The last couple of weeks Pastor Greg has been showing us about prayer and coming to God with prayer, and the fact that, you know, the Lord knows what you need but the most interesting thing, He has…., remember what he said?, pastor Greg. The Lord has wired the world so that in order for us to get whatever it is that we need from God, we actually need to talk to him. So he’s arranged things, God has gone out of his way to force us to talk to Him if there’s anything that we need from Him.
Now, why would God go into that kind of trouble? You know, why would God go through all of the trouble to engineer life and circumstances just to get us to talk to him? Tonight I want us to talk about being friends of God essentially.
What does it mean to be a friend of God? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? The great thing is that there’s a terrific passage of scripture, it’s one of my favorite passages of scripture, that nails this idea, that really draws the distinction of being a follower of Christ. I have no doubt that you’re here for a good reason, ok?. It’s a Saturday night, Boston, lot of places you could be, but there’s something that’s drawing you here and we are so close to His presence and we might as well, you know, if you’re thinking about it, if this is something that you’ve considered for your life, tonight is an invitation. I am throwing down the call and I’m saying ‘Man, really consider becoming a follower of Christ’.
Now what does that mean? Lord I just thank you because you like to hang around us. Thank you that you love our company and thank you that you would love nothing better than for us to get to know You better. So I invite you, spirit of God, to teach us to become closer to you. I pray that in Jesus’ name.
Let’s go to the gospel of John to a passage that many of us know very well and I figure that many of us are familiar with: a fellow by the name of Nicodemus. Now, before we go there, let’s go to John, Chapter 2, verse 23. Let’s start there. This is very early in Jesus’ ministry. Now the word says this:
“Now while he, Jesus, was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast.” Let’s stop there for a minute. The Passover feast is like the world series, the super bowl, Mardi Gras, all rolled into one. During the Passover feast in Jerusalem the population of Jerusalem didn’t double, on average, the population of Jerusalem would triple during the Passover feast. There were people from everywhere. There were people from Greece, there were people from Rome, there were people from Spain, there were people from Africa, there were people from all over the Middle East, from farther than that, Jews from all over the world would gather in Jerusalem by the hundreds of thousands for this Passover feast. So the place was packed, particularly the temple. The temple was the center of attention. So, figure the temple, this is the scene, figure the temple, and in particular figure the temple courts, that space just outside of the actual inner regions of the temple where most people gathered.
“Now, while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them for he knew all men and he did not need man’s testimony about man for he knew what was in a man”.
Ok. Now, imagine hordes of people standing around Jesus. Now, how did they get there? You came to Jerusalem probably traveling for weeks, maybe a month or so, or longer than that, planning this all year long, to come to the house of God as you have year after year, to offer your sacrifice before God and to hear the word of God. So you’re sitting in the temple and you’re hearing the same rabbi, the same priest, roll open the scripture and read it the way he read it last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. You know, who has believed our report for he was wounded, for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquity. And all of a sudden you’re hearing from the courts ‘I can see, I can see, I can walk. It’s a miracle. It’s amazing!’.
And the priest regains his composure and he goes on reading and somebody else screams ‘amen. God is good, my daughter is free. Oh, praise the Lord!’. And you’re going…… excuse me, so you step out because you want to see what’s going on. And around Jesus there were hundreds of people like this. In fact the Bible registers that at some point thousands, literally thousands, not only gathered around Jesus but followed him around in the desert. And one miracle all alone, one of the first sermons that pastor Roberto preached here, there were five thousand people with, you know, five thousand men not counting their wives and their children, just hanging around Jesus in the desert in the worst part of the day, with no food around, they preferred to go without food. They preferred to go without the cover, you know, to go without shade and water for some time in his presence.
Why? You could tell me that, just about as easy as anybody else. Because they needed something. And you know what? That’s fine. They needed him. There was something that was coming from Jesus that wasn’t coming from anywhere else. There was something that was coming from Jesus that wasn’t coming from anybody else. There was no one else doing what Jesus was doing. There was no one else saying what Jesus was saying. They were there because they needed him. And, folks, that describes one hundred percent of us. If we’re ever near God’s presence, if we ever begin to be curious about God, it begins with that, because we need him. And you know what? That’s wonderful.
