The death of a loved one often softens our hearts toward spiritual matters. We begin to consider what life is all about and what happens at the end of life. While our hearts are tender, the family has asked me to present to you a message about God's salvation, to prepare each of us for what lies ahead. To do that, let us consider three thoughts from one of the most famous passages of Scripture, John 3.
You must be born again (John 3:3).
Nicodemus was a religious man who had done so well that he had been chosen as one of the seventy members of the Jewish Sanhedrin. He was also known as the teacher of Israel. And yet, Jesus knew that he needed something more. He needed to be born again. What exactly does that mean? Jesus was referring to an internal spiritual awakening that only God can produce. Just as you have no control over being born, the same can be said of the new birth. It is something God must create inside each of us.
Many people are like Nicodemus today. They are religious, nice, and do good things. And they think that their good deeds will weigh more than the sins they have committed so that God will let them into heaven when they pass from this life. Jesus knew the truth about Nicodemus and the rest of us. We are sinful people who can never please God by our good deeds unless God changes us from the inside out. But how does that happen?
You must believe on Jesus (John 3:14-16).
Jesus reminded Nicodemus of a story from ancient Israel. As Moses was leading the nation of Israel across the desert, they developed bad attitudes toward God and began to complain. God punished them by sending fiery serpents into the camp. The poisonous snakes bit many people and a number of them died. The punishment caused the people to repent of their sin and turn to God for help. They said, "Moses! Pray to God to save us from the fiery serpents!" When Moses prayed, God gave him an unexpected answer. He was told to build a serpent out of brass and hold it up for the people to look at. All those who looked at the brass serpent were healed.
This historical story is very much like what Jesus did for the world. Each of us is traveling through life with a fiery ending in the future. Our sins against God have earned us his wrath and eternity in Hell. And yet God loved us and provided a solution for our problem. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so Jesus was lifted up on a cross. He was taken by wicked men and nailed to a cross to die who didn't realize that this was part of God's plan to save the world. On that cross, Jesus bled and died to pay for our sins. It was there that God punished Jesus for all the sins mankind has ever and will ever commit against God. He didn't deserve that, but he did it willingly for you and me. After his death he was buried in a tomb but three days later, God showed that he had accepted Jesus death for us by raising him from the dead. Do you believe this?
You must make a choice (John 3:19-21).
Jesus told Nicodemus that there are two types of people in the world. There are those who are condemned because they choose to love their sin instead of God. Like a ray of light in a dark room, the light of the Bible shines on their lives, but they won't listen. They continue loving and practicing their sins against God. They turn from the light because they don't want to change. These type of people have no hope. They go through life enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season but have a terrible future in store for them in eternity.
There is another type of person who is different. As the light of the Bible reveals his sin, he responds to God's convicting message. His spiritual eyes are opened and he realizes that his sins are against God. He leaves his sins and turns to Jesus, the only hope for sinful man. And when he believes that Jesus died for him and rose from the grave, God changes him and makes him into a new person who wants to hear the Bible, who wants to please God, and who wants to live for God.
So, the big question today is this. Which person are you? God loves you and sent his Son Jesus to die for you so that you can escape the eternal punishment of Hell. But now that the light of God's word has shined on your sin, will you turn from it and believe? If you do, God will forgive you, cleanse you, and make you a new person from the inside out. If you continue in your sin and unbelief, you will face the consequences some day. But if you turn to God from your sins today, you will not only escape that condemnation but will have a new life that is unlike any other. You will enjoy God's blessing on your life now and a home in heaven in the future. As God works in your heart today, I hope that each of you will turn from your sin and believe in Jesus.