HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE?, #18
"Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (JOH 3:9-10)
"These things" are the things that accompany a true work of regeneration through the cleansing power of the Word. These things that Jesus was speaking of "Ye must be born again" and you must be "born of water and of the Spirit" are the essential elements of salvation. He said to Nicodemus, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" These things accompany a true work of regeneration. Look at TIT 3:3-5. "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another."
Isnt that a perfect description of whats in the heart of man by nature: hating one another, envying, malice, serving diverse lusts, disobedient, deceived? Look at verse 4, " But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done [were not going to be saved by the letter of the law], but according to his mercy he saved us , by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
We need to be washed in the blood of Christ, do we not? What do we mean by being washed in His blood? Is it merely to escape hell and go to heaven? No, we have to be cleansed from these elements that we see in verse 3: this hateful spirit of ours, this hating one another, this malice, living in pleasure, living in diverse lusts. Weve got to be washed from our sin "by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." It is by this work of grace in our heart that we receive a new desire and have the work of regeneration (this renewing of the new man of the heart). The result is that we now love our neighbor as ourselves, and that hateful, spiteful spirit has been removed.
The Lord Jesus was named Jesus because He came to save us from our sin. Everybody wants to be saved from hell, but how many people want to be saved from their sin? He is our Saviour means He came to save us from our sins! He came to save us from that hateful spirit, from those "divers lusts," and from serving those lusts. He came to deliver us from that power of sin, that spirit of disobedience, and that foolishness of heart that we have by nature. How does He do that? He does it by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. These things Nicodemus did not understand. These things are what Christ is telling Nicodemus.
The Pharisees had a legalistic religion: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done." (TIT 3:5) We will not merit salvation because we kept the letter of the law. It is by the working of regeneration and the "washing of regeneration" and the "renewing of the Holy Ghost." It is by the changing of the heart. I want you to see what the Pharisees were by nature. The Lord Jesus says in MAT 5:20, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." They didnt understand the working of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost (and Nicodemus was a Pharisee).
"Except your righteousness shall exceed [that] of the scribes and Pharisees ." Ive heard many people say, "Oh, that means we need the righteousness of Christ." That is not what that means! He emphatically says, "your righteousness." Hes not talking about Christs righteousness. He says, "except your righteousness exceed [that] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom." MAT 5 goes through six contrasts, "Ye have heard It hath been said of old time." This is what the scribes and Pharisees were teaching. "But I say unto you " and He shows the exact opposite of what they were teaching. They were teaching a letter-of-the-law religion, and He was teaching a heart religion.
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY " (MAT 5:27) and they thought that as long as they didnt commit the physical act of adultery, they were obeying the law. The Lord Jesus wants to see a heart religion. What did He say? "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (MAT 5:28) What the Lord is doing is going to a heart religion, to a change of attitude. Look at verse 31. "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you ." He shows them the spirit of the law. "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself But I say unto you, Swear not at all " (MAT 5:33-34a)
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you [I want you to see the heart religion], That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said [in other words this is what the scribes and Pharisees teach], Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies." (MAT 5:38-44a)
These things Nicodemus did not understand. Nicodemus did not understand the washing of regeneration, that purifying of the heart. The Lord addresses the Pharisees in MAT 23:25-26. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" Why? Their hearts were not cleansed. The washing of regeneration in the heart had never taken place. They did not understand these things. They had a legalistic religion. Verse 25 continues, "you hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter [You do the letter of the law, but theres nothing cleansed within the heart. Your attitude has never been altered.], but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." If you clean up your attitude, if your attitude has been washed with the washing of regeneration, if your whole disposition toward God has been altered, your actions will correspond. He says to clean up the inside, then the outside will be clean, too.
