Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Monday, August eighth. Jesus declared that He is the only way to heaven. Today's podcast gives us the straight talk about salvation. Most of the time when we think about Jesus speaking that He probably spoke to lots of crowds. But if you'll read the New Testament, here's what you'll discover. That some of the most important things Jesus said, He said only to one person.
Only one person. You would think, well, why wouldn't He have said that to a crowd? Somehow in His own wisdom and knowledge and understanding, He knew if He said some things to one person, far and wide it would go. And the conversation that we're going to read about in the Scripture in just a few moments is one of the most important things He ever said.
In fact, it's a truth. It's a statement that He made that everyone needs to hear. And not only just to hear, but to understand. Because the truth is, what He said to this particular person is His explanation of how anyone and everyone gets to heaven. So, I want you to turn, if you will, to the third chapter of John. How does a person get to heaven?
What is the way? And this is an explanation that Jesus gave. In this third chapter, there's a conversation between him and a man named Nicodemus. So, let's read a few verses.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. And this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know that You've come from God as a teacher, for no one can do these things that You do unless God is with him. And he said, Truly, truly, 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?
He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he? Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is 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. Do not be amazed that I said to you, You must be born again.
The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it's coming from and where it's going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus said to him, How can these things be? And Jesus answered and said to him, Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, We speak of what we know and testify of what we've seen, and you do not accept our testimony.
If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that whosoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
Now you say, Well, what in the world does that have to do with getting to heaven? Let's talk about for a moment, let's identify who this Nicodemus is. Nicodemus is a ruler of the Jews in his day. He was a teacher of the truth. He was the kind of man who would certainly be considered a good man because he was not only a teacher, he believed that Old Testament Scripture, and he no doubt attended all of the ceremonies. He was a keeper of the law, not only a teacher, but he demonstrated by the life that he lived.
And it's interesting that Jesus nowhere accuses him or condemns him in any fashion. He was a good man. I'm sure that being a Pharisee, that he stuck to the law absolutely meticulously. He only ate certain things and avoided the others. He tithed his income faithfully. On the Sabbath day, he was in the synagogue teaching in the temple. And so, here's a man who could not be criticized for being unkind, disrespectful, or a man who was dishonest or deceptive.
Everything about him seemed to be right. And yet to this man whose life was so right, Jesus said to him, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
What in the world does that mean? And you see, more than likely many of you have said at some time or the other and talking to someone about your life, Well, I'm a good person. And the way you measure it out, it looks pretty good to you. And so you would say, Well, I am certain I'm going to heaven because I do not do the following things. Or I'm going to heaven because I do the following things, and surely God is a God of love. And if He's a God of love, He'll take me in when I die so I'm not worried about it.
I want to remind you of something. You have forgotten one of the most important things about this whole issue of living and dying and being made acceptable in the eyes of God. And I want to explain that. He says, considering His own life, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh, that is, in His own works and goodness, He says, if anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, that is, if anyone has a right to expect God to accept them on the basis of their conduct, their works, and so forth, He says, I do. And then here's what He does. He gives us the reasons. He says, for example, Circumcised the eighth day of the nation of Israel, a tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and as to the law of Pharisee.
That put Him high up on the level. As to zeal, a persecutor of the church. As to righteousness, which is in the law, I was found blameless.
But whatever things were gained to me, those things I've counted as loss for the sake of Christ. And Paul came to the conclusion, none of that worked. That he would not be made acceptable in the eyes of God because of his good conduct or anything else that he did.
And though he was absolutely committed to being a Pharisee and following the law meticulously, it wouldn't work. And he discovered that in a very difficult way when God struck him down the Damascus Road and spoke to him, transformed his life and made him the greatest missionary in human history. What is it then about this new birth? What is it about this being born again business? Why does he say, I say to you solemnly? He said, don't be amazed that I say to you, you must be born again. And then he begins an explanation.
And what I want you to see is I want you to understand why it is absolutely necessary for you to be born again. Now, let's look at the Word, for example. When he uses this term here to be born again, it also is translated to be born from above.
