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A Work of God

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A Work of God

This morning we will be looking at a section of scripture that is pretty familiar for most of you.  For that very reason, I would ask you this morning to pray with me that God would help open our hearts to receive his word afresh in our hearts today.  Do not let familiarity breed contempt.

Prayer

There are three truths I would like to point out in Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus.  Three points Jesus makes that are crucial in our knowing who Jesus is and what he is all about.  However, before we look at Jesus’ points, I would like us to focus our attention on Nicodemus. 

Nicodemus is a member of the Jewish ruling council.  He comes to Jesus at night, with a message for Jesus that I believe he thinks will impress Jesus.  Nicodemus wants Jesus to know that he thinks highly of Jesus.  Now Nicodemus was a preacher of preachers.  He is a scholar and absolutely diligent in his religious observances.  He is well respected and elite among a people and culture that revolves around God.   I like what Robert Bakke says about the Nicodemus when he says, “If you were to ask any person walking the street in Nicodemus’ day, if Nicodemus was going to heaven, they would in all likelihood say, If Nicodemus is not going to heaven, no one is going to heaven.  He is the crème of the crop, in a culture devoted to God.  Here he comes, to speak to Jesus and to give Jesus his seal of approval. 

He declares, “Jesus, we have determined that you are a man sent from God, for no one can do the things you have been doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus’ response is startling.  “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 

Jesus stops Nicodemus dead in his tracks to reveal some truths to Nicodemus and us that I believe God has brought us together to learn.

3 Truths to Remember…

1.      Truth #1:  You must be born from above.

Born form above/born again

Why?  Nicodemus, “We know…”  “How can a man…”

Nicodemus is focused below, on his works and abilities.

What we need is not more of our work, but a work of God. 

You must be born from above.

On November 20, 1988, the Los Angeles Times reported:  A screaming woman, trapped in a car dangling from a freeway transition road in East Los Angeles was rescued Saturday morning.  The 19 year old woman apparently fell asleep behind the wheel at about 12:15 am.  The car, which plunged through a guard rail, was left dangling by its left rear wheel.  A half dozen passing motorists stopped, grabbed some ropes from one of their vehicles, tied the ropes to the back of the car, and hung on till fire units arrived.  The ladder was extended from below to help stabilize the car while firefighters tied the vehicle to tow trucks with cables and chains. 

“Every time we would move the car,” said on of the rescuers, “she’d yell and scream.  She was in pain.” 

It took almost 2 ½ hours for the passers-by, CHP officers, tow truck drivers, and firefighters – about 25 people in all – to secure the car and pull the woman to safety.

“It was kinda funny,” L.A. County Fire Capt. Ross Marshall recalled later.  “She kept saying, “I’ll do it myself!”

Her car is dangling on the edge of destruction with her trapped and hurting inside, and she cries out, “I’ll do it myself.”  Isn’t that human nature?  Nicodemus approaches Jesus with his great learning, his prestige and his accomplishments to acknowledge him.  Jesus immediately tells him, “Nicodemus, you must start over.”  What you need Nicodemus, is not to add me to your group, not to grasp things intellectually, not to work it out in your mind or in your actions.  What you need, Nicodemus, is to be born from above.

What an affront to human pride.

Sometime when you’re feeling important,

Sometime when your ego’s way up;

Sometime when you take it for granted

That you are the prize winning “pup”;

Sometime when you feel that your absence

Would leave an unfillable hole,

Just follow these simple instructions,

And see how it humbles your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,

Put your hand in up to your wrist.

Now pull it out fast and the hole that remains

Is the measure of how you’ll be missed.

You may splash all you please as you enter,

And stir up the water galore,

But STOP and you’ll find in a minute,

It’s back where it was before.

-          A. Duddley Dennison Jr., Windows, Ladders & Bridges

Our problem this morning, is not that we sin too much.  It’s not that we do not know the Word well enough.  It’s not that we do not go to church often enough. 

I look a lot like my dad.  Friends of my dad will say, “Hey, are you Dennis’ boy?”  Pretty much the same height, build nose, etc.  we even have pretty much the same temperament and personality.  But you know, there are some things I have inherited from my dad that I am not all that proud of.  And the same with his dad before him and his dad before him going all the way back to Adam.  THE PROBLEM IS NOT WITH WHAT WE DO, BUT WHO WE ARE! 

Jesus looks at Nicodemus, as good of man as he was and as hard as he tried and declares to him, what you need is not more insight, or more effort.  What you need is a miracle.  You need a work of God.  You need to be born from above.

Nicodemus, not understanding what Jesus is talking about, trying to reason things out cries out in disbelief…How?  How can a man be born when he is old?

2.      Truth # 2:  You must be born of water and Spirit.

This new birth, this birth from above, Jesus declares is a Spiritual birth not physical!   It doesn’t come with pregnancy, it doesn’t come with intellect, it doesn’t come with effort.  It comes…like the wind.  You do not see it, and you cannot control it.  But it is as real as the breeze on your face and the air in your lungs. 

You need a work of God.  You must be born of water and Spirit. 

Some claim that this reference to “water” refers to amniotic fluid in the mother’s womb.  Saying in essence, you must be born physically and spiritually.  However, that is not the case.  First, we see that John is contrasting flesh with Spirit.  The water and Spirit are a conjunction that represent the same event.  We see after this that Jesus’ disciples are baptizing followers.  Nicodemus could have likely understood the implications of this.  But even more we must remember that John the Apostle has a purpose in writing this Gospel.  That men might believe and have life in Jesus’ name.  The first century reader could have drawn even more insight from this passage in what we see in Christian baptism.  Not that there is power in water, but the water of baptism represents admission into the church of Christ and a prayer of faith and submission to Christ.  You must be born of water and Spirit.

