Friday, October 12, 2012

Nicodemus--My sermon for the Revival Service in Haiti

John 3:1-21

            Tonight we are going to study a man from the Bible. A man that we may not be able to identify with everything about him, but there are certain things about him that we all can identify with. This man’s name was Nicodemus. He was a very religious man. He was very wealthy. He had a very powerful job in Israel, as being one of seventy members who made up their ruling class. And he was considered by many to be a very good teacher.
I.                   People Want to Intimidate and Control You
            Nicodemus had heard a lot of talk about a man named Jesus. This Jesus had created a lot of controversy in all of Israel. Some said He was the Messiah that many had been waiting so long for. Some said He was the Son of God. Some said He was just another prophet. Some said He was a good teacher. And still others said He was just a crazy troublemaker. Many of Nicodemus’s closest friends, co-workers, and family members were afraid of Jesus because He was making them all feel very uncomfortable. He was saying things that caused a lot of people to question the religious leaders, whether they were actually right or not. Many of those people stopped following the religious leaders, and started following Jesus. If all of these people kept leaving them and following Jesus then they would no longer have as much influence over them, and they would not make as much money. In other words, they wouldn’t have as much power as they once did. And that scared them.
            These religious leaders, when given a choice to have power over their fellow man, or have a right relationship with God, they chose to keep the power. Many of them began making up their minds about Jesus, based simply on fear, without ever investigating matters for themselves. Right now, there are so called religious leaders here, who may have heard about this Jesus, but are afraid to lose their power they have over you. They have chosen to maintain power rather than having a right relationship with God, and they will do everything possible to keep you from having that right relationship, too, just to keep that power. But back to the story, many of these powerful men decided that they would try to keep their power, and they would try to silence this Jesus in any way possible. Nicodemus had more integrity than the other men did. He knew that in the Bible, in the book of Proverbs (18:13) that it says, “It is a fool who decides a matter before he hears it.” He decided that he was going to investigate the matter for himself before he decided anything.
            But he was afraid. Have you ever been around a lot of people, when everybody else has a different opinion on a subject than you do? It makes you feel different. You feel out of place, and if you say that you disagree with them, you would really feel out of place. Nicodemus knew that almost everyone else hated this Jesus without any real reason to hate him, but he had some questions that he wanted to ask Him. He knew that if anyone found out that he was talking to Jesus, he would lose his reputation, and their respect. So when do you do something when you don’t want anyone to see you doing it? At night time. The only problem is that the Bible says that Jesus was the light of man. He was coming at night to THE Light. He was leaving spiritual darkness and entering spiritual light.
            Who was he afraid of that might see him? His family. His co-workers. Other religious leaders. His students. His former teachers. Who are you afraid of that might see you?  
II.     Its God’s agenda Not Yours
            Maybe you are like Nicodemus. He is going to meet with a very important man, and he has some things he needs to ask of Him. Whenever I have to meet with someone, or have an important conversation with someone I rehearse over and over again in my head what I want to say, and how I am going to say it. But when Nicodemus shows up to where Jesus is staying, he is only able to get his opening line out, “Rabbi, 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.” Then Jesus completely takes control, and changes the direction of the entire conversation and says, “Truly, truly I say unto you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
            Nicodemus probably had a lot of questions to ask Jesus. Questions like, “Are you really the Son of God?” “Are you the Messiah?” “How did you turn water into wine?” “What did you mean when you said you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days?” By changing the direction of the conversation Jesus said, “I am not interested in satisfying your intellectual curiosity. I am only interested in you having a right relationship with God, and that can only be done through Me, by being born again.”  
            Jesus went on to say For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
            I have two daughters and a son. I cannot imagine sacrificing them, or giving them up for anything, but praise God, that our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His own son. Though he was innocent, He took on the punishment that we deserved, and was brutally killed.
            In America, the one Bible verse that almost everyone knows—even if they have never read a Bible, is John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is a very beautiful verse and it is very important, but there is another very important verse here. John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” That means that we are already going to hell. Everyone, from whatever age God decides to hold each of us accountable for our actions, are on the road to hell, unless we make the decision to be followers of Christ.
            You may say, “That is very harsh. Why would a loving God do that?” Let me give you an illustration. Let’s say that everyone here tonight is very sick and will die very shortly. A doctor comes up to me and says, “Adam, we have found a cure for this disease! Everyone can be cured!” That would be fantastic, right? Then the doctor says, “There is only one problem. Your son is the cure, and the only way we can get the cure out of him is to kill him.” If I decided to kill my only son, and give him up as a cure for all of you, and only half of you ever thanked me, or even acknowledged the sacrifice I made for you…words cannot describe how violently angry I would get. My son had to die and half of you don’t care?
            That is exactly what God did. There is a disease in this world that we all have. A deadly disease called “sin.” There is a cure, but the only cure is the blood of a perfect sacrifice. The Bible says that the sacrifice of bulls and sheep were never enough to take our sin away. There had to be something else. God had to sacrifice His only son to get the cure out of Him, and billions of people won’t even acknowledge Him or care that He made such a sacrifice. It is only because of His patient love for us that we have not felt the wrath of our sin already. But His patience will not last forever.
III.             If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?
Maybe you are like Nicodemus and are afraid of what other people may think of you, or even do to you or your family if you become a follower of Jesus Christ. There is one God. One God who created all of the heavens and the earth, moon, sun, and stars. He gave us breath and lungs to breathe it with, a heart that beats. He causes the sun to rise and set, the tide to come in and go back out again. There is no other god. There is no other spiritual being that can contend with his power or His majesty. The apostle Paul wrote, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” We should not be afraid of those who can kill our bodies but cannot touch our souls. The God who raised Jesus from the dead, is capable of delivering us, and protecting us from the problems we face in this world, but we know for sure that He will deliver us from the enemy of our souls. So, I ask you again, if God is for us, who can be against us? Will you trust Him tonight?