Well good evening everyone, let me thank you for the warm words of welcome from your Pastor on behalf of the whole church here in Kilkeel. It's a great privilege to be here with you this evening, and to be labouring with you in this mission in the Gospel. I trust, and hope, that as we go night by night preaching the word of God, that the Lord will be pleased to save people by the grace of God.
I want you to turn with me to a very well known passage of Scripture, it's a passage that I have preached on many times - and I haven't preached that many times, really - but John chapter 3 is probably known to most of you in this gathering this evening. It is a story of another individual who the singers were singing about, who the Lord met. It's a great thing to meet the Lord - I wonder have you ever met the Lord? This man met the Lord, and I believe that the Lord is going to meet with someone this evening. Now, it's up to you what you're going to do with the Lord - whether you're going to trust Him, whether you're going to accept Him or reject Him. This man accepted the Lord.
In verse 1 we read this: "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. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life".
Let's take a moment of prayer: Our Father in heaven, we come to Thee in the name of the Lord Jesus, and we need Thee. No-one else will do - David Legge means nothing, Kilkeel Baptist means nothing, we need God, we need God the Holy Spirit. I need Him to fill me, the sinner in the pew here this evening needs Him to save them. So God, we pray that Thou wilt come and do a work of salvation in this place. In Jesus' name, Amen.
In John chapter 3 the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to this man named Nicodemus. Now, I want you to notice this: three times the Lord Jesus Christ says something to this man. Now you might say that if the Lord Jesus Christ came to you one evening in the middle of the night, and you were awakened out of your sleep all of a sudden - and at the bottom of the bed there stood Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and He said something to you once, I think you would be sure to listen to Him, wouldn't you? But Jesus Christ came to Nicodemus, and in his middle of the night He said something to him three times! Now if Jesus says something to you once, my friend, listen. If Jesus says something to you twice, you'd better listen! And if He says three times - and He's going to say it to you this evening - you've got to listen to what He is saying!
Here is what He says, listen: 'Truly, truly, I say unto thee, Ye must be born again'. Have you ever heard those words? I remember the last time I preached on these words, there was a man waiting at the door for me. He shook hands with me and pulled me over to him, and I knew he was going to say something that I wasn't going to like. He said to me: 'Do you think you used your time well there this evening?'. I said: 'What do you mean?'. He says: 'Well, you repeated over and over and over again 'Ye must be born again, Ye must be born again'', he said, 'There's a whole lot of other things that you could have said in that half an hour' - maybe it was a wee bit over half an hour! I said to that man, and I say to you: 'Do you know why I did that? Because ye must be born again'.
Do you know that? That's the essence of the Gospel. I'm not asking you do you understand what it means, I'm asking you have you ever heard it? Have you ever shut your ears and your eyes and your heart to this fact: that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, over and over again and again said to this man, 'Listen, listen to me in whatever I say, Ye must be born again'. Well, are you? Are you? You say: 'Well, I don't understand what it means to be born-again'. Well, I'm going to explain to you, with the help of God, what it means.
'In the beginning', we read this, the word of God says, 'God created the heavens and the earth'. I know half the world doesn't believe that any more. They'll tell you that you can go and shake hands with your grandfather, or your great-grandfather, or your ancestor way down the line - some chimpanzee, or some wee cell in the middle of this pool of mud. They tell us that we come from the monkeys, and we come from all sorts of things, but we definitely don't come from God! My friend, the word of God says: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. So what is man? If God created us, what is he? The Bible says that man is created in the image and the likeness of his Creator God. That simply means this: the first man could know God, could know the things of God, he had a will that delighted to do the things that God wanted him to do, he had a heart that loved the things that God loved. But we read in Genesis chapter 3 that the devil came in!
Has that ever happened to you? The devil has come in, hasn't he? He came in here in the garden, and God told them: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, don't eat of that one: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die'. What did Satan say? 'Go on, you'll not die at all'. They took, and they ate, and they disobeyed God - and it says that from that moment that sin meant that death came upon all of creation. From that moment on men were no longer in the exact image of their Creator God, but the word of God says: '...and Adam begat a son in his own image'.
