Walking With the Master - Nicodemus, part 1

Faith Church March 3, 2007 John 3:

 

Introduction:

1.  We’re beginning a NEW series today: Walking with the Master

- this is done in connection with our Worship Service study: Reaching New Heights in Our Love for Our Savior – John 18-21

2.  Our ABF 6-week study will focus on specific situations Jesus faced, and what we can learn from Him – after all, He is the Master Teacher, the Perfect Example, and the Wonderful Counselor, and the Prince of Peace (just to name a few of His titles and characteristics!)

  • Mar. 4             John 3 – Nicodemus [WARNING: This will probably take 2 weeks]
  • Mar. 11            John 4 – Woman at the Well
  • Mar. 18            John 8 – Woman Taken in Adultery
  • Mar. 25            John 9 – Blind Man
  • Apr. 1                        Luke 19 –  Zaccheus
  • Apr. 8                        Matthew 19 – Rich Young Ruler [Easter]

3.  Q: Why are we doing this series?

[connect this with Reaching New Heights in Our Love for Our Savior and . . . our love for people!]

Input: How does our love for our Savior ‘connect’ with our love for people?

[various answers – but the more you love Jesus, the more you will love people]

Q: Is the opposite true?  YES

>  if you don’t love Jesus much, you won’t love people either

> we need to view people through the eyes of Christ

4.  Please open your bible to John 3:1-20 [READ John 3:1-10]

5.  Lets keep a few details in mind as we start this study:

Author: John (The Beloved Apostle) – also wrote 1,2,3 John and Revelation!

Audience: The World at large

[Matthew: Jews; Mark: Romans; Luke: Greeks]

Presentation: Christ as the Son of God

[Matthew: Christ as . . . King; Mark: . . . as the Servant; Luke: . . . as the Son of Man]

Context of John 2: Christ performing miracles and knowing the heart of man!

“The ministry of our Lord provides a stark contrast to the contemporary evangelical confusion. Christ was not interested in shallow responses or quick pseudo-conversions.  He refused to compromise the truth or give anyone false hope.  Instead of making it easy for people to believe, Jesus turned away more prospects than He received.” – MacArthur, John 1-11, p. 98

- John 2:23, 24 is an introduction to Nicodemus’ story

- John 3 demonstrates Jesus’ ability to know the heart of man and therefore demonstrates His deity – that’s what the miracles recorded in John are all about

>  this also explains why this is one of the most attacked sections in the Bible – if miracles are not possible, then Jesus isn’t God, and if He isn’t God . . . then I don’t have to acknowledge His life or what He says . . . and so I don’t have to CHANGE (I live however I want!!)!!.

- As Jesus begins His public ministry, He models to us what ‘outreach’ to others can look like:

> i.e. He presented God’s plan of salvation to Nicodemus

. . . showing that He was God’s messenger and that His redemptive work brings about the promised salvation to His people

  • John 3:14 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”

6.  This section on Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus gives us 3 lessons we can learn from Walking With the Master:

  I.  Be Prepared When People Inquire About Spiritual Things.

 II.  Be Prepared to Offer Insight About Spiritual Things (John 3:4–8)

III.  Be Prepared to Model Integrity About Spiritual Things ((John 3:9, 10).

- let’s think about this 1st lesson: 

  I.  Be Prepared When People Inquire About Spiritual Things – 3:1-3

- remember, Jesus didn’t go to Nicodemus – Nicodemus came to Him

> just like God will bring people across our path and He wants us to reach out to them and engage in spiritual conversations

Q: Any examples of that happening to you this week?

- that could take place in a variety of setting (give examples of working out at International – how conversations come up about cultural events, various times of the year, health problems, etc.)

A.  It’s about their HEART, not their RELIGIOUS HISTORY!

- it’s about what’s going on in their heart, not their ‘religious’ background or where they go to church!

Nicodemus = “victor over the people”

- Nicodemus himself was ‘the teacher of the Jews’ (3:10) and he had great respect for the Teacher from Galilee

- Nicodemus was also a Pharisee – which means he lived by the strictest possible religious rules

> their name probably comes from a Hebrew verb: “to separate”

> they were the separated ones in the sense of being zealous for the Mosaic law

. . . but the problem was they ADDED to that Law their own ‘oral traditions’ and made them equal to the Law – BAD IDEA!!

“Ironically, it was their very zeal for the law that caused the Pharisees to become ritualized and external.  Having unchanged hearts, they would only replace true religion with mere behavior modification and ritual.” – MacArthur, John 1-11, p. 100

B.  It’s about their HEART, not their POSITION!

- sometimes we get intimidate about a person’s position, or even what they might think of us

- but that’s not the issue . . . it’s what’s going on in his/her heart that is important

- Nicodemus. was a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin ("a ruler of the Jews" --  the main ruling body of the Jews in Palestine.

