Not Many Wise -

Faith and spirituality in a modern world


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Ticket to heaven?

An old tram ticket.
An old tram ticket.

Is there such a thing as a ticket to get to heaven?

No, tickets are not allowed.

Can you pay at the door? No!

He (Nicodemas) came to Jesus at night and said;
‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs You are doing if God were not with him.’
In reply Jesus declared,
‘I tell you the Truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ “

By looking at the verses from John 3 above, we could say that all places for heaven are reserved for family members only.
So it doesn’t matter what relationship you have with a particular family member, only those born into the family can go to heaven.

But Nicodemus believed he had got his credentials to go to heaven, because he was important within the community and he was religious as well.
That is why Jesus confronts him with:

I tell you the Truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

How about us?
Do we hold onto certain credentials like that, for getting into heaven?
Jesus presses home his point:

I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit”

Notice there is no half way house, no patch up job.
Why is that? Because:

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit”

The Apostle Paul expands on this:

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them”
1 Corinthians 2:14

There is a massive gap between human nature (flesh) and Spirit.
As is the chasm between here and heaven.
Even if we do the best we can, it just won’t get us across the chasm.

Spirit gives birth to Spirit.”

Notice the author of this change is the Holy Spirit. To be born again, is to be born of the Spirit, to be born from above.
Jesus describes the Spirit by joining Him to two elements:

[1] With water:

No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

Water cascading down over a waterfall.
Water cascading down over a waterfall.

This could be talking about water baptism, but more probably, Jesus is describing the Holy Spirit working like water.
John the baptist spoke of the baptism of the ‘Holy Spirit and with fire’ (Matthew 3:11)
The Holy Spirit and the fire were not two separate things.
It meant that the Holy Spirit came like fire.
So Jesus probably was saying that the Holy Spirit works like water.
Water cleanses, by washing away the filth.
In the letter to Titus (3:5) Paul says:

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Paul talking about fleshly people says:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God
1 Corinthians 6:11

In Ezekiel 36:25 where the new birth is foretold it says:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you.”

[2] Describing the Spirit like the wind:

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it’s sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:8

He blows not to our command. He comes when, and in what measure He pleases.

The wind can blow with power and we see the effects of trees broken in a particular area.
So with the Spirit, a stubborn will of a person may be broken, some mourning for sins, a life turned around to now follow Jesus, someone once a blasphemer now crying out ‘Father God!’
These are the sounds of the Spirit moving.

Nicodemus says: ‘How can these things be?’

He kind of believes that Jesus is a Teacher from God, but it seems no clearer to him.
Some of Christ’s teachings help him, but he has to dodge around the more difficult bits.
Many people today may receive some comfort from attending a church, but what a dangerous place to be, if they just submit to what they please.

George Whitefield preaching to a crowd in the 18th Century.
George Whitefield preaching to a crowd in the 18th Century.

There’s no half way ground, Jesus Christ says ‘You must be born again’.

George Whitefield, a great preacher in the 18th century revival was asked why he based so many of his sermons on ‘You must be born again’.
George Whitefield, with a twinkle in his eye said: ‘Because, you MUST be born again!’
There is no other way into the Kingdom of God.

Some people foolishly say ‘I will find out when I die, but for now, I will do the best I can’.
But why do that?
Jesus has come from heaven, so He knows what heaven is like and how to get into it! He said:

I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven – the Son of Man.”
John 3:11

(Jesus often referred Himself to the Son of Man.)
Here is a mystery; God’s Son descended from heaven, but the Godhead cannot change places, they are all everywhere at the same time, all of the time and outside of time.
The persons of the Godhead are Spirit, without physical bodies.
But Jesus was given a body, so that as the Son of Man He was talking with Nicodemus, but as God He is everywhere, but particularly in heaven.

The crucifixion of Jesus on a cross.
The crucifixion of Jesus on a cross.

God could not be crucified, nor shed blood, but because He lowered Himself to be the Son of Man it is recorded in 1 Corinthians 2:8 that the rulers:

crucified the Lord of Glory”

and in Acts 20:28 that He purchased the church:

with His own blood.”

What a mystery, what a wonder!
We now move onto the heart of the whole gospel. Paul says:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ came into the world to save sinners.”
1 Timothy 1:15

The great design of His coming into the world was to save people from death.
And there are 2 aspects to this:

  1. Everyone needs healing from an incurable disease called sin. Someone in that state can be described as a dead person.
    But Christ came to save us from this death.
  2. Everyone needs to be pardoned from the condemnation and guilt that hangs over all people.

The whole human race is sitting on a spiritual death row waiting for the final death sentence.

But Christ came to save us from this death. Jesus begins to explain these two aspects of salvation to Nicodemus. Verse 14;

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”

How interesting Jesus refers to this incident in Moses’ life.
The people sinned, and God in response to this sin sent venomous snakes to bite them and many died.
Other translations call them ‘Fiery Serpents’.

I will look at this further in a following post, but for now I’ll finish with this from John 3:

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s one and only Son.”

Images: thanks to The Pictorial Dictionary published by The Educational Book Company, London

Peter Reason

January 2012

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