What is not understood in a legalistic religion is the need for heart religion, for the cleansing effect of the Word. MAT 23:27-28, Jesus says, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" They knew the letter of the law - the laws of men - which they had heard of old, interpreted as they saw it, but they had never understood the spirit of the law. They had never understood the cleansing of the heart. Verse 27 continues, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres [Thats quite a description of the heart, isnt it? That is the heart of man by nature. You are like a whited sepulchre.], which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead mens bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
Nicodemus, are you a ruler and a leader of the people, and you dont understand these things? You dont understand the renewing of regeneration by the washing of regeneration, that cleansing of the heart and mind. These things of which Jesus spoke are "...the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost," or the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which is visible. The Holy Spirit came down like a dove. The dove is the symbol of holiness. It is visible in our way of life. It can be seen with the natural eye the world can see it. Do you know how theyll see it? Theyll see it in our labor of love, in our attitude. "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (HEB 6:9-10)
What are the things that accompany salvation? We minister to the needs of the saints. We have that love for our neighbor. We are praying for our enemies; we heap coals of fire on their heads. How? By feeding them when theyre hungry, by giving them water when theyre thirsty. These coals of fire are coals of love because love "hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." (SON 8:6b-7a) Many people think, when you talk about heaping coals of fire on somebodys head, that youre heaping coals of damnation on them. No, it is coals of love because love is a vehement flame, and many waters cannot quench it. Ive experienced this in my own life. If a person is trying to destroy you, and you find him in a position where he needs help, and you help, you cant find a better way to break his enmity. Youre heaping coals of fire upon his head. Thats what melts his bitterness and rebellion.
HEB 6:10 says how you "have ministered to the saints, and do minister." It says, "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love." These are things that accompany salvation and the work of grace. Nicodemus question, "How can these things be?" reveals the ignorance of the Pharisaical religious world about the need for new birth. This is what Jesus spoke of in MAT 11:25. "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." The Lord Jesus Christ is thanking His Father because He has "hid these things from the wise and prudent." Who were they? They were the scribes and Pharisees, those who were so wise in their own eyes, those who could take the law of God and manipulate it to make such wonderful works of men and who had a righteousness all of their own. He said, "I thank thee, O Father [that] thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
What "things" is He speaking about? Hes speaking about the element of repentance. This is what was hidden from the scribes and Pharisees. This is what was hidden from the Pharisaical world, the Pharisaical church: the need of a change of heart, the washing of regeneration, the work of repentance. "These things" Jesus spoke pertaining to true gospel repentance were the very things Nicodemus did not understand. "But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented." (MAT 11:16-17) What Hes saying is that the gospel has been preached in your midst, and you have not repented; you have not changed your attitude.
"These things" Jesus was teaching, hidden from the eyes of the wise and prudent, centered on the need of true gospel repentance or a change of attitude. See that in MAT 11:20. "Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not." They saw His mighty works. They saw the power and the authority of His word, yet they would not repent. They would not break their rebellion, their bitterness, and their hatefulness. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes no acknowledgment of our profession of faith. Many people say, "Well, Im saved because I accepted Jesus. I made a profession, now Im saved." Then they go on and live in sin. The Lord Jesus makes no acknowledgment of our profession but goes right to the self-righteous Pharisee thats in the heart. The Lord Jesus puts His finger right on the attitude of our heart. Do we understand the renewing, the washing of regeneration? Thats what decides whether youre saved or not: have you been saved from your sins?
Jesus says in MAT 11:21-22, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you." Hes saying that even Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented if they had understood the authority of His Word like you do. If they had seen the demonstration of the power and the authority of the Word of God that you have seen, they would have repented long ago. Therefore, they shall rise in judgment against you. These are the things that Nicodemus did not understand.
The first effect of the gospel of Jesus, when it is accompanied by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit is to open the eyes to the individuals needs. Im not looking at salvation from sins and miseries in a general sense. I must look at how I stand before a holy and a righteous God. It becomes personal. "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (JOH 3:5) Jesus dealt with Nicodemus self-righteous, wrong motives to warn him of his false faith and shallow commitment, the unbelief and self-righteousness in his heart, and as an unbeliever. He told Nicodemus, except you be born again .he had not yet experienced the washing of regeneration; his heart was still filled with unbelief and with self-righteousness; he was still a Pharisee.
Our text reveals that Jesus confronted his spurious faith. There are so many people that have faith. You read in MAT 7:22 that the Lord Jesus says, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" You notice something very awesome: those people died in faith believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. They believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was their only hope of salvation. The problem was their works did not correspond. They had never known gospel repentance. They had a spurious faith, a faith that is not a gospel faith. They were never persuaded: faith means to become persuaded by the power of the Word. The first thing that happens when youre truly persuaded is the washing of regeneration, the cleansing of the heart, mind, soul and attitude.