But the first thing that we need to know about following Jesus, becoming a follower of Jesus is this: that our need, our curiosity does not make us followers of Jesus. It doesn’t…. our need in itself doesn’t inherently make us friends of Jesus. Coming to Christ for his miracles because you need something or you’re attracted to his power, doesn’t make you a disciple.
Now, the word disciple you’re going to see that a lot in scripture, but it’s essentially the same as a follower, or someone who has adopted the lifestyle, adopted word for word, stake their lives on their teacher, on their master. So, your need, our need, the fact that we need something from Jesus, the fact that we’re here because ‘man, our lives are a mess!’. The fact that we’re here because there’s some part of our body that’s not responding to any other treatment and we’re praying, we’re believing that God is powerful to give us a miracle. The fact that we’ve gone for years without an answer and we’ve seen power in the life of Jesus, that we haven’t seen anywhere else. You know, the fact that that draws us to Jesus is wonderful, but it’s a start. It’s a good thing. The fact that you need Jesus is a vehicle that draws you to him. And that’s fine because that’s precisely his point, it’s precisely what he meant to do, but it doesn’t make us….. that doesn’t make us followers of Jesus. That in itself, our curiosity about his power, our curiosity about who he is, our need for him, is fine, but it doesn’t make us followers of Jesus, because he has something more in mind than that.
Once we get over that, the next step for him is intimacy. Once we’ve come here, once we’ve said ‘Lord I need you’. Once we’ve said ‘I need you in avenging, Jesus’, his next step for you, his invitation is ‘that’s great, I want your life to be whole. I’ve been waiting for you to come. I know that the life that you’re living is extremely uncomfortable. I know there’s something better for you. Let’s be friends. Let’s get to know each other’.
So, what’s in stake to you? You noticed it says here that Jesus did not entrust himself to this crowd. In other words he says, Jesus did not open himself to them. It works like this: you could be…… this is the thing that I’m urging us all to avoid, I’m urging you to avoid as you come into this house, as you hear the word of God, as you worship, ok? It is very possible to enter a cycle and so many of us have lived this and we wondered why we were so empty in other religious experiences. Why we were so empty doing other religious things? Why we would be good, good, faithful church followers, and we would go to mass and play by the rules and do precisely everything they told us to do, and yet we walked away empty. Why would that work? Because you could be religious without being a follower of Jesus. You could come to this house and say ‘I need. God, I need. I need an answer. God I need your intervention. I need your presence. I need to…. Heck… I just need to feel good for once, because I feel lousy most of the time, and the only time I ever managed to feel good is when I’m in your house.’ And then you could walk of this house and you wonder why your life isn’t any different. And why next week is just a reverb of this week and the week after that, and the week after that, and the week after that. And why your life hasn’t changed.
Well, pastor Sam I’m going to church. I’ve gone to mass, I’ve done what they’ve expected me. Why hasn’t my life budged, why are my circumstances any different? I’ve been hearing about this gospel of power, why hasn’t this gospel of power reached my life? And the answer is that you are at the brink of something very powerful. Man, you’re so close, you know, you’re on fire. You’re that close. But what it takes is a change of your status, it’s very simple. It takes from becoming a spectator to a follower of Jesus. Because Jesus doesn’t just want to heal you, Jesus doesn’t want to just protect you. He doesn’t just want to make you feel good, he doesn’t just want to make you feel welcomed. He wants to entrust himself to you. Imagine. The God of the universe telling you his secrets. Can you imagine that?
You know, there’s a phrase….. this was in a sermon years ago, I don’t even think it was in pastor Roberto’s outline, in fact, I wasn’t even there when he preached it. It was a cassette that someone sent me to New York from Boston once, and it was just an off hand remark and he said this and this….. it’s that these things that sear your brain, you know?. He says, ‘our God is one of the humblest beings on earth in the world, rather than the universe’. Our God is a humble God. He does not mind coming down to our level…… God telling me what’s on his mind? God talking to me? You know, God asking my opinion for crying out loud? God wanting to know….. God wanting to know me? God wanting to get into….. God wanting to be my friend for crying out loud? Shoot the breeze with me? Say… have breakfast with me?
