Feb 2008

Five Essential Bible Passages


John 3:1-21

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church

Des Moines, NM


Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio.  I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines where I’m one of two pastors.  We’ve looking at 5 essential Bible passages that I picked as personal favorites of mine.  Yesterday we looked at God’s claim that He is Almighty and I went from there to Abraham as the father of faith.  Today, I’m going to look at an edifying and well-known passage from John.  May God bless this message to His glory, through His only begotten son, Jesus the Christ.  Amen!


I just used the term “only begotten son” and we’re going to see that term coming up in a just few minutes.  We’re going to be looking at John, Chapter 3.  This is a personal favorite of mine because in the words that we’re about to read, Jesus explains the concept of begin born again, he shows the inability of even a so-called religious man to understand this concept apart from faith, he shows the actual process of begin born-again, he shows the state of man prior to salvation, and he links all this to the Old Testament.  It’s an amazing passage and let’s read it now and discuss it section by section:


John 3:1-21  There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 


Here we see that Nicodemus is what we’d call a “religious” person.  The Pharisees were highly educated, well-versed, leaders of the Jews and Nicodemus in particular is a ruler.  The Pharisees knew their Scriptures forward and backwards, up and down, and sideways.  But, watch what happens.


John 3:2  This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."


Nicodemus has come to Jesus by night and the general understanding is that he did this so that he would not be recognized by the other Pharisees.  Nicodemus makes a confession when he says “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God…”  In recognizing that Jesus is from God, Nicodemus is acknowledging the authority of Jesus.


John 3:3-4  Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  (4)  Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"


Here Jesus mentions for the first time the phrase “born again.”  What an essential piece of Scripture this is!  Here it is clearly and plainly stated: “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”.  Jesus give no 3rd option- it is either be born again and see the kingdom of God, or not. 


Today, this is a common phrase and we all know, or think we know, what it means.  Nicodemus is hearing it for the first time, though, and is, understandably, confused.  He thinks that Jesus is talking about a literal re-birth, that is, re-entering the womb and being born again in the flesh.  Jesus clarifies:


John 3:5-6  Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  (6)  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.


Jesus expands on the process of being born again and the words I want to focus on are “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  Not only does this tell us that our re-birth is a spiritual re-birth, but it makes a distinction between the flesh and the spirit.  Ask yourself some questions about what Jesus is saying here.  For instance, how many of you listening asked to be born in the flesh?  Did you say to your mother and father “Parents!  I would like to be conceived and born.”?   So, why then do we think we have much to say about our spiritual birth?  Jesus is clearly comparing birth with birth and says that our second birth is “of the Spirit.”  That is, the Holy Spirit gives us life. 


In a similar thought, you’ll often hear it said that should be able to name an exact time and place in which you were re-born.  But look what Jesus Himself says:


John 3:7-8  Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  (8)  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."


He says quite specifically that those born of the Spirit are like the blowing wind.  You can tell that wind’s blowing (especially here in Clayton!), but you don’t know where the wind came from or where it’s going. .  How many of you remember your physical birth?  How many of you remember the squeeze of the birth canal, the rush of suddenly cold air, and the doctor holding you upside down?  I’m willing to be that not too many of you do!  Yet, there was some point at which you became aware of your surroundings and today you can look around and say “Indeed, I am alive!”  Likewise, regarding your spiritual birth, and according to John 3:7-8, you don’t necessarily have to be able to name the exact moment at which you were re-born.  At some point you will become aware of spiritual life and you eventually should be able to say “Yes…I am spiritually alive!”  I think that too often people confuse a moment of spiritual awareness with their actual re-birth.  In God’s eyes, your actual re-birth may have occurred long ago.  Well, anyway, there’s the passage in John- think on it.  Just remember the key point- “unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.”


John 3:9-13  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"  (10)  Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?  (11)  Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.  (12)  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  (13)  No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.


If you find these points confusing, take comfort in the fact that Nicodemus did, too.  Jesus gently prods him here with “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?”  He then points out a very good question- “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”  Again, he’s pointing out the contrast between earthly and heavenly, between the fleshly and the spiritual.


John 3:14-16  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  (15)  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  (16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 


This is one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible.  Jesus is casting an allusion back to the Old Testament (the only Testament that Nicodemus knew, of course), to an event that Nicodemus knew well.  You’ll find the story in Numbers 21.  The Israelites are in the wilderness, being led about by God and they begin complaining about their lack of food and water.  Now, you might think this is a valid complaint, but the fact is that God has them exactly where He wants them at this moment and by complaining, the Israelites are basically saying that they’re unsatisfied with God’s will for them.  This is sin.  God responds by sending fiery serpents among them.  That is, He punishes their sin. 


But, at the same time, God provides a very simple, very easy cure by having Moses craft a bronze serpent and place it on a pole.  Any man that looks at the bronze serpent is cured.  Easy, huh?  A man would be an absolute fool to not look at the cure, wouldn’t he?  Yet, this is what Christ compares Himself to.  By looking at the serpent on the pole, a man acknowledged his sin- that is, he knew that he was looking at that pole because of his sin against God.  In the same manner, a person comes to Jesus, acknowledges Him as the atonement for that person’s sin, and thereby receives eternal life.  Easy, huh?  Yet, so many refuse to acknowledge Jesus, refuse to acknowledge their sins, and thus persish, forever and ever.  Note once again that Jesus offers no 3rd option.  It is either believe in Him or perish. 


John 3:17-18  (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  (18)  "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


This is another critical passage.  So many people believe that they will automatically go to Heaven and be with God and that they lose this right only though bad works.  But this passage says plainly “he who does not believe is condemned already.”  Jesus wasn’t sent to condemn the world because the world is already condemned.  Rather, Jesus is sent to save.   You don’t stand at the crossroads and choose good or evil.  You are already evil and it’s through rebirth by the Holy Spirit that you are able to choose the good.  Remember, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” and “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Unless you are born again of the spirit, you are condemned.


There is the clear choice.  Be born again, or remained condemned.   The serpent on the pole was raised for life and Christ was raised for eternal life.  Why would anyone not choose life?  Yet, as our last passage in John shows, many refuse the cure.


John 3:19-21  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  (20)  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  (21)  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."


“Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  What does this tell us about men?  Are we basically good with a little bit of evil?   That’s not what this passage says.  It says that “men loved darkness rather than light.”  If God is light and there is no darkness in Him, then why would you even want to go to Heaven?  Heaven is where God is, Heaven is where truth lives, and Heaven is where the light shines.  Man born of the flesh, however, loves darkness and his deeds are evil.  This is why you must be born again.  You must be born of the Holy Spirit and given a new heart, one which seeks truth and beauty, and one which comes to the light.  “He who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”


You can see why I consider John 3 to be such a powerful and essential section of the Bible.  The gospel message is clearly laid out here, many truths are revealed, and we are left with a simple choice: look to Christ for salvation from our sins, or remain condemned.  Come to the light or remain in darkness, forevermore.  Which will it be for you?


I’m Bryan Kimsey from the 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines and you’ve been listening to the Tri-States Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio.  May God be with you as you consider the message I’ve delivered today.



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