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[John Series No.12] Nicodemus, Who Failed to Obtain Faith

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There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be 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. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:1~7)

You Must Be Born Again

Most people think that spiritual life is simple. Much knowledge is not necessary for spiritual life, but people merely think that their spiritual lives will go well if they do not sin, be good, keep the law, give offerings, and pray. Most people who begin going to church think this way. But as time passes, they begin to feel that they are unable to keep the law, although they initially had thought it would be easy to do. They sin and they fall into sin. Right then, people think, “It will be well if I try harder and put in more effort,” and try harder with all their effort. If they fail again, they say, “Isn’t this how our spiritual life goes? Who’s perfect?” then become negligent. They then have only an outwardly spiritual life. But Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” A man must become born again. What must he do to become born again? Also, how can you tell if you are born again or not? Many people are interested and curious about becoming born again.

The Heart Must Become One

Jesus did not tell the man with the infirmity for 38 years or the woman taken in adultery to be born again, so why did He tell Nicodemus to be born again? It was because Nicodemus believed he was doing well in spiritual life. Nicodemus had never committed evil sins and was admired by people. He thought he could go to heaven if he only did a little more. Therefore Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You cannot see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.” We have many kinds of problems but our biggest problem is the great wall of the heart between God and us. When we think of the story of the prodigal son, the plentiful food of the father’s home had nothing to do with the younger son when he was in the pig pen, starving. The younger son said, “Even the hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger.” Although he was the father’s loving son, the plentiful food of the father’s house could not reach him. This broke the father’s heart, and put the son in pain. Later on, from the moment the younger son returns to the father’s house, all the food of the father’s is the son’s and the good clothes are his, too. What would the father withhold from the son? But this son was in pain because all the things the father would give him were blocked off. The words to be born again can be explained in this manner. It means that our heart must become one with the heart of Jesus. Before a young man and a young woman become married, they meet one another, grow closer, and have the heart to love one another. The hearts flow together and they become one-hearted. When they become one heart, the woman is pained when the man is in pain, and the woman rejoices when the man rejoices. When they first meet one another, looks and outwardly things seem important but as the relationship becomes deeper, the world of the heart becomes much more important. So when the hearts become one, shortcomings in outward appearance are not problems at all. In our eyes, we may think, “Why is that handsome man marrying such a person?” when we see a handsome man marrying a woman who is not pretty in our eyes. But this is through the eyes of strangers. The actual people in the wedding are happy because they can share the heart with one another more than with anyone else. When a married couple divorces, the problem with the heart is bigger than any other. When they face something, if what the husband feels and what the wife feels and thinks are the same, they say, “Honey, why don’t we do this?” “Sure.” Then their relationship is very good. But if they have different hearts, conflicts begin. We lived in much difficulty when we were newlyweds. We began our married life on the second floor of an office. We did not even have a kitchen. My wife would put the charcoal stove on a vacant spot on the first floor, cook the rice, bring it up, and we would eat it. I felt so sorry for my wife, and I once said to her, “Honey, I’m really sorry. Please be a little patient. Will we always be living like this?” Then my wife looked straight at me and said, “Honey, what are you talking about? We could live fine if we were living like the people of the world, but we are living like this for the gospel. What problem is that? I am thankful that we have food today, and I am thankful that you live preaching the gospel.” Right then, how precious and lovely my wife seemed! I was so happy that she was having the same heart as me. The couple’s hearts unite when they understand one another. This is what spiritual life is like.

Had Compassion on Him

Spiritual life is not you becoming well through you doing something for God. When people see other people who work for God, give lots of offering, and pray much, they say, “They are doing well. God will bless them.” But this is absolutely not the case. In the story of the man who fell among thieves in Luke chapter 10, the good Samaritan helped the man who fell among the thieves. He helped him because the heart to have compassion arose in him. “He had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine . . . .” God bestows grace upon us because He has compassion on us. He does not bless us for doing something well. But the world of our heart concerning this is completely the opposite of God. People become satisfied when they give much offering, thinking, “God will be pleased.” After fasting several days, they think, “God will hear my prayer.” When they keep the law well, they think God will be pleased. But the Bible does not say so. When we read the Bible closely, there was no one who was blessed by doing something well themselves. The people who were blessed before Jesus, the woman taken in adultery, the man with the infirmity for 38 years, Zaccheus the publican; were all people who did not do well. Jesus had compassion on them. But we are lost in the thought that, “If I do a little better God will bless me and bestow grace upon me.” Therefore people cannot receive the true grace of God. It means that God’s heart is different from ours. It means there is a difference in thought. It means that the heart is not flowing together. It means that the heart has not become one. This is the problem.

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things and Desperately Wicked

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Why did He say this? It was because Nicodemus, by his own standards, was doing well. He was a scholar in the law, a ruler of the Jews, lived a good life, was admired, . . . . People say that those like Nicodemus are the good and faithful people. But that is not what the Bible says. Why doesn’t the Bible say this? It is because their goodness comes from man. No matter what good we may do, we can never reach the standard of good of God with our actions. With the standard of man, you can say, “I am better than Deacon Lee. I am kinder than Elder Kim.” But God said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” It is telling us that the heart of man is only dirty, evil, and filthy. It means that even those who seem great and perfect in the eyes of man are not so before God.

