Summary: God’s desire for us has always been that we respond to his grace with simply trust.
Title: Into the Hyperlinks with Jesus
Thesis: God’s desire for us has always been that we respond to his grace in faith.
It is common knowledge that Charles Colson was known as President Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man.” Slate Magazine writer David Plotz described Colson as “the evil genius of an evil administration.” And Colson himself has written that he was “valuable to the President… because I was willing… to be ruthless in getting things done.” (http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Colson)
Chuck Colson was a man in need of being “born again.”
You may recall that on the eve of his conviction and imprisonment for obstructing justice, Colson had a dramatic conversion experience. After his release from prison Chuck Colson founded Prison Fellowship and wrote his personal memoir, Born Again in 1976.
In July of 2005 biographer Jonathan Aitken published an authorized biography of Colson’s life titled Charles Colson: A Life Redeemed, in which he wrote that Charles Colson is perhaps the most famous born-again Republican after George W. Bush. He also described Colson as “America’s best-known Christian leader, after Billy Graham.”
Max Blumenthal, writing in the Washington Monthly suggested another title for this new biography might be Born Again, Again. (Max Blumenthal, Born again, Again, Washington Monthly, July/August 2005)
The born again terminology prompts derision in the minds of some people. Max Blumenthal seems to think being born again is some sort of smoke screen to cover up and white wash the past or the skeptical thought that most people never really change. And others like Joe Queenan, whose Op-Ed piece triggered by the apology offered by Bernie Maddox after having bilked a bunch of people, was printed in the Denver Post, is just tired of what he calls empty apologies and would like to ban public apologies issued by con artists, politicians, captains of industry, religious leaders, and athletes. (Joe Queenan, Apology Not Accepted, The Denver Post, 13B, March 18, 2009)
But mostly, I think the term is confusing. In our text today Nicodemus is having a conversation with Jesus in which Jesus tells Nicodemus, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus’ immediate response was, “What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Then Jesus goes on to talk about being born of water and the Spirit and of how humans can only reproduce human life but the Spirit gives new life from heaven. And Nicodemus asks once again, “What do you mean?” Nicodemus is confused. He needs clarity.
It is as if Jesus realized that maybe understanding the intricacies of the new birth are not as important as seeing that Nicodemus experienced the new birth… that Nicodemus understand that he must place his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior. So he takes a different approach… an approach he thinks a Jewish religious leader would understand. He refers to an Old Testament story found in Numbers 21:4-9.
This is our first Hyperlink. A hyperlink is essentially a Cross Reference. If you look down the margin of your bible at the list of cross references, when you reach John 3:14 you will see Numbers 21:8-9. If we were on an internet web page reading about John 3:14 there would be a hyperlink in the text, usually in blue, which you could click on and you would be immediately taken to another web page where, in this case, you would be reading about Numbers 21:4-9. So a hyperlink or a link or a cross reference simply takes you out of the present text, to another related text, to further your understanding of what you are reading.
Jesus is setting Nicodemus up so that he will be able to understand what it means to place one’s faith in Christ and be born again.
I. One way or another, we are all snake-bit.
So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among them, and many of them were bitten and died. Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned against God and you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people. Numbers 21:6-7
In this story of which Nicodemus would have been familiar, the people of Israel got tired of wandering in the desert and weary of a continuous diet of manna, they began to murmur against God and complained to Moses.
Perhaps you read The Denver Post this past Tuesday about a homeowner near 112th and Federal who, while working on a leaky pipe under his townhouse, saw a snake in the muddy crawl space. He wasted no time in exiting the crawl space and then begged his friend, Jeff Stafford, to go into the crawl space in search of the snake. So Stafford went into the crawl space but knew something was terribly wrong when he felt the tarp he was crawling in on begin to move under him. When it was all over, he had stuffed 41 bull snakes into a big plastic bag and removed them from the crawl space. The snakes had apparently been hibernating in the crawl space. I suspect there will be a townhouse with a muddy crawl space going on the market soon. (Joey Bunch, Do-it-yourself project slithers into a get-your-friend-to-do-it project, The Denver Post, Section B, March 17, 2009)