Not A Fan
This morning as we start I want to mention a couple of things to you, and I want you to see if you can figure out what they have in common. Ok??? Here we go.
Yellow Bird Yoga, FedEx, Coffee, Movie Phone, Tim Tebow, Chick-Fil-A, Delta Airlines, Vera Bradley, Birthday Cards, Gibson Guitars, Camping, Amazon, and Jesus.
So what do you think that these have in common???
To be honest with you, with a group this diverse it would probably be easier for you to tell me what they don’t have in common. So let me give you a little help. This week I went to several of our members Facebook pages and these are some of the things that you guys have liked on Facebook.
I also use Facebook and understand the like option, but I also know that even though we clicked that we like these things, our reasons and levels of affection are not the same for everything on our lists. For example, I like the Apple App store because every now and then they give away free apps for my phone. But if they quit giving me things, I would unlike them. Sometimes we like stuff because of what we get from it.
I like Author John Alan Turner because he is a friend of mine and I really enjoy his writing. I like United Voice Worship because Trafton and I went to the conference and we wanted to keep up with the schedule and the speakers. I like Elvis Presley because, well it’s Elvis. But you all understand that I don’t feel the same way for The App Store that I feel for John Alan Turner. We click like because that is the only option we have.
Thankfully there is a different option when it comes to the way that we live. We can do more than merely like Jesus. In the face of all that God has done for us, He deserves so much more … and to tell the truth, we were created for more. I love the quote by Blase Pascal, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
Each one of us has this desire in the depths of our soul to know and be known by our Creator. The struggle we face is that we are tempted to fill that hole, or vacuum, by merely liking Jesus and our souls are left unsatisfied and crying out for more.
This morning I want to turn your attention to someone who liked Jesus, or was at least interested in who He was, and what made Him different from everyone else. Let’s go back to the text that was read for us this morning from John 3:1-8. We are not sure whether it was simple curiosity, or a real and genuine like that caused Nicodemus to come and visit Jesus on this night but in this text we are given the opportunity to see that Jesus is not content to merely be liked, rather He is calling us to be devoted followers who join Him on this great adventure.
First, Nicodemus didn’t want anyone to know that he liked Jesus.
Going back to our illustration of Facebook, there are countless number of things that you can like. And most of the time, it’s no big deal to click that little button and declare to the world that you like Dogs, Mt. Dew, Target, or Johnny Cash. But sometimes there are some things that we pause and think about whether we are ready to tell the world that we like. Our young people over here understand that there are things they have to like, even if they really don’t, if they want to be liked by people that they like. (Follow that?)
But the reverse of that is true as well. There are some things you like, but you can’t tell people because you want to avoid the pushback. For example if a 44 year old father of 2 liked Chick Flicks, that’s probably not something that he would want to put out there for general consumption. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with a Chick Flick, but as you can imagine there would be a little bit of backlash, a good amount of teasing, if you admitted that you just love a good Nicholas Sparks movie.
In verse 2 of our text we read that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Now at first glance it would be really easy to just think that John is giving some unnecessary information. But don’t think that John is just trying to fill space, rather he is telling us a little about this teacher of the Jews who comes to meet with Jesus.
I think it’s a reasonable assumption that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night is so that no one would see him. At night he would avoid awkward questions from the other religious leaders. At night he could spend time with Jesus without anyone knowing. If he could speak with Jesus at night when no one was around, maybe he could begin a relationship with Jesus without having anyone notice. I mean this relationship formed in secret would not have to impact his job, or his relationship with his friends or family, or his position in the Sanhedrin. In fact, they wouldn't even have to know. He could talk to Jesus at night and it wouldn't disrupt his comfortable and established life.
Does that sound familiar to you? Fans are happy to follow Jesus as long as that doesn't require any significant changes or have negative implications. I’ll follow as long as it doesn’t get weird with my friends, or interrupt the lifestyle that I am trying to live.
I’ll follow if all you require is for me to show up on a Sunday or two a month, but for the rest of the month you can let me get back to real living. I mean it’s fine if you want me to get out of bed early on a Sunday and come and hang out here for an hour, but don’t expect it every week. There are other things that I have got to do, or actually want to do.
