?June 7, 2009
Trinity Sunday (B)
John 3:1-17

?Ivan the IV lived in the 16th century and was the first czar over all of the Russian empire. He was such a cruel and abusive man that he was given the name “Ivan the Terrible.” He had a well known reputation for being immoral and violent. But when he died in 1584, historians record that he was prepared for burial by having his head shaved and being dressed in a monk’s robe. The intent was to make God think the czar was a monk, and thus He would allow Ivan the Terrible into Heaven.
As ridiculous as this sounds, is it any worse than a respectable, intelligent person today thinking he or she can gain entrance into Heaven by doing enough good things to counteract the bad… by earning enough points with fervent religious activity… by appeasing God’s wrath somehow with enough personal pain or suffering? No requirement for a heavenly entrance could be more far-fetched to a religiously upright or rationally intelligent person than to be told that he or she must be born again!
But that is precisely what happens in John 3, as Nicodemus seeks out Jesus under the cover of darkness to inquire about what God really expects and requires of people. Jesus’ answer is quick, short and to the point, but not necessarily easily understood by Nicodemus in the first century or by 21st-century people today either. What does it mean to be born again?

I. It happens as a supernatural act.
Surely this was not the only time that Jesus had a conversation about the meaning of salvation and how a person could be right with God and get into Heaven. John must have used the story of Nicodemus on purpose because this member of the Pharisees was such a good, religious, socially
acceptable person. If anybody could expect to get into Heaven, it ought to be someone like Nicodemus. But things like family name, nationality, business and financial success, community service, church membership, etc. do not guarantee anyone a right relationship with God. It is nothing short of a miracle!
Being born again involves the presence and work of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father wills it because of His great love. The Son accomplished it by His earthly sacrifice. The Spirit performs it in the heart and life of a repentant sinner.
Today is Trinity Sunday, when we focus on this unique mystery of the Christian faith-God in three persons… each different but all equal… each one distinct with His own expression and personality but all together in unity of purpose. Three-in-One! John 3 reveals each member of the Trinity involved in the work of redemption.

II. It is essential to enter the kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God, in essence, is something spiritual (John 3:6). It is a matter of the heart, something that begins inside of us and works its way out in our lifestyle. It is the reign of God everywhere, including Heaven and Earth. It is in this world but not of this world or limited to this world-it transcends this world. It requires a radical new birth.
It is like the simple mystery of the wind blowing (John 3:8). We can’t explain it or predict it, but we can experience it. In fact, we must if we are ever to enter the kingdom of God.

III. It comes down to a choice.
The significance of a willful decision is implied throughout this text but stated clearly in John 3:16, the most well-known verse in the Bible. Jesus said, “…that whosoever believes…” “Born again” points to another experience separate from the first birth. It does not happen automatically by birthright or by compulsion. We have to decide to choose Jesus, and He takes it from there.
What does it mean to be born again? It means to be saved by grace through faith. It means to be forgiven and free, with a new future. It means to be made a new person and to have a new purpose. It means to be right with God and to belong to God. It means Heaven is home, and death is a doorway.
There’s a story about a little boy who had just gotten saved. He sat down next to an old man who looked upset, and he said to the man, “Sir, do you need to get saved?” The man was taken back and said abruptly, “I’ll tell you that I have been a deacon in this church for over 30 years and chairman of the deacons for 15 years.” The little boy responded, “Sir, it don’t matter what you’ve done… Jesus loves you, and He’ll still save you!”
It’s really not about being young or old… in church all your life or never at all… being good all the time or so bad you have a prison sentence… having everything you want or nothing you need… being the life of the party or all alone in this world. It’s about being born again-a miracle that changes your life now and forever. And it’s yours for the asking.

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