"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 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."
"Jesus bent his eyes upon the speaker, as if reading his very soul. In his infinite wisdom He saw before Him a seeker after truth."
"Jesus . . . said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. "
"He was a strict Pharisee, and prided himself on his good works. He was widely esteemed for his benevolence and his liberality in sustaining the temple service, and he felt secure of the favor of God. He was startled at the thought of a kingdom too pure for him to see in his present state. . . . By virtue of his birth as an Israelite he regarded himself as sure of a place in the kingdom of God. He felt that he needed no change. Hence his surprise at the Saviour's words."
"Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
"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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
"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?"
I also had not known what the new birth was or the necessity of it. In my natural nature I, just like Nicodemus, had been trying to obey God.
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
"By nature the heart is evil, and 'who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.'
I also had not known the need of a death to self and sin and the need of the Holy Spirit to regenerate the heart.
"The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world. This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches. Many, so many, who assume the name of Christ are unsanctified and unholy. They have been baptized, but they are buried alive. Self did not die, and there-fore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ."
How sad! There are so many problems in churches and homes because people don't know how to die to self and be born again. They do not know how to let God's love control them.
Think a moment; were you taught, before your baptism, to leave the sins of the world? Smoking, drinking, adultery, stealing, and so on?
When I ask this question in our churches, usually almost every hand goes up. But when I ask: How many of you, before your baptism, were taught how to die to self and give up the right to all the heart sins - hatred, anger, bitterness, resentment, impatience, irritation, jealousy, and selfishness? few, if any, hands go up. This is our problem! So few have understood how to surrender the heart with all the heart sins.
I was not taught these things either, and as long as I did not commit exterior sins, I thought I was a good Christian. I made excuses for my defects of character; resentment, impatience, and irritation. But when I surrendered my whole heart to God, then He could cleanse me from all my heart sins.
"The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. "
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
"For 'if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'
"Many who profess to follow Christ have not genuine religion. They do not reveal in their lives the fruit of true conversion. They are controlled by the same habits, the same spirit of faultfinding and selfishness, which con-trolled them before they accepted Christ.
"No one can enter the city of God who has not a knowledge of genuine conversion. In true conversion the soul is born again. A new spirit takes possession of the temple of the soul. A new life begins. Christ is revealed in the character."
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
"While the law is holy, the Jews could not attain righteousness by their own efforts to keep the law. The disciples of Christ must obtain righteousness of a different character from that of the Pharisees, if they would enter the kingdom of heaven. God offered them, in His Son, the perfect righteousness of the law. If they would open their hearts fully to receive Christ, then the very life of God, His love, would dwell in them, transforming them into His own likeness; and thus through God's free gift they would possess the righteousness which the law requires. . . . a reproduction in themselves of the character of Christ. "
"Nicodemus . . . searched the Scriptures in a new way, not for the discussion of a theory, but in order to receive life for the soul. He began to see the kingdom of heaven as he submitted himself to the leading of the Holy Spirit."
"We may have flattered ourselves, as did Nicodemus, that our life has been upright, that our moral character is correct, and think that we need not humble the heart before God, like the common sinner; but when the light from Christ shines into our souls, we shall discern the selfishness of motive, the enmity against God, that has defiled every act of life. Then we shall know that our righteousness is indeed as filthy rags, and that the blood of Christ alone can cleanse us from the defilement of sin, and renew our hearts in His own likeness."
"The great burden of every soul should be, Is my heart renewed? Is my soul transformed? Are my sins pardoned through faith in Christ? Have I been born again?"
Did Jesus tell us about others who had the same misunderstanding? What were the foolish virgins needing?