Sincerity is an excellent character trait. Sincerity is "honesty of mind or intention; freedom from simulation or hypocrisy" (Noah Webster). Unfortunately, true sincerity is a rare thing. People can be sincere in sticking to their own interests, but that is not "honesty of mind." A person that is stuck on their own interests in the face of being wrong is not truly sincere. Honesty of mind, true sincerity, is tested when we come to that proverbial 'line in the sand' and have to make a decision between self-interest / saving face / reputation / life investment / etc. and truth.
There are two men in our text (John 3:1-21), Jesus Christ and Nicodemus. We need to speak about Nicodemus first, and then we will focus on the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, let's meet Nicodemus.
A Religious Man--"a man of the Pharisees". The Pharisees were a division within Judaism. They were known to be highly devote and fastidious in their lives to follow Judaism. The New Testament clearly records that many of these men were insincere in their religion--being murderers, power mongers, and thieves; but, there were some who were sincere. Nicodemus was one of the sincere ones.
A Respected Man--"a ruler of the Jews". How do we know Nicodemus was respected? and not in power by manipulation/force? We infer this because of the humility Nicodemus displays all through his conversation in our text. (Contrast: Luke 7:36-50, pride manifest in inhospitality / superiority to others ; Compare: John 7:48-53, Nicodemus is a voice of reason.) Nicodemus took his responsibility as a ruler of his people as just that, a responsibility, not an opportunity for personal gain.
A Struggling Man--"the same came to Jesus by night". Nicodemus does show timidity in regards to Jesus. Here Nicodemus comes by night, in John 7:48-53 Nicodemus is speaking up, but with caution, and in John 19:39 we see Nicodemus helping to bury Jesus, but publicly he is silent. We all have struggles, and Nicodemus was no different. Nicodemus had much to lose by identifying publicly with Jesus. He could be driven out of public office, he could be excommunicated from Synagogue, and more. We all have struggles, what you do with your struggles is revealing. Real sincerity will bear the cost of the truth.
A Needy Man--"How can a man be born when he is old?" Sincere men may be ignorant of the truth and/or not understand the truth. Jesus asked Nicodemus, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" You can be sincerely wrong. Sincerity does not equal right and understanding.
A Searching Man--"How can these things be?" God tells us in the Bible to "buy the truth, and sell it not." What about you? Nicodemus saw Jesus' miracles and heard what He taught--the two matched. But, Nicodemus knew that what Jesus was saying and doing did not match with what he thought reality was. Jesus challenged Nicodemus's beliefs. Remember, truth is consistent.
A Lost Man--"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus was sincere, but he was lost in relation to God. Sincerity is great, but it is not enough. Now, you can be offended at that, or you can be sincere--honest of mind and intention--toward God.
Now it is time to meet Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Truth--"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." John 6:63, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." John 14:10, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." As Moses understood, God is "a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Jesus Christ is truth because He is God, the Creator and Judge of all.
Jesus was prophesied to be God: Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6-7; Psalm 22; Isaiah 61:1-2,
with Luke 4:16-20.
Jesus claimed to be God: John 5:17-18; Matthew 27:43; John 10:30-28.
Jesus's Apostles proclaimed Him God: 1Timothy 3:16; Jude 1:25; 1John 4:14 and 5:7.
Jesus's Resurrection proves Him God: Romans 1:4; Acts 17:29-31.
Jesus is Wisdom--"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." Jesus Christ was God in human flesh, Philippians 2:6-8. Therefore, Jesus is the all wise God, 1Timothy 1:17. Not only that, but by virtue of His becoming a man and dying in the place of sinful men and rising from the dead victorious over sin and death, Jesus Christ, "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1Corinthians 1:30) My friend, Jesus Christ is your wisdom, your righteousness, and your sanctification, and your redemption. Jesus Christ saves lost sinners and reconciles them to God. The wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption that the world offers will come to nothing because it is not of God.
Jesus is the Crucified Saviour of the World--"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." The historical reference here to Moses lifting up a serpent is from Number 21:1-9. The ancient Israelites were being judged by God for their wickedness via God sending amongst them venomous snakes. When they called out to be saved from the righteous judgement of God, God had Moses make a brass snake and lift in up on a pole. All who looked upon the brass snake were saved from the snake bite by God.
Jesus Christ was lifted up on a Roman cross and died in the place of guilty sinners.
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
Just like Nicodemus you are in your sin, without God in this world, and justly condemned to eternal death in Hell and the Lake of Fire. Just like Nicodemus and the ancient Israelites you read about in Numbers 21, above, you are dying from the corruption of your sin. Jesus Christ died your death. [2Corinthians 5:21; 1Peter 3:18] Jesus Christ satisfied the justice of God when He died for you. [Romans 1:4; Acts 2:24; Revelation 1:18] Sinners can be freely saved from the just wrath of God through what Jesus did on that Roman cross. [1Peter 1:18-21; Ephesians 2:8-9] Jesus Christ rose from the dead and lives for ever more. [Acts 2:31-36; Hebrews 7:25] Jesus has promised to save all repentant sinners that come to Him alone to be saved. [Luke 13:3; Acts 26:20; Acts 20:21; Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 10:8-13; Romans 11:6] Jesus Christ will make each person He saves a new creature, giving them a new life. [Titus 2:11-14; 2Corinthians 5:17]
Maybe you find that you are sincere, and maybe even religious. Do you know what Jesus Christ is speaking of in these Scripture texts we have read? If not, then you are like Nicodemus, How can these things be? Please do not stop; God has promised that if you will search for him with all your heart that He will be found--Jeremiah 29:13. It has been my experience that God is more zealous to be known by me than I am to know Him.
There is more on the grace and gospel of God in the forgoing articles. Keep reading.