That's what big theologians call 'the fall'. Men and women have fallen from the glory where God had created them. He had created them to be like Him, to walk like Him, and talk like Him, and do all things like their Creator God - but they fell and were marred, and God's beautiful design and picture was defaced. That's what the Bible means - have you ever heard these words: 'We are born in sin and shapen in iniquity'? That's what the Bible means when Paul says: 'There is no difference, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'. That's what the Bible means when Isaiah, seeing himself and the children of God in Israel, said: 'From the tip of the head to the tip of the toe they were covered in putrifying, oozing sores of sin'.
I wonder do you see yourself that way? Do you know what the gospel of Jesus Christ is? It's how the image is, that stamp of God upon His creature, can be restored. The Bible teaches that the only way that can happen is that the Holy Spirit of God comes back into man and back into woman, and restores the life of God into those that are spiritually dead. The Bible calls it the 'new birth' - new life! To be regenerated, to have the life revived within your soul, to have the Spirit of God come into your heart and breathe new life into everything that is dead. The Lord Jesus Christ says to you, my friend, as He said to Nicodemus: 'Except a man be born-again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'.
If I was to ask you all to put your hand up - whoever wants to see the kingdom of God - I'm sure that everybody's hand would be up, wouldn't they? Who wants to go to heaven? Everybody puts their hand up, don't they? Oh, they all argue about the way they get there of course - I'm not talking about that - but there is a desire within their soul, within their heart, that when they die they will go to be with God, whoever their god may be. Jesus Christ - do you think He's a liar, do you? Stand up if you think He's a liar. Do you think He was a lunatic? Well, be a man about it, or a woman about it, and stand up and say to everybody here that He was mad, He was off His head! Well, if He was neither, He says to you: 'If you're to see heaven one day, my friend, if you're to get to Glory, and if you're to get with all loved ones that have gone before you that were saved - ye must be born-again'!
What is it to be born-again? Well you'll know, better than I do coming from the city, that every creature that is born into this world has a nature after its own kind. In other words, you can't train a bird to crawl, and for the same reason you can't train a snake to fly, because they are true to their nature. A caterpillar crawls, and a bird flies. But one day when we watch, perhaps for weeks and months, a caterpillar crawling along the ground - and suddenly one-day it sprouts wings and it flies, what do we say? 'Boy, that's a clever caterpillar. Look what that caterpillar has accomplished, that caterpillar must have read a book on flying! Look what has happened!' - you don't say that, why? Because it's its new nature: caterpillars change from caterpillars to butterflies. You could say it's been born-again, couldn't you? It's been born again! It's a new life!
Let me say this: do you see if you're a sinner - and you're all sinners, the Bible says - but if you're not born-again, if you're not saved, you might as well try and breathe life into an old dead Mummy in a tomb or a pyramid in Egypt, you might as well try and talk with your foot, and hear with your nose, as try and be born-again of yourself! Have you got that? It's impossible! Water never rises above its own level, sure it doesn't? Jesus says: 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh', and there are hundreds of people across our land and they think because they were born a Protestant, or because they were born a Roman Catholic, people all over the world who believe because they were born Muslim or whatever that that is their ticket to heaven. Listen to Jesus: 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh' - no good - you need to be born of the Spirit.
You can cultivate it, you can look after it, you can dress it up, you can refine yourself - your soul - whatever it may be. You can send it to church, you can make it religious, but the word of God says that you can never breathe life into your soul. You might as well try and lift yourself up by your shoelaces, as to generate new life, to bring salvation into your soul, and to one day go and be in the kingdom of God - you can't do it. I know there's people rushing around everywhere, and people will do anything, give anything, just to try something to become spiritual, to become accepted by God. I know people in the south of Ireland, and they cut themselves, and they walk up rocks on bare knees, bleeding. They pray and they fast, and they do all sorts of things to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said - oh, that men and women here would listen to Jesus! - 'Except a man be born-again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'.
