March 8th, 2020
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 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."
Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
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?"
Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 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."
Nicodemus answered and said to him, "How can these things be?"
Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, we speak what we know and testify what we have seen, and you do not receive our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but he who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
Sermon: Irrevocable act of God
Many people enjoy current programming on HGTV, when older houses are purchased and remodeled from the ground up into beautiful homes. It is not unusual to find knob and tube or aluminum wiring, galvanized pipes, moldy plumbing leaks, roofs sadly in need of repair, and gaudy wallpaper and popcorn ceilings in every room. It would appear that some of these homes should have been completely demolished to ensure that the foundation was strong enough to support the new dwelling. Once the decision is made to renovate, everyone involved in the process works very hard to make the house a home new owners will enjoy for a lifetime.
It makes you wonder, “What did God see in me when my life was in a sad state of disrepair? Why did God sacrifice his only Son to save a wretch like me? Why would he risk investing in my life? Did God envision that he could mold precious diamonds out of worthless lumps of coal? Is my life just another fixer-upper in God’s eyes? Why did God choose to complete an extreme makeover in my life?”
Let’s be honest with ourselves this morning. Jesus did not pick his followers because each person was a perfect fit to become his disciple. Jesus called ordinary men and women, common fishermen, a ruthless tax collector, several uneducated blue-collar workers, a former prostitute, and even a Pharisee who had Jesus’ followers arrested, beaten, and stoned to death. Simon Peter, who three times denied even knowing Jesus, was declared the rock upon which Jesus would build his church. Levi, the tax collector, wrote his stirring Gospel message to his fellow Jews. John, an ordinary fisherman, became the disciple that Jesus loved. His brother James was the first of Jesus’ disciples to be martyred for his faith. Nicodemus, the well-educated Pharisee, secretly came to visit Jesus under cover of darkness. Mary Magdalene, the former prostitute, was the first person to see the Risen Christ after he emerged from his tomb. Do you see what I meant about ordinary people?
When Jesus taught and molded his disciples to believe in the Good News, he promised each one new life. They would be born again, not within their mother’s womb, but rather born of God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus would tear down the walls of doubt and fear by building a totally new foundation. It was not a foundation based solely on the Mosaic Laws or the Ten Commandments. Instead, each follower found faith in the knowledge that God sent his Son to die for the sins of the world. Verse 17 in our scripture lesson beautifully describes this act of God: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
Think about what this means for each one of us. God so loved you; God so loved me that he gave his Son. Jesus became the perfect Lamb of God, sacrificed once for all. How much did God love us? He loved us unconditionally without exception. He not only forgave our sins; God no longer remembers our sins. When God breaks down the wall of sin which separated us from his holy presence, God performed a complete make-over. God gave each one of us a new beginning, a new life. God created in each life a clean heart, a new and righteous spirit. By the blood of Christ, our filthy lives have been washed. Former sinners are now white as new fallen snow. We are adopted into God’s family- the family of God.
With God’s gift of salvation, we are forever changed. God changes each heart and enable each one of us to enter into God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom begins with our baptism, profession of faith, learning about the kingdom in Jesus’ timeless parables, serving in the kingdom, and giving our lives so that others might live. God’s gift is not temporary. It has no expiration date. God’s warranty never expires. It is an irrevocable, precious gift from God, far more valuable than silver or gold. It’s even better than sliced bread. It is called eternal life.
In this season of Lent, we must concentrate heavily on just one final week in Christ’s life. We wave palm branches and shout Hosanna in the Highest as the Savior makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We witness Jesus clearing the tables of the money changers in the Temple courts. We are invited to share in the Passover Meal, when Jesus takes on the servant role and washes our dirty, dusty feet. Jesus serves us with unleavened bread and a chalice of wine. The broken bread represents his body, which will be broken for us. The wine represents the blood of the New Covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin. We freely accept these precious gifts in light of his sacrificial death on the cross.
We complete the Holy Week by celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. Satan is finally defeated. The grave could not hold him. God’s angel descended from heaven to roll the stone away. Jesus claims his victory over the power of sin and death by his glorious resurrection. He then appears to countless believers, who receive His Great Commission to build his church.
We sing: “Change my heart, O God; make it ever true. Change my heart, O God. May I be like you? You are the potter; we are the clay. Mold me and make me. This is what I pray. Change my heart, O God; make it ever true.” Amen.
Never look back. No greater gift will ever be given. God has blessed us with his everlasting love. It is truly remarkable. It is God’s eternal gift. Nothing can compare with this blessing we have received. It is a permanent, irrevocable act of God’s love. Treasure this gift for the rest of your days. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever! And all God’s people said, “Amen!”