ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Today I’m starting a brand new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” For those of you who are new, we’ve been studying the life of Christ from all 4 gospels. We began this series about 2 years ago and we’re not even half way through. Somebody asked me when do you think we will get to the crucifixion and resurrection? Maybe when I’m ready for the nursing home!
John 2 23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man…5 34 “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 “I do not receive honor from men.”
Bridge: Have you ever said – “I wish I knew how to reach so and so but I don’t” or “I wish I could understand how this person thinks or what it’ll take to win them to Christ but I’m at a loss.” In this series we’ll learn how Jesus engaged individuals with the gospel.
Context: The passages we just read are like brackets. The first bracket is John 2:24-25 which says, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” 2 things are underscored here about Jesus. First, Jesus knew all men (plural). Meaning: He knew every single human being, their nature, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and deepest darkest secrets. Second, Jesus knew what was in man (singular). Meaning: He knew what was inside human beings. He saw the darkness of sin within. Immediately following the first bracket, 4 individuals have an encounter with Jesus – a religious man, a woman with a horrible past, a brash rich person, and a sick hopeless person. Jesus met each of them where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. Then comes the second bracket in John 5:34 where Jesus Himself says, “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 I do not receive honor from men.” Meaning: Jesus was not interested in their endorsement or their adulation. He simply wanted to save them.
Some of y’all are looking at me thinking – “What does this have to do with my life?” Daily God brings individuals in our lives that need to be engaged with the gospel. They’re all unique. They have their abilities and accomplishments. They have their quirks and curiosities. But one thing they all have in common is sin and the need for a Savior. It is our responsibility to engage them with the gospel and bring them to Christ.
Question: Are you engaging people around you with the gospel? When was the last time you actually encountered someone you knew needed Christ? What did you do? Did you run from them? Did you condemn them, maybe in your heart? Or did you engage them? Are you praying for them? Do you pray that God will bring lost people into your life? Are you that individual who needs an encounter with Christ?
In this 4-part series we will meet 4 characters that had an encounter with Jesus, starting with man named Nicodemus:
I. WHO WAS NICODEMUS?
John 3:1 “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night…”
Background: Right there we have more than enough to construct his profile.
- Pharisees – There is considerable debate in current scholarship over who were the Pharisees. From my studies I’ve found that the Pharisees were a popular sect of the Jewish people that had been around for a couple of hundred years by the time of Jesus. Some say that their name came from the Hebrew “paras” which means, “to separate,” as in separation from the sinners, the compromisers with the world. Along with the Torah (the Pentateuchal Law), they also had an interpretive tradition (oral and written) that had been “paradosis,” or “handed down” from their fathers. When you read the gospels you notice that they were particularly strict about purity issues, such as proper hand washing before meals, laws about food, and tithing. According to Josephus, the Pharisees were a lot more popular with the people than the Sadducees or the Essenes. Maybe, it was because they accepted the entire Old Testament (Law, Prophets, and Writings). Maybe, its because they believed in the resurrection of the dead, angels, and fate and free will. Maybe, it was because they challenged the people to live a godly life but also found loopholes to help them get around the system. Even though the Sadducees controlled the temple, the Pharisees also had a lot of say in the matter. Many of them were very wealthy and influential.
- Ruler of the Jews – influential, powerful, and wealthy.
- Came to Jesus – Sent to Investigate, Clarification, or Win Jesus over.
- Came by Night – Maybe he was busy all day. Maybe he didn’t want to be disturbed. Maybe he was afraid of what someone might think. Maybe it was all of the above.
- First Words – “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.’” Maybe he was trying to flatter Jesus. Maybe he was being genuinely honest. I think he was being honest because a Jewish person would have been very reluctant to use God’s name in vain.
Many people around us are like Nicodemus. They are moral but empty. They are powerful but weak. They have what they want but not what they need. They are willing to check it out but leery and suspicious of charlatans and fakes. They are searching but guarded. They are not bad people just lost people. How does the church typically respond to such people? Either we condemn them or we ignore them.
