Sermon delivered February 3, 2001 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Jesus' First Convert

John 3:1-10

I would like to speak to you in a continuing series on the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This will be the seventh, and we're going to be ending at Easter time with His resurrection. Today is about Jesus' First Convert.

Did you know that you were meant to travel down a road that never ends! A beautiful, unending and safe road. About six thousand years ago we got off that road and we're no longer on it. We're in the ditch. We're living in the ditch. One of our ancestors ate a forbidden fruit and disobeyed the Lord. Ever since then we are not on the highway to life. And we need to get on that road.

In John chapter 3 we meet a very pious man who finally came to realize he was not on the right path. He was not even on the path that leads to the highway of life. And so often we get in the ditch and we realize that ditch is a pretty nice place. We get comfortable with the ditch. Proverbs 16:25 (New Living Translation) There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. But the ditch is not where we belong. We belong in heaven.

So, this pious person realized he was on the wrong road. And of all things this man stopped to ask for directions! By the way, that's pretty hard for a man to do. Men do not ask for directions. He'll drive for three hours to avoid asking for directions because those at the gas station don't know anything anyway. All they do is sell gas. They don't even live in town.

And so we're going to talk about a man who asked for directions. This is about the shortest man in the Bible. Nicodemus. You probably thought I was going to say, Zacchaeus or Nehemiah (Knee- High-Miah) was the shortest!? Or one of the minor prophets. No, the answer is Nicodemus, the shortest man in the Bible! How do we know that? The Bible says he was a "ruler". The last time I checked, rulers were just 12" tall.

Okay, let's start. This is a sermon on John 3. We're going to begin with verse 1. Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.

Picture this stately distinguished ruler. He was a Pharisee. Now, is that good or bad, to be a Pharisee? That was good, wasn't it. Were the Pharisees bad people? No. They were great people. In fact, they strictly kept the law of Moses, they kept the traditions of the Rabbis and the Elders. There were never more than six thousand pharisees, ever. And he was one of this group. The scribes enacted the rules and the Pharisees devoted their life to perfectly observing them. So this was an elite group. There is no question about his super pious life.

If there ever was a person who could be saved without being a Christian, Nicodemus was that man because this was a righteous man, a noble man. But I will tell you that good people, who do not have Jesus, are lost. They are lost people. Without Jesus we don't have any hope. They are in the ditch! All ditches take their cargo further and further away from the road of life. In fact, ditches take you down. You don't want to go down. As Christians, our destination is up there: heaven!

Nicodemus was respected. He had perfect attendance at the local synagogue. He was a supreme court Justice in the ecclesiastical court of Jerusalem. He had been educated in the best Jewish seminary of the land. And he was a highly respected teacher, a profound theologian, and a sincere scholar studying the scrolls daily. Other than Jesus, Nicodemus knew more about the Bible than anybody else. He was the best of the best. He memorized large portions of scripture. He was a holy man. But he was a lost man. He was not on the road that leads to life.

I have spent a great deal of time on the Appalachian Trail, backpacking over a hundred miles so far. I'd like to do the whole thing. One day we were on the Appalachian Trail, and when you're on that trail, you're following little white marks. They're about six inches long and about two inches wide. If you are not following those marks, you're not on the Appalachian Trail.

One Sabbath afternoon we were taking a hike, a day hike and we got separated from the group and we were going along the Appalachian Trail. We heard the rest of our group over here calling for us. And the said, "You folks are not on the Appalachian Trail. Come and join us. We're on the right trail." Sure enough, we weren't on the right trail. We heard them and we believed them.

The Bible says in John 5:24, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; When is he going to get eternal life? When he hears and believes he is going to HAVE eternal life. That's present tense. has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." He switched trails. He begins to get on the road that leads to life. That's what Nicodemus did. Are you on the road that leads to eternal life? If you were to die this afternoon would you be saved in eternity or lost forever? It all depends on if Jesus Christ is your Savior.