Flesh gives birth to flesh.  The finest acts of the flesh and the most noble still give birth to death.  Man in all his knowledge, wisdom and power, in all his strivings and toils cannot keep himself alive.  Flesh gives birth to flesh.

Perhaps you noticed in the text that Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night.  This is immensely significant.  The inspired Apostle uses imagery and details to reveal powerful insights to us.  Over and over we see John referring to concepts such as light and darkness, day and night.  Not only do they often reveal times of day but spiritual realities as well.  We have already seen that Jesus is revealed to be the light in darkness.  Numerous times we read about night in the book of John

Night:  Jesus says, night is coming when no one can work.

            When a person walks at night they stumble cause they don’t have light.

            Judas goes out to betray Jesus, and it was night.

            The disciples fish at night, but catch nothing.

            Nicodemus visits Jesus again…at night to help wrap Jesus’ body.  When the light of the world had been snuffed out by wicked men.   The hour when darkness reigned. 

Nicodemus approached Jesus in darkness.  A mind darkened by the world.  A man focused on his own abilities and efforts.  A man blind in darkness who thinks he can find his way home on his own.

Jesus declares to Nicodemus, you need a work of God.  You need the breath of God to blow on you and the light of God to shine upon you.  Without it you are absolutely, completely and totally helpless and hopeless. 

Being born from above = being born of the breath/spirit/wind

Valley of Dry bones

Then you will know that I am the LORD. 

This Work, is God’s work.  It is God’s breath, God’s life, God’s power, for God’s own glory.

This issue is not up for debate.  This is not a philosophical view.  It is not man’s idea or contrived by conjecture.  Jesus says, “No one has seen what I have seen.  I am trying to make this simple and understandable and you won’t believe me.” 

John 3:31b-34  “The one who comes from heaven is above all.  He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.  The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.   For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God/he gives the Spirit without limit.”

Jesus has the Spirit without limit.  He is the Word of God and is filled with the breath/wind of God.  What you need is a miracle.  The breath and life that comes from God alone.  And the fullness of that Spirit, breath and wind is found in Jesus. 

What do we preach?  How do you call upon the Spirit?  How do we command the wind of God to blow upon us. 

3.      Truth #3:  You must believe Jesus.

                                                              i.      Nicodemus believed Jesus was a good addition. 

                                                            ii.      He did not approach Jesus as the author of life.

                                                          iii.      He did not approach Jesus as the word of truth.

                                                          iv.      He did not approach Jesus as the gate to heaven.

                                                            v.      Nicodemus saw Jesus as a godly teacher, but he also saw himself as a godly teacher. 

Jesus says we must embrace him as the light of the world.  The sole holder of truth from God.  And the only way to receive life. 

Is that how we approach Jesus this morning?  Do we come to God in humility, dead, crying out for life.  Willing to cling to Jesus and hold his words as the sole words of truth and authority concerning human life and purpose?  Or do we, like Nicodemus, come to add Jesus to our list of accomplishments and as a means to our personal pleasure?

                                                          vi.      $3 WORTH OF GOD
I would like to buy $3 worth of Jesus, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of Jesus, please.

SOURCE: Citation: Wilbur Rees, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.]

How do we approach Jesus?

b.      Believe, trust, hope, cling to..and you will be saved.

c.       If you do not, you are condemned.

d.      Because you need a work of God.

e.       This work is God’s work.

GK Chesterson said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried. 

Difficulty is not in the effort, but in the humility.  The work of salvation is a work of God. 

There was a man who gave his business to God.  He had hassled over it for years.  He had wrestled with it and fought it for two decades.  One day he decided, “I’ve had it; that’s enough!”  He had heard from his pastor that Sunday morning about the value of turning his entire business over to God.  It was when he drove away  from the church that he decided he had worried enough.  By the time he had got home, he had totally and unequivocally committed his business to God. 

That very night his place of business caught fire.  He got an emergency call.  He rather calmly drove down to the commercial residence and was standing on the street, watching the place go up in flames.  He was sort of smiling to himself.  One of his colleagues raced to his side and questioned his relaxed attitude about what was happening.  “Man!  Don’t you know what’s happening to you?...It’s …it’s burning up!”

He replied, “I know it.  I know it.  No problem Fred.  This morning I gave this company to God, and if he wants to burn it up, that’s His business.”

Is your life God’s business?  Have you given it to him?  Have you come to Jesus, not on your terms, but on his?  Have you cried out to God for a miracle?  For a work that only he can do? 

Though no one can go back and make a new beginning - anyone can start from now and make a brand new end.

— Carl Brand

Because God is working even now!  The wind is blowing now.  It requires you believe that Jesus indeed holds the words of life. 

This is what we preach.  The word of Jesus.  The word that says what mankind needs is not better government, not better intellect, not better morality or more religion, not more comfort or more pleasure.  What man needs is a WORK OF GOD!  That work is at the cross.   IT has the power to forgive any person of any sin and fill them with the breath of God, a new birth, a new life.  If you need that miracle this morning…if the wind of God is blowing on your heart today come and be born of water and Spirit.  If you have received that miracle, go and preach the cross.  Because our work, it to testify to the dead about the life-giving work of God in Christ.  This work, is God’s work and God’s work is the cross of Christ.  The Lord has spoken…HE HAS DONE IT!

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