Summary: The choice is ours. Are we going to live making ourselves the center of our universe or are we going to live for God?
September 20, 2015
The Decision for a New Life
Opening words: According to some, the average person makes more than 35,000 decisions in a single day. Most of them are rather simple: where to sit, what to eat at the next meal, what lane to drive in, should I have another cup of coffee, etc. These decisions are easily made and have very few consequences. Other decisions are more serious, with long-lasting effects.
Last week we began looking at six major decisions each one must make in their life. These decisions are not original. They came from Tom Berlin, who is the Senior Pastor of the Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia. He says these major decisions will influence not only your time in the world, but they will also influence your eternity. He compiled these six decisions in his book, 6 Decisions that will Change Your Life. Last week we looked at the first decision, the decision to follow. This week we look at the second decision, the decision for a new life. Our scripture lesson for today is the story of Nicodemus, John 3:1-15.
John 3:1-15 1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
If you have watched the news, then you know the story. Refugees are pouring into Europe from the Middle East. Their story is a sad one. Their country, Syria, is in the midst of a civil war. They are leaving everything to escape the violence. Some have estimated approximately eleven million have fled since the violence began in 2011.
Our national news has reported how many have traveled to Hungary. You have seen some of those reports. I do not have a clue how many reports have been filed from that small stretch of railroad track. It is hard to look at the refugees. It was devastating to watch the fence close, leaving some out. The other night they interviewed one of the last ones in. All the stories are different, yet all the stories are the same. This particular man held his children near and said, “I left everything for them. I want to give my children a future.” His emotions were thick. Can anyone here question that man’s love for his children? He changed his entire life for them. It is the story of the Christian faith; how much are you willing to change for God? If that makes you think, say, “Amen!”
We find ourselves this morning in the third chapter of John. The storyline of this gospel is different than the synoptic gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke have Jesus cleansing the temple at the end of his ministry; it is part of the climax. John is different. He has Jesus cleansing the temple at the beginning of his ministry (John 2). That fact is important to us for only one reason; Jesus has the attention of some very powerful influential people from the very beginning. One of those powerful influential people was Nicodemus. According to the second half of verse one, he was a member of the Jewish ruling council. That means he had climbed to the very top of his profession. It is safe to say Nicodemus spent his days answering the questions of others. This story is unique because he is the one with the question. With everything that has been written about this passage through the ages, one thing is important to remember. This story is nothing more than a private discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus. It is John, the author and editor, who promotes this private discussion to the public’s attention.