There are many times we wish we could start over, make different decisions, go in different directions. Most commonly we encounter these desires in marriage, in parenting, in careers, and in focusing life. Too often we feel powerless, resigned, and defeated. Too often we say to ourselves, "Things could have been different if I made different choices, but it is too late now." Too often we continue on our journey of self destruction because we convinced ourselves nothing can change.

What we are incapable of doing in our lives, God can do in our lives.

Read with me as we focus on John 1:1-15.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life."

Right now I want Jesus to focus us in this statement.

  1. Nicodemus came to Jesus for a private conversation between the two of them.
    1. This is one of a very few prestigious persons who wanted to have a serious conversation with Jesus.
      1. Nicodemus was a member of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin.
      2. In our terminology, he was on the Supreme Court of the nation of Israel.
        1. He was recognized as one of the 70 men in that nation who had the kind of knowledge and insight that qualified him to make tough decisions.
        2. The fact that he held that position probably meant that he was politically connected with the most powerful politicians in Israel's government.
        3. He helped make the most difficult religious and social decisions made in the nation at that time.
        4. This is a man who would be listed in first century Israel's book of "Who's Who"--this is a powerful, prominent man.
    2. I want you to notice something about this man.
      1. First, this prominent, powerful man who is known as an expert in the law of Moses and its applications to then current situations called Jesus Rabbi.
        1. This is an incredible declaration of respect.
        2. People in his position did not quickly declare someone to be a teacher deserving of respect.
      2. Second, this man was honest enough to see the obvious.
        1. He knew and admitted to Jesus that God sent him--Jesus was God's teacher.
        2. He knew no one could do the miracles Jesus did unless God was with that person.
    3. I want you to notice Jesus' first response to Nicodemus.
      1. It was not, "Thank you! I am honored that a man of your position sees those things."
      2. It was, "The key to being in God's kingdom is being born again."
    4. Note this prominent man, this recognized expert in the law of Moses, this man who was part of the nation's group who solved hard problems, this man did not have a clue of what Jesus was talking about.
      1. Jesus said, "You are supposed to be Israel's teacher, and you do not understand the new birth?"
      2. Then Jesus said, "You must understand much more about me, beyond your present understanding. Believing in me is the key to eternal life."

  2. Focus your attention on the new birth.
    1. A birth in humans brings a being to life who never existed before.
      1. By virtue of birth, someone now exists who never existed before.
      2. From the moment of birth, the objective is much more than being born--the objective is to nurture the newborn to maturity.
    2. If you are tempted to be hard on Nicodemus by condemning his ignorance, don't!
      1. Jesus introduced Nicodemus to a concept he never heard before, never thought about before.
      2. For Nicodemus, being in God's kingdom was a matter of physical heritage.
        1. Being born an Israelite made you a part of God's chosen people--it was an automatic!
        2. Jesus said being a part of God's kingdom involves a new birth, a being born again.
        3. It is not a matter of heritage.
        4. It is a matter of entering a new relationship with God through me.
        5. It is a matter of becoming someone you have never been.

  3. If it were not for what Jesus did for us, we could not be born again.
    1. Because of Jesus' death, we can come to God.
    2. Because of Jesus' resurrection, we can allow God to remake us.
    3. Because of Jesus Christ, we can begin again.

    Let's focus our minds on Jesus Christ, God's gift of the son, and the son's gift of atoning blood as we take the Lord's Supper together.

    [At this time the congregation took communion.]

    I want you to think about two things.

  4. The first thing I want you to think about is God's involvement in the new birth, the spiritual beginning again, for every man and every woman who comes to God through Jesus the Christ.
    1. There is great concern today regarding church growth or increasing the number of those who are born again because they see Jesus Christ for who he is.
      1. There are all kinds of theories, ideas, and suggestions made.
        1. Some say, "If we could just emphasize what we emphasized 50 years ago in the same way we emphasized it then, we would grow."
          1. I find it interesting that this suggestion only wants to go back 50 years ago, not 2000 years ago.
          2. I find it interesting that some decide that the best way to glorify God is to glorify the recent past.
        2. Some say, "If we would just allow people's wants to determine what we do, then we would grow."
          1. We need to ask, "Shall those who have little or no spiritual interests be the guides of those who seek to be spiritual?"
          2. The objective is not human pleasure.
          3. The objective is to move closer and closer to God.
        3. Some say, "The preference of the vocal majority must demand the conformity of everyone."
          1. People being different have never bothered God--it just bothers humans.
          2. Humans are emotionally impressed with externals; God is impressed with hearts.
          3. God knows when a human is or is not praising Him.
          4. God knows motivations--humans are the ones who need to get 2 x 4s out of their eyes before they remove specks from others' eyes.
      2. In all our concerns about church growth, two things stand out to me. [And I surely recognize it is an extremely complex problem.]
        1. Solutions are usually focused in us--it is frequently about us, not about God.
        2. Solutions are frequently focused on procedures--if we could just find the "proper way" to do things, we would grow.
    2. May I make an observation?
      1. The most important element in church growth is God.
        1. It is not the past.
        2. It is not pleasure.
        3. It is not preference.
        4. It is God.
      2. God will entrust us with people He knows are seeking Him when He knows they will find God at the center of who we are and what we are about.
      3. Have we not heard Jesus?
        John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

  5. The second thing I want you to think about is this: those who belong to God specialize in mending broken people who want to be mended.
    1. Let me stress no one can be mended in Christ except the person who wants to be mended.
      1. A person must acknowledge brokenness.
      2. A person must accept responsibility rather than playing the blame game.
      3. A person must repent, find redirection, new birth in Christ.
    2. I want you to ask yourself two questions:
      1. Question one: would God send a broken person to this congregation to find new birth in Christ? [Would God trust such a person to us?]
      2. Question two: ask yourself, would God send a broken person to this congregation because I am here, and God knows I would help the person mend his or her brokenness?

If we want to grow so we can "feel proud" of who we are and what we do, it will never happen.

If we want to grow because we have a passion to help people discover a new beginning in Jesus Christ so that God can be praised and glorified, nothing can prevent it from happening.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 31 August 2003

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