I’ll follow You, but you have got to let me hold that grudge, we don’t want talk of forgiveness. I’ll follow you Jesus, but we don’t have time to talk about sacrificing, I’ve got too many other things to experience and enjoy. I’ll follow you but only when it is convenient and doesn’t get in the way of my real life. I’ll come to you, but let’s do this in the dark, where no one else will know or expect anything and it won’t get weird.
We do really good compartmentalizing our lives, this is the Jesus part of my life and then here is the family part, and over here is the work part. The problem is that Jesus doesn’t want you to just be devoted to Him in a part of your life. You cannot be connected with Jesus in the dark, or in secret. There is no secret service in the Kingdom. Jesus says in Matthew 10:32, Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.
Some of you might be thinking that this doesn’t apply to you, because there are plenty of folks who know you go to church. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about here. Acknowledging Jesus is so much more than just saying you believe in Him, or having your picture in a Church Directory. Jesus wants you to acknowledge Him with your life. He wants you to love the people that He loves, not with words, but with acts of compassion and mercy. He wants you to reach out to those who need hope and a little bit of help. James says it this way, Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? (James 2:15-16) You cannot say that you love Christ, that you are His follower and not get your life dirty in acts of love and service. You cannot follow Jesus if you refuse to go where He goes.
Nicodemus shows up at night and says You are a good teacher, your are a kind man, but let’s not get carried away. And that brings us to the second point we need to get from this text this morning;
Nicodemus believed but didn’t have faith.
In verse 2 he says, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God. Nicodemus begins his conversation with Jesus by making it clear that there is a group of folks who have come to an agreement, they have decided that Jesus really is from God. But don’t confuse what he is saying.
Nicodemus says we, which was most probably a small group of the Pharisees. They know that Jesus came from God, but simply knowing something is not believing. Nicodemus never claims that Jesus was the Promised Messiah, he just says that this little group of folks believed that God was with Jesus, in very much the same way that they believed that God was with Moses or Jeremiah. Nicodemus was not ready to admit that Jesus was God, but there was enough proof floating around out there that there was something different, something special about Jesus.
The men that Nicodemus represented, the men that he worked with, were very well versed in the Old Testament. All good Jewish kids had to memorize the first 5 books, or the Pentateuch. The ones who showed promise were able to memorize the prophets and the Psalms. They were well acquainted with the prophecies about the coming Messiah. These men who made up the Sanhedrin spent their days discussing the law and the stories of Moses and the Red Sea, or Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, or Samson’s acts of strength. They were hyper-spiritual, and could turn every conversation into a conversation about God and His laws. But when Jesus showed up, and started fulfilling the prophecies, they decided that He could not be the Messiah, He was simply just another man with the presence of God in His life.
It is one thing for someone to respond to a miracle, but something entirely different for someone to commit themselves to God and follow Him. Jesus knew that there would be people who wanted Him to be a cosmic Santa Clause. Jesus I’ll believe in you a little, maybe leave out some cookies and milk, and then you bring the presents. Our communities are filled with folks who no longer are interested in God, because they believed if they would just believe in God then God would make sure their lives were filled with gumdrops, lollipops, unicorns, and rainbows. And when life happened, when things fell apart, or didn’t work out the way that they expected , then they lost their desire to believe. There are thousands of folks living in our communities who truly believed that because they were a good person, or at least better than their next-door neighbor, so God owed them a life of leisure and luxury.
The problem is that God never promises us that life would be easy here. What He promised is that if we love Him and endure here for a while we will live in the glory and luxury of Heaven, in His presence. Leonard Johnson was fond of telling us, “If you have faith then this is your hell, living ion this earth is as bad as it will ever be for you. But if you refuse to believe in God and accept His gift of salvation, then this is your heaven. Right now is as good as it will ever get for you.” If you have true faith, then you understand that life here will be difficult. You understand that there is nothing glamorous about taking up your cross and following Jesus.
And if you have faith then you don’t get caught up in the sensational. Jesus performed these unbelievably sensational acts, we call them miracles. He healed the sick, gave the blind back their ability to see, cast out demons, and did all sorts of unbelievable things. After Jesus fed the 5,000 they wanted to make Him king. But when He taught spiritual truths they left in droves. They wanted the reward here. They wanted to have heaven here and there. They wanted life to be easy and free from sacrifice. But Jesus wants faithful followers, who are willing to take up their cross.