Look at 1 CO 10 and see how the Apostle Paul warns them that although they have had so many rich experiences (the rock that followed them was Christ, and they drank of that spiritual rock, which was Christ), yet they perish because of unbelief. This is what Jesus was warning Nicodemus about: he was still an unbeliever. Our text reveals that Jesus confronted his spurious faith, his legalistic repentance, his Pharisaical righteousness, and his Biblical illiteracy. He was totally illiterate about the true work of regeneration. Jesus asked, "Art thou a master of Israel?"
"How can these things be?" Nicodemus asked, after the Lord Jesus told him the most vital thing of salvation. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (JOH 3:9-10) Nicodemus was one of those spoken of in JOH 2:23-25. "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." Take notice: they believed. The apostle Paul told the jailer who asked what he must do to be saved, "Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." (ACT 16:31) Many people want to take that out of its context as though all you have to do is believe and youre saved. Many believed, yet were damned! So how do we sort it out? The jailer had become a penitent sinner. He had come to a change of mind. He no longer was a hard master over his prisoners. He had come and knelt before them asking them what he must do. These Pharisees believed (i.e. with their minds). They understood and realized what Jesus said was true. They believed that, in fact, He was the Messiah, but there was no repentance. Nicodemus was one of them.
"But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." (JOH 2:24-25) Jesus knew what was in their hearts. He knew there was no washing of regeneration. He knew that there was no change of attitude. They still had a spurious faith that was not a saving faith. It was not a renewal of the heart.
Nicodemus illustrates the faith of the carnal Christian. The world is full of carnal Christians today. Theyre all "children of God." They all believe. Theyre all a happy crowd. Theyre all going to go to heaven, but they have never known the washing of regeneration. Theyre carnal Christians, unregenerate. Analyze the word carnal and origins: it means unregenerate. They have never been washed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. They are those of whom Jesus speaks in MAT 7:22. They are that multitude - the many - that will say, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" Hell reply, "depart from me I never knew you" because "ye work iniquity." You have never been cleansed, youre still as a sow wallowing in the mire, and youre still as a dog that returns unto his own vomit. (Cf. 2PE 2:22) You have never been cleansed by "the washing of regeneration."
Nicodemus illustrates the faith of the carnal Christian. He had faith without repentance. He was a stranger to the "washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (TIT 3:5) TIT 3:5 "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"
With his mind he accepted to some extent the truth of Christ, but his heart was still unregenerate. "The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." (JOH 3:2) He was convinced that Jesus was a man sent from God. He believed in the authority with which Christ spoke. He believed the authority of the Word, but Jesus rebuked Nicodemus for his ignorance of the Spirits work of grace in the heart.
Jesus pointed to the hyper-legalism spoken of in 2TI 3:5. "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." What does this mean, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof?" The power of the work of regeneration has the cleansing effect, and that is what they lacked. You read verses 1-4, and you will see Paul is talking about their unregenerate state of mind, and yet they have a form of godliness. Theyre members of a church: they go to church, they can sing, "Hallelujah," they can sing the songs, and they can rejoice, but they deny the power thereof. What is the power? It is the power of the Word that has the cleansing effect. They deny that. What should we do? Should we join those throngs and go along with the merry crowd? No, the Word of God says from such turn away; have no company with them.
Nicodemus ignorance as a ruler in Israel was inexcusable. The same gospel teaching of our need to be washed with the water of the Word was first taught in the Old Testament. If he was a leader of the people, a man who was there to rule the church as (you might say) the Doctor of Divinity, then he was the authority in the Word. He should have read the Word. He should have understood these things, and thats why the Lord Jesus rebuked him. He should have known. His ignorance was inexcusable. This is the Old Testament gospel that Nicodemus ought to have known. See this in EZE 36:25-27 "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness [Isnt that the exact same gospel we were reading out of Titus?], and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you [Isnt that the washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit?]: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." Thats the work of regeneration preached in Ezekiel.
Jesus admonished Nicodemus by telling him that he should have known these things. JOH 3:10 says, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" Youre the Doctor of Divinity, youre the one who is looked up to as an authority in the church! The Old Testament clearly taught the way of salvation. The Apostle Paul told Timothy in 2TI 3:15, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The "holy scriptures" spoken of here are not the New Testament, because the Apostle Paul had not yet written the book of Timothy. The Old Testament gospel taught this same work of regeneration, the same need of cleansing of the Word.
