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Summary: None of us should become so familiar with God’s grace that we stop searching for it or appreciating it. ­

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The Search for Grace

This past week I had the opportunity to lead chapel services at Evenglow Retirement Center. Since I was scheduled for every day this week, I decided to speak on the theme of grace. On Monday, when I was meeting with the piano player before the service to pick out some hymns, I told her that I’d like us to sing, “Amazing Grace.” She said, “No, I don’t think so. We’ve sung that one so much that we’ve worn it out.”

I think I understand what she was saying, but it struck me that there is no way anyone can wear out God’s Grace. None of us should become so familiar with God’s grace that we stop searching for it or appreciating it ­ so I’m glad we sang it this morning. I don’t think I could ever wear that song out…

Being a father in the 90’s is not easy. There’s a lot of pressure on us dads to be in the Delivery Room when our babies are born. I think my dad had it easier in the 60s when he just paced the floor in the Waiting Room.

When Emily was born, I was totally into the Lamaze stuff. Beth and I took classes together, and I had my role down cold. I did pretty well in the delivery room but got a bit dizzy by the end and had to be helped to a chair. I don’t understand why women say that they have the hard job in giving birth ­ it’s pretty tough on us dads, too.

When Beth was expecting Lydia, I took a much more laid-back approach. No birthing classes for me. I knew what to do. It was no big deal. When Beth went into labor I just called her a cab so I could go back to sleep…just kidding. When we got to the hospital, Beth settled into her comfortable bed while I sat next to her in a hard, uncomfortable chair. See, it’s tough on us fathers, isn’t it? I looked around for the remote control and started channel surfing. I finally settled on a good show but had to keep turning the volume up every couple minutes when Beth would get a contraction. Finally, Beth grabbed the remote and said, “Hello, I’m in labor here! Could you give me a hand?”

You know, there’s nothing like the birth of a baby. I will forever remember the births of each of our girls ­ though I hope Beth forgets how I acted in the delivery room.

Are You a Real Christian?

This morning we’re going to take a look at what Jesus said about another kind of birth ­ if you have your Bibles, please turn to John 3, where we will learn what it means to be born spiritually. I want to begin with a very personal question: Are you a real Christian or are you just a religious person? It’s one thing to be religious, it’s another thing to be a real Christian. I’d like to draw your attention to the story of a man who came to Jesus one night. Take a look at John 3:1: Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.

In order to understand this birthing class, we need to know two things about Nicodemus. First, he was a Pharisee. If you’re a student of the Bible, you probably have a negative view of the Pharisees. You may think that they were legalistic hypocrites who hated Jesus. But that’s not entirely true.

In the first century the Pharisees were widely respected for their intense piety and deep scholarship. They were men who devoted their lives to the study of the Torah and its application to daily life. They truly wanted to obey God’s law. That meant studying the Bible diligently, praying two hours a day, giving a tithe of all they possessed, and in general, being scrupulously concerned about morality. There were only a few thousand Pharisees because not many men would make that kind of personal sacrifice. Those who did were held in high esteem and honored for their commitment.

Having said that, the Pharisees made a couple basic and very tragic errors ­ they externalized their religion and they believed that if they just worked hard enough they could make their way to heaven. Some of you may be on that same path this morning.

Second, Nicodemus was a member of the 70-member Jewish ruling council. They adjudicated various disputes and settled legal matters so that the Romans wouldn’t have to get involved. As you might expect, only the leading men were elected to such a prestigious position. In 20th century terms, he would be like a college professor, a judge on the Supreme Court, a United States Senator, and a bishop in the church ­ all rolled into one.

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