Have you ever locked yourself out of your house or car?
Frustrating isn’t it?
I still remember after 53 years the night my parents and I locked ourselves out of our home at 1 AM. We had just returned from an unforgettable trip to Chicago and were unloading the car when mom and dad realized that dad had accidently locked the door and left the keys in the house after the first trip into the house.
Mom started laughing and thought it was funny.
Dad did not think it was funny.
“Hush ! You’ll wake the neighbors!”
“I don’t care, I’m home!”
Dad had to break a window screen and force the window open and put me through the open window and have me unlock the door from the inside.
Speaking of doors and windows and locking yourself out, I am reminded of one of the most famous paintings of Christ which illustrates Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Now if you have looked at this painting before you probably have noticed something about the door.
There is no door handle on the outside of the door.
I did some research on doors in the Biblical period and found some interesting information but could not get a handle on the issue of whether or not doors in the day of Christ had exterior handles or not. I am thinking that they did not for security reasons. But maybe they did.
But the painting is illustrative of the point being made in the verse. Jesus is not forcing Himself into anyone’s life. He politely knocks waiting for people to open the door of their lives, hearts, and souls to Him and not the other way around. Why? Christ invites us into a relationship with Him and the choice to accept that invitation comes from within us through our willing choice to accept that invitation. The acceptance of this invitation is the way we can enter into a salvation experience through Jesus Christ. And this experience has been called many things…
Confession of sins
Profession of faith
And when it comes to the Kingdom of God, Jesus notes in our main text for this morning that entrance to the Kingdom of God requires a born again experience. We turn to John 3:3
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
Now there are three words in this verse that I want to spend time with this morning which I believe will help us come to a better understanding of this verse and how it relates to the Kingdom of God.
I start with the word “see.” In the original language that John was written in the word used for “see” was Horao. Among the many meanings for this word were these two meanings:
to see with the mind, to perceive, know
to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience
One of the points I was trying to get across a few weeks ago with the taste test was that certain experiences we have cannot be adequately describe in words. For example, becoming a parent.
Before I became a parent, I was glad when people became parents and smiled at the little babies and said, “Congratulations.” But I could not understand the joy and pleasure that becoming a parent brought because I had not experienced parenthood.
But when my oldest was born almost 20 years ago now, I was blown away. When I finally saw all of him in all of his glory I remember thinking, “Wait, that is a real live baby!” And my world was forever changed.
And I began to understand why grown women, and men, would start using this unknown tone of voice when talking to their babes.
“Ah, isn’t she sweet… (make kissing sound)”
“Oh look at the cutie pie…”
Until that Sunday afternoon in October 1995, I believed that parenthood was wonderful and important. But on that day, I experienced the wonder, importance, and joy of parenthood.
There is a vast difference between the two.
A profound spiritual experience was needed by Nicodemus to understand (perceive) and experience what being born again meant. And this experience is a born again experience.
Now the word born as known in the language of that day is Gennao and among the definitions for this word, which makes sense in the context of our verse, is
in a Jewish sense, of one who brings others over to his way of life, to convert someone
This conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is again illustrative of the major differences between Jesus and the Pharisees (we note in verse 1 that Nicodemus is a member of the Pharisees) as to what constitutes the Kingdom of God. Jesus is here to initiate, through His death and resurrection, a new covenant, a new way to God and the Kingdom of God, very, very, very different than what Nicodemus believes to be true. Jesus is present on earth to bring all those who want to come over to this new way of life. He is here to provide a new way to be converted to a life of faith and forgiveness through Him.
Nicodemus does not get it, as we go to verse 4
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 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 is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”
The word testify is important here. To testify is to talk about a personal experience.
When we share with someone about a good experience with car repair, or a good book or movie that we like, we are giving a testimonial. We sharing what we saw, read, or experienced. We are not making things up or talking about a great idea. We are sharing our personal, first hand experiences.
Being born again is an experience. It is when we believe that Jesus Christ is who He said He was and that we recognize our need for His forgiveness and salvation.
But Nicodemus could not understand what Jesus was talking about because he had not had the experience Jesus also spoke about:
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
So the Kingdom of God is entered into by a spiritual experience.
Finally there is the word again.
You must be born again.
The word again in John’s writing is anothen which means “from a higher place” and “anew, over again.” Given the meaning of born as coming over to a new way of life, what Jesus means that is there has to be a starting over at a higher level, a spiritual level, of life to be able to experience the Kingdom of God as Jesus meant it to be. Not in the rules and rituals that the Pharisees said had to be upheld. But in a deeply and profoundly spiritual way.
You have to start over.
So what does this mean for us this week?
This week, two young people with their lives ahead of them were tragically and senselessly murdered on live TV while doing their jobs. They had no idea they were going to die that morning.
Two months ago a group of Christian brothers and sisters were meeting for Bible study in their church when a man, full of hate, murdered several of them. They did not go to church that evening expecting to die.
None of us want to die in such tragic ways. In fact none of us want to die at all! We want to live! We want our lives to be rich and meaningful now.
We can live and we can have rich and meaningful lives now and even if death comes, it is a transition not an interruption. But it means we need to be born again, to be changed for the better in ways that are deeper, that come from the inside out, from a change in attitude, behavior, lifestyle.
Have you been born again?
Or are you finding that there is a voice calling you to come home to Christ? You remember confessing your sins to Christ accepting His forgiveness but that was awhile ago and now you are very much aware that you are not where you need to be.
When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sin, He did so out of love NOT hate. He did so because He wanted to make a new and better way back to Him. He did so because our hearts and souls are broken by sin, a spiritual force that drives us away from God and into a life that does not satisfy no matter how hard we try to make it satisfy us.
We are going to close with a song that I remember singing as a child, Just as I am without one plea. As we sing, I am going to ask that if you are realizing that confession of your sin is something that you need to do, walk down here to the altar and simply stand. I am not going to embarrass you in any way but I am going to pray with you after we are done singing.
May be you have never done this before and you want to come up. Ask someone to come with you..
May be you have done this before but you realize you need to come home like the prodigal son. Come on home. Come on home.
We are going to sing and you respond as you need to.