Wholly Alive - Nicodemus
April 29, 2007
It was 9:23 a.m. on Monday morning and I was back to the routine.
I was getting ready to begin another sermon.
A 4 day task of
Brainstorming and finally writing.
In the midst of my work I needed to call home. I missed Deb, Luke, Benjamin and Emma.
Over the weekend we had:
Dug a new garden
Pruned our apple trees
Gone on bike rides
Talked with neighbors
Listened to our I-pods.
Gone to Vancouver, road the Sky Train.
But now I was back at work.
Earlier that morning before I left for church, we had been on:
A pirate boat,
And a train
Earlier that morning Emma went potty in her potty.
But now I was at work
Back to my routine.
Back to being Pastor Tim and not Dad.
I was back on duty.
I dialed the number and Ben answered, "Hi"
This is Daddy
"Hi Daddy. Here’s Luke" Luke got on the phone, "Daddy, we’re making a fortress."
"A fortress," I replied.
"Yes, we’ve got pillow, cushions and blankets and we are making a fortress."
All their excitement and all their creativity and all their life caused me to want to shut down my work at my desk, on this sermon, breakaway from what I was doing and go home and play.
The next day, Tuesday, when I called to check in Luke answered,
"We’re having a treasure hunt, bye, here’s Mom."
When Deb got on the phone we didn’t have a conversation for all she was saying was
"Hot, Hot, get colder, colder."
I hung up and went back to my work, feeling like I was missing out. Feeling like I got the short end of the deal.
Feeling like my kids were living life and me just going through it or just getting through it. Remember being a kid?
Remember the dreams you had?
The ambitions you had before life began to mold you.
Chip away at you.
Beat you down.
There in the safety of your home.
Among your stuffed animals and toys.
Immersed in books and TV, you began to construct a dream about your life. You didn’t do this because you had to have a plan for your life as an 8-year-old. You didn’t because as humans, we are created to dream
Grow into who we’ve been created to be with no limits placed on us as kids, we dream big dreams. But now 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years later, such ambitions are not natural. If I told you that I wanted to be a football player, you’d laugh.
If you told me you wanted to be a ballerina, I too might laugh. And yet down deep (come on) deep inside of us we yearn to become fully alive. To live fully and authentically. Our culture encourage us to think this way.
Companies provide products meant to help us enhance and better our lives. If you buy product A then you’ll breakaway from your normal life.
Pretty much everything sold at every kind of store has as its purpose meeting
Our longing to be alive.
And yet if we don’t understand God’s way to a whole life, we can buy all these products, all this well researched stuff and not have a whole life.
For the next 4 weeks, we are going to just touch the surface, just begin to explore the lives of people who were seeking to live a breakaway, a whole life.
2000 years ago as it is now, people got caught up in things that they truly thought would give them the life they always wanted. 2000 years ago a few of them met up with Jesus and he had some words for them, words that can help us.
The first text is John 3, page 1649:
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."
John tells us in verse 2 that he was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish Ruling Council. Some of what this means is this.
He was a man of power.
A man in a select group of people.
As a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, he was one of 70 men who ran the religious affairs of the nation. He had religious authority over any Jew anywhere in the world.
Because he was a Pharisee, he was a public figure. A man of standing and authority. Respected. Having a big stake in the established order. A man who would seem to have everything going for him. Others no doubt would believe him to be happy, fulfilled, having a whole life and yet verse 2 tells us:
He came to Jesus at night, when it was dark.
When no one else was around.
When no one would see him.
He was after something.
Hungry for something.
Something his habits
His religion hadn’t given him.
Outside he had it all.
Inside he was not whole.
Outwardly he lacked nothing.
Inwardly he was hungry.
I’m guessing here but I kind of think Nicodemus was tired of playing the game. He wasn’t going to waste his energy anymore trying to be something and someone he wasn’t.
Nicodemus was tired of behaving like he was whole.
He recognized in Jesus something different, something unique.
"One sent from God" and so he enters into conversation with Jesus. A conversation that changes his life literally. Jesus responds to Nicodemus by focusing on the two things, birth and belief.
Over and over again Jesus uses these 2 words, birth and belief, 7 times.
Belief and birth.
Verse. 3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Verse 5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is
born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Verse 16, 17, 18:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten
Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have
everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to
condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be
saved. He who believe in Him is not condemned; but he who
does not believe is condemned already, because he has not
believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
Jesus, unlike our culture, doesn’t recommend to Nicodemus that he add anything else into his life.
Jesus doesn’t believe Nicodemus should acquire anything.
Instead Jesus begins with birth and belief.
Because when we get our identity right-Knowing whose we are, that’s birth and know and live what we believe the our behaviors and our outcomes in our life are affected.
Jesus knows that what we believe impacts what we do and what we do determines the circumstances of our lives. So Jesus takes Nicodemus back to the basics.
Nicodemus - to live a whole life, you need to be born again, you need to identify yourself fore-mostly as a child of god. This is your identity. This is who you are. And you need to believe that Jesus, this one sent from God, will give you life eternally but now as well as you live into your identity as a child of his.
Your beliefs affect your decisions/what you do, which in turn affect the circumstances outcomes of your life.
If our beliefs don’t change.
Our decisions will not change which means our circumstances will stay the same.
Jesus won’t let Nicodemus believe that if he becomes a better Pharisee.
If he tries to live a more holy life.
If he only rules a little better then he’ll be happier.
Jesus doesn’t say - you’ve got to know more, become more.
No his words birth and belief.
Living into the life God longs to give us begins with knowing whose we are and what we believe. Authentic life is a life of being true to who we are and what we believe. When this isn’t compromised. When we stay true to who we are and what we believe. When this isn’t compromised. When we stay true to this, we live a whole life regardless of our circumstances.
In my own life, I’ve felt most alive when I have sought to be faithful to my beliefs as a Jesus follower. When I have lived faithfully as a baptized child of God, I have felt enormous security and hope regardless of my circumstances. But when I turn my back on my identity, my birth as a child of God and my beliefs in him and decide to construct a life with great outcomes, I end up feeling empty.
When we get our beliefs right-
Our decisions will be affected.
And our circumstances will be, as God desires.
In John 7: 45-52, Nicodemus sticks up for Jesus among his contemporaries. Though he is still a Pharisee, he has received true life/being born again and so he will not let Jesus be unjustly accused.
And in John 19:38-42, John tells us that Nicodemus is one of the men who approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body so that it might be buried properly. And so this man who had received life, a true life, now wraps, anoints, and buries the body of the man who had exposed his false life.
These two texts give us evidence that Nicodemus was able to live a Breakaway life. He broke away from his position, his power as a Pharisee and became one who identified himself as a child of God through belief in Jesus.
These texts also indicate that Nicodemus didn’t keep his beliefs to himself in the cover of night, but lived them out in the light, during the day. Becoming truly alive.
His beliefs affected what he decided/what he chose to do, which affected the outcome/the circumstances of his life.
If you don’t like your circumstances, you must stop thinking that it is because you simply made wrong decisions. No, it goes deeper. Your beliefs were wrong. Beliefs most likely about thinking that you had to construct and make your life what it was all on your own.
But this text reminds us, birth, knowing whose we are and our beliefs, knowing what we believe and staying true to these will lead us into a whole, authentic, genuine life. Amen.
(Influence in part by Andy Stanley sermon "Breakaway" - Podcast)