I just have one bit of unfinished business left from 2014. Here is a sermon I preached towards the end of the year, notes follow the video. After this, I will be on a fast from social media of all forms until the end of the month. Sometimes it is good to pull back from our commitments for a season. I will be back before you know it. In the meantime, you can read my most popular posts or review my 2014.https://vimeo.com/114785276
Jesus meets a Religious Man John 3:1-20 Two types of people who are not true Christians. Fear we may have some like this today.
- Mere Religion is not enough
Pharisees were Jesus’ enemies. They lived a good life and obeyed the law “ on the inside they were filthy and as full of death as a tomb (Matthew 23:27). They were hypocrites. looked down on others Hated “sinners”
Some churchgoers are like the Pharisees. Pretend to be pure by rejecting others who don’t follow their standards. Such religious people do not impress Jesus. He accepts anyone who comes to Him humbly, turning away from their sin. Jesus loves everyone.
Nicodemus was different to the other Pharisees, he was on the Sanhedrin (a Jewish Ruler) but yet he comes humbly to Jesus Most religious people are content.
Nicodemus: something missing. He could have sung a modern worship song: “There must be more than this…”
Nicodemus didn’t see Jesus as a rival to be suppressed, but as someone who had something he didn’t.
Perhaps he was even there when almost two decades before the young boy had startled the Jewish leaders by what he said in the temple. But it wasn’t the teaching that impressed him.
Nicodemus wanted the supernatural. BUT many religious people want to put God in a box, and throw away the key,
“We know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:2
And yet, as Jesus began to explain to this teacher, he seemed to be unable to grasp it. Nicodemus was a top teacher in Israel and yet didn’t understand the basics.
Religion can form a barrier to a real relationship with Jesus.
Mere religion highlights your faults and insists you must try harder. But Jesus offers acceptance if you ask for forgiveness, no matter what you have done.
Mere religion says, “You are dirty.” But Jesus says, “I can clean you up.”
Mere religion demands you earn God’s favor. But Jesus loves you unconditionally.
Mere religion condemns. But Jesus forgives.
Mere religion sees all the problems in the world and wants to change it. But Jesus says, “Let me start by changing you.”
The Bible is unique in that all its heroes except Jesus have major flaws and these are openly admitted. Peter denied Jesus when it mattered the most, and yet was restored (Luke 22:54-62, John 21). Noah got drunk and sinned, and yet was honored as a man of faith (Genesis 9:21, Hebrews 11:7). King David committed murder, yet when he repented, he was forgiven, and called a man after God’s own heart (2 Samuel 11–12, Acts 13:22).
God accepts everyone the way they are, but doesn’t leave them the way they are. If God can forgive all these people, and use them for His purposes, then there is hope for all of us. God says about Christians, “I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
HOW does this happen?
- You MUST be born again
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God John 3:5. Nicodemus religion will not get him there. Even he is so helpless to save himself, he must cry out to GOD to save him. Most believe being born of water refers to natural birth, while being born again is something the Spirit does inside us. What is needed is a radical transformation that NONE OF us can produce by ourselves. BORN AGAIN When someone who is far from God and therefore spiritually dead, becomes a child of God and is forgiven by Him. They are made new and become spiritually alive to God. When a true Christian looks at a so-called “sinner” he is full of compassion not hate. “there, but for the grace of God go I” Being born again is demonstrated by repentance
- changing what you think about Jesus,
- apologizing for ignoring Him, belittling Him, excluding Him, and not trusting Him.
- radical change in perspective.
- heart miraculously renewed so that you now love and value Jesus above everything else and are satisfied in Him.
- Turning from your sins. BUT not primarily external behavior, but an internal conversion.
- Reorienting your life around Jesus, turning TO GOD not just AWAY from sin
- Asking Him to rescue you and to be in charge from now on.
- Turning from a life that is all about you, to a life that is all about Jesus.
- SIMPLE but your whole life change direction.
- a sober decision to start on a lifetime of following Jesus give your life to the Lord.
NOT A vague, half-hearted response to the gospel Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5) Thanks to Nicodemus we have the most famous verse in the Bible, which if you memorize only one verse, it should be this:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17)
3. What we can learn from this encounter
- Jesus cares about the individual
- He adjusts what he says to match the individual
- He can see Nicodemus despite his religion is almost ready so he shares clearly
- He is not afraid to allow Nicodemus to go off apparently unchanged ONE STEP
- Yet this encounter DID radically change him, his name comes up twice more. Ones when he was part of a ruling body threatening to condemn Jesus he tried to intervene, urging htem to not to judge Jesus without listening to him John 7:50-
- Then, at the time when coming out as a secret believer in Jesus would have been most dangerous, he accompanies Joseph of Arimathea and expresses his love for Jesus by helping preprare his body for burial.
- Church tradition suggests he was baptized by Peter and John (which might explain why his story is in John’s gospel) and was stripped of his position on the Sanhedren and driven from Jerusalem.
Following Jesus can be difficult. People need time to make that choice. We should not hurry them. But lovingly help them take faltering steps towards Jesus. And if we feel like our faith is little, then we too can take another step towards Jesus today. We ALL need his help to live as followers of Jesus, or if we are not yet Christians to find Jesus for ourselves.. We need to be filled afresh with the Spirit of God, to wash us, cleanse us, empower us, so that others will say of us too “surely God is with you”