Sermon title:  Something Supernatural Happens   John 3:1-17


    Immanuel Baptist Church – February 4, 2018


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That expression we just read at John 3:16

may be the most quoted passage of Scripture

in modern times.


“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.” 


We see John 3:16 on plaques and posters,

on bicycles and bumper stickers,

on trees and on trucks,

and painted on Tim Tebow’s face on the football field.


It’s such a beloved verse,

because it sums up the Gospel in one sentence.


It tells us God’s motive for the New Testment:

“For God so loved the world”


It tells us what God did:

“he gave his one and only Son.”


It tells us what we need to do:

“that whoever believes in him.”


And it tells us the end result:

“shall not perish but have eternal life.”


Wow!  What an amazing Bible verse.

It puts the whole message

of God’s love

and our salvation

into one sentence.


And the 3rd Chapter of John[  OPEN  ]

that we’re looking at this morning

is where this amazing Verse is found.


We can understand it even better

by reading it in its context

there in John, chapter 3.

The context

will help us understand why Jesus said this amazing thing,

who He said it to, and when,

and we’ll get

a deeper appreciation

for what it means to us.


John chapter 3, Verse 1 says,


1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees

named Nicodemus,

a member of the Jewish ruling council.


Nicodemus was a member of the group

that was most hostile to Jesus—

the Pharisees, who Jesus exposed as hypocrites,

and the Jewish ruling council,

their religious leaders who sought to kill Him.


But we already know the result of his visit to Jesus.

Later on, in John chapter 7, verse 50,

Nicodemus defended Jesus

when officers had been sent to arrest Him.

Speaking in that Jewish ruling council,

Nicodemus said,

“Does our law judge a man,

unless it first hears from him personally

and knows what he does?”


And much later, after Jesus had died on the cross,

John 19, Verse 39,

tells us that Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea

when they took Jesus’ body

and laid it in Joseph’s tomb.


So, this visit by Nicodemus

that we’re reading about

proved to be productive,

and he ended up becoming a disciple of Jesus.


John chapter 3, Verse 2 tells us now,


2 He came to Jesus at night and said,

"Rabbi, we know you are a teacher

who has come from God.

For no one could perform the miraculous signs

you are doing

if God were not with him."


So, not just Nicodemus,

but the Jewish religious leaders as a whole

actually knew that Jesus had come from God.

Jesus’ miracles proved it.


But they were not willing to acknowledge that publicly.

They were hostile to Jesus due to jealousy.

They wanted the people to follow them, not Jesus.

And they were hostile to Jesus

because they saw the arrival of the Messiah

as a threat to the status quo

where they enjoyed

privilege and prestige and power.


The other Pharisees and the other religious leaders

were so hostile to Jesus,

that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night.


He was afraid to be seen visiting Jesus.


I can relate to that

because I spent many years ministering

to people trying to escape from cults.


I remember one time

I was a visiting speaker on cults

at an evening service,

and a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came up to me

after the service.

They said they had wanted to come hear me

on an earlier occasion

when I spoke at a church in their area

but that was a morning service,

and they were afraid of being seen

going there.

They could be put on trial

and expelled from their group

if they had been seen entering a church

where I was speaking.

So, they waited until I was speaking at an evening service,

so they could sneak into the church

under the cover of night

and not be seen.

So, I can relate to Nicodemus

coming to Jesus at night.


Now, let’s look at Verse 3,

to see what Jesus had to say to Nicodemus.


3 In reply Jesus declared,

"I tell you the truth,

no one can see the kingdom of God

unless he is born again. "


4 "How can a man be born when he is old?"

Nicodemus asked.

"Surely he cannot enter a second time

into his mother's womb to be born!"


5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth,

no one can enter the kingdom of God

unless he is 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.'


In the Greek manuscripts that last “You” is in the plural.

So, Jesus wasn’t saying just that Nicodemus

had to be born again,

but rather that EVERYONE would,

in order to enter the Kingdom of God.


The J.B. Philips Modern English Translation says,

“all of you must be born again.”


And that is what happens

when we put faith in Jesus

as our Lord and Savior.

God works an invisible miracle

in each of our lives

and gives us new birth

as His adopted children.


