Casual or a Commitment
John 3 – Nicodemus
In John chapter 3 we read about a religious person named Nicodemus. You should know that he wasn’t just any religious person. He was a well known and well respected man of God. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, an elite group of community and religious leaders. He watched as Jesus worked incredible miracles, but it wasn’t just his power that was impressive, it was his compassion and love.
Nicodemus was ready to take his relationship with Jesus, the son of God, to another level, but it wasn’t that easy. Being a secret admirer of the Son of God cost him nothing, but becoming a lover of the Son of God and His Father came with a high price tag. It always does.
So, He would have to choose between religion and a shared love relationship with the Son of God and His Father. There was no way for him to truly become a lover of the Son of God and His Father, without losing his religion.
It would be easy to overlook this detail and dismiss it as not relevant. But ask yourself, why would he come at night? If he could develop a relationship with the Son of God without having to make any real changes. He could love the Son of God and his Father without it impacting his job. In fact, his friends and family wouldn’t have to know. He could talk to Jesus and at night and quietly make a decision in his heart to love the Son of God and his Father; that way it wouldn’t disrupt his comfortable and established life.
Here is the reality that Nicodemus is about to have impressed on him. There is no way to love God without him interfering with your life. Loving God will cost you something. Sharing love with God always costs something. For Nicodemus it would cost him a powerful position. It would cost him the respect of his co-workers. It would cost him his source of income and livelihood. It would cost him friendships. It would likely cost him some family relationships. How has loving God, interfered with your life?
What first aroused your interest in Jesus? Why? _______________________________________
Where are you right now in the birthing process of spiritual life: Not yet conceived? Developing, but not so anyone could tell? Heavy with child and waiting? Kicking and screaming like an infant? Growing daily? Explain. ___________________________________________
Most of us don’t mind God making some minor change in our lives, but God wants to turn our lives upside down. God wants a complete change. God will completely overhaul your life. He will makeover your life. A complete remodeling is coming. The guarantee is that God will interfere with your life.
Nicodemus begins his conversation with Jesus by making it clear that he has decided that Jesus really is from God. He has come to this point of belief, but where would he go from there? Jesus doesn’t waste time but gets right to the HEART of why Nicodemus is coming to him at night instead of the openness of the day. He tells Nicodemus in verse 3 that he must be born again. Nicodemus must humble himself and be born again into a WHOLE new way of life – shared love.
Decision or Love
There is a difference. Many have made a decision to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to loving God. The Gospel allows for no distinction. Biblical belief is more than mental or verbal agreement. Many non-lovers were baptized or have repeated a prayer or raised their hand or walked forward at the end of a sermon and made a decision to believe – even Satan and his followers, but there was no commitment to love God with their WHOLE heart, mind, and spirit. Jesus never offered such an option. He is looking for more than words of belief; he is looking to see what is in your heart and how that shared love is lived out in your life.
Imagine a wedding and watching the bride and groom, with tears in their eyes as they speak words of devotion” … forsaking all others until we are parted by death.” While they were on their honeymoon and the bride was unfaithful to her groom. Suddenly those words would hold no value. They would be worthless, because they were not validated by faithful love and commitment.
Biblical belief is more than just an intellectual acceptance or a shared loving acknowledgment; it is a commitment to share love. Loving someone, by definition requires more than mental agreement, it calls for action.
Sharing love is the essential part of faith. One can’t live without the other. If you try and separate shared love from the message of belief, belief dies in the process. And the same holds true when you reverse them. Love cannot exist if you don’t have faith or trust.
Most Christians I have talked with have been in churches or in Christian communities where their belief in Jesus was constantly being emphasized and strength, but what it actually meant to love God was never made clear.
This is what we have done with our approach to Christianity. In teaching people what it means to be a Christian, we spend much of our time and effort bringing them to a point of belief without clearly calling them to share love with God.
Most Christians have heard very little about how sharing love with God will change the way they live. And this is done, because of the commitment and trust that is required.
The Christian churches of today are either:
1. Selling only the benefits of Christianity and not the love and commitments that is required.
2. Selling only the requirements and commitments but not the benefits.
We, as Christian leaders need to find a good balance.
In this section we will look at all of Scripture. Moses couldn’t love God without standing in front of Pharaoh. Noah couldn’t love God without building an ark that would bring ridicule from his neighbors. Daniel couldn’t love God by praying to him alone without being thrown into a lions’ den. Loving God isn’t something you can do at night where no one notices. It’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day love and commitment that will interfere with your life. That’s a guarantee.
Many Christians need to hear the benefits of being a Christian: How would you like to live forever? Would you like to have a fresh start? Do you want to spend eternity in a love-fest? You get such other benefits like peace, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, and more. They will be covered in a coming chapter.
But to get all these benefits, there is a price to pay. You need to love God with your WHOLE heart, mind, and spirit and be committed to it. This commitment means your life has to change. You have to start by surrendering the control of your life to God’s control of it. This is achieved by the death of your desires, wants, control, etc.. There is no loving God without committing to it.
Let us go back to covering Nicodemus and God’s guidance to his life so that he can make that commitment. We see that occurring when he stands up and defends Jesus. This effort puts his job and life at risk. This includes other relationships and his financial future. The Sanhedrin attacked him, by giving him a hard shot to his ego and to his reputation that he had worked so hard to establish.
There is always a moment like this for people becoming lovers of God. They are put in a position where they have to decide between God’s control of their life and controlling it themselves.
Nicodemus is put in this position again, when Jesus’s body is taken down from the cross and needs to be buried. He chose to put his financial resources under control of God, and use them to bury His Son. There was no longer any chance of hiding his love.
Nicodemus makes this great gesture of love and commitment. Christian tradition states that he was martyred sometime in the first century.
It will be your decision, whether you will choose to love God with your WHOLE heart, mind, and spirit and commit to that love for whatever it takes. Or will you choose to maintain control over your life.
Stories from the underground church in the former Soviet Union never fail to jolt us awake, I came across another one just the past week. A house church received one copy of Gospel by Luke, the only scripture most of these Christians had ever seen. They tore it into small sections and distributed them among the body of believers. Their plan was to memorize the portion they had been given, then on the next Lord’s day they would meet and redistribute the scripture sections.
On Sunday these believers arrived inconspicuously in small groups throughout the day so as not to arouse the suspicion of KGB informers. By dusk they were all safely inside, windows closed and doors locked. They began by singing a hymn quietly but with deep emotion. Suddenly, the door was pushed open and in walked two soldiers with loaded automatic weapons at the ready. One shouted, “All right – everybody line up against the wall. If you wish to renounce your commitment to Jesus Christ, leave now!”
Two or three quickly left, then another. After a few more seconds, two more.
This is your last chance. Either turn against your faith in Christ.” he ordered, or stay and suffer the consequences.
Another left. Finally, two more in embarrassed silence, their faces covered, slipped out into the night. No one else moved. Parents with small children trembling beside them looked down reassuringly. They fully expected to be gunned down or at best to be imprisoned.
After a few moments of complete silence, the other soldier closed the door, looked back at those who stood against the wall and said, Keep your hands up – but this time in praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters. We, too, are Christians. We were sent to another house church several weeks ago to a group of believers –“
The other soldier interrupted, “ … but, instead, we were converted! We have learned by experience, however, that unless people are willing to die for their faith, they cannot be fully trusted.”
In segments of the world where Bibles are plentiful and churches are protected, faith can run awfully shallow. Commitment can stay rather lukewarm. Eagles can learn to fly dangerously low, “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.”
(From Living Above the Level of Mediocrity by Charles Swindoll)
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