Summary: Head knowledge vs. heart knowledge
By: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor of Grace UMC, Soddy Daisy, TN firstname.lastname@example.org
Gosh there are a lot of unhappy people in this world.
I was speaking with someone this past week.
They were sharing with me their insecurities, their fears…
…this person is so unhappy.
He said to me, “I always feel as if I am lost.”
I would imagine most of us have felt lost many times during our lives, but to feel this way ‘always’ is a terrible burden indeed!!!
Toward the end of his life the Apostle Paul was able to say: “I know what it is like to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Contentment is what this world is starving for.
It is what most every person desires.
Why, then is it so elusive?
Paul follows this statement up with, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Contentment and the secret to being content is found in Christ and Christ alone!!!
It’s not something we can attain from external powers.
We will not find contentment in human institutions.
We will not find contentment in trying to follow certain “guidelines to living” or “certain rules.”
It just doesn’t work.
It has to come from within—no matter the circumstance…
…it has to come from Christ and complete reliance on and faith in Christ’s love for us!
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning we come upon a man named Nicodemus.
We are told that Nicodemus was a Pharisee and “a member of the Jewish ruling council.”
It is also believed that Nicodemus belonged to a distinguished Jewish family—kin to a certain Nicodemus who was the ambassador to Pompey, the Roman emperor back in 63 BC.
It is amazing that this Jewish aristocrat would come to this homeless prophet who had been a carpenter in Nazareth, so that he might find the key to life and living.
That’s like the Pope asking me, “Ken, how can I find God?”
Nicodemus was a Pharisee.
He was one of the elite who dedicated their lives to keeping thousands of rules…to keeping every detail of the law of the scribes.
And he was a ruler of the Jews.
Which is to say, he was a member of the Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin was The Supreme Court of the Jews.
Again, it’s amazing that Nicodemus would come to Jesus at all.
We are told that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night when it was dark.
The writer of the Gospel of John likes to use the symbolism of darkness and light throughout his Gospel.
This situation is no exception…
Nicodemus came to Jesus as a man lost in the darkness…seeking The Light Who is Jesus!!!
In Nicodemus’ heart, there was a great unsatisfied yearning.
A great unsatisfied yearning for peace and contentment.
Nicodemus may have been an extremely successful man, but his worldly success still left him as empty and desperate as the rest of us.
Perhaps Nicodemus felt as if he were always lost—all the time.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he told Jesus that no one could help being impressed by the signs and wonders Jesus did.
Jesus’ answer was that it was not the signs and wonders that were really important; the important thing was such a radical change in a person’s inner life that it could only be described as a new birth!!!
We might tend to think that the idea of being “born again” has only Christian roots, but this is not true.
As a matter of fact, this idea goes back many thousands of years.
This idea was not new to the people of Jesus’ time.
The Greeks used the idea of being born again in their “mystery religions.”
And the Jews, well, when a person became a Jew, they were regarded as having been born again.
The sins the person had committed before the conversion were all done, and now the new convert was a new person.
The Jews knew the idea of the New Birth, and thus, Nicodemus knew it very well.
The world today knows, very well, the term of being born again.
It has been used by politicians, presidents, and celebrities.
It has been preached by about all the television evangelists.
Most people have a friend or family member who is a self-described “born again Christian.”
Yes, this world, as well as the world of Jesus day is quite familiar with this term—born again.
But unless it is experienced, that is all it is: a term.
A misused, and misconstrued and misunderstood term at that!!!
Many times to separate up voting blocks, the media will use the term “born again Christians” to define one category of religious folk.