Our current message series is entitled “Jumping Hurdles.” Hurdles are things that hold us back from our full potential in God. We often think of hurdles as external obstacles, which they often are. However, hurdles can also be internal obstacles, things or thoughts in our own lives that work against God’s plan. Today, we’re going to look at a different kind of hurdle that we all have as believers.
My message today is entitled “Shout It Out.” As a believer, have you ever found it difficult to share your faith? Is it easy to hand out invites to church or do you find it hard? We’d all agree that knowing Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to us. So, why is it not easy to tell others the good news? It’s as if there is a hurdle preventing or hindering us from talking about Jesus.
That hurdle is the opposition of Satan that plays on our own worries and insecurities. Satan doesn’t want us sharing our faith, so he will give us all kinds of reasons not to speak. All kinds of reasons why not to hand out a simple invitation to church. As we’ll see today, being a witness for Jesus is not optional for a believer. God places people in each of our lives that need to hear the Good News about Jesus. God’s plan is for us to shout out the good news that we’ve discovered. In order to grow as a witness for Jesus, we need God to help us in three areas. First of all, we need to understand what is at stake for an unbeliever.
2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
What is at stake is the eternal destinies of people. Those who are not saved will perish, that is, spend eternity in hell. God’s will is that all should repent and believe in Jesus. But that will only happen if someone tells them about the Gospel. Secondly, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective witnesses.
Acts 1:8 (ESV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
We need a power greater than our own will power or our knowledge of the Bible. We need to seek the power of the Spirit in order to be the witnesses Jesus calls us to be. Finally, we do need a basic understanding of what the Bible says about salvation. And we need to learn some principles about how to be an effective witness. So, today, we’re going to learn from Jesus Himself, how to be a witness for Him.
John 3:2 (ESV) 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.”
Our story today is about a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came to talk to Jesus. Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council and so was an important and influential official. Nicodemus had undoubtedly been watching Jesus and listening to the reports about Him. He came to talk to Jesus at night, probably because he didn’t want to be seen talking to Jesus. Jesus was seen as a threat by most of the Pharisees.
Nicodemus didn’t start the conversation with a question, but rather a statement. He believed that Jesus was a teacher from God because of the miracles that He performed. Nicodemus wanted to know more about Jesus, he was a seeker of the truth.
John 3:3 (ESV) Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Jesus perceived that Nicodemus’ real question was to see and learn more about the miraculous kingdom of God. Nicodemus wanted Jesus to teach him, but Jesus’ reply indicated that Nicodemus needed more that just knowledge. Nicodemus needed to be born again. Nicodemus and all the Jews of the time, took great pride in being born a Jew. Yet, Jesus told him that he needed to be born again, a concept Nicodemus had never heard before.
John 3:4 (ESV) Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
I’m not sure if Nicodemus’ questions to Jesus were serious or if he was joking or mocking Jesus’ phrase about being born again. Suffice it to say that Nicodemus had no idea what being born again meant. Jesus goes on to explain more in the next verse.
John 3:5 (ESV) Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus then begins to explain what it means to be born again. It is obviously not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual rebirth. Jesus describes it as being born of water and the Spirit. The Spirit is often referred to by Jesus and Scripture as living water. So, this phrase might be better translated, born of water, even the Spirit. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that physical birth as a Jew did not qualify him to enter the kingdom of God. He needed to be spiritually born again through the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us an important example of how to respond to seekers of the truth.
So, let’s think about how we can follow Jesus’ example with seekers. What got Nicodemus’ attention in the first place? It was the miracles that Jesus did, the answers to prayer. How can you and I help people become seekers like Nicodemus? A very simple is what some have called “raising your flag.” To raise your flag is to let others know that you are a believer.
One way is to on occasion talk about what God is teaching you through going to church or reading the Bible. Or you may talk about how God has answered some of your prayers. Once your friend or relative knows of the importance of God in your life, they are likely to ask for prayer when they have issues. Or you can offer to pray for them when they share problems with you.
These very simple and non-threatening ways can open the door to further spiritual conversations with those that God is calling you to be a witness to. Not only do these principles work in person, they can also work on social media, via email or text. Ask God to help you respond to seekers.
John 3:7-8 (ESV) Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus continues to answer Nicodemus’ non-verbalized questions about God. Jesus says again that being born again is being born of the Holy Spirit. In the Greek in which this verse was written, the word for Spirit and wind are the same word pneuma. Jesus is using a physical illustration of the activity of the Spirit in a person’s life. When a person is born again by the Spirit, he is guided and goes wherever the Spirit leads him. He is a completely different person than before he was born again.