Do you know what you need? You need to be born-again. Some of you farmers will know what a pig is - that's just about as far as it goes for me, I could tell you one whether it's on the plate or on the farm, but I know a pig. You can take a pig, can't you, and you can put it in the bath and give it a good scrub. You can take it and put deodorant on it, and perfume, and talcum powder, and you can give it a lovely name. You can perfume it and then dress it up in a beautiful tuxedo and fancy bow tie, and you can bring it to the dinner table and set it down. You can talk to it and say all manner of things about it, but when it starts to eat - what is it? It's a pig. That's the nature of the thing. No matter what you do to it, it doesn't make any difference. It's still a pig!
My friend, maybe you go to church, maybe you say your prayers, maybe you read the Bible, maybe you're faithful and give to the poor, maybe you're good to your neighbour and you do all manner of things - and you're hoping that one day, when you get to Glory, and God will be there or Peter at the pearly gates, and he weighs up your good and your bad, that you'll just slip in! Not a bit of it! For 'Except a man be born-again, he'll never be in the kingdom of God'.
Peter says that we must be partakers of the divine nature. Do you understand that? What that means? You need to be born of God! God needs, in a meeting like this, or at home when you open the word of God, and when you look to God and pray to God, and when you seek God - God has to come and breathe new life into your soul! God needs to come, and God needs to save your soul. God needs to change you to be a new person, because you know as well as I do - and your wife or your husband knows - that, no matter how much you try, you can never change yourself!
Have you ever seen an apple tree that yields two types of fruit? Have you? One side is apples and the other side is pears? You can get that - what it simply is is a branch has been cut off the apple tree, and a few shoots have been cut off a pear tree, and what the gardener does is: he cuts a slit in the little stump of where the branch on the apple tree was cut off, and he shoves those little pear shoots down that stump. He puts beeswax on it and a bit of cloth, and in a year or two's time one half of the tree is covered in apples, and the other half is covered in pears. Do you know what he has done? He has put in a new nature. My friend, you need Jesus Christ! Do you hear me? You don't need a church, you don't need a preacher, you don't need any denomination, you need Jesus Christ! You need Him to come to you, you need Him to save you, because Jesus Christ was the one who was born into this world so that you might be born-again.
Did you know that? You know the Nativity story at Christmas of how He was born into that manger. You sing about it and you read about it, but do you realise why He was born there? He was born that you might be born-again! He was born so that He might grow, so that He might mature, and one day so that He might be taken by wicked and cruel hands of His own creatures and stripped naked. They spat upon Him, they mocked Him, they bruised Him, they pulled the hairs from His beard, and they whipped His back - the word of God says - until it was like a ploughed field. They beat His face so that He was marred more than the face of any man - He was almost unrecognisable as a human being!
Why did God do that? Why did God send a wee baby into the manger for something like that to happen? Did He make a mistake? Did He turn away His eyes for a couple of moments, and then man and the devil came in and did something that He didn't know about, behind His back? Not a bit of it! Oh yes, man tried all that he could to kill the Lord Jesus. The devil did all that he could throw at Him there at the cross to make sure that this Messiah, the Son of God, would die and never live again or trouble the devil. But, my friend, listen to what the prophet Isaiah says - listen now: 'It pleased the Lord to bruise him...for he hath put him to scorn...he hath laid on him the iniquity of us all'.
Did you hear that? All our sins were laid on Him - your sin my friend! Your drunken nights, your abuse to the wife, your running around, your fiddling the books, all those things that God calls sin, and that God one day will condemn in hell - all of that was taken off you and put on Christ there at the cross! He suffered my hell, He suffered my punishment, He stood in my place, He took the rap for me, He became my substitute! The amazing thing is this: He did it for you, do you know that? Has anybody ever told you that? You see, Jesus said to the same man that He said: 'You must be born-again', He said, 'Moses, the same way as he lifted an old serpent up in the wilderness, and everybody looked' - what happened there was the story that a plague had gone through the whole nation of Israel, and they were bitten all over. They were dying, and they were wriggling around in the dust with the poison going through their bloodstream - and they didn't know where to look, or who would help them. They were dying! Moses was told by God to go and get this brazen serpent, stick it on a pole, stick it in the middle of the desert. He said: 'Look, if you look to that pole, you'll live!'.
