See, this Rabbi named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He came at night because he was a very important man and didn’t want anyone to see him talking to Jesus. It would have been embarrassing to be seen with Jesus.
You can understand why he would be embarrassed. Christianity is mocked so much today, many are hesitant to “be seen with Jesus.” Would it be an embarrassing thing for you to admit to non-Christians? It was no different back then.
Nicodemus didn’t want anyone to see him talking to Jesus, but at the same time, he admitted that deep down, he knew Jesus must be God or he wouldn’t be able to do those miracles.
But Jesus basically told him - to heck with what you know deep down. You can know something “deep down” all you want, but it means nothing if you can’t admit it with your mouth to others. The only people that will go to heaven are the people that trust God enough to admit it out loud. These people are “born again" - people that have come to the bottom and realized that there is no way up but through Him. You could say that they've broken down , or fully given in, or finally submitted. But they bottom line is that they know that if they are too ashamed or afraid to let others know about it, they probably don't fully believe He is Lord yet. After all, if you believe he is truly Lord, what else matters?
No, the only ones that He will call “his” and bring into the kingdom of heaven are those that have decided He is more important than anything anyone else may think, or anything else they are doing in their lives, and are willing to follow him in entirety. These people start to live with the Spirit and are willing to admit it openly. They are born again, as new people.
But Nicodemus didn’t understand that, and asked, “How can a man be “born again? How can he come out of his mother again?”
Jesus tried to explain to him the difference between being born in flesh, and being born in Spirit.
Then Jesus said, “Don’t be surprised when I tell you that you have to be born again. It’s kind of like being the wind. You don’t know where the wind comes from or where it goes, but it’s real, and you can feel and hear it. That’s the same as having the Spirit born in you.”
But Nicodemus still didn’t understand.
So Jesus got upset with him and said, “Here you are, a teacher of Israel, and you don’t know what I’m talking about!! We tell you everything we know and see, and still you don’t listen. You don’t even believe me when I tell you earthly things. So how are you going to believe if I tell you heavenly things?”
“I am going to rise up to heaven, because I came down from heaven. And just like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, you have to lift me up. Because unless you believe in me, you will die.”
What happened when Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness? Anyone that looked on the serpent became healed of an illness that had spread through the camp and was killing people.
So what Jesus is saying? He's saying that people need to hold Him up just like that serpent, and anyone that looks to him will be “healed” of their sins and not die in hell.
Jesus was emphatic;
God Loved the world so much that he gave (ME) His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in me will not die but live forever. Please understand, God didn’t send me here to condemn the world, but to save it!”
Jesus didn’t come to earth to put everyone down or hate them for the things they’ve done wrong…he’s trying to SAVE everyone.
You have to understand - because of all of our sin, EVERYONE is already condemned. This was a done deal. The point is, God can’t be around sin. He just can’t. So He had no choice but to move away from us.
Further, because we’re human, there’s not one of us that can go through life without sinning. We just can’t. We’re too weak. (I'll get further into the origin of our sin nature in a later blog. It's a story in itself.) Our sin is not only an inherent part of our nature, as evidenced throughout history, it is also huge. There's no way we could settle it and be justified.
God knows that and has mercy on us because of it. Although He hates sin and can’t be around it, He really does love us and doesn’t want us to die.
...But what to do about the sin. God is a just God. As any good judge knows, all crime has to be punished one way or another. That's the law. Other ways to say it are that all crime must be atoned for, or accounted for. Justice must be served. Something had to be done to account for the sin. Someone had to take the punishment for all of our sins, so we could be clean and atoned for.
So God sent someone down that could handle the atonement for us. He sacrificed His son for us so that sin would be paid for; so we can have relationship with Him again.
Jesus accepted that He had to die on the cross for our sins, because He also loved us. It says in Scripture that the night the soldiers took him, He really didn’t want to go. He knew what was going to happen and how much it was going to hurt. After all, at that point, he still had all the flesh.
But he knew there was no other way to save us, and that dying like this was the primary reason he came, so he told God, “Your will, not mine.” And He went.
We, as sinners, are already condemned to die. Every one of us. He came to try to save as many of us as he could. It's a gift of Love.
Okay, but if you give someone a gift, they have to actually receive it for it to have happened, right? They have to pick it up and open it. Or if you give someone a gift in the form of a check, they still have to cash it on order for it to be used. Another way to look at it - if you knock on a locked door, you aren't going to get in unless someone opens it.
And another analogy - what good would it do for you to cover for your friends petty theft if your friend doesn't care and is just going to go out and do it again. In the AA world it's called "enabling." God is interested in justice, not enabling.
All we are asked to do is look at ourselves, recognize the depth of our personal sin, and honestly and with deep humility - repent and ask His forgiveness.
We need to accept the gift of His atonement and ask Him for help to keep us from sinning again. Remember, sin is inherent in us. So we need Him to walk with us every day to help us stay out of trouble. Please Lord; help me to obey you. Please come live in me, and talk to me all the time, and tell me how to do things right. Please Lord, give me the strength to do it. Help me Jesus.”
We must believe who He is, what He did, and why He did it - and honestly say thank you!
If a person can do that and admit it, he will be born again, and he will be saved.
This is important for everyone has to know, because we don’t want to see the people we love go to hell. Think of the people you love, and how it will feel in the end when they die. At least if they have given their hearts to Jesus, you’ll know they are going to heaven. The real pain is when they haven’t, and you don’t know where they went.