Question: Do you know some Nicodemus in your life? Can you see below the surface? How are you engaging him or her? Are you praying for him or her?
II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Typically people think that Jesus was blowing Nicodemus off by ignoring his complement and saying – “Stop flattering me. You’re lost and you need to get saved.” Not true. In actuality, Jesus accepted Nicodemus’ complement. Remember his first words – “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.” How did Jesus reply? “Most assuredly, I say to you” which is actually “Amen, Amen.” What Jesus was saying was – “You’re right Nicodemus. Just as it’s impossible for me to do what I am doing unless God is with me, it’s also impossible for you to see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.” You cannot insult people into the kingdom of God.
John 3:4 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?” Again, people assume that Nicodemus was just being sarcastic. Yes and no. Yes, he was pointing out the impossibility of being born again. No, he was not being just sarcastic. He truly did not understand what it meant to be saved. You cannot assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo.
John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Once again, “Most assuredly, I say to you” is actually “Amen, Amen.” But listen to how Jesus adapted to Nicodemus’ words – “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Now Jesus used the word “enter” – “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” You have to adapt to the level of your Nicodemus. Not only that but Jesus also brought up another imagery that Nicodemus was familiar with – “water baptism.” Please don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not implying that you have to be baptized in water to be born again. He was saying that just as “John’s baptism” was the sign of a new beginning, so also Nicodemus will have to step into a new beginning. But, this is not an ordinary new beginning. It has to be one led by the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is not on water baptism but on the Spirit’s work.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’ Something is lost in translation here. It’s not “You Nicodemus must be born again” but it’s “You (plural) must be born again.” Jesus was referring to all those people who believed in His name because of the signs He did but they did not believe in Jesus. Meaning: There was a detached belief there. It was more faith in His deeds than in His person. They were lost. You cannot assume that just because a person says he/she believes in Jesus that they are saved.
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This is a very interesting statement. The Greek word for wind and spirit is exactly the same. Jesus used play on words to tell Nicodemus that he cannot rationally understand how the new birth happens but it happens. You have to remind people that salvation may be mysterious but it’s real.
John 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…” Here Jesus brought up the imagery from the OT when God sent fiery serpents in the Israelite camp because the people had spoken against God and Moses. Many died. But when they pleaded, God in His love also provided the remedy. Moses had to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. If anyone looked at the serpent, they lived. Jesus was giving Nicodemus a preview of how He was going to be lifted up on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” A Salvation without a cross is no salvation at all.
Finally, here come the most famous verse of the Bible – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus reminded Nicodemus that God loved him.
Illustration: D. L. Moody was probably the greatest soul winner who ever lived. About the same time as Moody was preaching a young man from England named Henry Moorehouse got saved, began preaching and God began to use him mightily. Moorehouse came to America to preach and offered Moody to preach for him. Moody didn’t think that Moorehouse could preach and just put him off. Moorehouse sent another letter and another letter. Finally, Moody had to be out of town and allowed Moorehouse to preach. When Moody returned, the church was powerfully moved. Moody’s wife told him that he had preached 2 sermons and both were from John 3:16. She added, “He preaches a little different from what you do. He tells sinners that God loves them.” Moody replied, “Well…he’s wrong.” She answered, “You’ll agree with him when you hear him because he backs everything he says with the Word of God.” Moody reluctantly agreed to go and hear Moorehouse. Sure enough, Moorehouse turned to John 3:16. Later Moody said, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out, and I could not keep back the tears.” Moorehouse preached for several more nights from the same passage and Moody’s ministry took on a softer deeper turn. Henry Moorehouse is best remembered as the “man who moved the man who moved millions.” You can never underestimate the power of God’s love.
Are you engaging people with the love of God shown in Christ on the cross?
Have you received the love of God shown in Christ on the cross
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