Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Easter Soul Prep Day 3: Nicodemus

I am really enjoying this journey through John. My own feeling of growth during these past few days is confirmation for me that I heard from God in the first place on this little journey.

John 3 divides nicely into 2 separate but related sections. The first is about Nicodemus. The second deals with John the baptizer. Though there is much to be said on v.22-36, I'm only going to comment on the first 21 verses here.

Nicodemus (I'm going to call him Nick) is the first century night traveler who comes to see Jesus under cover of darkness because he's got some questions, isn't yet sure, and doesn't yet want to be identified as a Jesus-seeker. Note that Jesus doesn't condemn or reprimand Nick's desire to be discrete. Jesus never pushes him, either. He just tells Nick the truth and let's him make his decision in his own time.

This may sound a little self serving, but I find this text a refreshing reinforcement for me and the practice of NOT having an 'invitation' or 'alter call' at our services. In fact, I've met Nick many times. He slips into a service and slips out just as quickly. Last one in, first one out. He comes once. A month later, he slips in again. Always sits in the back. Near a door. Over time, using back channels, he asks a question or two. First, the question is benign. Then they become deeper. Finally, Nick is on an all out search for Truth. We let this person move at their pace, not ours. If they want to be anonymous, it's just fine with PCC. Nicodemus slipped in at night so he could hide. Plenty begin their faith journey today the same way. We're good with that.

The message Jesus gives is compelling. There are 2 worlds: physical and spiritual. You can be in one and not the other. If you want to have a life with Jesus Christ, you must be 'born again'. This is where we get that phrase that has long been used to identify religious extremists within the Christian faith. Jesus didn't intent for it to become a phrase of manipulation or one wiht negative connotations. He simply meant this: If you want to live the Jesus life, you've got to be willing to let God make a new person in you. It reminds me of Paul's words in 1Corinthians 15:39- where he talks about different kinds of bodies.

So, if someone asked you, "are you born again?" What would you say? Personally, I dislike the phrase because of all the negative baggage that modern history has assigned to it, but in it's purest form, I would have to say, "yes, I am." Or, maybe it would be more accurate to say, "I am still in the process of it."


Ginger said...

In reading this chapter, I noticed that in both sections of the chapter it is mentioned that He is testifying to what He has seen and heard, yet no one believes. Both Jesus and John the Baptist comment on this.

It was really a reminder to me that our job as Christians is to testify to what we see and hear...what we believe. It is the receivers job to accept it. Jesus followers did not stop testifying just because it wasn't immediately, or even ever, accepted or understood. We don't have to see the outcome to do the work...we should be faithful in our testimony.

Brian C. Hughes said...

Ginger - What a fantastic comment on this text. A great lesson in the truth you found there. Thanks for sharing it!

Heather said...

Brian- I agree with you about the negative connotations associated with the phrase "Born-again Christian." I grew up in a church where many people we knew were suddenly claiming to be "born again." It really divided the congregation as those who claimed this then seemed to look down on those who had not claimed it. It was as if faith didn't matter, actions didn't matter- it just mattered what you said out loud. I still get uncomfortable when someone asks me if I am "born again" and really don't have a good answer-- I am constantly learning, forming, and changing-- hopefully as God sees fit for me. I guess in that way I am born again, and again, and again....nobody is so perfect to get it right the first time.

Heather said...

I agree with the negative connotations that the modern world has placed on "Born-again." I grew up in a church family and I clearly remember when suddenly many in our congregation claimed to be "born again." The problem came when they then separated from everyone else and seemed to look down upon others who had not openly claimed this. It was as if faith didn't matter, actions didn't matter-- just what you said out loud.
I still get uncomfortable when someone asks if I am "born again" and don't really have a good answer. I think I am constantly learning, forming, and changing, hopefully in the way God sees fit for me. I guess in that way I am born again, and again, and again...

Brian C. Hughes said...

Heather, this is an important distinction. Scripture is, over time, used to say something different than it's original intent. For example, I am sometimes asked if our church is 'Spirit-filled'. That is code language for 'Does your church speak in tongues?"

Here, 'born again' is used in a different way today than the way that Jesus intended it with Nicodemus. I lament that the Jesus movement of the 70's and 80's attached baggage to this phrase, which has now come to evoke images of religious fanaticism. I am not religious....I am just passionate about Jesus. To that end, there are many 'born-again' religious groups that I hope are never associated with me, and of which I not a part in any way.

But in the sense that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, I am certainly born again.

When someone asks me, 'are you born again' I usually dig deeper and get underneath of the question to the heart of what they are really asking, which often has nothing to do with my faith in Jesus Christ.