] I wrote down earlier here, you see, how do you start over again? How do you move past past mistakes? How could you become a new person with a new identity by looking and living, by looking to Christ? [00:47:45] I think all of us long for intimacy with God. We do. We all recognize there's an emptiness in our soul. Do you recognize that there's something missing? People know, they try to fill it up with pleasure, travel. We just stick all kinds of stuff in there. Not saying all these things are necessarily intrinsically evil, but I'm saying they are evil when we use them as a false substitute to somehow replace the void and the emptiness in our soul. See, you and I were created by God to fellowship with God. God's pretty big, isn't he? How many think to have God living inside of you? That's a pretty powerful thing to have happen, and it fills you up powerfully. And so if you don't have God in your soul, you're going to be trying to fill your life up. But no matter what you try to shove in there, success, money, fame, power, whatever it is, you'll never have enough of it. Because the vacuum inside, the emptiness inside is God sized. That's the only thing that's going to satisfy us. I think Nicodemus is like a lot of men seeking to fill that void with achievement and personal accomplishments. But by coming to Jesus, Nicodemus was challenged. Jesus knew what was missing in his life, and he knows what's missing in our lives. [00:48:59] And I want to close with a story. [00:49:02] My time is up. Hay Atkins preached to a large crowd years and years ago in Bristol, England. The text was the one I'm preaching from. You must be born again. In the congregation was a young, brilliant man named Horatio Bottomley. He listened intently, he heard the preacher. And at the end of the sermon, he heard a call there to trust in the grace of Christ and to commit his life to Jesus. And he knew the call was addressed to him. He could sense it. He was deeply moved, but he said, not now. I'm going to do my own thing. And he did. He made a fortune for himself, but he was also a cheater. [00:49:38] And he got caught. At 63 years old, he ended up in prison. [00:49:43] Wow. He did a lot of good things, but he did a lot of bad things. [00:49:48] While he was there, another man visited him and asked to pray with him. And Bottomly said, sure, that'll be fine. And in the course of the conversation, the other man said, this this is the irony of God. Many years ago, he said, I was in Bristol and I heard a preacher, hey, Atkins, preach on the text, you must be born again. He said, I was so deeply moved that I committed my life to Christ. And ever since then, Christ has been my all in all. Bottom Lee was silent for some time, and then he said, I was there that night and I heard the same message. I, too, was deeply moved. I knew my need of Christ, but I rejected him. And then he said, remorsefully, a life without God is a wasted life. Let's stand. [00:50:34] So with just every head bowed for a know we were praying this morning. You can grow up in the church, you can be outwardly religious, you can be a moral person nicodemus certainly was. [00:50:48] Or you can be a person that knew nothing about the things of God, never went to church. [00:50:54] The need is the same. [00:50:56] We must be born again. It's true for every last one of us, young and old alike. [00:51:03] And so maybe you're here this morning and you realize, wow, I recognize something. [00:51:09] I need Christ. [00:51:11] And you do. We all do. And if we believe in Him, if we put our faith in Him, if we trust in Him, he's going to give us his kingdom. We're going to enter his kingdom. We're going to actually be children of God. [00:51:26] To as many as received Him, to them gave he the power or authority to become children of God. [00:51:35] So with every head bowed, maybe you're here this morning and Spirit of God is speaking to you and saying, look, I'm giving you an opportunity. God is talking to you, not the pastor. God is talking to you and saying, I want you to turn your life over to me. [00:51:48] This is your day. This is your moment. [00:51:52] I want you to surrender your life to me. God is talking to you this morning and that's you just raise your hand. I'm going to pray with you this morning. Is anybody here? Okay? Yeah. [00:52:07] Now, how many of you say, I've never done this before? [00:52:10] Okay, let's just go back to the people have never done this before. Anybody here this morning? [00:52:17] Because I recognize some of you that raise your hand. That's good that you have that feeling in your heart. Yeah, I want to respond. [00:52:25] Okay. [00:52:28] Now, we've heard this message, and many of us, we've already experienced this. [00:52:34] How many realize it's important that other people hear this message and they need to respond to it? [00:52:43] You've been given now a platelet, if I can say it that way, a blueprint. You can take John, chapter three, and sit down and talk to someone and say, you know what? Here was a moral person, here was a good person, and they needed to come to faith in Christ to be changed. It's true for every one of us. Amen. [00:53:04] How important is this? [00:53:06] This has got eternal significance. [00:53:09] I think sometimes we're crusading on a lot of different issues in this world. We're busy, caught up with this life. [00:53:17] This is what's really important at the end of the day. And I'm going to say this time goes by quickly. [00:53:24] Anybody that's a little bit older understands what I'm talking about. You're moving towards eternity day by day. [00:53:31] The people around you, they're joining you on that journey towards eternity. And where are they? [00:53:36] Let's pray today that God would give us a burden and a concern for people to enter God's kingdom. So, Father, we come before you today. [00:53:45] Thank you for this amazing passage of scripture. We thank you for the teaching that you brought to us, Jesus, and explained to us that we must be born again, that there's a necessity of turning our lives to you and allowing the Holy Spirit to train and teach and develop us. And, Father, I pray today, if we do not have a concern for those without Christ, Lord, would you forgive us? And would you create a deep, deep concern in every one of our hearts, a growing conviction that people need Jesus? [00:54:20] And, Lord, that's the only hope for this broken world we're living in. This is the answer to all the problems we're seeing. If this is the fundamental issue, people need to be saved. People need to know Jesus. Help us, Lord, to be faithful witnesses. In Jesus name. Amen. God bless you as you leave.

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