John 3 1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 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. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 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? 5 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. Surely, everyone was curious about this upstart preacher. He had appeared suddenly out of nowhere when John was baptizing beyond Jordan. John had greeted him with a startling appellation: " Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Obviously this revivalist had a high opinion of the young man. If this were not enough, the young preacher arrived at the wedding of Cana with his disciples and turned six waterpots of water into wine. Not your typical religious charlatan. Jesus then proceeded to Jerusalem to keep the passover. This was where he really grabbed the attention of the establishment. He drove the money changers out of the Temple. He referred to the Temple as his Father's house. Jesus challenged the religious leaders to destroy the temple; and he said he would raise it up in three days. It sounded like the rantings of a fanatic. But then again, there was that miracle in Cana........ Nicodemus was one of Judaism's religious elite, and he was going to get to the bottom of who this upstart preacher was. He approached Jesus, apparently hoping to find out more about those miracles, and was greeted with a confusing and startling statement. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Though he was one of Israel's religious leaders, he was thoroughly confused when Jesus began to discuss the essential spiritual issues of life. Many today, even those with a background in the Church, are just as confused about the issue of salvation as was Nicodemus. What is salvation? To define what salvation is, it might be wise to clarify what it is not. Salvation is not religion. Nicodemus was not short on religion. John tells us that he was one of the Pharisees. Thus, he was one of the religious authorities that the nation looked to for guidance in the spiritual realm. If anyone should have known what salvation is, it should have been Nicodemus. Nicodemus belonged to an order of men whose history went back centuries. Centuries earlier, the Pharisees had been a 'revival' movement in Judaism which stressed faithfulness to the Law of God. Paul referred to them as the strictest sect in Judaism. Acts 26:5 " after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee." So Nicodemus and his compatriots were not at all lacking when it came to religion. These 'lily white' church folks did not drink beer, did not chew tobacco, did not curse, and they did not neglect the duties imposed on them by their faith. Yet still, something was lacking. Jesus told Nicodemus that he still needed a new birth if he was to enter the Kingdom of God. Salvation is not good works. Many folks today are tired of the outward trappings of religion. And in many ways I am with them in this. We often mistake the ritual and singing and sermons for the real substance. So many folks want to reduce religion to simply doing good by others. Many believe if they live a fairly decent life, do not harm anyone else by their actions, and have a social conscience, that they will find God's approval for their lives. Yet, neither is this enough to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul tells us that our salvation is not by our good deeds. Paul tells us that out salvation is not of our works in Ephesians 2:8,9. "by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast." You see, no matter how many good deeds you do, you are still a breaker of God's laws. Paul tells us in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Good works cannot save you. Because no matter how many good deeds you have, you are still a violator of God's commandments. James tells us that we are accountable to all of God's laws. James 2:10 "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." A man may commit a serious crime and live many years after as a model citizen; yet when the law catches up with him, they will not congratulate him on the model life he lived after committing the crime. They will hold him accountable for his breaking the law, no matter how upright his life was after breaking it. It is the same with God. Nothing we do can undo the sin we have committed in His sight. What then, is salvation? Salvation is purchased by blood. Jesus pointed Nicodemus to his upcoming death. John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up". In the cross, Jesus bore our sins in his own body for us. Hebrews 9:28 tells us, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Christ took our sins on himself, and thus satisfied the requirements of God's laws against the sinner. His death purged our sins. Hebrews 1:3 "when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Salvation is a new birth. Jesus drew Nicodemus' attention to the fact that just as one enters this world by birth, one must also be born into God's Kingdom. In your first birth, you were born into sin. Your birth was no good. So, you must be born again to meet the qualification to enter God's Kingdom. The new birth produces a new man. Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." This new man may enter God's Kingdom. Salvation is received by faith. Jesus went on to tell Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Salvation is not earned by our religion, or our works. It is simply by faith. I do not have to continually labor and wonder if I have done enough to please God. I do not have to live with uncertainty regarding my future. My salvation is given to me of God simply by faith. Romans 5:1,2 says, " Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God". How much faith is required? Only enough to call upon Christ for salvation. Romans 10:13 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Again, John 1:12 says, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name". Friend, have you received Christ?