This Preaching in Shorts sermon series is called “Interacting Well”.
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John 3:16-17 (MSG)
16 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 17 God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
Over the last two weeks we have been talking about loving our neighbors as ourselves. Last week I said that Jesus modeled this type of love life for us and two weeks ago I said that we needed to do what He did, and in order to do what He did we would need to see like He saw, think like He thought, serve like He served, and love like He loved.
I want to look at a few encounters Jesus has with some different kinds of people so that by observing these encounters we can learn from Jesus how to love our neighbors. Remember, our neighbors are people who need to know the mercy of God as we saw in the parable of the good Samaritan last week.
Let me encourage you to let these encounters impact you. Don’t just take them in as a passive observer, learn from them and ask God how they might change the way you interact with people around you.
I was part of a team some years ago in Cuba teaching a three day seminar on how to pray for people. At the end of the seminar we went out in teams and did the stuff. After three days of teaching, instead of doing any of the things we had modeled, they just did what they had always done.
Ask yourself what you can learn from this encounter.
We will be using John chapter 3 as our background for today’s message. In John 3 Jesus has an interesting encounter with Nicodemus.
1. Who do you think you are?
Not, who do you think you are!!!!? But, who do you think you are? Do you know who you are? One of the things we are talking about is trying to think like Jesus thought. Nicodemus sneaks in at night
John 3:1-2 (NIV)
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Nicodemus represented the best in the nation. He was a teacher, a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council.
I think this encounter is interesting. Nicodemus, this person of stature in the community, sneaks in at night, so no one will see him. He opens up the conversation with some pretty flowery compliments towards Jesus, but the sneaking in at night and the compliments don’t seem to fit very well to me.
Life is filled with challenging people and interesting encounters. This is not a bad thing, not a threat, and can be used by God if we can get out thinking right.
God defines who you are. If you don’t know this, you will let other people try and define you, manipulate you, or even intimidate you.
Not just who you are but who’s you are. You are a child of the King. You are a follower of Jesus. You are a disciple who is broken, but who is trying to live by doing the next right thing.
When you are settled in who you are in Him, you are much more likely to be less defensive and less “what about me” in an encounter. It is not about having to prove you are right, which will allow you to think about how God might actually be able to use the encounter or interaction.
Jesus saw this an opportunity to
2. Speak the truth in love
John 3:3-6 (NIV)
3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
Jesus is trying to tell a deeply religious person of very important stature that what he has is not enough. Unless we repent and come to Christ we can’t access the Kingdom of God. It is not about our religious works, our political power, our position in society, it is about His work of grace.
A big note, Nicodemus came to Jesus. He saw something in Jesus that drew him to ask these questions. In order to get to speak the truth, you have to be trying to live by doing the next right thing. In this instance, Jesus is trying to love Nicodemus into the Kingdom by getting him to see that he will not make it in his own righteousness.
3. Be an encourager
John 3:16-17 (NIV)
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.
In the giving of His one and only Son, Jesus is talking about the cross. Jesus served us all by giving his life as a ransom for us. He paid for our sin at the cross that we might be restored in relationship to God.
One of the ways that we serve like He served is to be encouragers, not criticizers. God’s purpose in sending His Son is to save, not to condemn. God does not delight in the death of the wicked, He desires that everyone be saved.
Jesus was offering hope for life to Nicodemus, by sharing with him the good news. Jesus was sharing the concept of grace to a religious person who had only ever known the law. Even though the Old Testament speaks about grace, the religious community at the time had lost the concept of God’s grace and love. It is in this light that I think it is so important that we continue to love people into the kingdom with radical generosity, radical hospitality, and the radical message. We live this life out before them, the best that we can, serving them. We don’t need to point the finger, we need to offer encouragement and hope because of the grace and mercy and love of God. God has made a way for everyone to be in relationship with Him forever in Christ. Our part is to share this hope. It is good news, not bad news. If your sharing of the gospel sounds like bad news, something isn’t right. If it is all about rules, regulations, and rituals, it is not encouraging. It is discouraging, and it drives people away from God.
4. Always look for the beauty of potential
What did Jesus see in Nicodemus? Someone who was seeking after the truth. Scared at first, sneaking in under the cover of darkness.
John 3:20-21 (NIV)
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
But being drawn to the light and then I believe stepping into it. We see Nicodemus defending Jesus when the chief priests are trying to have Him arrested.
John 7:50-51 (NIV)
50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”
And at the crucifixion, when almost everyone else had run away, there was Nicodemus. Publicly taking care of the body of Jesus.
John 19:39-40 (NIV)
39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs..
I think Nicodemus got it. I think Jesus encounter with Nicodemus resulted in a changed life for the Kingdom of God.