John 3: “Born From Above/Born Again”
Sunday morning worship, January 14, 2018
Sometimes in life we forget where we came from. Sometimes in life we don’t even know where we came from. So whether we’ve forgotten or not, or maybe never even knew, I want to say I can’t preach from John 3, and especially from John 3:16, without thinking of our heritage as Evangelicals, without thinking of how we became a movement, and especially without thinking of Rev. Billy Graham. Let me take you back to 1957, back to the world into which I was born, and then follow Rev. Graham as he brings us to the present. On July 7, 2017 Rev. Graham was 99 years old. He has been battling Parkinson’s Disease since 1993.
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit…You must be born again…(3:6-7)…Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him…(3:14-15)…16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 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.”
We like Nicodemus need to understand these things. We can get lost in trying to figure out how the winds of the world are blowing. We need to hear the voice of God over the sound of the winds that carry both the hopes and the desperation of our world. We need to get lost once again in the Word of God.
1 Peter 1:23-25 tells us that we “have been born again, of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God…the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached to you.” This verse, John 3:16, in Rev. Graham’s words, contains the entire gospel, the “word that was preached to you.” And as I stand before you today, it is because the gospel message, maybe even John 3:16 because I, like many of you, can’t remember the exact message that led to my repentance and rebirth, but I know it was a message from an Evangelical pastor who preached the word of God to me. That is the heritage into which I was born. That is the heritage upon which I stand. That is the message I seek to proclaim. My message is not my message, it is the word of the Lord that endures forever.
John 1:12-14 tells us that all of us, anyone, everyone who “did receive him, to those who believed in his name, God gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” God’s very own Name, all that He has always been, all that He is, all that He will ever be now belongs to me. The wonder of John 3:16 is that I bear the name of God. I am a son of God. The Apostle John (1 John 3:9-10) goes on to tell me that if my rebirth is real, if I really am a child of God, born of God Himself, then I will not continue to sin. This will be true of me because I will love my Father whose name I bear so much I will not want to disgrace that Name by my actions. And as my character grows to reflect more and more of my Father’s character, I grow ever closer to all of you in love because “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). And as my love for my Father and each of you grows ever stronger, richer, deeper, and fuller, I will want to keep all of God’s commands. “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:3-5).”
Like Rev. Graham, like all of you, I have a hope for America. Toward the realization of that hope, I pledge to let more and more of my character reflect the character of God as the Holy Spirit continues His work in my life. I pledge to continue to find my answers and draw the strength I need to overcome the temptations of this world through studying and applying the word of God in my life. I pledge to learn to know my Father more richly and intimately by continuing to seek Him in prayer. The answer the Evangelical movement has to offer America is not one of might in numbers delivered on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The answer the Evangelical movement has to offer America is not one of wealth and power by which America can exert its influence over the nations and rulers of the earth. The answer the Evangelical movement has to offer not just America but whoever will believe in Jesus is an everlasting answer. Our answer is victory over sin and the presence of a Shepherd every day of our lives.
Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.