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.
Wikipedia, Winnie The Poo, Ultimate Frisbee, Nike Elite Socks, Lamar Cardinals, Gator 911, Hiking, Macy’s, Toy Story, Baseball, Lowe's, Duck Dynasty, 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. (Screen shot of Facebook Likes). This week I went to several of our members Facebook pages and these are some of the things that our members like.
I have a Facebook account and I understand the like option, but I also understand 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. If they quit giving me things, my like would disappear. Sometimes we like stuff because of what we get from it.
I like The Tulsa Workshop, because I am going to the workshop and I wanted to get some information about who would be speaking and what the schedule looked like. And I like GC United Soccer, because Trafton plays for them. But you all understand that I don’t feel the same way for The App Store that I feel for Trafton’s soccer team. 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 have 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. Our text this morning will be 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. (Read Text)
There are a few things in our text this morning that I believe lends itself to our discussion on being a true follower of Christ instead just being His fan.
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 Preston. But sometimes there are some things that we pause and think about whether we are ready to tell the world that we like. We understand in High School that you have to like the things that you don’t really like so that you can be liked by people that you like. (Follow that?)
But the reverse of that is true as well. There are some things you like, but you can’t tell people that you like. For example if a 40 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. But, what does it mean; why would he come to Jesus at night?
Well there are a few ideas floating out there. Some folks think that it is a comment on his spiritual condition. When John said that Nicodemus came at night, He was saying that he was in the dark spiritually. The problem is that John doesn’t use this kind of flowery language, he doesn’t write in code, he uses plain language.
Other folks think that this is simply his way of getting some alone time with Christ, since it was common for Rabbi’s to discuss things deep into the night, so it’s merely a historical detail. My struggle with this is that Nicodemus would have had plenty of opportunities during the day. Jesus was often found teaching in public places where it would have been more convenient for Nicodemus to talk to Him for a few minutes. In fact, given his position as a religious leader, when Nicodemus approached Jesus, the crowds would have backed away so that these two Rabbi’s would have had each others attention.
I think that the reason that he 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. 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 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. To working hard so my family can have every thing they need like matching snuggies, you know they have sleeves. 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 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.
The problem with being this kind of fan is found in what 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 maybe 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. 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 he has decided that Jesus really is from God. He had come to a point of belief, but where do you go from there?
I find it interesting that he says, we most probably the Pharisees, know that You came from God. What he is saying is not that we believe that you are the Promised Messiah, but that we believe that God is with you, just like God was with Moses or Jeremiah. You are not God you just have His presence. These men knew their Old Testaments. They knew the stories of men like Moses and the Red Sea, or Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, or Samson’s acts of strength. In their minds Jesus was 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. And that’s a struggle that folks still have today. God I believe in you so you make sure that my life is filled with gumdrops and lollipops. God I’m a good person, or at least better than my next-door neighbor so you owe me 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. People are attracted to the sensational, 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, and Jesus wants faithful followers.
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.
Finally from our text this morning we see that 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 waste time but 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 had memorized the first five books of the Bible when he was a boy and had spent the rest of his childhood memorizing the Psalms and the prophets. His adult life was spent 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.
What Jesus is saying here is deeper than we probably understand. In Judaism the most important thing was being born into the right family, if you could trace your blood line to Abraham. 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.
That brings up a very telling 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?