God is a humble God, and He wants to entrust himself to you. But the thing is He knows all of our hearts and following Christ, being a friend of Jesus is a matter of heart. So there’s an invitation, an invitation tonight for your life not to be better, but to be transformed. There’s is an invitation tonight for you to be eating of the plate of the power of God. There’s an invitation tonight for you to enter into a zone with God where God is actually entrusting his mind, and this is not an exaggeration, there is a passage in scripture that says that we have –literally quote- “the mind of Christ”. I’m being quite literal with you. Entrusting his mind to us.
How does that happen? How do we become followers of Christ? Step one: pay attention to some people who have become followers of Christ and tonight we are going to examine, how did Nicodemus do this. Well, the first thing Nicodemus does, let’s put it this way: first things first.
What it means to become a follower? First: becoming a follower begins with a desire to get to get to know Jesus better. It’s that easy. First you just begin with the desire, you want to know him better. What do we mean by that? Nicodemus was a Pharisee.
It says here, John, chapter 3. The word introduces us to…… “There was a man of the Pharisees”; which was very religious, very legalistic, never failed to show up to church, never stepped on a crack, you know, paid his taxes on time, kind of guy. All right?
Now: “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, an extremely respected man in this community. And he came to Jesus at night”. Now let’s stop there for a second. He comes to Jesus at night this Nicodemus. All right Nicodemus is in this crowd and he’s seeing, he’s stepping out of the normal Passover routine because there’s this guy who is nothing at all sophisticated, a Galilean, speaks like a Galilean, you know, isn’t using the type of elaborate, high f……. terms that they use inside the temple, but there’s something about this fellow, there’s something about this guy that drawing a crowd and he wants to see what’s happening. So he’s seeing people healed, his eyes don’t lie to him. He’s seeing the power of God emanating from this man, but on top of that Jesus begins to teach. And he notices that as Jesus teaches, as Jesus shares about the Torah, as Jesus shares about the law, people are listening and not only are people listening, but he’s beginning to see in this crowd that there’s something happening in people’s lives.
In other words, this Jesus may not have been part of the ruling council, this Jesus may not have been sophisticated, this Jesus may not have been educated the same place where he was educated, but there was something about him that had what he lacked: authority. He just….. you know, he was a good guy, he feared God, a religious man, respected in the community. In other words, your life doesn’t need to be a disaster in order for you to become a follower of Christ. Of course, ultimately all of us without Christ are a disaster. But there are some wonderful, upstanding have their jobs, take care of their families, people, like Nicodemus who realize that when you’re in the presence of the real thing, you know it. You’re here because you have had a life long exposure to the fake, to the fabulous, to the fantastical, to the empty and you’ve had enough. You’ve have enough. And you know what? So did Nicodemus. He just said: guau! This guy is for real and I want to get…. I need a chance to get to know him better. I want a conversation with him.
Now, know this about him. This desire to know Jesus better is not just a simple curiosity, but it comes out of this. What is different about a desire to get to know Jesus from just a mere curiosity? Well, it involves some reflection about your life. You have to come with at least the idea that there’s something about this Jesus that can make your life better, just by getting to know him, that his friendship, in other words, can add value to your life. And you’re open to that, you’re open to that.
Now, why? You know, poor Nicodemus, wasn’t around long enough to have read Rick Warren’s book “A purpose driven life”, but we’ve got, you know, lucky you! We’ve got lots of copies of that running around, millions have been sold and the essential premise, the essential premise of that book is this: we have been born with a purpose. God has placed you on this planet for a reason. There is something grand, something majestic, something powerful that God wants to ultimately do through your life and it is through Jesus that we discover why on earth we are here.
And Nicodemus realizes this, he says; ‘there’s something about my life that isn’t going to be complete until I get to know him a little better’ So he meets Jesus at night. Now, know this: Jesus actually meets this guy, has a conversation with him and I can guarantee you this about getting to know Jesus better, he’s not going to mind your doubts. He’s not going to mind your questions. He’s not going to mind your fears. He’s not even going to mind your prejudices. He’s not even going to mind your anger. He’s not going to mind your frustrations. Jesus is interested in a dialogue with you.
So, if your intention is to get to know this Jesus better, fine. Come to him with all those things, but I warn you, I warn you, and here’s the kicker about becoming a follower, and here’s the kicker about this desire to get to know Jesus better. Here’s the warning: if you take that bite, if take that step, if you meet Jesus at night or whenever it is that you step out to be alone with God, be warned that your life may change. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee you that your life is going to change.
