By far, one of my most favourite moments in the day is the sight of the sunrise in the morning.
The image I see here is where, the very object that gives life to this planet appears to rise up above the horizon every morning and bring light to a dark world.
In nature, light always seems to overcome darkness, and along with this light comes life, joy and hope for this new day to come.
In the story in John Chapter 3, we hear of a man – Nicodemus – who thought he was seeing the whole picture, he was a good man, and an important leader in his community, but actually, he was lost in the darkness.
New Birth by the Spirit – v1 – 8
He comes to Jesus at night-time and compliments Jesus as being a Godly teacher saying: “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”
Though Jesus bluntly responds that “Unless a person is born from above, from heaven, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”
“How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”
Clearly Jesus doesn’t mean physically being reborn, he is actually talking about how, in order to see God’s mighty Kingdom, we need to somehow be born again, and born of the spirit.
Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.”
“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”
We can’t just think our way into God’s Kingdom, or feel like we are, we’ve got to actively understand that we can freely accept this new birth by the spirit.
Only by this new acceptance and understanding can we start to enter into God’s Kingdom, his Kingdom meaning the reign of God, his awesome ruling plan for the world.
Eternal life by the Son – v9 – 15
From here on, Jesus changes his tone quite a bit as he continues:
“You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing second-hand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions.”
In order for us to actually understand what Jesus is actually trying to say to Nicodemus, and to us here, we’ve got to be open to believing and trusting in what he’s said.
The next few verses in this encounter describe where Jesus is starting to refer to himself as the Son of Man, now the Jews at the time would have had a better idea as to what Jesus was referring to here, but he then gives them an example.
Just as when the Israelites years earlier had turned their back on God, and then God accepted their cries by giving Moses their leader a snake to save and heal them.
In the same way, Jesus says here that he (the Son of Man) must be lifted up on the cross to die, and in dying and resurrecting, this would save everyone who has turned their backs on God and sinned if they turned back to him.
Reading on we see that this happened so that in v15 “everyone who believes may have eternal life in him”, they might be able to spend forever with God, in his presence.
Saving Grace by God the Father – v16 – 18
Next, in verse 16 it says “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”
What an incredible message, that God loves the world, in the original Greek it was written as ‘kosmos’ literally he loved everyone who ever lived so incredibly much, the whole human race!
You see, in the beginning, we hear about God creating the universe and everything in it, he creates animals, plants, humans, and he says that all are ‘good’.
We hear how though, in order for us to have a relationship with him, we must be given the choice to love him, the choice to walk in the light, to do good, to follow his incredible plan for our lives, or the choice to reject God, to seek the darkness and to hide away from him.
A few pages later and we hear how right from the beginning humans decided to choose their own path and it left them feeling ashamed no longer able to have this perfect relationship with God without a punishment somewhere along the way.
There is no other escape from this death that we deserve, punishment for the things that we have done against the goodness of God, things that no good deeds could ever outweigh.
This is where we hear about Jesus stepping in, in this passage in v16 we hear how God loved each of us so much, that even though we chose to reject him, we’ve all chosen to do our own thing and not follow his awesome plan for our life.
Even though we chose to sin, God knew that the only way to have a relationship with us again meant sacrificing his very own precious beloved son, and the son was sent by God so that whoever amongst us, believed in him, and in what he had done for us, would be given this incredible gracious gift of eternal life with him.
In Romans 6:23 later on in the Bible, we hear that “For the wages [and the cost] of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in [Jesus].” And then also that “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by [him].”
But instead, we have been given this grace! What is it? This incredible gift of grace that God has given us, something that years people have struggled to understand and accept.
One simple understanding that I like is that:
Justice is when you get what you deserve,
Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve,
And Grace is when you get what you don’t deserve.
John piper describes grace as being not simply leniency when we have sinned but grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.
God has given us this very gift of grace, forgiveness from our wrongdoings, our sins, and a gift of life forever in his presence completely free of charge, no religious rituals or destructive rules, he just wants our faith, our absolute faith in him, and through following Jesus we can know this grace for ourselves.
The Verdict – v19 – 21
We end this passage with our choice
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
In John 1 a few weeks ago, we heard about how Jesus was also called the light, in fact, the life-light, the light to all mankind that brings life, Jesus this life-light came into the world as flesh (as a human being) amongst us.
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
When we choose to believe in him, in what Jesus has done for us in dying an excruciatingly painful death on the cross, we know that we have nothing to fear, we can seek to be open, in the light.
For me, light gives us a glimpse of what life is like, as beams of light stream into the sky as the sun starts to arrive below the horizon, an incredible feeling grips my heart.
It’s each of our choices now and in the future to accept what we’ve heard, to believe that what Jesus has done is true, and receive forgiveness that only God can give, or choose to live in the darkness not accepting the evidence laid out before us. There’s no neutral side.
“Jesus did not come to a neutral world with the result that some people moved from neutrality to be anti-Jesus, and others moved from neutrality to be pro-Jesus. Nobody was neutral. And nobody is neutral. We have all sinned. We are all guilty. We are all perishing. Therefore, we are all under God’s righteous wrath. And we are already condemned.
Whether we stay that way depends on how we respond to Jesus. He came not to make neutral people into pro-Jesus people, but to make guilty people non-guilty, condemned people not condemned, and to make dead people eternally alive. God does not owe anybody acquittal or life. That Jesus came to offer it, and that some accept it, is all undeserved grace.” – John Piper
The choice is yours and mine, I’ve made the decision to walk in the light with God for the rest of my life, because I’ve weighed up the evidence, I’ve seen what God can do in healing and forgiving us, and it’s incredible.
But now the choice is yours, what’s it going to be?