Jesus was not proclaiming a new way of salvation distinct from Old Testament redemption. Nicodemus, as a teacher in Israel, should have been familiar with ISA 1:16-18. It calls for repentance, the washing of the water of the Word, and teaches the identical gospel. "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed [Isnt that calling for a change of attitude and for the cleansing of the work of regeneration?], judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD "
Imagine the Creator of heaven and earth, condescending so far that He would come down to you and me, saying, "Come now, and let us reason together." Hes saying that it is reasonable for Him to say unto you, put away this iniquity, cleanse your doings, "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings." Isnt it reasonable that He asks this of us?
ISA 1:18 says, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow [Ill forgive, Ill wash you clean, if youll just change your attitude, if youll just change your ways.]; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Does that mean, let us continue in sin that grace may abound? Oh, no! No, a thousand times, no! What this means is that if you "wash you" and "make you clean," then He will wash you white as snow and your sins, although they be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Hell cleanse you before His throne of judgment. The Pharisees only knew legal repentance, which does not lead to a change of heart; it does not lead to a change of life. They strained at the letter of the law, but were ignorant of their need for a new attitude by the work of regeneration of the Holy Spirit. They scoured the Psalms for laws that they could add to their legalistic list, but they ignored the most sublime truth of all: that God forgives sins, covers transgressions, and does not impute sin to those who turn to Him in true gospel repentance.
The Lord does not forgive the sins of those who continue in sin. The Lord forgives sin in those who love much. We spoke about that last week: how Mary was sitting at His feet and washing His feet with tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head. She was so grieved over having sinned against such love. Then He said, "her sins are forgiven for she loved much." PSA 32:1-2 says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." In other words, in his mental disposition, his mental attitude, there is no guile. Hes been cleansed.
Nicodemus was ignorant of the purpose of Gods creation. To understand salvation, weve got to go back to the root of the matter. We have to understand what Gods purpose in creating us was. God created man that He might be glorified by mans perfect harmony in purpose, which was lost in Paradise. The Lord created man that He might have a perfect harmony in purpose with God, that he might be a true reflector of the character of God, and that his purpose, his motives, and everything he stood for would be in perfect harmony with God.
"And God said, Let us make man in our image [in our character, in our mental disposition], after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [The Lord created man to place him over all of the universe and every creature and element in it.] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (GEN 1:26-27)
God placed restrictions on man, and His restrictions were not unreasonable. This is what Satan used to convince Eve to sin. Look how God had placed him in a position of authority, how God had placed Adam only second in line to the throne. He had placed him over everything. In GEN 2:15-16, we read the restrictions that God placed upon man. "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat." He didnt place a lot of restrictions. He chose one tree. Gods only restriction upon man was that he would submit to the authority of God's Word! Are you and I able and willing to submit to the authority of Gods Word?
"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (GEN 2:17) Are you going to submit to that authority? You can eat of any tree in the garden. There wasnt anything about that tree that was even attractive until lust entered the heart. We read of Eve, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise." (GEN 3:6) After Satan told her that she could be as God, knowing good and evil (that she would decide what was right and wrong), then she started coveting equality with God, no longer wanting to submit to the authority of His Word. All of a sudden that tree became attractive. It was "pleasant to the eyes a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."
That was the only restriction God placed on man: that he would submit to the authority of God - that God was still on the throne. This harmony of purpose, this oneness of spirit and mind, is what must be restored. Do you understand what salvation is all about? It is to restore us: to re-concile. Conciliation means to be in a state of perfect harmony. Weve lost it. Reconciliation means to be restored to a state of harmony from which we have fallen. Thats what salvation is about. It is to come back to a harmony of purpose, a oneness of spirit and mind "by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (TIT 3:5)
To be renewed and brought back into that position of harmony is what Nicodemus did not understand. He thought salvation meant the letter of the law (all the dos and the donts), that he could carry with him a heart that was filthy and hypocritical, a heart that was full of dead mens bones. He never understood the need of the cleansing of the heart. "And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (EPH 2:16) Jesus Christ came to reconcile, to restore that harmony that was lost. He came to "reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross," by taking the penalty of our sin upon Himself. By the appeasing of the wrath of the Father upon our sin, He has slain that enmity.