Now, going up and hearing the story, you know, hearing it preached over and over and over again. Now, Nicodemus met Jesus at night. The typical response, in fact I’ve heard in a lot of commentaries: ha, ha this guy is so timid, so pusillanimous, you know, he can…. Of course, are you imagining the scene? He’s got this huge, you know, most of this…. hood over his face. He probably, if he had a uniform maybe he changed into like a janitor’s outfit, I don’t know, he was in disguise, at night meeting Jesus. You know what? I don’t mind that.
What does that tell you? Is he afraid of being seen with Jesus. He’s afraid of being all alone with him. Of course, he’s a Pharisee. He’s a member of the ruling council. Jesus at this time isn’t exactly the most welcomed person, say, in the Jewish ruling council. He wasn’t exactly the most popular man among those who were in authority. This could cost Nicodemus a lot. But you know what that tells me? It tells me that he weighed and he took some risks in coming to know Jesus. And let me tell you, if you get to know him better, you run the risk of your life as you know it, changing.
Now, you could continue to be religious without running into this risk. Really, you could continue to come and you could continue….. you know, we all know about that experience. You can do that. You could be religious without worrying about your life being altered, about your life being implicated. All right? That’s a fact.
But getting to know Jesus runs the peril that your life will change. In fact, Jesus said it very clearly, he says: “then Jesus said to his disciples, in other words, his followers, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me, for whoever wants to save his life, will lose it but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” And then he says “what good would it be for a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul. Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul.”
See, that’s the thing. He comes to Jesus at night because there is a risk that his life is going to change, and he knows it. But you know what? Implied in the whole idea of getting to know Jesus better, is the fact that your life is going to be impacted.
Another thing about coming to Jesus at night: being a follower of Jesus requires an investment of time. Now, this is going back to some of the things that pastor Greg was talking about last week. Ok? Becoming a follower of Jesus means you have to come with the desire, weighing the risk, knowing that getting to know this Jesus is probably going to implicate changes in the way we live.
But, second it’s going to require an investment of time. You know perhaps Nicodemus, you know, maybe it wasn’t all together timidity, perhaps Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because that was the only time he could catch Jesus alone, away from the crowd. That was the only time he could possibly have a conversation. His idea was to have a one and one with Jesus. It was the only time he could actually have Jesus to himself without 3000 people clinging to Jesus.
Notice that, by the way: the crowd, the spectators that came, they saw Jesus, they got what they needed, they went home. And Nicodemus hangs around and hangs around, and hangs around, waits, goes back. Is Jesus free? No. Goes back, hangs around, hangs around, waits. Is Jesus available? No, there’s somebody talking to him. Pastor Roberto could tell you about this experience, believe me. Then he floats away, hangs around, waits. Ah! it’s 11.30 at night. Jesus is finally alone. I can have a conversation a one and one with Jesus.
Now, when can you have Jesus to yourself? Where can you have Jesus for yourself? This was one of the principles that pastor Greg nailed in the last couple of weeks in his sermon. Jesus wants to be wanted alone. And for some of us that requires some crazy time. You know, maybe for you, unless you get up at 5, 5.30 in the morning, you’re not going to be able to have your time alone with him. You know, or maybe, we talked about….. man, some of us came up with some great suggestions, when pastor Greg asked for a place and time alone, there were some awesome suggestions: the elevator, you know, a closet, sitting in traffic on 93. God I’m alone, thank you! You finally have your time alone with him. There you go, you just met Jesus at night.
And it also means this: for him to have his time alone with Jesus it meant some sort of sacrifice, for Nicodemus. If he’s out there at 11, 11.30 at night, it means something. It means that this is probably the time that he’s what?, maybe a good chance that he’s…. what? Sleeping? Maybe he skipped dinner, maybe this was the night he’s supposed to be playing poker with this friends. Maybe this is the night that he said….. maybe he’s in charge of something tomorrow morning at 6 am at the temple, it’s his turn to do something, and he’s there at 11, 11.30 at night with Jesus. Because it’s the only time he has alone with him. It’s going to require some sacrifice. It means that whatever becoming a follower of Jesus is, it’s not business as usual. This is an invitation to something beyond religion as usual; your norms, your religious norms, as usual.
