Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; March 12, 2017; John 3:1-17

Scripture for Sunday, March 12, 2017 is John 3:1-17

You can read these Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

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We tend to trivialize what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The truth is that being a follower of Jesus is not supposed to be easy.

Most pastors dread the knowledge that sometimes we may lose people or make them mad when we preach the Gospel. It becomes tempting for pastors to become people pleasers, desperate to pacify and avoid any and all confrontations. In the process we lose the message of the gospel, what it means to make disciples, and what transformation of the world looks like.

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Because of all that, we dilute the Gospel, and in doing that we “domesticate” Jesus. What I mean by this is that we lose the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5) and make him into a harmless declawed kitten. Today’s Gospel reading about Nicodemus and his evening encounter with Jesus touches on that.

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The way the story goes, Nicodemus knocked on Jesus’ door late one evening. Maybe they shared a cup of wine or something to eat. We don’t know. But we do know how their conversation went. Nicodemus said something like, “Rabbi, you are a great teacher. You obviously have a powerful connection with God. I want to hear more.”Watch what Jesus did, or rather what Jesus did not do. Jesus did not invite Nicodemus to an informal church gathering the next afternoon to meet the Disciples. Jesus did not blushingly acknowledge Nicodemus’ compliments and modestly affirm his own heavenly pedigree. Jesus did not talk about the number of people in his posse. And Jesus definitely did not hand Nicodemus a multicolored trifold that summarized his teachings in five nonthreatening, easily remembered points.

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William Arthur Ward said once, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Jesus is a great teacher.

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Because of the level of his education, Nicodemus was beyond explanations and demonstrations. Nicodemus came looking for inspiration. And Jesus knew that.

Jesus did not try to water down the truth for Nicodemus or dilute the peculiarity of what it means to be a follower of God. “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) Jesus talked about rebirth, regeneration, and renewal. “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

Nicodemus was baffled. “Nicodemus, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. … 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).

With these words, Jesus offered Nicodemus a vision. Jesus reminded Nicodemus that no one knows from one moment to the next when they will feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit of our God or how this encounter will change their lives.

It is in the context of this conversation with Nicodemus that Jesus taught, “14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3).

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We are in the Season of Lent when we are invited to struggle with the difficult questions of faith. Are you like Nicodemus who was set in his ways, reciting answers to outdated questions?

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Have you been born of the Spirit through “the wind [which] blows wherever it pleases.” Have you been born of the Spirit so that when “you hear its sound” you recognize it and respond to its nudgings? Do you know what God sounds like?

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Today’s Scriptures are about what it means to “be born again.” I am a Born Again Christian and I know that being Born Again is not a static state, reducible to an experience that happened on a certain date. I remember my date with trepidation and fondness because that is the day when I understood for the first time my smallness and God’s all-encompassing love and acceptance for me. That experience got me started on an ongoing process of learning and growing with God as my mentor. When someone asks me whether I’ve been Born Again, my answer is “every day.”

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Jesus understood Nicodemus’ weaknesses and challenged him to rely on his strengths.

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By naming Nicodemus’ fears and anxieties, Jesus fortified his faith and empowered him to seek new understandings and see new possibilities.

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