Sermon Notes From Charles Stanley

KEY PASSAGE: John 3:1-16

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURES: John 5:24 | Titus 3:5 | Hebrews 9:27


What does it mean to be born again?

There are a variety of opinions on this matter, but to understand what this term truly means, we must go to the Bible. Jesus used this phrase to describe a spiritual change that is required in order to have eternal life. Unless we are born again, we cannot enter heaven.


John 3:1-16 records a conversation between Jesus and a Jewish Pharisee. After observing His miracles and hearing His teaching, Nicodemus came to Jesus one night saying, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (v. 2). Instead of commenting on Nicodemus’ observation, Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3).

How can I be born again?

Jesus was telling Nicodemus that his impressive education, obedience to the Law, and religious prominence in Judaism would not get him into heaven. What he needed was a brand new start—to be born from above. Being born again is the act of God by which He imparts eternal life to those who were dead in their trespasses and sins but have now accepted Jesus as Savior.

Nicodemus responded to Jesus with a question, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (v. 4). To help him understand, Jesus explained, “Unless [one] is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (v. 5). In other words, someone is born physically into this world as a baby, but to enter the heavenly realm, he must be born of the Spirit.

For his entire life Nicodemus had been taught that being Jewish and doing good works were what would gain him entrance into heaven, but now his pride was shattered, and he realized that nothing he’d done or built his life upon would benefit him eternally. He was spiritually bankrupt with no way to enter God’s kingdom.

He is not unlike many people today who have the mistaken idea that they are good enough to go to heaven. They attend church, give their offering, and may have even been baptized yet have never truly been born again. Some defend themselves by reasoning that God will surely accept them because they’ve tried to live a good life and haven’t committed any crimes. But in reality they aren’t good enough because everyone is born a sinner.

We must be careful not to make the same mistake the Pharisees did. They saw Jesus’ miraculous signs and heard Him teach, but they walked away without considering whether His claims were true. Nicodemus was different; he risked his religious reputation as a Pharisee to come see Jesus, listened to Him, asked questions, sought to understand what He was saying, and learned the truth.

What is the nature of the new birth?

  • It’s a spiritual experience. The new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He convicts us of sin and helps us understand that our good works are insufficient in His eyes and will never make us fit for heaven. But He also assures us of God’s love and leads us to confess and repent of our sins and trust Jesus Christ as our Savior.
  • It’s a definite experience. Like physical birth, there’s a specific point at which a person is born again. It starts with conviction of sin and the realization that Jesus Christ died on the cross as payment for the penalty for our sin. We call out to Him for forgiveness, turn away from our old sinful lifestyle, and in faith accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. It’s not a slow process but a radical change. There must be a transformation within our hearts that is so clear that we will know beyond a shadow of doubt that we have been born again. For some people, this moment may have occurred in childhood and they may no longer have a specific memory of it. But as long as there is full faith in Jesus, they have been born again.

    Jesus is the only one who can make us fit for heaven with a new birth. All other religions rely on good works, but no one can be good enough for God because we’ve all sinned against Him. We may seem righteous in our own eyes, but when measured against the perfection of God’s standards as found in His Word, we have no hope of heaven.

    We are not saved by our righteous acts but by God’s mercy and the regeneration of the Spirit (Titus. 3:5). If we could have been good enough, then the cross was a horrible mistake because it would have been unnecessary. However, only the shed blood of God’s Son could make forgiveness possible. This is the evidence of God’s awesome love and power—that He would reach down and save sinners.
  • It’s a lasting experience. Being born again changes us forever, but this doesn’t mean that we will be perfect. Our old sinful nature is still present in us, but as we confess our sins, Jesus’ blood continually cleanses us. We are now called to a life of holiness, obedience, surrender, and love for God. There must be external evidence that proves there’s been an inner transformation.

What are the results of being born again?

  • There’s a change in our relationship with God. Until Jesus becomes our Savior, we are enemies of God. Although we may be quick to deny that we are against Him, there is no neutral ground. We have either been reconciled to God through His Son, or we are at odds with Him.
  • There is a change in our position.The separation and enmity between God and us has been removed. Now we’re a part of His kingdom and members of His family. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and we will never lose our salvation.
  • There’s a change in attitude. The Holy Spirit works in us, sealing us as God’s children, transforming our hearts, and living out Christ’s life through us. He gives us wisdom, reveals truth, and guides us throughout our lives.
  • There is a change in our destination. Jesus said, “He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).The Holy Spirit’s presence in us is our guarantee that we are forever children of God, and our eternal destiny in heaven is secure.


  • Can you point to a time in your life when you became born again? If you sense this may not have happened for you yet, what is keeping you from surrendering to Christ and receiving forgiveness and eternal life?
  • If you are born again, what fruit in your life gives you reassurance of that? How has your life changed?

Sin is enticing because it offers a quick route to prosperity or pleasure and makes us feel like we belong. But when we go along with others and refuse to listen to the truth, our own appetites become our masters, and we’ll do anything to satisfy them. Sin, even when attractive, is deadly. We must learn to make choices, not on the basis of flashy appeal or short-range pleasure, but in view of the long-range effects. Sometimes this means steering clear of people who want to draw us into activities that we know are wrong. We can’t be friendly with sin and expect our lives to remain unaffected. 

Going after “ill-gotten gain” is one of Satan’s surest traps. It begins when he plants the suggestion that we can’t live without some possession or more money. Then that desire fans its own fire until it becomes an all-consuming obsession. Ask God for wisdom to recognize any greedy desire before it destroys you. God through his Spirit will give you wisdom and help you overcome it.  

