What if I told you that you could be guided by God just like Jesus was guided by God? What if I told you that the same power which was at work through Jesus was available to work through you today? Would you believe me? Would you want a relationship with God like that? Now, let me ask those same questions again, but this time let me ask them another way: What if Jesus told you that you could be guided by God like He was? What if He told you that the same power which was at work through Him was available to you? Now would you believe? Would His words awaken in you a hunger for a relationship with God like that? Because today as we listen to this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus well hear Jesus offer these amazing gifts to all of us. Well hear Him invite everyone who believes in Him to enter His kingdom and experience those realities now. He says theyre available now. And who among us doesnt need such guidance, and who doesnt long to have Gods power work in and through us just like it was at work in and through Jesus? The truth Jesus taught that night should become much more than a fact we retain in our minds; its a promise we need to spend the rest of our lives learning to put into practice. This truth must be lived.
Kingdom promises (Jn 3:3-8)
Heres the challenge: For many of us these promises are very familiar. Weve read them many times. We know these truths and we even believe them, but some of us have yet to experience these realities as a normal part of our lives. Some of us dont know where to start, and others have tried but feel that they failed. This level of relationship which Jesus promised to Nicodemus feels like an unattainable ideal, a goal well never reach this side of heaven. So being reminded of these truths can be painful. We hesitate to let that hope awaken for fear that we will only meet further disappointment. Yet this painful choice is the very point at which real faith rises up and chooses to hear the truth again, chooses to believe again, chooses to try again. And because it doesnt give up, real faith continues to lay hold of more, it takes another step deeper, it learns something new. Until, with the passing of time, that person begins to act like Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Spirit guides and empowers them
just like Jesus said He would.
Jesus brought to earth something new. He made possible an entirely new level of relationship with God which no one had ever experienced before. All through history there had always been good people who obeyed God by faith and who accomplished amazing things by the power of the Holy Spirit. But when the Son of God became a man He brought with Him what He called the Kingdom of God (vs3, 5) and invited us to join Him in that kingdom. But in order to do so, He said we would have to undergo a radical change inside. He said God must come to dwell in us until our bodies literally become His temple.
When He tried to explain this to Nicodemus He compared this miracle to a birth. He said just as there is a physical birth by which our physical body is born, there must also be a spiritual birth by which Gods presence must come alive within us. Otherwise He said we cannot take part in this kingdom, in fact we wont even recognize it when we see it. When that inner change takes place in a person He said it would profoundly change the way they live. Gods Spirit would now direct them like the wind moves the leaves of a tree. They would be Spirit-led, Spirit-driven, Spirit-empowered. In other words, they would interact with God in a living relationship with Him, like Jesus own relationship with the Father.
You and I need to grasp this truth. By His death and resurrection Jesus opened a door to a new walk with God which no one had ever experienced before. A page of spiritual history was turned, and the human race entered into a new chapter of Gods plan. New power is now available, new possibilities are offered, all humans are invited to a new depth of relationship with God. But there are still many believers who dont seem to know this exists, or they think it died out with the early church or that it belongs only to the most spiritual among us. Yet when we listen again to this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus well discover thats not true. Jesus was introducing the new normal.
Kingdom of God
The term Kingdom of God is first of all the title the Bible gives to that future age when the resurrected Jesus returns to earth. His physical return will initiate a season in which the power of the Holy Spirit is amazingly available. Speaking of that time Isaiah says, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:9). Gods goodness will be evident everywhere around us. Even the plants and animals will be affected. But that day has not yet come. Its still only a hope we long for (Ro 8:18-25). Yet Jesus told Nicodemus that the power of that future kingdom was already at work through Him. What would someday be true for the whole earth could now be true for all who believed in Him. By His cross and resurrection He would change what is possible, He would initiate a new season in which we can walk with God now at the same depth that we will walk with Him then.
The five chapters of human history
From Gods point of view human history can be divided into five distinct chapters or seasons. We need to understand these in order to understand what Jesus meant by the term Kingdom of God.
Chapter one: The unbroken fellowship with God which Adam and Eve experienced before they sinned.
Chapter two: This is the period between the Garden of Eden and the resurrection of Christ. Human effort to obey God fails, and a family is prepared for the Messiah (Abraham, Judah, David, Mary).
Chapter three: Gods house is filled with many children (Lk 14:21-23). The atonement releases kingdom blessings; there is an overlapping of ages (old and new). This is the period between Jesus first coming (Lamb) and His second coming (Lion), including Armageddon.
Chapter four: This is the 1,000-year period between the return of Christ and the final judgment. Gods kingdom comes to earth and resurrected believers will minister and govern the large population of unbelievers that survive the events of the last days. Salvation and death will still be taking place.
Chapter five: God will destroy the old universe and create a new one which, like our resurrected bodies, will be immortal. Sin, sorrow and death will no longer afflict the children of God. They will have unbroken fellowship with the Father and the Son and live immersed in the glory of the Holy Spirit. The final number of people saved is complete.
The Messianic kingdom
Many Christians assume that the final judgment and the new heavens and earth occur immediately after Jesus return, but the Book of Revelation clearly states that between Armageddon (Rev 19:11-21) and the final judgment (Rev 20:10-15) there will be a 1,000-year period of time (Rev 20:1-9). John doesnt describe what takes place during those years except to say that resurrected believers will reign with Christ (Rev 20:4, 6). Who they will rule and why is not said, but Jesus does (Mt 19:27-30; 25:19-23, 29) and so does Paul (1Co 6:2-3). Actually, unless this period we often call the Millennium literally takes place, an enormous portion of Old Testament prophecy will go unfulfilled. The events the prophets describe cant be spiritualized away. They picture specific events, buildings (Eze 40-46), wars and blessings. And it is this 1,000-year period, this future kingdom in which the Messiah will rule the earth through His resurrected believers, this season in which Gods Spirit envelopes the earth, that Jesus calls the Kingdom of God. Think about it! Its those realities He said we can experience as believers now.
Something new (Lk 5:36-38)
With this in mind, listen to these parables with new understanding:
No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins (Lk 5:36-38).
To become a new wineskin we must be born from above, and when we are, God will fill us with the wine of His Spirit. He will guide us and work through us with a power that cannot be contained by the old wineskin of the Law of Moses. The powers of the age to come
have come. Jesus offers us something new.
Is it an option?
Jesus didnt present this as an option to Nicodemus. He told him, Do not be amazed that I said to you, You must be born again (from above). He wanted Nicodemus to follow in His footsteps. He wanted him to fully surrender to Gods will for him and receive the powerful indwelling of Gods Spirit. Then, when he had taken those two steps Jesus said he would enter into the Kingdom of God. And He says the same to us today. How will we respond?
1) Have you ever seen the power of God at work in such a way that you had no doubt in your mind it was God? Tell us what you saw. How did you respond?
2) Have you ever felt God supernaturally guide you to do something? What did He say? How did you hear?