Now, why would he use that? Well, he uses it here, for example, and in the same chapter in verse thirty-one. He who comes from above is above all.
Same Greek word. That is born again or born from above. Now, when you and I were born, you and I were born physically and we are earthly and we have earthly limitations. When we are born again, we are born from above. It is the work of God in our life, the work of the Holy Spirit. And so, what Jesus did to explain to this brilliant Pharisee who was a good man, very sincere, what He did, He used two physical illustrations. One, for example, was the idea of physical birth and the other was wind.
So, here's what He said. Nicodemus, He says, don't be amazed at this. You must be born again. And so, when we look at that and we ask, well, how can a person be born of the Spirit? How can a person be born from above? In other words, we understand the physical birth.
That's rather simple. And so, when Jesus brought this up, it was a shock to Nicodemus because he knew what physical birth was about. Now Jesus is going beyond the physical into the spiritual realm. He's talking about the kind of person God wants him to be. And the kind of person that God, only God can make him to be.
And so, let's think about it for a moment. In First Peter, if you'll turn there for a moment, and look at this first chapter, and when we talk about being born again, born from above, what is involved? And so, First Peter in this first chapter, and listen to what he says in this third verse. He says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. That is, this born again experience transforms a person's life, places them in a relationship with God that they have, listen, they have an inheritance, imperishable, undefiled, which will not fade away, reserved in heaven for them.
And then, for example, look, if you will, in this nineteenth verse. He says, But with precious blood, as of a lamb, unblemished and spotless the blood of Christ. So, he's talking about how you and I are born again. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.
He takes the Word of God, shows us, reveals to us the truth about ourselves, and then, by His Spirit, brings about a new life within us. And so, when a person says, Well, I'm a Christian, but I'm not a born again one. You can't be such a thing. There's no such thing as a non-born again Christian. Now, here's where a lot of people get tripped up in their understanding.
Somebody says, Well, I don't know why I have to. In other words, why can't I just be a Christian? Why do I have to be a born again one?
Well, listen to me carefully. One of the things that you've overlooked, and one of the things that many people overlook when it comes to becoming a Christian is they simply do this. Well, if I have enough good works and I don't do a lot of things over here that other people do, you mean to tell me that God is not going to accept me and listen to what Jesus said. He said, Most assuredly I say to you, you will not enter into heaven unless you're born again.
Well, what in the world does that mean? It means that the Holy Spirit must give you a second birth, but it is the birth of your spirit. It is the birth of the Spirit of God within you. When you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into your life, and what does He do? He gives you a new life, a new spirit. You are not the same person once you're born again.
You may look the same. Sometimes you may not even act like you ought to. But once you're born again by the Spirit of God, you're born again forever and ever. Now here is the trap.
Somebody says, Well, now wait a minute. I know that my conduct must be acceptable to God. And on and on they go giving us all the things that could have been said about Pharisees and Nicodemus here or the apostle Paul. Here's the one thing you forget. What you forget is you have a sinful nature. When you came into the world, you came into the world with a sinful nature. And if you don't believe that, ask your mother.
She'll tell you. When you were two years of age, when you were three years of age, you were just rebellious at that age. Well, the truth is, every single one of us came into this world with a sinful nature. When Adam sinned in the garden, who represented the whole human race, every single person thereafter came into this world with a sinful nature, been away from God. That's why a little child acts the way they act. And that's why people still act the way they act whether they're thirty or a hundred years of age until God transforms their life. Now watch this.
You and I can fix up the outside. That doesn't transform your inside. Your sinful nature is what makes you lost. Listen, what makes you lost is not whether you drink or whether you use profanity or do a lot of things. That doesn't make you lost. What makes you lost is this. You have a sinful nature on the inside of you.
It has been away from God. It is a rebellious nature. You may calm it down at some times.
And you may be a little better here and a little better there at times. But deep down inside, that rebellious nature mustn't be dealt with. And the only person who can deal with your nature is the Lord God Himself.
You can stop this and start that. But it's your nature. It's on the inside of you. It's who you really are. And so, when Jesus said, you must, I solemnly tell you, Nicodemus, you mustn't be born again. That must be a transformation. You must have a second birth.