Proverbs 1:10 “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.”

You see, we are a free moral agent. We decide whether we will sin or not. Just because the crowd is sinning, is no reason to get involved. Use your own free will and say “no” to sin, even if it is inviting. In the long run, we are responsible for our own decisions.

Sinners is a term reserved in Scripture to describe unbelievers for whom sin is continual and who endeavor to persuade even believers to sin with them. The sins of murder and robbery are used as illustrations of such folly.

Proverbs 1:11 “If they say, “Come along with us; lets lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul:”

“Come with us”. The intimidating force of peer pressure is often the way to entice those who lack wisdom.

Proverbs 1:12 “Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:”

The wicked devise a plot of deception in which the innocent are captured and victimized like one who is taken by death itself, as with Joseph (Gen. 37:20); Jeremiah (Jer. 38:6-13); and Daniel (Dan. 6:16-17.

“The Pit … Shoel” is the place of death. For the wicked it is a place of no return (Job 7:9), darkness (Psalms 143:3) and torment (Isaiah 14:11).

Proverbs 1:13-14 “we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our house with plunder:” (14)”Throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse.”

This is the enlisting of the innocent without full disclosure of intent. Abundant spoil is promised by this outright robbery, which is made to appear easy and safe for the thieves and murderers.

Proverbs 1:15 “My son, do not walk in the way with them.  Keep your feet from their path.”

This directly confronts the invitation of v.11. Sin must be rejected at the first temptation, by refusing even the association that can lead to sin. Avoid the beginnings of sin (Proverbs 4:14 Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men).

Proverbs 1:16 “for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood.”

This is warning not to keep evil company. There is guilt by association. You may not be guilty of their sins; but if you are caught with them, you will pay the terrible penalty with them. Many a youngster has gotten into serious trouble because he wanted to be part of the gang. Children’s favorite saying to parents is, “everyone is doing it”.  Sometimes peer pressure causes a youngster to join a gang. He probably has no idea they are stealing or killing when he joins; but the longer he stays, the more deeply involved he becomes. The only way to avoid this is just what the Scripture advises. Don’t go with them in the first place. The time to say “no” is before you get in deep.

Proverbs 1:17 “How useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds!”

As a bird flies into a net and is caught, so will the sinner get caught if he goes head long into sin. We know the net is there, but get into it anyway.

It would be ineffective to set up a net for catching a bird in full view of the bird. Taken with v.18, this analogy means that the sinner sets up his trap for the innocent in secret, but in the end the trap is sprung on him (v.19). This greed entraps him. Stupid sinners rush to their own ruin.

Proverbs 1:18 “These men lie in wait for their own blood; they waylay only themselves!”

A person laying in wait to kill someone else is actually sealing their own doom.

Proverbs 1:19 “Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it.”

Greed for things that do not belong to you is certainly the cause of most sin toward your fellow man.

We see here, that just because you have riches doesn’t mean that you always will. If you do not take care of what God has entrusted you with, you will find one day that all your wealth has vanished.

Because life is short and our futures uncertain, we should be all more diligent in what we do with our lives.  We should act with foresight as we attend to our homes, families, and careers.  Be a responsible steward, like a farmer with his or her lands and herds.  For God’s people , thinking ahead is a duty, not an option.  

We see in this a worthless vessel, covered with glaze to make it seem from the outside to be very valuable. If you are looking at this from the spiritual standpoint, it makes it appear to be redeemed (glaze). This person, mentioned here, has beautiful burning lips which seem to be affectionate. They are a deceit coming from a wicked heart. 

A cheap veneer of glaze over a common clay pot hiding its commonness and fragility is like the deception spoken by evil people. The point is this: just as glaze covers the rough pottery but cannot ultimately change its character, so the evil man cannot change his character by covering it with eloquent speech. This thought is expanded (in verses 24 to 28).

It is as hard to refuse to listen to gossip as it is to turn down a delicious dessert.  Taking just one morsel of either one creates a taste for more.  You can resist rumors the same way a determined dieter resist candy, NEVER OPEN THE BOX.  If you don’t nibble on the first bite of gossip, you can’t take the second and the third.  

This theme here is one of cause and effect. As surely as a North wind drives away the rain cloud, so then will an angry look will sometimes stop a person from saying slanderous things about someone else.

Gossip is spoken of badly in the Bible. I believe here that this is speaking of spreading untruths about the neighbors. If you were called to court to testify, you would have to tell the truth about the neighbors, but just telling things to get rumors started is bad. 

Avenging the evil done by one’s neighbor by offering false witness against him is forbidden.

Deceiving with the lips, perhaps, means stretching the truth to harm someone.

We should carry out our work in its proper order.  If a farmer builds his house in the spring, he will miss the planting season and go a year without food.  If a businessman invests his money in a house while his business is struggling to grow, he may lose both.  It is possible to work hard and still lose everything if the timing is wrong of the resources to carry it out are not in place. 

Like earthquakes, society is greatly agitated when normal roles are overturned, servants reigning, fools made rich, hated women married and maidservants becoming wives. 

These four things make living very uncomfortable. They really are things which should not be. These four causes much pain to all parties involved. 

A servant is really not suited to be a ruler, and sudden power many times turns the head of the person elevated. 

This fool, who suddenly has more than he needs, over-indulges, and makes himself even more of a fool. This “odious woman” is an undesirable woman, perhaps because she is not attractive or has unattractive ways. If she does get married, she is ill-tempered and possibly will drive her mate away.

 This handmaid, who obtains the wealth of her mistress, whether by death of the mistress or some trickery, would certainly cause her to be arrogant and difficult to get along with.