It’s an invisible thing

that no one can see.


Jesus explained that in Verse 8, where He told Nicodemus,


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."


It’s an invisible supernatural event

because we can’t see the Holy Spirit.


But we are born again

when we trust in Jesus

to save us from our sins

and commit ourselves to obey him. 


God then adopts us as his children,

sending his Holy Spirit into our hearts:

Galatians 4:6 says,


“To prove that you are sons,

God has sent into our hearts

the Spirit of his Son, crying ‘Abba! Father!’”NEB


“Abba” was a term Jewish children used

when addressing their human father—

an intimate term like “Daddy” or “Dad.”

Jesus himself called His heavenly Father “Abba” in prayer

at Mark 14:36.


In some supernatural way

that is beyond human understanding,

Jesus actually comes to live with us and in

us when we believe in him and choose to follow him. 


Yes, it is beyond human understanding,

and that’s why the Apostle Paul refers to it

at Colossians 1:27 as


“this mystery, which is Christ in you”


It really is a mystery—

beyond human understanding—

but the Bible assures us that Jesus actually does

come to live in the hearts of his followers.


Ephesians 3:17 says


“that Christ will live in your hearts by faith”        


This was all new to Nicodemus.

It was not revealed in the Old Testament,

and the Old Testament was all that Nicodemus had.


So, continuing at Verse 9 we read,


9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.


10 "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus,

"and do you not understand these things?


11 I tell you the truth, 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?


This matter of being born again

by God putting His Spirit into our hearts

is a supernatural event

where heaven and earth meet—

where the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven

to live in our earthly bodies.


2 Corinthians 1:22 says that God


“set his seal of ownership on us,

and put his Spirit in our hearts

as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

So, it’s like when you buy a house

and you give a deposit

to guarantee the transaction.


2 Corinthians 1:22 says

that God puts the Holy Spirit into our hearts

“as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

We are born again now as God’s adopted children,

and we have a guaranteed hope of heaven

ahead of us.


Jesus continued in Verse 13,


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 desert,

so the Son of Man must be lifted up,

15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.


Jesus was referring here

to Numbers 21:4-9 in the Old Testament.  [ OPEN ]


Numbers is the 4th book in the Bible:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers.


Nicodemus was familiar with the story

about Moses lifting up a snake,

but many of us may not be.

So, it would be worth looking at Numbers 21:4-9

to see what caused Moses to ‘lift up a snake’

and why Jesus would compare Himself to a thing like that.


Beginning in Numbers 21, Verse 4, it talks about

the people of Israel traveling in the wilderness

some time after Moses had led them out of Egypt,

and it says there in Verse 4,


4 They traveled from Mount Hor

along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom.

But the people grew impatient on the way;

5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt

to die in the desert? There is no bread!

There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"


The food they called “miserable”

was the miraculous mana from heaven

that God was feeding them with.

They were sick of it,

and they spoke not just against Moses, but against God.

So, Verse 6 says,


6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them;

they bit the people and many Israelites died.


7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned

when we spoke against the Lord and against you.

Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.


8 The Lord said to Moses, "Make a snake

and put it up on a pole;

anyone who is bitten can look at it and live."


9 So Moses made a bronze snake

and put it up on a pole.

Then when anyone was bitten by a snake

and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.


So, looking again at John chapter 3, verse 14,

Jesus told Nicodemus,


14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert,

so the Son of Man must be lifted up,


—meaning that Jesus must be lifted up on the cross—

and Verse 15,


15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.


So, just as the Israelites could survive their snakebites

by looking up at that bronze snake on the pole,

Jesus said that He would be lifted up on the cross,

so that everyone looking to Him for salvation—

everyone who believes in Him—

may have eternal life.


And now, this is the point in His conversation with Nicodemus

where Jesus spoke that verse

that is quoted so often

and that is even seen written

on Tim Tebow’s face on the football field.

Verse 16,


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.


That one verse says it all for us,

summarizing in a single verse

God’s love for us,

God’s action in sending His Son Jesus,

our role in exercising faith—believing in Him—

and the end result,

our not perishing,

but gaining eternal life

with Christ in heaven.