There's people here - and I know it - and they're squirming around in their sin in the dust and the dirt. Oh, they love their sin - but it's a love-hate relationship, they wish they could get rid of it, but they can't live with it and they can't live without it. They're lying there squirming in agony, and Jesus Christ is on the cross, and He's crying out to them: 'Look and live! Look and live!'. There with His puffed, bleeding eyes that men had beaten, He looks down upon you this evening. All that He is looking for is that you, as you squirm there in your own sin and degradation, in your own dead nature, is that you turn your head where you are and look at Him! Look at Him dying for you! Look at Him, in love, shedding His blood for you, taking God's wrath and exhausting it for you!
He wants you to turn from your sin, my friend. He wants you to come by faith and look and live! Oh, you can't do it any other way. If I was to go home this evening and walk through the back door, and there's the kitchen clock and it has stopped. If I was to take it and say to my wife, Barbara: 'Do you think if we put in the living-room it would start?', and I go and put it above the mantelpiece, but it's still not working. You take it down and then you go into the hall and try it there, and you swap at all around the place - that's what people are doing with their souls! They take it to this church, the other church, they take it to this belief, or the other thing - and they don't realise that it doesn't make a rap of difference for: 'We must be born-again'!
My friend tonight, what are you going to do? What are you going to do? Are you going to trust Him? I believe this message is for someone! Are you going to say: 'Yes Lord Jesus, I realise that I need to be born-again of the Spirit of God. I can't change myself, I can't take myself on some kind of supernatural ladder to heaven through doing good works. Lord Jesus, You're going to have to make me born-again, You're going to have to save me!'. Have you realised that? Have you realised that you need to look to Calvary, where Jesus died for you because He loved you? If you've realised it, do you know what you need to do? You need to turn away from your sin, you need to repent - that means turn away, and turn to God and be done with your sin. You need to come by faith and say: 'Lord, I'm trusting in the cross alone, and what You did at the cross alone - nothing to do with me - I'm going to trust the blood that saves me!'. You need to ask Him to take your life and make it His own.
Let's bow our heads. God has been speaking, because His word never returns unto Him void. There are those that are not saved, and maybe it's dawning on them that they've no hope of heaven. My friend, let me tell you this solemnly: if you've no hope of heaven, the only place is hell. What are you going to do? Are you going to walk out of this place again, like you've done in a Gospel meeting before, and say: 'Ach, a lot of nonsense'. Or you know in the depths of your soul that there's a bit of truth in it, but you love your sin too much, you love the booze too much. What are you going to do? My friend, if you want to have peace, if you want to have rest, you need to have the forgiveness of your sins, you need to get right with God. All you need to do is look to Him now in faith, ask Him, and say: 'Lord, Lord, I'm sorry. Lord, I turn from my sin. Lord, will You save me?'. Why not pray it now?
I'll be shaking hands at the door on the way out, if you want to speak to me about your soul, I know God is speaking to you - so speak to me. If you want to sit where you are, you don't want to draw attention to yourself, sit here a while and let everybody go out. I'll come in and I'll have a word with you. But no matter how young you are, how old you are, who you're here with - listen: don't leave this building tonight without being born-again.
Let us pray: Our Father, we thank Thee for the Gospel that is so simple. From the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, three times He says: 'Ye must be born-again. For except a man be born-again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'. Lord, there are people dead in their sin, and they know it. Lord, they need to be born not of the flesh - they've been born of the flesh and it's done them no good - but they need to be born of the Spirit. Lord, only Thou canst do that this evening. We pray that Thou wilt come, dear God the Holy Spirit, and save men and women in this place this evening. So we ask Thy blessing now as we go our separate ways, and pray that none will leave this building without knowing Christ as their Saviour - for it's in His name we pray. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Kilkeel Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Ye Must Be Born Again" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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