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Flesh Cannot Give Birth to Spirit

John 3:1-8
Luke 18:18-30

Jim Davis

A drunk stumbled along a baptismal service on Sunday afternoon down by the river. He proceeded to walk down into the water and stood next to the Preacher. The minister turned and noticed the old drunk and said, "Mister, Are you ready to find Jesus?" The drunk looks back and says, "Yes, Preacher. I sure am."

The minister then dunked the fellow under the water and pulled him right back up. "Have you found Jesus?" the preacher asks.

"No, I didn’t!" says the drunk.

The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, "Now, brother, have you found Jesus?"

"No, I did not Preacher."

The preacher in disgust holds the man under for at least 30 seconds this time brings him out of the water and says in a harsh tone, "Friend, are you sure you haven’t found Jesus yet?"

The old drunk wipes his eyes and says to the preacher..."Are you sure this is where he fell in?"

Religion can become so rigid and formal that it leaves us dead. I heard about a man who visited a very formal church one Sunday. He said that right in the middle of the service a guy had a heart attack & died, but that the ushers carried out 5 guys before they found the right one.

In our modern times becoming a child of God has lost much of its grandeur because the flesh has reduced being a Christian to becoming religious. In doing so we have basically given up our right to become true children of God. We have a great need to be reborn as children of God.

John 3:1-9
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 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.’

In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’

‘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!’

Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is 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" (NIV).

"Flesh Gives Birth to Flesh"

Jesus says, "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Nicodemus’s life was governed by his fleshly birth. He was born of Abraham’s seed, but he needed to become a child of God. Nicodemus was religious. He was faithful to the religious traditions of his day. Those traditions were largely fleshly ordinances given by men, which were often void of the true spirit of God.

The New Testament speaks of four classes of religious folks: Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Lawyers. The Pharisees and Sadducees followed separate religious traditions—the Pharisees believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees didn’t. The Scribes were entrusted with copying the Scriptures. The Lawyers were given the responsibility to interpret the law and make religious laws for everyone to follow.

If you had difficulty knowing how to keep one of God’s commandments, you would take your problem to the lawyers. You would explain your dilemma to the lawyers. Should I take care of my father and mother in their old age, or should I give my money to God? The lawyers would get together and study your problem to find a solution. Their answer was, "Your gift to God nullifies your need to take care of your parents."

It was a fleshly solution to a spiritual problem. The lawyers did what they do best. They make laws to nullify laws. They nullified their right to become a child of God by giving a fleshly answer to a spiritual problem. However, only the Spirit of God can lead us to a rebirth. Fleshly answers to spiritual problems can only bring death.

Most religions of the world represent man's effort to reach up to God and become acceptable to Him. In China, for example, devout pilgrims ascend a sacred mountain called Taishan. They climb 7,000 steps to its summit, first passing through the "middle gate," then through "heaven's southern gate." Finally they reach one of the most beautiful buildings in all of China--the Temple of the Azure Cloud. Here they offer sacrifices, which the worshipers believe will gain God's favor. Such effort represents great religious fervor--and futility, for it brings the devotee no closer to God than when he mounted the first step.

It is impossible to experience the new birth if we allow our fleshly minds to rule our lives. There is a battle raging within each of us. It is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit.

We don’t have a group of lawyers today to solve our problems. However, many bring their problems to the church in hopes that church creeds and doctrines will solve their problems. Many may think that baptism alone solved all their problems with God, but Jesus says that we must be born of the water and the Spirit. It is not difficult to be baptized in water, but being born of the Spirit is another story.

"If the Central Intelligence Agency wanted you to be an agent behind the bamboo curtain in China, you would be trained to talk, act, look, and think Chinese. You would go to school and learn the Chinese language so that you could speak it fluently without a trace of an accent. After studying the mores of China and watching films of Chinese physical characteristics, you could duplicate their mannerisms. Perhaps you would undergo plastic surgery and have your face changed so that you would look Chinese. Then you could enter Communist China and be welcomed as one of them.

"You would then do everything in the Chinese manner. No difference would be noticeable. As far as anyone in China is concerned, you are Chinese. But would you be Chinese? No, not if you did not have Chinese parents. Nothing you can do will change your race.

"Actually, it's the same way spiritually. You may talk and dress like a Christian. You may join Christian organizations and sing Christians songs, and in all ways act like a Christian. However, none of these things will make you a Christian. You were born sinful and you have the nature of a sinful race. Nothing you can do outwardly can change this fact. Just as you would have to have been born of Chinese parents to be Chinese, so you need a new birth spiritually to be a Christian." [Evangelism Explosion by D. James Kennedy. Tyndale House, 1977. Page 107.]

Jesus told many of the religious people of his day that they needed to be reborn. Religious people have a tendency to believe that religious practices can make them good.

Luke 18:18-30
A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"

"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?"

Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."

Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"

Religion leaves us wondering who can be saved as it blinds us to the possibility of the new birth. This devout devoted young man came to Jesus expressing his doubts about his salvation. "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He is not fully convinced that he has eternal life. He is uneasy and unfulfilled. He is anxious about his salvation. Fulfillment of the law, obedience to the commandments, accumulation of wealth—none of these was enough to convince him that he had eternal life. His religion bred anxiety. Being born of the Spirit brings peace and joy.

Romans 8:1-4
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit" (NIV).

There was a God shaped vacuum in his life, a longing in his heart. The sad part was that he couldn’t let go and let God bring about his rebirth.

Only God can give us a new birth. "Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is 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.’"

Thinking as the world thinks comes as first nature, but thinking with the Spirit of God is not so easy. When we are baptized into Christ we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is given to guide us through a spiritual rebirth. For those disciples following Christ during his earthly ministry their biggest problem was allowing their minds to be led by the Spirit of God.

The Fallacy of Religious Tradition

Religion subtly teaches us that we can have salvation on our terms, not the Lord’s. Jesus smacked at everything religious in this young man’s life by saying, the first thing you have to understand is that no one but God is good. "When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." This was Jesus’ way of making this man face up to his sin. From all outward appearance his life was most exemplary. He obeyed all the laws Jesus mentioned.

Religious tradition can become the most dangerous thing in seeking God. This young man was following religious tradition, but his heart was far from God.

Many follow church rules, but inside they have never changed their heart.

This young man gives us a picture of a seemingly maturing child of God.
 

You can be very religious and not be saved.

You can paint the pump house but that doesn’t make the water pure!

It wasn’t a matter of improvement in outward behavior, because Nicodemus and the young ruler already lived a good life.

It wasn’t a matter of keeping the law because they already did that to the best of their ability.

"I tell you the truth," Jesus said, "unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

This concept of being born again is something that we have a difficult time grasping.

Nicodemus was an intelligent man, but sometimes the trouble with very intelligent people is that he or she can’t accept simple truths.

They look for complicated solutions that aren’t there.

It must have sounded like a riddle to Nicodemus, who immediately tried to tackle the problem from the earthly angle.

"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!"

Conclusion:

If you want to stay spiritually healthy you must be spiritually reborn! John 3:16, the most famous verse in the Bible, was preached to the religious sinner.

Even the religious sinner can be born of the Word and of the Spirit. Nicodemus was religious, but he needed to be reborn.

There is a classic parable concerning the attitude we must have to be reborn as it reveals that a fleshly birth can only bring death.

Luke 18:9-14
"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’" (NIV).

Listen to what Peter told religious sinners on Pentecost:

Acts 2:38-41
"’Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call.’

"With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day" (NIV).
 
 

 

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