Look at the picture at the top of the post. What do you see? Look at the design of this lobby. Just think to yourself for a moment if it reminds you of anything?
This picture is of the Liberty Hotel, a luxury hotel in the heart of Boston.
The cheapest rooms at this hotel can go for several hundred dollars a night. It features amenities such as concierge services, overnight shoe shines, in room safes, and free valet parking.
What do you see? Is there anything this reminds you of?
Before becoming a luxury hotel, once upon a time, the Liberty Hotel was a prison. Boston’s Charles Street Jail was built in 1851 and was an operational jail until 1990. It served as the county jail for Boston’s Suffolk County. In the nearly 140 years of operation, the jail housed civil rights leader Malcolm X, the notorious 1920s anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti as well as Frank Abagnale, whose life inspired the movie Catch Me If You Can.
The place that once housed criminals is now a place of luxury. It’s the same structure, but internally a totally new creation. Jail cells became bedrooms. Guards replaced with bellhops. Cots replaced with comfortable beds. Prison food has been replaced with gourmet cuisine.
In the Gospel of John, one of the themes that we see is new creation.
We see creation themes in the opening prologue. I’ve written before about Jesus’ first miracle in John 2 when he turns water into wine. Also in chapter 2, we see Jesus compare himself to a temple who would be torn and raised up in three days. Jesus is the new temple.
In John 3, Jesus talks of the new life and new birth that he offers and how a person must be born again.
Regeneration = born again
Good theological term to know for today’s message. Regeneration.
It’s the theological term used to refer to being born again. In other words: born again and regeneration are synonymous.
Being born again is new Spiritual life which causes a person who is dead in sin to be alive to the gospel of Jesus Christ through faith.
It’s a supernatural work of God. All Christians are born again because all Christians have experienced regeneration. There’s no such thing as an unregenerate Christian. That’s not a Christian!
An unregenerate Christian is a vegan who eats meat. In other words, it doesn’t exist.
John 3, verse 1 into 2:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night
So at the beginning of our passage, Jesus is approached under the cover of night by a leader among the Jews, a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Just as a reminder, the Pharisees were people who were highly respected within the Jewish community. Nicodemus would have been a man of stature in his community.
The Pharisees were devout in their lifestyle, their love for the word of God, their study of God’s word. For a man like Nicodemus, he would have had the first five books of the Bible memorized. He was an expert in the law of God.
He would have always been at church, always at Sunday school, always at the Sunday night study, always at the potluck. A stand up guy.
And he comes to Jesus and says to him “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God” and as Nicodemus talks to Jesus, he talks about the signs Jesus has done. Nicodemus says in verse 2: “no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
With a guy like Nicodemus, it would be easy to never question his salvation. Clearly he was walking with God.
Unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.
What is Christianity to you? What is the gospel to you?
Is it that you believe in God? That isn’t being born again. Nicodemus believed in God. Is found in liking Jesus? That doesn’t make you born again either. Nicodemus saw the signs Jesus was doing. Is it in being a good person? Nicodeus was a very moral person. That isn’t being born again.
Jesus says: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
It’s not up for debate. Jesus said you must be born again. He doesn’t say “it’s good to be born again,” or “I really think you should be born again,” or “the best way to live life is to be born again.”
You must be born again.
And Jesus is the one who died so you could have a hope of redemption so his words on the subject are authoritative.
To not be born again is to be dead in sin and not raised to life in Christ.
In the process of being born again, you trust in Jesus as your Lord and savior and you turn from sin to Jesus. When we come to him, there is grace. There is forgiveness for our sins.
But here’s a point that people too often miss. It needs to be a genuine faith in what Jesus has done. And the validation of that sincerity will manifest itself in a life that is transformed by the gospel. And if there is no change in your life, if there is no fruit, if there is no greater love for God, if there’s no appreciation for the work of Christ, if there’s no recognition of the cost of sins for which Jesus went to the cross, then for the sake of your own soul, you need to question if you really believe in Jesus and if you’ve really been born again.
There are so many things that we like to tie to regeneration. For some, they want to look at baptism. Baptism doesn’t confer regeneration to you. Baptism doesn’t make you born again if you don’t have faith. Baptism doesn’t mean anything if you don’t ultimately believe in the triune God in whose name you were baptized.
Some people like to tie faith to their family. Mom and dad are Christians, or were Christians. Grandpa was a Christian. That’s how you were raised. That’s a wonderful blessing. But that doesn’t mean you’ve been born again. The faith has to be your own.
For others, it might be the Sinner’s Prayer. “I asked Jesus into my heart.”
But did you believe it? Did you place your trust in him? If there’s never been any evidence in your life that Jesus is in your heart, is he really? Don’t go through life thinking “I said this prayer one time,” or “I got baptized one time,” and that that’s all that matters if you’re living a faithless life.
A person who’s never had faith still isn’t saved. And empty words don’t change that. And water doesn’t change that. The only thing that can change that is recognizing your inability to live up to a God who is absolutely perfect and holy. And that while you could not live up to it, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for you (Romans 5:8).
It’s not some inconsequential change. It is a monumental miraculous work of almighty God.
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