Last week we had a convocation service, what we call here a convocation in prayer. It was unusual for us, at 7.30 after two services, 9 o’clock service and then a 12 o’clock service, good old fashioned León de Judá fashion. We were out of here, close to three and then you know, a group of us, maybe 40, 50 of us were here for a service at 7.30 at night. Now, I don’t know about you, I’ll be the first to confess: I was wiped out, I was really tired. I figured, man, this is like….. I didn’t know who would show up at the service and frankly I’ll confess something else, here’s a little trade secret, pastor Omar, pastor Greg and I had no clue of what we were going to do, no idea. We had talked about it. I was sharing with Stephen, sometimes it’s best if …..there’s a saying…., any Italians in the house? All right, if you’re an Italian, I don’t want to offend you. But there’s an Italian saying that says best that you don’t know how the sausage is made, ok, because you’d probably never eat it again. And sometimes it’s best that you don’t know how the sausage is made.
Here we are, you know, ten, fifteen minutes before the service, ok, what are we going to do? Ok, we’re going to pray. We are going to open up and worship and we’re going to pray and we’ll invite the presence of God. Now, something happened. The service that I figured, man, it would be….. it’d be great if we get to maybe, you know, maybe we’re here, we bless the Lord, then we’re out of here by, what? About 8, 8.30. My gracious! It was nothing like church as usual. It was nothing…. See the reason that we didn’t have a plan is because we had not clue what to expect, but we were all hungry to be alone, to have Jesus, to come to Jesus at night, when we could have him for ourselves, just ourselves for once without an agenda and just him, and just to love him, and say things to him we don’t usually get the chance to say.
And we were alone in that sentiment. People just came, poured out their heart and talked about, you know, not church as usual. You would have heard some things that would probably….. maybe you know, you’re not ready to hear people screaming: Jesus, I want you, I want you, I want your presence!!! And the cool thing about Jesus, as we see in this passage with Nicodemus, is whatever the foil was, whatever his…… you see Jesus knows Nicodemus’ heart, he knows our heart. Whatever his agenda for whatever reason you come, he’s going to make time to be with you if you give him time.
You make time for Jesus, he’s going to make time for you. He’s going to talk to you. He’s going to connect with you. And that’s the next thing you need to prepare for. He wants to be with you just as badly as you want to be with him. So the next thing we need to prepare for is, becoming a follower of Jesus requires one other thing: and it requires a listening teachable heart. It requires a listening teachable heart. The minute we come to him, rest assured Jesus is going to have some things to say to us as well.
See, Nicodemus begins, you know, he warms himself up, he doesn’t know quite what to say, so he pays Jesus a compliment. He says ‘Rabbi, I got to tell you, we know you are a teacher who’s come from God for no one can perform the miraculous signs you’re doing if God were not with him.’ And you know what Jesus does? Jesus was not a great conversationalist. Jesus goes straight to Nicodemus’ heart, ok? They don’t teach you to do inside class, this is not the way to win friends and influence people.
Jesus says ‘you know, what Nicodemus? I tell you the truth. Now, for you King James fans, this is that famous…… I missed that about King James. ‘Verily, verily I say to you’, you remember that? Verily, verily I’m saying to you, ok? Because they’re trying to translate truly, truly I tell you. It says, I tell you the truth with all caps is how I have would have written this. This is…. Nicodemus don’t miss this, you know, I’m telling you just like it is, Nicodemus. No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he’s born again.
What has Jesus done? He sees a man who desires exactly that. He wants to be part of the Kingdom of God. He wants to be part of something special. He wants to be part of whatever it is God is doing. Remember we were talking about the Kingdom of God in pastor Greg’s sermons? The idea that the Kingdom of God is just a representation. I desire, when we say ‘let your kingdom come, let your will be done’. Remember when we were saying, remember how pastor Greg explained it? What that means is ‘God, whatever is going on in heaven, I want earth to look just like that, I want my life to look like that. I want my life to look like heaven. I want my life to reflect time with you.
