Sermons

Summary: The scandal of grace transforms sinners from death and darkness to life and light in Christ.

During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.

They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.

The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." After some discussion, the conferees had to agree.

The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law-each of these offer a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. It is shocking to many to hear that they can't do anything to earn entrance into Heaven. The notion of grace is beyond human comprehension. By our nature, we want to merit God's favor. The scandal of grace challenges our normal way of thinking.

[Nicodemus is a man who doesn't understand grace. The scandal of grace and new birth moves us from darkness to light in Christ. OYBT John 3]

II. NICODEMUS MEETS JESUS (3:1-15)

A. Nicodemus is a Pharisee: (1) A particular sect of Jews known for their pious living and adherence to the OT Law. The Pharisees developed a system of 613 laws: 365 negative and 248 positive laws. By the time Christ comes it is producing a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness.

B. He is a member of the Sanhedrin: (1) the Jewish court (the Supremes) in Jerusalem from the Persian through the Roman period; it has both religious and political powers and comprises the elite (priestly and laity) of society. Seventy members with the High Priest as president.

C. He comes at night.

1. Perhaps out of fear, or careful regard for others' opinions. He is a prominent man "Israel's Teacher" trained and prepared for teaching. It would not look good for him to acknowledge this untrained teacher.

2. Perhaps to gain uninterrupted access to Jesus. Jesus always has a crowd around him, making a leisurely interview impossible. Nighttime allows a long, private discussion.

3. Perhaps in keeping with tradition of study; learning into the night hours. It may even be symbolic of darkness coming to light; i.e., the lost state of Nicodemus, respected by the Jews, and guilty before a holy God.

D. He opens courteously, even flatters Jesus, calling him "Rabbi" (v.2), "a teacher from God" (respectful); he comes as one teacher to another. Jesus cuts directly to his heart unless you are born again…

1. Jesus knows how Nicodemus lives. He has religion, but no relationship. He lives a pious life outwardly, but has not been changed inwardly. He is like many that call themselves Christians. They have all outward appearances of religion, yet have no relationship.

2. Nicodemus is confused. Jesus reminds him that he is Israel's teacher one who professes to know the things of God, and is able to teach others yet he cannot grasp this notion of grace. He still believes he must earn his salvation through his behavior.

[The scandal of grace transforms sinners from death and darkness to life and light in Christ.]

III. THE GOSPEL PRESENTED (vv. 16-21)

A. Nicodemus is intrigued by what Jesus says. In just a few minutes, Jesus crushes everything he believes about salvation. What he does, the way he lives, the things he teaches ALL GONE.

B. Imagine how difficult it is for the lost to embrace the notion of grace to accept the gospel message. All their lives, they have been misled, just like Nicodemus.

C. Don't slander them pray for them! Ask God to open their hearts to the truth of the gospel before it's too late. As you share the Gospel, don't focus on their past; focus on their future: made possible by Jesus! Many opportunities are lost because our methods are crass, callous, and heartless. Consider Jesus' example…it is none of these!

[The scandal of grace transforms sinners from death and darkness to life and light in Christ.]

IV. THINGS THAT KEEP US IN DARKNESS

A. DISBELIEF: Refusing to accept the truth of God's word: searching for an easier way

B. GUILT: God wants to trip me up, so I must do things to compensate for my failures. This works-based system allows me to deal with guilt by doing something good. (v. 17)

C. IGNORANCE: I'm a [good person], [church member], [haven't really sinned]; If I do the right things, I'll be OK (v.18)

D. LOVE OF SINFUL LIFESTYLE: Fear of the light I'm not giving up my way of life; I'm not hurting anyone; God doesn't care what I do. Apart from grace, we live in death and darkness.

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