If you and I, by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, are again brought into that harmony of purpose with God the Father by the blessed sacrifice of Christ, it is through the renewing of the Holy Ghost: renewing and restoring us to that state of conciliation. When our enmity against God's Word and will is slain, our harmony of purpose with Gods will is restored through Christs being formed in us. The Lord Jesus Christ was the express image of the Father in our human nature. When Christ is formed in us, then we are brought back into that harmony that we lost in Paradise.
"For through him [that spirit, or mind of Christ] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." (EPH 2:18) The Lord Jesus Christ can call on the Father, and He answers instantly. Both the Lord Jesus Christ, being formed in us, and we, who are being renewed in that state of mind, that Spirit of Christ, "have access by one Spirit unto the Father." By one Spirit means by one attitude, one perfect harmony of thinking. What Nicodemus did not understand is that reconciliation must take place from our side by an unconditional surrender to God's will, as well as from God's side by Christ's appeasement of God's wrath. If you and I have had a falling out, I could be very sorry; I could come to you and apologize, and kiss your feet, but if you have not, in your mind, been reconciled with me, you might not accept it! Reconciliation doesnt take place just because Im ready. It has to be from both sides.
This is what Nicodemus did not understand. This is what the carnal Christian today does not understand: that reconciliation has to be from both sides. From Gods side, Hes reconciling the world unto Himself in Jesus Christ. In that blessed atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, Hes reconciling Himself unto the world. By the working of regeneration, by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, you and I become reconciled with God. Our rebellion is broken, our hateful enmity is removed, and we become reconciled with the will of God. We need unconditional surrender to Gods will from our side as well as from Gods side by Christs atonement and the appeasement of His wrath. We need both. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." (2 CO 5:20) Let your hearts come back into reconciliation, back into harmony, with the will of God.
I want you to see what compulsion there is in his argument (verse 21): "For he hath made him to be sin for us [from His side, Hes reconciled], who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." From His side, see what He has done to bring about reconciliation. How can you and I remain so obstinate and so rebellious in our hearts that we refuse to reconcile with God, that we refuse to come back into harmony with His will? There must be harmony in purpose before there can be reconciliation with God.
"And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one." (1JO 5:8) The Spirit (the mental disposition, our attitude), the Word (or the washing of the water of the Word, the cleansing power of the Word), and the blood. I want you to notice the blood comes third. Until we undergo the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (the washing of regeneration) we have no claim upon the blood. Then we come to the washing of the water of the Word (the work of sanctification) and the blood. "And these three agree in one." I want you to see the harmony of which this is speaking. What we need is to return to harmony with the will and the Word of God.
Who can ever be found to sing in the heavenly choir if he is not in harmony? Have you pictured a choir of well-trained voices, yet you get one in there that doesnt understand harmony? He messes up the whole choir. Can you picture one person, standing on that sea of glass, and his voice is not in harmony with that heavenly choir? How could he enter that choir until perfect harmony is restored? He can never enter that heavenly choir.
"And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints."
(REV 15:2-3) Do you know what that song of Moses is? Look in EXO 15. The song of Moses is that song of victory over the power of sin. It is that song of victory over the power of that rebellious world, Egypt. It is that song of victory over the power of Satan and all his sin. They "sing the song of Moses, the servant of God." Do you suppose that one person could stand in that choir and not be able to sing that note because he has not been delivered from the power of sin? Oh, no, he could not be in that choir. Hell never stand upon that sea of glass.
Whats the song of the Lamb? You see that in REV 5, John finds that He (the Lamb) had opened the sealed book of God (that is sealed to the natural mind). He opened that seal and made the Word precious to the heart. The multitude sings the song of the Lamb who has been slain. We see the song of the Lamb in REV 5:11. "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." Whats a million? A thousand thousands are a million. "Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands": millions and millions and millions of angels all singing the song of the Lamb. Are we going to join that choir, yet be out of tune and not have a heart that is in perfect harmony with the will of God?