And Jesus says: ‘Nicodemus, if that’s what you want you must be born again. Ok, now there’s that phrase. If you were born somewhere in north of the Mason-Dixon line, you may not have encountered a bonified evangelical born again Christian, that we don’t even use that phrase any more, you know, I grew up saying I was a born again Christian. But what do we mean by that? Born again. What does Jesus mean by that? You know, if Jesus had used some other term, they would probably invited him to speak at MIT or at some self-help conference, because this is basically what he means by that.
He’s talking about the same thing that Stephen Covy is talking about when he speaks of paradigms. Ok. He’s talking about the same kinds of things, you know, “The seven habits of highly effective people”? Steve Covy speaks about paradigms, ways we see the world, down the street here at MIT, Peter Senge is selling millions of copies of this thing at a business school, speaking of mental models. And essentially what we’re talking about is your convictions of how the world operates, how we see the earth.
You know, I brought a copy of this because I think Jesus would have totally agreed with Dr Senge. He says “mental models are the images, assumptions and stories which we carry in our minds of ourselves, other people, institutions, and every aspect of the world. Like a pane of glass framing and suddenly distorting our vision, mental models determine what we see.”
And then he goes on to say that “human beings navigate their lives based on these mental models”
So what is Jesus telling Nicodemus. He says ‘Nicodemus, your mental models, your paradigms are warped, distorted. The way you are seeing the world is completely off the mark. I know, man, I know that you already….. God, I hate to tell you this, you’re in your forties, you’re educated, you’ve gone to law school, you’re a great human being but Nicodemus, you’re on the wrong track. You’re completely off the mark and if you ever want to be part of the Kingdom of God you have to be born all over again in the spirit.
Jesus talks about being born, of water and of the fire, and what he’s talking about there is baptism. Those are images of baptism. And when we speak of baptism ….hey, if you ever make it to a baptism service at León de Judá, come. It’s a hootenanny. It’s awesome. All right. People show up with their camcorders, families show up, you know, never fails. We may have an original list, of maybe 15 people that are going to be baptized, never fails. We end up baptizing like 30. ok? And people taking off one robe, and then putting it on another soaking wet. They’re pleased as punch. They come up here and say ‘and I baptize you in the name of the Father, Holy Spirit.’ Everyone goes ‘yeah!’. It’s awesome. It’s a celebration. It’s like witnessing 35 weddings in one afternoon. It’s incredible. It’s incredible.
But basically that experience is this. It says right now, this life that I have right now, this life that I’ve always known, this life without Jesus, my life as a spectator. I renounce it and I die to this life and to the way I’ve been viewing the world and I’m reborn a follower of Jesus. I am a friend of God. That’s what you’re telling the world. From this day forth ‘world, I am a friend of God.’
There’s another Pharisee by the name of Paul who did precisely die. At one passage he writes: “you know my life up to now, the life that I thought I knew…”, in fact I’m going to read that passage. It’s out of Philippians, chapter 3. He says: “whatever was to my prophet, my mental models, the life that I put together, my ideas on how the world works, my prejudices about the way things should come together, my ideas about who God is, my ideas about what is good and what is bad. My ideas about what is acceptable, whatever, the way I figured the world out, I considered it all a loss for the sake of Christ.”
A loss, what’s more I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ, Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things”. You know where he’s writing this from, by the way? Jail. He’s writing it from jail. So, he’s lost his liberty, he’s lost his job, supposedly as a Pharisee, he’s lost his friends, you know, all of those years sitting at the feet of Gamaliel, just like Nicademus. All of those cool, you know, his ruling council friends, gone. His career in the top tier of running the show in Jerusalem, history. Ok? The people who used to be on his speed dial, don’t call him back. Some of those people are the very ones who want to see him in jail.
So, he says ‘Paul, you blew it. You lost it all. You lost it all’. And he says ‘I couldn’t be happier that I lost it all. I thank God I lost it all. That’s the whole point because I consider that rubbish that I may gain Christ.’ The original Greek for this, by the way, was done. ‘I considered it done that I may gain Christ and be found in him having righteousness not of my own, that comes from the law, not because of something I’ve done, but through faith in him.’ And he says ‘from now on I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing his suffering, becoming like him in his death and so somehow to attain the resurrection from the dead’.