Not just a physical birth, but a second birth. It is not what you do. It's what God through His Spirit will do in you.
So, what happens? When a person is born again, the Spirit of God comes into your life to listen, to abide within you, the Scripture says. And in the eighth chapter of Romans, for example, listen what the apostle Paul said to make it very clear to us how important this is.
Here's what he says. He says, for the mind, that is the unbeliever, for example, for the mind, he says, is set on the flesh and it's death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life. That is, a person who lives for themselves apart from God, he says their mind is set on death. A person who is not born again does not have the ability to live a godly, righteous, holy life. God is a holy God and God hates sin. The same God who hates sin is willing to forgive you of your sin and to transform your life and give you a new nature, which is what the Bible is referring to when He speaks about being born from above, being born again, a new life.
There's a change that takes place. Now, you and I have a brand new nature. And this nature is meant toward God. You have this desire to obey Him. Now, if you don't obey Him, it really bothers you, the Spirit of God brings about conviction. You want to do what's right. You want to read the Word of God.
You want to pray. You get out of fellowship with Him, what happens? Spirit of God makes you miserable. That, listen, somebody says, I tell you what, before I became a Christian, I think I got along better than I do now.
Well, the reason they're saying that is what? Their conscience didn't bother them as much because they drank it off and drugs and affairs and this and that and pleasures, sort of quieten it down. Spirit of God comes into your life. You get out of God's will. What does He do? He brings it to the surface to remind you who you are.
You're acting like who you are not. And so, that's the way He guides us and leads us. But when I think about the greatest change and the greatest illustration of the change that takes place in a person's life when they're born again, here's what I think about. You know what a caterpillar looks like, about so long, ugly as they can be. The caterpillar, when he's crawling along the ground, a little puddle of water as big as a quarter.
He's got to make a choice to go around it. Or a little pebble, no bigger than your thumb, got the choice to go around it or crawl over it. Everything is sort of a burden. From here over yonder is forever. Then one day that caterpillar crawls up a tree. Out on the limb, out on the stem, touches itself on relief. And very slowly weaves this tomb around himself.
And we call it a cocoon. That caterpillar died to its old way of life. And now it's a beautiful, golden, black and blue. And what's he doing now? Flying over the pebbles, flying over the water pools, flying over everything. And what's happened?
Whole new life. Now and still are crawling and creeping. He can fly over here and land on this pedal and that pedal and fly over yonder and fly back there.
Listen, while once before he was creeping, now he's soaring. And I want to say to you, no matter how long you've been creeping in sin, depressed, down in the dumps, living off of alcohol, surviving on drugs you think, after maybe one marriage after the other, financial things not going well, are all that may be reversed and you may have all of that stuff. But deep down inside you don't have any peace because you don't have peace with God. Deep down inside something's missing, you're empty.
That place God created for Himself in you is empty. The truth is you're a slave to sin. You want to be free?
Here's how you get free. You can go from caterpillar living to butterfly living. The moment you receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, the new birth experience, something's going to happen. Now all that change is not going to take place instantly. You see, the caterpillar died. And there was some time that looked like it really did.
But all that time something was happening. A transformation was taking place. Because you see, caterpillars don't have wings, right?
They don't have wings. So in this death period, what's happening? There's an evolving going on. And that caterpillar dies to the caterpillar life, transformed by this awesome creation of God.
And now what appeared to be dead is much alive. Will all the changes take place in your life instantly? No. Does that new nature come instantly?
Yes. Then what happens? You and I begin to grow. And we grow. We begin to understand the things of God. And our life changes.
Attitudes, behavior, future, eternal destiny changes. The moment you say to Him, Lord Jesus, I receive You as my personal Savior. That is the only way you're going to get to heaven. Here's what He said, except a man or a woman, be born again. You cannot enter.
You cannot see. You won't even understand the kingdom of God. And it's yours for the asking and believing. And that's my prayer for you. Thank you for listening to part one of The Way to Heaven. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or InTouch Ministries, stop by InTouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of InTouch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
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