John 3:1–17 (NIV)
3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
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!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at My saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 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. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
Let us pray,
Lord bless us with Your Word. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Like Nicodemus, the Pharisee, I have difficulty in understanding how a person could be physically born again. It's impossible. Why should anyone want to be born again anyway?
With a little Christian knowledge though, we know that Jesus wasn't talking about being born again in a physical way – He was talking about a different kind of birth.
To help us get to grips with the concept of re-birth I’d like you to think about “cup-a-soup”. Many people use “cup-a-soup”, I particularly like the instant tomato (or other flavoured) soup of the dried nature.
It's soup which has been made at the food processing plant and packaged for our use. Tomatoes are boiled up with herbs and other additives and made into a liquid soup.
This soup is then dehydrated – the moisture is taken from it. It's reduced to powder and sealed in single serve packets. The soup has been made.
This packet soup, once purchased, may be kept at home until you're ready to drink it - perhaps, when you need a snack on a cold night. Hot tomato soup is just the trick to warm the insides.
But the dried soup has to be re-made. It must be reconstituted. We open the sachet of soup powder, add boiling water and stir it. The soup is then made a second time.
When the soup was first made – and put in the packet it couldnt be drunk – it was powder. The second time it's made, it's warm liquid in a cup. It's ready to drink.
The re-made soup serves the purpose for which it was intended – to be drunk. When it was only made once it was of little use. Only in the second making does it become really useful.
God tells us that when we were conceived, we were conceived in sin – separate from God – yet in some mysterious way created in the image of God. The image was distorted by the sin we inherited from our forebears - sin which is a barrier between us and God.
With sin in our hearts we can't fulfil the purpose for which God intended us to as His companions. It was like we were sealed in a packet of sin. We needed to be opened and reconstituted.
We naturally reject God even though God desires us to have a relationship with Him. When we were born it's like we had run away from God. We were born lost – unable to find our own way to God so God took the initiative to bring us to Himself.
Look at any child – naturally naughty. Sin doesn't have to be taught – we can lie, be selfish and defiant without even thinking about it. When we examine our thoughts, we all have those we wouldn't want anyone else to be aware of.
Jesus tells us we don't need to live in fear and be like a runaway. God searches us out and brings us back to His presence and marks us with the sign of the cross. God uses the water and the Word in Baptism – this is our second birth.
It's like the words of instruction and hot water for the soup powder. God sought us out and now we're with Him. We've been re-born.
When we run away from God, when we sin, when we forget about God we become like cold soup – soup can be warmed up in the microwave when it's cold. We can be renewed when we're spiritually cold too.
God microwaves us with His Word in Confession and Absolution – He brings us back to worship and the remembrance of our Baptism.
The Holy Spirit calls us back to God. He invites us to come out of the cold tomb – out of death into life. In our baptism we drowned going through the grave into eternal life.
We're re-made as God removes our sin as a parent removes a soiled nappy from an infant child. It can be a messy business – but Jesus got dirty to clean us up.
As a baby needed to be cleaned up when he or she was physically born so we needed to be spiritually cleaned up. A baby can do nothing for itself.
An older person needs to clean it up. God, our Father, cleans us up. In baptism it is God at work when He forgives our sin – cancelling it all out. Since God can do this for us surely we can forgive each other.
You happened at your physical birth – you had no choice in it. Your parents, hopefully, wanted you. God wanted you too! He still wants you! 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God wants all people saved – God wants all people born again. This is why He said: …, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Mark 10:14 ESV.
We're all children in God's eyes. So are those who are not worshipping with us today who God wants saved from the consequences of sin.
With sin we die eternally. Sin de-hydrates us so that we die. God rescues dying people with life giving water.
Another way of looking at it is that sin pulls the plug on the boat while it's at sea. Life sinks and we drown. God rescues us with a lifebelt to which we hang on. We constantly need to be reminded to hang on to this life belt which is the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God sent Jesus to die on our behalf because He loves us. Through Jesus and His disciples, that is those who've been baptised and desire to share the joy of knowing Jesus, God reaches out to those who don't yet know Him.
God's Holy Spirit guides parents to bring their children to Jesus that the children may be born again and receive the gift of baptism.
In baptism the lifebelt is issued and instructions given to hang on to the lifebelt. Nicodemus couldn't understand what Jesus said about being born again. How can a child, or adult for that matter, understand God's complete love for him or herself?
In this earthly life we don't and can't understand the full extent of God's love for us but we do know that while we were still sinners Christ died for us and proved His love.
You remember the text in which God tells us of this love: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. John 15:13 ESV.
Jesus did this on the cross for us. In giving us life Jesus has given us a responsibility to use this new life for the blessing of others. We begin this process by learning about God's great love from the Scriptures and clinging to Jesus.
Many let go of Jesus after they've been Baptised but Jesus doesn’t let go of anyone until the end of their time on earth – but only if they continue to reject Him.
When someone is baptised in our church, we are encouraged to receive them, …whom God has given to us as our brother/sister in Christ. Pray for him/her and be a good example to him/her.
Or as another baptismal liturgy puts it: Members of St Matthew, you're a part of this, too. Will you strive to make this congregation a place where God's love and acceptance can be experienced, and where children are welcomed, nurtured and supported? If so answer Yes, with God's help.
No matter what age we are we are all children of God and all are to be welcomed, nurtured and supported.
At every opportunity we need to encourage those who've been baptised to hang on to God – not to dry up. Every baptised person needs feeding with spiritual food – to be encouraged and supported so that they remain in their baptism.
Jesus didn't come for His own self satisfaction – He came to save – He came because He cares and loves us all!
There's an old pop song that goes something like this, "What the world needs now is love." Humans always need love! God gives His love so that we can share real love. This love is not to be luke-warm as a cup of soup would be now if I'd made it at the beginning of this address.
We’re invited to stir each other gently as the molecules of soup are stirred as it is heated in the microwave. So, I invite you to encourage each other – to love each other.'
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming into the world as Saviour. May we always believe in You and remain in our new birth. Amen.