John 3:9-10 (ESV) Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?
Nicodemus is still struggling to understand what Jesus is saying about being born again. Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ question with another question. He questions how Nicodemus, one of Israel’s preeminent teachers could not understand these concepts. Jesus is showing him that he has much to learn, he does not know it all.
John 3:12-13 (ESV) If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
Jesus has been giving Nicodemus earthly illustrations of heavenly things. He spoke about being born again, of birth, of the Spirit being like the wind. Then for the first time, Jesus begins to talk about himself. Jesus calls himself the Son of Man, a term used in the Old Testament for the Messiah. Jesus then let’s Nicodemus know that He is not just a man, He has descended from heaven and will one day ascend back into heaven. Jesus is making it clear to Nicodemus that He is divine, that He is God. Jesus is answering the questions that Nicodemus didn’t even know He had.
As Nicodemus had wrong ideas about Jesus and salvation, so people today have many wrong ideas about how to be saved and go to heaven. Most people believe that if you’re a pretty good person, you will go to heaven and most people think they will go to heaven. How can we lovingly confront this widely held wrong idea? The best way is to simply share the story of how you got saved. Share how you were born again and the change that God worked in your life.
Part of every story of being saved is the realization that you weren’t good enough to go to heaven. That you had sinned and needed Jesus’ forgiveness in order to be saved. No matter how you were saved, whether at a young age or later in life, your story is a powerful way to answer the questions of a seeker. I’d encourage you to write out the story of how you were saved. In this story, make clear the prayer that you prayed and how your life was changed. Answer their questions by being a witness of what happened in your life.
John 3:14-15 (ESV) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Finally, Jesus begins to explain what it really means to be born again. He says that He will be lifted up or crucified as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. Moses put up a bronze serpent representing the deadly serpents that were biting the people. Those who looked to the bronze serpent in faith were healed of the deadly poison. In the same way, those who look to Jesus, who became sin for us, are forgiven or their sins. Those who believe in Jesus have eternal life, which is what born again is all about.
John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
This most famous verse in the Bible, tells us of God’s plan of salvation. God loved sinful mankind so much, He sent Jesus to die for them. Those who believe in Him will not perish, but rather have eternal life.
John 3:18 (ESV) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Jesus makes it clear that there are only two types of people, those who have believed in Him and those who have not. Those who have not believed in Jesus are condemned, that is, they will perish unless they believe in Jesus. Everyone is born a sinner, condemned and headed for hell. God gives everyone an opportunity to believe in Jesus. Those who accept that opportunity are saved and have eternal life. Those who reject their opportunities continue to be condemned by their own sin. Jesus clearly explains the plan of salvation.
How do you explain the plan of salvation to someone? We present the essence of salvation’s plan every Sunday. This is not just for Sunday services. This is one simply way to explain the Gospel to someone so that they can be saved.
We call it the ABC of salvation.
Once, you’ve explained it, you can ask if they’d like to pray with you. Oftentimes, people really don’t know what to say as they have never really prayed before. So, just help them along. As you do, you’ll have been a part of God changing their eternal destiny.
We don’t read of Nicodemus praying with Jesus, so what happened to him? In John 19:39, we read that Nicodemus joined with Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, to anoint his body with spices and bury him in the tomb. I think we can safely assume that Nicodemus believed in Jesus and was saved. The seeds that Jesus planted in his heart bore fruit and Nicodemus believed.
Sometimes when we explain the plan of salvation, we may not see immediate results. But as we trust God and pray over the seeds we have planted, they will grow and the person will be saved. The Holy Spirit will help us explain the plan of salvation to those who are seeking.
This morning, I’d like each of us to think about those in our lives who we know are not believers or we’re not sure if they are believers. If you’re not sure if someone is a believer, most likely they are not. Make a list of those closest to you who are not saved and begin to pray for them. Pray that they would begin to seek after God and you would know how to respond.
As the Spirit leads, answer their questions and tell your story of how you got saved. Finally, be prepared to present the plan of salvation and pray with the person. You can also invite them to church, where we have the Gospel ABC every Sunday. As we pray and follow the Spirit’s direction, I believe we will see many more of our friends and relatives saved and becoming part of God’s family.