We Must Receive the Flow to Live

In other words, the younger son cannot become full in the pig pen. He must go to the father’s house. Jesus and our heart must become one and His heart flows in us and ours in His. If this happens, though we have no righteousness, the righteousness inside of Jesus flows into our heart and we become righteous. Although I am not holy, the holiness of Jesus comes upon me, making me holy. Although the younger son was dirty, filthy, and hungry, he could wear the best clothes and become glorious when he returned to the father’s house. He eats the fatted calf and becomes full. The son has to receive now, not his own things, but the things of the father. For this, he has to flow as one with the father. An unborn child cannot eat food but grows well for months in the mother’s womb. It is because he is supplied with nutrients through the umbilical cord. The amazing thing about an unborn child is that he is in extreme safety. The child is surrounded by the amnion. Therefore, even if there is a certain amount of shock to the mother’s abdomen, the shock for the most part is absorbed by the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. In addition, even if it is cold outside, the fluids that surround the child keep him or her warm. And the nutrients taken in by the mother are distributed to the child first. God has designed it this way.

When an unborn child dies, it is usually from a problem in the umbilical cord and the nutrients could not be supplied. Our spiritual life is like this. Just as the unborn child lives through receiving the nutrients from the mother, it is not that we should do good and live righteously, but the goodness of Jesus comes to us to make us good, and the righteousness and the holiness of Jesus must come to us to make us righteous and holy. Because people do not realize this, they try to become good themselves. But the more they labor and try, the more wickedness and dirtiness of man appears. Therefore Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” People who are not born again bring before God the good they did; their own greatness. But the born again people are wonderful and beautiful because they do not bring forth what they have done, but the things of Jesus. Because people do not know this well, they think they can go to heaven if they pray harder, are more loyal, and please God. They think doing so is living spiritual life well. But living the best spiritual life is becoming born again to become one with God.

You Must Also Believe in Things Different from Your Thoughts

When we read the Bible, the thoughts of man never fit with the thoughts of God. When Abraham was 99, God told Abraham, “You will have a son.” Right then Abraham said, “How can a man 100 years old have a son? Sarah is ninety . . . .” He did not accept the words of God. At the time of Noah’s flood, when God said that He would punish the world with water, man was arrogant and said, “God will punish who? He will not. There will just be some rain, and that will be all,” and believed in their own thoughts. God said, “I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people Israel out from Egypt,” to Moses. Moses replied, “God, who am I that I go? How could I do such a thing?” As long as we have lived apart from God, held by the devil, the devil puts thoughts in us different from the thoughts of God; different perspectives. The devil made our thoughts completely different from the thoughts of God. Therefore if we try to believe God with our own thoughts, we can never believe in God. After Jesus told the servants at the wedding at Cana of Galilee to fill the pots with water, He said, “It is wine now, so draw out now and serve.” These were words that did not fit the servants at all. Jesus said to the man with infirmity for 38 years, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk.” Normal people would say, “Jesus, my legs are all withered. How could I walk? It’s nonsense!” Even when Jairus’ daughter died, He went to the home and said, “The child is not dead, but sleeping.” The people said, “What? The child has stopped breathing and is turning cold, and He’s saying that she is sleeping? What is He talking about?” and laughed him to scorn. The words of God do not fit at all with the thoughts of man. Therefore, for us to believe God and be born again, we have to first know that our thoughts are not right. Your thoughts may be fitting for your daily life in the world, but you have to know the fact that they are different from the thoughts of God. Therefore, to truly believe in God, you should not only believe in what is right and fitting to your thoughts, but also the things that are not so. She may seem dead in your eyes, but if Jesus says she is sleeping, believe “She is sleeping.” Although surely it was water poured into the pot, but you have to reach the level of saying, “The Lord is more correct than me. It looks like water to me, but it is wine,” when Jesus calls it wine. If you believe Jesus because it fits, you can believe in anyone like this; it would not have to be Jesus. Believing in Jesus is, whether it fits your thoughts or not, exalting the words of Jesus more than your own thoughts and accepting the words. Then you can have complete faith. We must do this to become born again.

You Must First Be Crumbled Down

In the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus, Nicodemus does not accept the words of Jesus. It is because he cannot understand with his thoughts. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “How can a man of age be born again? Can he enter the womb the second time and be born?” When children grow, many become bigger than their mothers. How could they enter into their mother’s womb the second time and come back out? That was how Nicodemus asked because he could not understand what it was to be born again. We do not understand all the words God speaks. When this is the case, people who believe in God say, “I do not understand but the Word of God is right. I have to accept the Word of God.” This is true faith. Spiritual life is very easy and simple. The people who say, “I cannot do good. Everything I do is wrong. I fail in what I do,” in life and deny themselves; people who know that their thoughts are wrong can easily accept and believe the words of Jesus. But those who think, “I am right. My thoughts are right.” and believe in themselves can never accept the words of Jesus which are different from their own thoughts. Spiritual life is extremely difficult for such people. God has us realize that everything we do is a failure; everything we do is wrong, to teach us true faith. It is because we have to realize that we are wrong to deny ourselves and believe in Jesus. People who believe in themselves accept the words of God when the opinion of Jesus fits their thoughts. But when they differ, they are unable to accept the Word and their hearts do not flow with Jesus. When we realize that we are evil and dirty and crumble ourselves down, when we truly know that we have failed, when we arrive at the position where God could only have compassion on us, we can deny and believe in Jesus even when the thoughts of Jesus differ from ours. Nicodemus could not do this. Because he lived more godly life than others, because he lived with others’ admiration, he thought he was right. He believed himself. Therefore, Nicodemus could only argue with Jesus, but could not have faith. To have true faith, you have to first have yourself crumbled down. If you could believe in yourself, there is no need to believe in Jesus. But if you are truly weak, lacking, wrong, and know that you are only evil, you would throw your thoughts away and accept Jesus Christ by faith. Right then Jesus and you become one-hearted. If you become one heart and the heart of Jesus flows in you, the peace inside of Jesus comes upon you; the holiness and righteousness inside Jesus is upon you; and the power of Jesus comes upon you. Then you come to live a truly blessed and beautiful life.

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