"Change … change … change! It’s time for a change!"
We’re hearing a lot about "change" in this season of national elections. But after we’ve heard all the political speeches, read all the blogs and listened to all the pundits, we can’t help but conclude that most of it is really more of the "same old same old."
The New Testament book of John, however, has a change story that the daily headlines on cable news can never hope to equal. In John Chapter 3, Jesus reveals an essential truth of life, and if you miss this you miss everything. In these verses Jesus tells us what we must do if we want to see real changes in our lives that go beyond skin deep.
John records a conversation between Jesus Christ and a religious leader named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was famous, honored and celebrated in his country. Yet even though he was such a highly regarded man, he had a secret he may have never revealed to anyone: He felt utterly empty on the inside. Just lately, however, he had been hearing stories about a young rabbi from Nazareth. There was something very unusual about this Man – and the stories of the miracles He was performing were almost unbelievable. Nicodemus decided that he had to find out for himself. He had to meet this new Teacher and ask Him a few questions. The Bible says that he came to Jesus at night, and the two of them had an intimate conversation up on a rooftop under the stars.
This is a meeting that has everything to do with you and me, because it isn’t merely a conversation between two men. It is a conversation between God and man.
There was something missing in this famous, respected man’s life. There was dissatisfaction. And he was looking for a change.
Maybe you find yourself in a similar place – a vague restlessness and dissatisfaction with life as you know it. Maybe you set many goals early on and you thought to yourself, "When I reach this goal, I know I’m going to be happy." And you have reached that goal – perhaps even surpassed it – and still there is a big old hole inside of your heart. Maybe you thought a certain experience would do it … or having a certain material possession … or believing a certain philosophy. And yet it hasn’t. Deep down, you know there has been no change. And you’re wondering why.
This conversation from the pages of the New Testament unlocks the mystery of how to know God, how to go to heaven and how to experience real change in this life. In John’s account, we read these words:
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again"’" (John 3:1-7, NKJV).
I think all of us want change in our lives. We’re rarely happy with the way things are. And we’re intrigued with this idea of being born again, of starting all over again.
Nicodemus may have been famous and perhaps even rich. But there was a loneliness there – a loneliness that got him up out of his bed and set him off on a trek to track down Jesus at night. He had a feeling in his gut that this young rabbi from Nazareth might have some of the answers he was looking for.
In a letter to a friend, the great physicist Albert Einstein once wrote, "It is strange to be known so universally and yet be so lonely." You see, you can be famous and still be empty and lonely. You can be powerful and still have something missing in your life. You can even be religious and moral, and yet there is something not quite right.
What does being born again mean? Sadly, the term "born again" has been pirated, emptied of its meaning, dragged through the gutter and handed back to us, minus its meaning! When someone says they’re born again today we don’t even know what it means. Jesus is essentially saying, "Nicodemus, your religious beliefs aren’t enough. You’ve made it to the top of the heap in the religious world, and it hasn’t helped you one bit. It hasn’t brought you any closer to heaven. You need to be born from above."
Some people will say, "Well, I’m a Christian, but I am not one of those ‘born-agains.’" Here’s a news flash: You can’t be a Christian without being born again. Jesus said, "You must be born again if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven."
Nicodemus was wrestling with this idea. "How can this happen? How can you start over again? How can you change?" And we all wonder about that. How can I change myself? We look at ourselves, and we feel discouraged about changing. We say, "I’ve tried! I’ve tried to be a better person, tried to be kinder, tried to be more loving. But there’s no real change."
Maybe you’ve tried everything and found that you can’t change yourself. But God can change you. The Bible says, "Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT).
Jesus didn’t say, "Change yourself, Nicodemus. Get your act together." No, He said, "You must be born again. You must come to God and say, ‘I have tried to be a better person and can’t do it. I can’t change myself, but Lord, I’m coming to You and asking that You would change me."
You don’t clean your life up and come to God; rather you come to God and He will clean your life up!
And I am telling you on the authority of God’s Word He can and will change you … starting right now.