This Changes Everything
by Impact Church
“…Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
If ever there were someone who could earn his way into heaven, Nicodemus was the one.
Here was a man who undoubtedly studied the Scriptures, attended every church service and walked the line of personal morality and integrity as much as humanly possible. As a rule, Pharisees get a bad rep with our 20/20 hindsight on this side of Calvary, but make no mistake: they were the bona fide religious leaders of their day who devoted their lives to memorizing, keeping and teaching the most minute detail of the Law of Moses.
This Nicodemus was apparently a leader of the Pharisees, a ruler or teacher of the Jews. His story of a nighttime visit to Jesus – recorded only by the Apostle John two or three decades after not even a mention in the Synoptic Gospels – is reminiscent of another “ruler” who will forever be known for his youth and riches (Luke 18). Both men seem genuinely earnest in their desire to please God and had indeed kept the Law to the best of their ability. What more could a just God require, right?
Being a top-of-the-line Pharisee, Nicodemus would have scoffed at honoring only the “Big Ten” commandments, taking pride in obeying all 613 mostly ceremonial regulations of the Torah and knowing every jot and tittle of the written Law and oral tradition. If you had debated him on the Old Testament, you would have been embarrassed.
Even Nicodemus’ name bears witness that he was “the people’s champion,” deriving from the Greek words “nikos” or “nike” (victory) and “demos” (people). If a famous shoe company had a marketing campaign dating back to the first century, ol’ Nic would have been the “Just do it!” poster boy! When it came to good works, they didn’t come any better.
And yet this overtly devout man came to the upstart Rabbi, Jesus, apparently aware there must be something he was missing. Recognizing that the same God he had tried to appease all his life was the One who sent the Galilean, Nicodemus never even got to the same “What else can I do?” question that the rich, young ruler asked.
“Except a man be born again (or, from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God…. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ‘Ye must be born again.’” Jesus’ simple, profound words – the only time in the King James Version that the Master uttered “Ye must…” – cut through the night air like a knife. But the darkness of a natural, religious mind couldn’t comprehend their meaning (1 Corinthians 2:14).
What Jesus was teaching the teacher was that good-deed-doing was not enough to please God. Even recognizing the Lord God as the Source of His many signs and miracles was not enough. John gives us a great behind-the-curtain insight into Jesus’ meeting with Nic at night (pop-culture reference No, 2, if you’re counting!) at the end of Chapter 2. He records that many believed in Jesus when they saw His miracles, but Jesus did not commit or entrust Himself to them. The Greek verb translated “believed” and “commit” is the same. Hence, the text could read: “They believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in them!”
You see, the Bible is clear: we see only what’s done by man, but God (and the Son of God) sees what’s in man. We look at one’s deeds and actions; God looks at one’s motives. Jesus knew what so many don’t want to admit,…that Jeremiah was right about the desperate wickedness of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:19-20). Furthermore, Christ taught about the reality of insincere professions of faith in Matthew 7 and recognized in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) that they would continue until He returns at the end of the Church Age.
Jesus cut straight to the heart of the matter. It was the heart. If indeed the natural man’s core was deceptive and evil, all the promising words and good works won’t help. A supernatural transformation has to take place from the inside out. We must be radically born again through the Spirit by simply but wholeheartedly believing in Jesus Christ!
Dear friend, examine your life today to see if your religious experience reflects any of these all-too-common mindsets:
– “I wasn’t happy with my life, so I decided to turn over a new leaf.”
– “I was christened or baptized when I was young.”
– “I think Jesus is a great teacher, and I do my best to follow His commands.”
– “I attend church regularly.”
– “I shook a preacher’s hand and even joined a church, so I’m good.”
– “My parents raised me in Sunday School, so I’ll be OK.”
– “I tithe regularly.”
– “I’m trying to be the best man or woman I can be. I can’t do any more than that, right?”
– “I’m living a moral life. I mean, I’m only human and I’m not perfect, but who is?”
Sound familiar? Too many people today are “trying” to live a Christian life without the one necessary ingredient: Christ. If you haven’t been supernaturally born again by faith in Jesus the Son of God, have the assurance that the Holy Spirit dwells inside you and that you are truly a new creation in Christ, the sad truth is you’re just a religious person.
Nicodemus was a religious giant, but he was lost without Jesus. What a blessing that John hints later in his gospel that the Nic who was known for his dark encounter with the Savior saw the light and was indeed born from above!
Won’t you believe today? And be sure to let us know you did so we can celebrate the new addition to the family!