I suppose Nicodemus had heard about Jesus and the more he learned the more curious he became. Each night he would go home and study the prophecies of the Messiah. He may have stood on the fringes of the crowds listening to Jesus' authoritative preaching. What Jesus said made sense to this intellectual leader. But He shrank from seeking Jesus openly. He came at night seeking the light.

Why is it embarrassing to seek Jesus? Is it that even adults cringe under the peer pressure of their friends who might be watching. So rather than come down the aisle publicly and make a stand for Jesus, we put it off like most of the Pharisees in Jesus' day did. And most of them remained mired in the ditch.

How many Pharisees was Jesus able to save? Can you name them? There were six thousand Pharisees and how many were saved? Nicodemus was saved. He was a Pharisee. And possibly Joseph of Arimathea.

He came at night. Was this bad? Maybe not. Nicodemus was a hard working man and so was Jesus. They worked long hours. Each would not have the time to sit down and talk until the work was finally over that night. The rabbis declared that the very best time to study the law was at night when a person could be undisturbed. He wanted private undisturbed time with Jesus. That is a pretty good goal!

John 3:2,3. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

Jesus got right to the point. Do you see how Jesus answered his question? He didn't even refer to his question. In fact, He didn't even refer to his statement. He just launched right into the heart of the matter. I like Jesus. And He said, nobody can be saved unless that person experiences such a radical change that he is a brand new person. Now, the Rabbis believed in the new birth. In fact, they had a law that if you were born again, you could marry your mother. You could get married to your sister. Because you were a completely new man. You were not the same person any more. You only had to be born again. Do you realize that only people with two birthdays can be saved? You can't be saved unless you are born again. And Nicodemus was born four times. Have you had a spiritual birthday? I hope you have. Nicodemus needed to start over and be reborn.

And if Jesus demands the new birth, then He supplies the power for the new birth. John 1:12 (KJV) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

John 3:,4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

I do not think Nicodemus questioned the possibility of the new birth. He was questioning whether or not it could happen with him. And maybe some of you say, "You know, I am deeply entrenched in all these habits. These things have got me. I just can't get away. I just don't think it's possible for me to be a new person. I prayed hard, 'Lord, deliver me from these drugs, deliver me from this alcohol, deliver me from this bad habit. And it never happens. I just don't think it's possible with me." I want to tell you, it is possible. It is possible for you to live a victorious life. You can do it through Jesus Christ. He can give you that strength.

One day a man was reading a newspaper, and he looked in the obituary section and found his own name. He called the newspaper and said, "I'm alive. I am not dead. I do not appreciate you printing my name in the death column of your newspaper." And they said, "No problem, we'll just put your name in the birth's column tomorrow and you'll be back with us." I want to tell you that when you are born again, your name is taken out of the death column and your name is placed in the book of life, in the birth column. You are reborn. You become alive in Jesus Christ.

Look at John 3:5, Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." You must be born both ways. Now, to me, being born of the water of course that means, to be washed in the Word but it means to be baptized as well. And to be born of the Holy Spirit means that you must have the Holy Spirit in your life. If we are planning to walk on the streets of gold, we must be born again like Jesus said. Nicodemus prided himself in good works but Nicodemus was lost.

John 3:7. "You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'" Jesus believes that a life can be changed, that you can be born again, that you, put your name here, you can be born again. You can be a new creature. Now you may have made some mistakes. Have you made a mistake in your life? Maybe you made a bad mistake recently. God can change that. God can forgive you. God can give you a whole brand new start. You don't need to say, "Well, I'm going to go through life with this cloud hanging over me." No, He can give you a fresh start. If He can do it, the church can do it, too.

Most folk don't believe you can be changed. Once you are branded, that label stays with you a long time. Once a thief, always a thief. Once unfaithful, always unfaithful. Once a liar always untruthful. One person said: The only person who allows for change in my life is my tailor. He measures me every time!