> in short, it was the Jewish "supreme court" or ruling council of the time

“In NT times, the Sanhedrin was composed of the High-Priest (president), chief priests, elders (family heads), and scribes for a total of 71 people. The method of appointment was both hereditary and political. It executed both civil and criminal jurisdiction according to Jewish law.” – MacArthur Study Bible

Point: This guy was ‘important’ from a cultural perspective – but position or prominence is NOT the issue when it comes to where you stand before God!

Input: What are some verses that make it “level ground at the foot of the cross”?

[various answers]

  • Romans 3:10 As it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE.”
  • Romans 3:23 For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to ALL men, because ALL sinned.

C. It’s about their HEART, not the TIMING or MOTIVE

- people ask questions or strike up a conversations for different reasons – some good, some not so good

- but no matter the motive, the opportunity for you is still the same!

> this also includes the TIMING of these questions/comments/statements come to you

- v. 2 says that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.

* Here are some possible reasons why he came at night:

1) it was figurative of the spiritual darkness of his heart (not likely – that’s obvious by what he says and what Jesus says to him that his heart is dark!

2) he could take more time with Jesus and be unhurried in conversation (possible)

3) as a ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus was afraid of the implications of associating openly in conversation with Jesus.

> but so he could have a private meeting with Jesus rather than risk disapproval with the other Pharisees (a group that had little respect for Jesus)

> but keep in mind (just like with other religions) not all of the Pharisees were hypocrites (cf. Matthew 23 – Jesus’ comments)

“. . . evidence indicates that Nicodemus was deeply sincere in his quest for truth.  He came to Jesus by night, not because he was afraid of being seen, but most likely because he wanted to have a quiet uninterrupted conversation with the new Teacher “come from God.” . . . He was a man of high moral character, deep religious hunger, and yet profound spiritual blindness.” – Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 295

Input:  What can we learn from the fact that Nicodemus used the plural pronoun “we” and Jesus responded with the plural form of “you” (3:7)?

> in may indicate he was representing the religious leaders (or at least attempting to)

> the behavior, at least of the majority of the group, would be revealed later

- which is interesting from Nicodemus’ standpoint

D. It’s about their HEART, not what they WANT to hear

  • John 3:2 “. . . for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

- Nicodemus wanted to talk about something else – he had an agenda in mind – the ‘signs’ or the miracle He has just performed (John 2)

> like many people, he didn’t get the point of the signs – what Jesus DID was only to reveal WHO He WAS – i.e. the Redeemer sent by God to pay the price for man’s sin!

NOTE: Many people want to talk about religion without talking about the Redeemer – or they want to talk about WHAT God has done but not WHO God is and WHY He did it!

- but the Wonderful Counselor brought the issue back to the ‘heart’ of the conversation

1.  Jesus dealt with the most important issue:  The issue of Nicodemus’ heart

“Jesus was not interested in discussing His signs, which had resulted only in superficial faith. Instead, He went straight to the real issue—the transformation of Nicodemus’s heart by the new birth.” – MacArthur, John 1-11, p. 102

- Jesus answered a question that Nicodemus does not even ask.

- He knew Nicodemus’ heart and came to the very core of his problem, i.e., the need for spiritual transformation or regeneration produced by the Holy Spirit.

> as you reach out to people, and come in contact with them, they will want to talk about a lot of things . . . be prepared to bring them to the CENTRAL point of the life of Christ . . .

... the true spiritual condition and the need of a Redeemer!

2.  People (‘you’ – plural) need to be ‘born again’

Born again = "born from above."

- The ONLY source of this is from God Himself . . . He imparts eternal life to the believer.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
  • Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
  • 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
  • 1 John 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

- what John wrote in John 1:12-13 indicates that "born again" also carries the idea "to become children of God" through trust in the name of the incarnate Word.

  • John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

3.  The consequences of NOT being born again are eternal and severe:  “. . . he cannot see the kingdom of God!”

“In context, this is primarily a reference to participation in the millennial kingdom at the end of the age, fervently anticipated by the Pharisees and other Jews. Since the Pharisees were supernaturalists, they naturally and eagerly expected the coming of the prophesied resurrection of the saints and institution of the messianic kingdom (Is. 11:1–16; Dan. 12:2). Their problem was that they thought that mere physical lineage and keeping of religious externals qualified them for entrance into the kingdom rather than the needed spiritual transformation which Jesus emphasized (cf. 8:33–39; Gal. 6:15). The coming of the kingdom at the end of the age can be described as the "regeneration" of the world (Matt. 19:28) but regeneration of the individual is required before the end of the world in order to enter the kingdom.” – MacArthur Study Bible

- imagine that for all eternity – to miss out on something of that value . . . to be with God in all His glory . . . forever

Point: When you’re engaged in conversation with others about spiritual things, remember the eternal ramifications of being WRONG!

4.  Truth can change a person’s life!

- Nothing is known about his family background.

Nicodemus eventually came to believe in Jesus (READ John 7:50–52),

risking His own life and reputation by helping to give Jesus’ body a decent burial (19:38–42).

Faith Church