It says in verse 12, "Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing," because He has appeased the Fathers wrath upon my sin. Think how the heavens will ring with the anthems of that blessed choir! Think of the perfect harmony that will be restored when our hearts are in true harmony with the will of God. Nicodemus did not understand the harmony of the heavenly symphony nor the doctrine of redemption as set forth in TIT 2:13-14. "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
Are we going to be able to sing the song of the Lamb, acknowledging He has redeemed us from all iniquity, when we still cherish sin in our hearts, when we can still have a sin that we can love, when were not in perfect harmony and total unconditional surrender to the will of God? He came to "redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Do you see what things Nicodemus didnt understand? He had a legalistic religion; he had a legalistic repentance. All he was after were the dos and the donts and the letter of the law, but he had never had his heart renewed by the washing of the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. This zeal for good works begins with faith. Everything has its place of beginning. It begins with faith: persuasion by the Word of God as it is applied by the Holy Spirit. Paul says Hes going to "purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Where do these good works begin? They start with faith, persuasion: being persuaded by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God that indeed there is authority in the Word of God, and that we must come in unconditional surrender to it. So zeal begins with persuasion, but then it grows into maturity.
Did you know that grace grows? Did you know that our life is like the life of a tree? You can cut a tree down, and count the rings and tell how many years old it is. Do you know why? It grows as long as its alive. Our faith, growing in grace, our spiritual life, continues to grow as long as were alive. So it begins with faith. It begins by being persuaded, like the prodigal son who "came to himself." He said, "I will arise, Ill go to my father;" he put his faith into action: he arose, and he went to his father. This is where it begins, but watch how it has to grow. As this spiritual life grows, we grow in harmony, and we come more and more in harmony with the will of God. Have you ever thought that a person playing an instrument for the very first time able to join the symphony? No, you do some practicing first. You grow in knowledge and in skills, and as you grow in skills, you become more qualified. As you become qualified through actions, through putting your training into action, you get to where you can play in the symphony. As we grow into maturity, it leads to heavenly harmony.
"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (2 PE 1:5-7) We start with faith, and it begins to grow. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue." Do you know what that word virtue means in the original. It means manliness; it means strength: in other words, by exercise you gain strength, you gain momentum.
"Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge." Grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ by putting it into action. Take what you have learned about the Lord Jesus Christ, and you put it into action. "And to knowledge temperance." What is temperance? It is self-control. We are still going to be burdened with Satans shooting at us his fiery darts of lustful desires, bitter thoughts, and hateful spirit. We learn self-control. We bring these things under Gods control as we grow in grace, as we grow in that harmony.
"And to temperance patience." Do you know what patience means in the original? It means cheerfully enduring your trials: not only gritting your teeth and bearing it, but cheerfully enduring, knowing trials work patience, patience experience, and experience hope, and that hope makes us not ashamed. Then you add "to patience godliness." Godliness means loving God with your heart, your soul, and your mind. It is the first table of the law. Until we understand the second table of the law and have put it in full practice, well never get to where we understand the first table of the law - until we have learned what it is to love godliness. How can we say we love God and hate our brother? "And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." Charity is to think of every person in the best possible light.
This is growing in harmony with the Spirit of Christ, the washing of regeneration. I'm sure that no person will ever be able to sing in the heavenly choir without a little practice. Isnt faith something that we have to put into practice? Dont we have to grow in harmony? We have to keep mellowing our tone into harmony with the will of God, then we can hear it if were out of tune. When Ive sung with people who know how to sing, and I can hear that I sound out of tune I know I need to keep practicing. You keep practicing until you can bring your voice into harmony. When you keep seeing the Word of God and what it requires of us, and you see what His will is through practice, through putting faith into action, you start seeing the miracle performed. So what is it to join in the heavenly choir and putting these things into practice? We are made meet to take part in the inheritance. Were to be made fit in character.
"For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2PE 1:8) When you put these virtues into practice, these things which Nicodemus did not understand, they are decisive in determining whether or not we have the Spirits new birth. "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure [How do you give diligence? By putting these things into practice.]: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2PE 1:9-11)
Our text says, "Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (JOH 3:9-10) Amen
These on-line sermons are a ministry of Gospel Chapel located in Conrad, Montana. We also have a daily devotion. See also our sermon notes.
We pray this sermon has been a blessing to those who read it. If you share this sermon with a friend, please let us know. Thank you.