When we are born again we are new. You've heard of the flying worm. Every butterfly is a flying worm because that's all they were was worms. Old ugly worms that were transformed. And that's what God want to do to you. God uses the new birth to change us into a brand new person.

Jesus explains how it happens here in John 3:8. "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."

Verse 9. "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked." So, Jesus explained through the symbol of the wind. Now, I don't understand how brain surgery works, but I can benefit by things I don't understand. I don't understand what electricity is. I would give somebody a five dollar bill if they could tell me what electricity is. I asked a genius one time, "What is electricity?" And he said, "Nobody knows." I would love to know. But I don't have to understand it to benefit by it, and you don't need to understand the new birth to benefit by it. Just accept it.

John 3:10. "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things?" I believe I have finally discovered what Nicodemus did not understand. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Nicodemus believed you are save by keeping the law perfectly, absolutely perfectly. And he tried. He was a holy man, a godly man as far as his deeds. But he was a lost man. I think that Nicodemus finally came to understand grace. I believe that's what he understood. In fact, Nicodemus was the very first person to hear John 3:16. Because, who was John 3:16 spoken to? It was spoken to this legalist, this Pharisee that did not understand grace, and what does John 3:16 (KJV) say? it says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever lives an absolutely holy life" - is that what it says? Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." If you BELIEVE you will have it. It will be yours.

Now, what ever happened to Nicodemus? For three years the gospel seed grew in Nicodemus' heart. Not until a crisis did it clearly come forth. John 19. Jesus was on the cross. He died. Did the disciples come and get the body of Jesus? No. John 19:38,39. Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.

This was an enormous amount of costly spices that only a wealthy person could provide. Nicodemus was a wealthy man, he was a member of the supreme court of the ecclesiastical court in Jerusalem. A very wealthy man. He decided to step out for Jesus Christ. Praise God for that! Nicodemus no longer followed in secret. He wanted to Publicly Join as a follower of Jesus. He wanted to let people know what side he was on. You need to do that. Don't be afraid to let folk know whose side you are on. That's why every baptism is public. That's why you need to make a public stand for Jesus. Nicodemus chose sides. He said, "I'm going to be a 'Christian.'" That day he joined with the other followers of Jesus. He took sides. From that moment Nicodemus was recognized as a member of Jesus new religion called Christianity. He had become a born again Christian.

    Nicodemus had four birthdays:
  1. Born of a Woman
  2. Born of Water John 3:5
  3. Born of Spirit - John 3:5
  4. Born of Word - I Peter 1:23

What ever happened to Nicodemus? After the resurrection of Jesus when the disciples were scattered by persecution, "Nicodemus came boldly to the front. He employed his wealth in sustaining the infant church. ...He was firm as a rock, encouraging the faith of the disciples, and furnishing means to carry forward the work of the gospel. He was scorned and persecuted by those who had paid him reverence in other days. He became poor in this world s goods; yet he faltered not in the faith which had its beginning in that night conference with Jesus." - Desire of Ages, EG White. p. 177.

Nicodemus took a public stand for Jesus. And if you are willing to stand for Jesus He will stand for you. Nicodemus came in the dark and left in the light of Jesus saving grace. We are going to meet this godly man in heaven.

Friend, do you realize your need of Jesus? You may be a fine gentleman living a very good life, but you feel Jesus calling you to step out and officially get on the path to life. Jesus wants you to be born again. Or you may be a good lady even attending church, but you really do not Know Jesus like you should.

Or you might be a person mired down in the ditch of sin, chained there by some habit which you can't seem to shake off. Your greatest need is to be born again. You need a new heart and new desires. Jesus can give you what you need.

Jesus said: John 12:35 "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you."

Hymn of Praise: #83, O Worship the King
Scripture:  John 3:1-5
Hymn of Response: #373,  Seeking the Lost

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