Friday, May 31, 2024

Religious, But Lost

John 3:1-16

Many churches have them, and there is a good chance that you know some among your acquaintances.   What am I referring to?  I’m talking about people who are very religious, but who are lost, who are unsaved.  Many people think that if one is religious, if they meticulously follow a set of religious rules or practices, that this will certainly gain them entrance into heaven.  In our Scripture today we read about a man who was extremely religious, but while having a private conversation with Jesus, the Savior instructed him in the only way that one can receive salvation.  Let’s listen in on this conversation.

Sometime early in Jesus’ ministry He received a night-time visitor for a private meeting.  This visitor was a gentleman by the name of Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was an observant, practicing Pharisee who diligently kept the Old Testament Law.  He was also a member of the Sanhedrin.  The Sanhedrin was a Jewish council in Jerusalem that held political, religious, and judicial functions.  They acted like a Supreme Court. The overwhelming majority of both Pharisees and the Sanhedrin did not follow or approve of Jesus.  However Nicodemus had an open mind, along with many questions, and he wanted to talk with Jesus and try to find some answers.  He came by night, though, to keep this meeting private from other Pharisees and Sanhedrin members (vs. 1-2).  Nicodemus was a very good and moral man by the world’s standards, yet Jesus told him that would not get him into heaven.  He needed to be born again.  It’s still the same today.  Going to church, singing in the choir, giving money, doing all sorts of good deeds and works will not gain anyone entrance into heaven.  As Jesus said, you must be born again.

Nicodemus started by paying Jesus a compliment, saying that he believed Jesus was a teacher from God, because He would not be able to do the things that He did unless God was with Him.  Jesus, though, immediately came to the point.  He didn’t waste any time, and told His visitor that he needed to be born again if he wanted to see the kingdom of God (vs. 3).

Jesus repeatedly spoke to Nicodemus about being born again.  What does it mean to be born again?  This occurs when the Holy Spirit leads a person to understand that Jesus Christ died on the cross to provide forgiveness for their sins.  We are born again the moment we accept that Jesus Christ is the only One who can redeem us, and we confess Him as our Savior and Lord.

As Jesus continued, He gave a reference to the type of death that He would suffer, and how it connected with an incident with Moses (vs. 14).  In Numbers 21:4-9 we read of how the people of Israel had been complaining to Moses about God’s care for them, and then the Lord sent poisonous snakes as a judgment.  The Lord told Moses to put an image of a snake on a pole and hold it up.  Whoever was bitten and looked at it was healed.  In the same way those who face the penalty of death because of sin (that includes all of us), can look upon Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and receive eternal life.

In verse 15 we read the word “whoever”.  That word means that any one who does what Jesus said, which is to believe in Him, will receive eternal life.  Not just a select few.  So if you believe in what Jesus did, that is, died on the cross for your sins, you are saved.  This puts to wrong the heretical belief of Calvinistic predestination, which says that some are predestined to heaven, while some are predestined to hell.  “Whoever” means none are excluded from being lost, and none are excluded from being saved.

To believe in Jesus is more than just intellectual knowledge (vs. 16).  One must believe that He is the virgin-born Son of God, who died to save us, and rose again the third day.  If you continue to believe that you can earn your salvation by all of your good works or religious practices you are not born again, you are not saved.  You may be religious, but you are lost.  Nicodemus was in that condition when he came to Jesus.  He later came to faith in Jesus, and was there when He was taken down from the cross, providing spices and ointments for His burial (John 19:38-40).  When you place your faith in Jesus Christ you receive His gift of eternal life.  God paid dearly with the life of His Son, the highest price He could pay.  Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life He had bought for us.

John 3:16 is a very well-known and often quoted verse.  This verse applies to everyone, not just a select few who have been supposedly “predestined”.  This includes you!  Don’t believe Satan’s lies.  There is no one too sinful, too scarred, no one of any particular race or nationality that God can’t or won’t save.  However, they must come to Him and accept Jesus as their Savior.  If you haven’t already, won’t you come to Jesus today?  Don’t go into eternity religious, but lost.

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