From our text this morning we see that Nicodemus had made a decision about Jesus, but that's not the same as following Him. Nicodemus believed that Jesus could do the sensational but he didn’t believe in Him enough to call Him his Savior. We need to acknowledge that then and now Jesus refuses to accept a relationship with someone who simply believes; Jesus wanted Nicodemus, and you, to follow. Jesus didn't just want Nicodemus just at night; he wanted Nicodemus during the day too.
At the end of the day we see what Jesus wanted for Nicodemus is what He wants for you as well. Nicodemus liked Jesus but Jesus called him to a deeper relationship. Verse 3 Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God
Jesus doesn't mince words, He gets right to the heart of why Nicodemus is coming to Him at night. He tells Nicodemus in verse 3 that he must be born again. That would have been hard for this religious leader to hear. He was a son of Abraham, and claimed his right as one of God’s chosen people. He had spent his entire life building a religious resume. But Jesus makes it clear to Nicodemus that his righteous acts and rituals are not the measurements He is using. Nicodemus must humble himself and be born again into a whole new way of life.
You might remember that in Judaism the most important thing was being born into the right family, and having the right blood line. While other things also mattered, birth family was basic. Now, here we have Jesus saying in God’s new family, your bloodline doesn’t matter. What matters now is the new birth, one of water and Spirit. Baptism in water, which brings people into the kingdom and baptism in the Spirit, which brings about a new life.
The two are inseparable, early Christians didn’t believe that as long as you were baptized in water that you were done. They knew that your water baptism was the first step into a new spiritual life. The water baptism brought you into the visible community of Jesus' followers, while the baptism in the Spirit gave you the new life. It is only through the Spirit that we can be a true follower of Christ. Jesus even goes so far as to say that without it you can't even see God's kingdom.
Here is the reality for Nicodemus and for you as well; there is no way to follow Jesus without Him interfering with your life. Following Jesus will cost you something. Following Jesus always costs something. For Nicodemus it would cost him a powerful position. It would cost him the respect of his co-workers. It would cost him his source of income and livelihood. It would cost him friendships. It would likely cost him some family relationships. Following Jesus always involves a cost.
Which brings up a very important question; has following Jesus cost you anything? I don't mean for that to be a rhetorical question. Take a moment and think about it, what has following Jesus cost you. How has following Jesus interfered with your life?
Most of us don't mind Jesus making some minor change in our lives but Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down.
Fans don't mind him doing a little touch-up work, but Jesus wants complete renovation.
Fans come to Jesus thinking tune-up, but Jesus is thinking overhaul.
Fans think a little makeup is fine, but Jesus is thinking makeover.
Fans think a little decorating is required, but Jesus wants a complete remodel.
Fans want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives.
When you allow the Spirit to take over your life, you cannot merely sit idly by and wait for the show. You are not longer content merely being a fan of Christ, having Him as just another one of your many options. Followers, born of the Spirit, are willing to pay any cost to be at peace with their Savior, because they understand the great cost He paid to be at peace with us.
Questions For You To Consider
Read John 3:1-21
Put yourself in Nicodemus? place. He is a very religious man who based his salvation on his blood line and good deeds. If anybody should be allowed admission into God?s kingdom he should. What does Jesus say is the basis for admittance into God?s kingdom?
Why do you think this surprised Nicodemus? (verse 7)
When you hear the phrase, “born again” what do you think of”?
What is the relationship between being born again and entering the kingdom of God? (Being born is just the beginning, now you have to live)
The word believe appears several times in verses 15-18. What is the relationship between believing and being born again?
What did it cost God to keep us from perishing? (verse 16)
If doing good works or being religious (like Nicodemus) could give us eternal life do you think God would have given Christ to die on a cross? Why or why not?
In verse 21 it says that he who lives by the truth comes into the light. Where was this person before he came into the light?
If we start in the darkness and then come into the light what must we admit about the good works (the good things we have done) in our lives?
Nicodemus learned that admittance into God?s kingdom was not something that is gained by good works or by being ?religious?. If not by good works then how does a person receive eternal life?
What has it cost you to follow Christ?