Summary: Nicodemus, Saul, and Dr. Law - each are encountered by Grace. More preaching notes than full text.
BEING ENCOUNTERED BY AMAZING GRACE
JOHN 3. 1 - 4
Many years ago, John Newton penned the words, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. Newton was not a theologian, not a preacher, Sunday school teacher, or choir director. Newton was a slave trader, a seaman, a rough type of fellow. This was before his encounter with amazing grace. Once God’s grace encountered him, he was noticeably changed. A life wasted on the degradation of others changed into a life of serving God.
I ask that you do not tune me out just yet. Most, if not all of you here today profess to be Christian, and might feel that preaching about grace encountering a man is nice for evangelism, but you have already taken care of that. Please open your heart and mind for the next few minutes as you allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you on this subject. Take just a minute and clear your mind of lunch plans, afternoon chores, world news, and the like. Lay aside for a few minutes any ill feelings you have toward others, any thoughts of bitterness, anger, malice, or jealousy. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak truth to your heart, allow you to be truly honest with yourself, to encounter you today so that you may never be the same, that you might leave this building closer to God, emptier of self, and more filled with Holy Spirit of God.
I want to share with you this morning some thoughts about religious people, people of great conviction, people of strong “church” background, that were encountered by grace, that were challenged in the way they thought, and then through the Holy Spirit I pray each of us will be encountered where we are at by amazing grace.
* The Bible tells us he was a man of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews. Nicodemus was not just someone who went to the temple. He was a leader. He was knowledgeable. Knew the law, knew the very elements of it. No one would have looked at him and thought he needed to be changed. He had risen to a seat of authority, was very scholarly, was revered by those who served under him.
* All of his accomplishments, all of his money, all of his status left him feeling empty. There was still something missing. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on, but he knew it was there. His life was characterized by strict adherence to the law and keeping it. Washing, eating, traveling, who he associated with and who he avoided, but still something was missing.
* He came to Jesus by night. Something didn’t sit right with Him. He was seeking information. If this fellow was really who he claimed to be, He would have some answers. He came by night to avoid persecution from his religious crowd.
* Jesus’ response to Nicodemus seemed strange. Born again, what is that? That can’t happen. Impossible. So he asks the question as to how this happens. Christ’s response is that being born again is a product of the Spirit of God.
* Holy Spirit works through grace to bring salvation the lost.
* Nicodemus’ problem – religious, not saved. The cry of his heart was for truth. The need in his life was for Christ. Religion hadn’t done it. Position failed. Power left him powerless to help himself. Wisdom had left him searching for answers, and his money had left him spiritually bankrupt.
* He was searching for answers and truth. Grace met him and satisfied his longing.
2) SAUL – ACTS 9. 1 – 6
* Similar in some ways to Nicodemus. Educated, on the rise to power, determined, in the right crowd (you need to be in the right crowd for power and position), religious, and well-respected in the temple crowd.
* Had everything in place. Was secure in his religion, was secure in his beliefs. Anyone who professed this Christianity thing was a heretic, was guilty of defying God, should be imprisoned or killed.
* Received permission to jail all the Christians he could find. On his way to serve the warrants. Encountered by grace. He wasn’t searching for answers, he already had his own ideas about the answers. Wasn’t looking for truth, wasn’t looking for Christianity, he was looking for Christians. They would be imprisoned.
* Saul wasn’t looking for answers, but grace encountered him anyway.
3) DR. LAW ROMANS 3.20
* I want to introduce you to a third person. He, like Nicodemus and Saul, is educated, determined, and religious. The main difference between this guy and the other two is that this fellow professes to be a Christian. He can quote that by grace are ye saved. He knows John 3.16, Rom. 3.23, Rom. 6.23. He has held many positions in the church, and has influenced many more. He pays his bills on time, he is good to his family, he is a pretty good employee. You can pretty much trust him with a secret, he thinks it is wrong to drink, cuss, and gossip. He goes to church every Sunday, sometimes on Wednesday too. Goes to ss, sings in the choir, and usually pays attention during the preaching service.