This was even more than Nicodemus was expecting—

a Messiah for the Jews—

Jesus said God loved “the world,”

not just the Jews.

Verse 17 says,

17 For God did not send his Son into the world

to condemn the world,

but to save the world through him.


Even though most of the world was pagan at that time,

God didn’t send His Son to condemn the world,

but to save the world.


And when He rose from the dead

after being lifted up and dying on the cross,

Jesus sent out His disciples

to the whole world—

so that even we,

in this corner of New Bedford

so far off from Jerusalem

might believe,

and receive eternal life.

Verse 18 says,


18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,

but whoever does not believe

stands condemned already

because he has not believed

in the name of God's one and only Son.


We were condemned already,

dead in our trespasses against God,

and in our sins and offenses

against God’s righteousness.


But when we believe in Christ,

that condemnation is cancelled,

we are set free from our sins

and we receive eternal life.


It seems impossible

that anyone would reject

this free gift of salvation.


But Verse 19 goes on to say,


19 This is the verdict:

Light has come into the world,

but men loved darkness

instead of light

because their deeds were evil.


20 Everyone who does evil hates the light,

and will not come into the light

for fear that his deeds will be exposed.


21 But whoever lives by the truth

comes into the light,

so that it may be seen plainly

that what he has done

has been done through God."


Unbelievably to us who love the light,

there are those who love the darkness

because it hides the sins

that they want to keep pursuing.


I think of the pedophile priests,

whose sinful deeds were so horribly evil,

and the complicit bishops and Vatican officials

who covered up this monstrous evil,

so they could keep on doing it.


Then some journalists from The Boston Globe

shined a spotlight on what they were doing.

That sinful hierarchy hated the light

because the light exposed their deeds.


Well, in a much greater sense,

Jesus is the light

that God the Father sent into the world.


The Gospel of John begins its 1st chapter by saying,


“In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him.

Without him was not anything made

that has been made.

In him was life,

and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness hasn't overcome it.”


Those who love the light

come to Jesus,

but those who hate the light

slink away and hide in the darkness.


Instead of confessing their sins

and leaving their sins,

they love the darkness

and hide from the light.


We have sins, too.

But we’ve turned to Jesus

and been cleansed and forgiven.


When we put faith in Christ to save us

and commit to follow and obey Him as our Lord,

something supernatural happens

that empowers us

to leave behind that cancelled sin.


We are born again

adopted as children of God,

and God sends his Holy Spirit

to live within us.


Romans Chapter 8 tells us[  OPEN  ]

that, because we’ve come into

this close spiritual relationship with God

as His adopted children,

we can find super-human strength

to overcome our inborn tendencies to sin,

and we can look forward to eternal life:

Romans Chapter 8,

beginning with verse 8, says,


“Those controlled by the sinful nature

cannot please God. 

You, however, are controlled not by your sinful nature but by the Spirit,

if the Spirit of God lives in you.

And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,

he does not belong to Christ.


Verse 11 continues,


And if the Spirit of him

who raised Jesus from the dead

is living in you,

he who raised Christ from the dead

will also give life to your mortal bodies

though his Spirit, who lives in you.”


So, becoming a disciple of Jesus

is much more than reading about

an ancient historical figure

and trying to live the way He lived

and to love the way He loved. 

It is much more than just joining a church

that He founded centuries ago. 

It is a real relationship

with a real live person—

the risen Son of God. 

Jesus invites you

to come into this relationship with Him.


At Revelation chapter 3, Verse 20, He says, 

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock;

if any one hears my voice and opens the door,

I will come in to him and eat with him,

and he with me.”


If you haven’t done so yet,

you can respond right now

to Jesus’ invitation to be His follower. 


Turn to Him in prayer,

and tell Him that you are sorry for your sins—

and that you now want

to leave your sins behind

and change your heart and your life

by following Him and obeying Him.


At John 6:37, Jesus says, 


“I will never turn away

anyone who comes to me.”


Even though He is invisible,

Jesus will respond to your prayer

by accepting you as His follower. 


He will forgive your sins

and begin to lead you

in the way you should go.


He will give you that new birth

and bring you into

this supernatural relationship

as a born-again child of God.