You see this? Jesus says to Nicodemus, ‘it’s real simple, Nicodemus.’ He says, ‘how could this be? Nicodemus is trying to reason with Jesus on how was a man in my age supposed to be born again. Am I supposed like crawl back. It literally says ‘am I supposed to crawl back into my mother and be born again’, and Jesus says ‘No, you don’t get it’.
Being born at the spirit, this is a spiritual rebirth where Jesus takes away those warped mental models, takes away those warped paradigms and you begin to see God’s heart and see God as he is. And better than that, in the reflection of the light of God you begin to see your own life the way God meant for you to live. And Paul says that’s worth it. To live forever is worth it. To live in eternity with God is worth it.
Jesus says at some point the son of man is going to be lifted up, you know, just like Moses lifted the serpent, real quick. What does that mean? There was a time while the Israelites were in the desert…… you know, as if things weren’t bad enough, it was hard to get food unless God sent it from heaven, hard to get water unless God made water from the rock. They were misbehaving so serpents came from all over the place and started biting people and people started dieing. God says ‘No problem I have a solution. Make a bronze serpent, lifted up, in fact….. is there a doctor in the house? Doctor in the house? Ok. If you see the symbol, if you look at the international symbol for medicine you’re going to see this coiled serpent around a rod and that’s an allusion to that passage in scripture. Because what that meant was: anyone who’s gazed at that serpent would be healed.
And what Jesus is saying is: how is it that you’re going to get these men a model ….., I’ll be here night after night if you want to. And when you come to Jesus and say: ‘Lord, I don’t understand my life. Everything around me just doesn’t seem to be making sense, things are falling apart around me. God, help me from now on because you’re a follower of Jesus. You’re listening to everything he says, you’re standing toe to toe with him. You’re doing everything in your life to not just be with him, but imitate him, from now on you gaze at him and no matter what is happening around you, he’s going to make sure you are safe. Your heart is safe. Your mind is preserved. He’ll find a way to navigate you through these times. So becoming a follower of Jesus means being open to learning from him, saying ‘Jesus, you teach me now’.
Now, why would you want to do this? One last plug for doing this. Why did Paul call his life rubbish? Jesus makes a promise to his followers. Now, granted, for centuries there have been people willing to die for Jesus, preferring to give up their lives, Paul himself, ultimately paid the ultimate price for having believed in this Jesus. Why would people do that? Why would people go through these links? Of all of the beautiful verses in this passage, among them, you know, this promise that the Lord says he’s an equal opportunity savior, he says: “for God love the world that he gave his only son, this Jesus, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.”
What does that mean for you now? Right now. That’s great, great. I don’t have to worry about that. I don’t have to worry about the hereafter. I know where I’m going, but right now, he tells Nicodemus, listen, you don’t get it, he says, you must be born again. Don’t be surprised at my saying you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases, you hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it’s going, so it is with everyone born on the spirit.” This is what he’s saying: you’d be like the wind.
And you know what that tells me? Up until recently I didn’t get, as a child reading that verse I really didn’t understand that. But I guess there was a point in my life when God was ready to reveal this to me, and what this means is this: no one limits the wind, no one tells the wind where to go. What Jesus is saying to Nicodemus is ‘you become a follower of this Jesus, you become a friend of God and you’re entering a zone in your life where you’re living your life without limits. Those who are born at the spirit are like that. We shed our limits and we develop into the children of God that God always meant for you to become before you were born.
There’s a reason you’re on this planet. There’s a reason you’re in this house tonight. There’s a reason you’re curious about God. There’s a reason why you’re here. And that reason is more than just your need. That reason is that God is trying to tell you that there’s a purpose for your life and through Jesus, through becoming a follower of Jesus you can fulfill it. Right.
Why don’t we just come to Jesus then. Jesus I thank you for your power and the first thing that we’re going to say, Lord, I think we can all say this with one heart is that we need you. If all of us think about it there’s something about us that needs you. We need to believe that you’re real. We need to believe the things that we’ve heard about you. We need to believe that you are a holy, wonderful, transforming God who heals people because we do get sick, who protects us because the world isn’t a safe place and who loves us because there’s not enough of that either. But God, beyond our need, we want to know you. We want to know you. Would you make us part of that privileged race that shares your secrets, that hears your voice, that calls you a friend.