Monday, June 4, 2012

“A Night to Remember” (John 3:1-2, 16)

S-1321 Trinity S/3B 6/03/12 Hymns: (O) #239; #244; (S) #245; (C) # 246

Text: Isaiah 6:1-8; Acts 2:14, 22-36; John 3:1-17

Theme: “A Night to Remember” (John 3:1-2, 16)

Question: “Is there a night that stands out in your life?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “Now 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…’ ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:1-2; 16).

Children of the only true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit; it certainly was a special night for this teacher of the law, Nicodemus—a night that he would remember for the rest of his life. He came by night, for more than one reason. First, he came because he was afraid of what his close companions would think of him. Second, he came because he had heard much about this Rabbi from Nazareth and wanted to truly know the facts. And third, he didn’t come to attack Jesus, but to be taught if He is for REAL.

People ask that question all the time. Every god who is not the True and Living God is a mean task master. But only the True God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is loving, kind and full of compassion and He shows us His sea of grace by the things He does. Only this God would take the place of sinners. That is the great truth we proclaim, teach and confess. Indeed, it forms the ground for all we believe. Our Church’s Teaching on the Holy Trinity says: The Triune God is the God who is gracious to man, John 3:16-18; 1 Corinthians 12:3. Since the Fall, no man can believe in the fatherhood of God except he believe in the eternal Son of God, who became man and reconciled us to God by His vicarious satisfaction, 1 John 2:23; John 14:6 {Brief Statement, 1932.}

Nicodemus, this teacher of the law has read what he needs to do to please God. He has lived under the demands of the law that requires so many things of him, to appease and win God’s favor. But he has also seen love and graciousness in Jesus’ life already. But now, he wants to know firsthand if this love is for real. He knows that like his spiritual father before him, Isaiah, Nicodemus is a man of unclean lips and that he comes from a people of unclean lips. He knows that any faith that springs from man is “unclean.” The Hebrew word for “unclean” means “defiled or spoiled” and goes far beyond a simple dusting with dirt. There is nothing surface about this problem. The unclean are ritually unacceptable, unwelcomed and unwanted - outside the family.

I dwell on this with you because that is who we were: Outsiders, unclean, unacceptable—standing on the wrong side of the glass, able to look at the warmth of the fire but having to stand naked in the cold (Ephesians 2:1-3). You have seen this on TV when an Amish person leaves the colony he becomes outsider, unclean and unacceptable—he is shunned by his own family and community. Any god that asks you to live by a set of rules to be right with him; any god that demands you clean up your acts before he loves you; and any god that tells you there is good in new, all you have to do is dig deep inside of you and get it out, is NO god AT ALL. Any god of man’s design will leave you shivering in the cold and dark - to die.

But... if this is the True God! If this Man before me is the Promised Messiah, if this is the Promised Seed of Eve’s womb (Genesis 3:15), from above and with us, God Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) and the true Prince of Peace from everlasting and to everlasting (Isaiah 9:6) - then says Nicodemus - I want to know and I want to be with Him. Nicodemus, his name means “this people is victorious!” He has the victory and will proclaim the victory, for Jesus speaks to him of being born from above. PAUSE.

Tony Robbins is a great motivational speaker. But he asks you to dig deep from within and what he calls to “Awaken the Giant Within”. He doesn’t seek aid from above. We need not a washing of the filth of dirt like a good bath. We need more—much more—drowning, death, destruction, and resurrection, new birth, and yes, new birth... from above - being born of God (1 John 4:7; 5:1, 5:4, 5:18) to remove all sin and filth from us.

What we need, we can’t have on our own because the Giant within us is dead. Like Nicodemus we can’t enter back into our mother’s womb and be born again. But, by the working of the Holy Spirit we are born of water and the Word. And by that mighty miracle we were drowned, destroyed, died and made alive by the One who touched us and made us His very own.

We are His true and legitimate family, inside the house, with Him. We are clothed with His righteousness and peace and in Him and in His Love we have each other. Yes, this people is victorious, for He is Victorious, for indeed, even as the snake was lifted high on the pole and all who beheld it lived, so also for all who will believe, not in themselves, but in Jesus Christ, God’s only rightful Son, has eternal life, for God so loved the world (loved is in the “completed action” tense meaning that the love is complete, even without us and our understanding or cooperation) that He gave (again, the giving is complete) His only begotten Son for the noble purpose (a “purpose clause” in the Greek) that whoever believes into His name - a living trust - already has and will continue to have life that is without ending! Remember that this God in three Persons is the only God who is gracious to man. John 3:17 puts it better than I ever could: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” Yes, we are saved, redeemed, blood-bought and heaven-bound. Yes, we are His now and forever. We are not shunned; we are not left out in the cold but brought in to the warms of His love.

On this Trinity Sunday we confess the Athanasian Creed (TLH 53) which tells us of the co-eternity, co-equality, co-authority of the Three Persons of the Godhead, all of which is seen and received (Faith is His gift, not our work) through the Gracious Act of God in our flesh, who through His definite plan and foreknowledge, did come in our flesh and die in our place, paying for all our sins, both from above and here in time.

Nicodemus lives today. He still sees God in action. That is part of the reason why it is necessary for us to meet together as the Church. We need the fellowship of the saints, gathered around His Gifts, so that we are reminded, “this people is Victorious.” Then, as we walk among our dear ones out there in the world who feel the pangs of an empty heart, who stand in the lonely, windswept cold of sin, and they see this Triune God in us, they may ask, “I know that you, Christian, are a man or woman of God, for no one could love as you do, if God were not with him.” You now can say, with Jesus’ words and with His love, being born from above is His gift for you: As Isaiah reminds us: “Come now, and let us reason together, Says the LORD, Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Like Isaiah before you, you have been touched on the lips with the coal of grace that takes away your sin. Like him, when He asks, “Whom shall I send, who will go for Us? (note God the singular and the plural, Trinity!) You can answer with Isaiah, Here am I, send me! Yes, send me Your own dear child. Yes, send me to reach out to those who are not yet part of Your family Lord God Almighty. Yes, send me so that I might be a light of hope to many.

The Father, ah, not “god... generic... other... out there” but “Father.” and He would be YOUR Father. This He guaranteed by sending His Son in your place. Ah, and these two send Jesus’ Holy Spirit, to plead for and abide with us, bringing us over and over again... home!

Like Pastor Pete on Pentecost, preaching to those who put Jesus on the Cross, you can declare that God is victorious, for death could not hold Him. He died to forgive sins and sinners, making us His friends and legitimate family. That is what reveals that He is both gracious and God - He overcame your death and the death of even His worst enemies!

Just like Nicodemus his encounter with Jesus was a night to remember, and so it is for us. Our night/day is an encounter to remember His grace and mercy that made us being born from above. And just like Nicodemus who is a people victorious so are we. And therefore, we remember and declare I am baptized. We remember and declare I am forgiven. We remember and declare we are redeemed. And we remember and declare to the world there is a home waiting for me with God my loving Father, His Son my precious Savior and the Holy Spirit, my comforter.

Many may ask and many may doubt they will come to you by night. You have the privilege, dear ones of proclaiming that this people is Victorious” for indeed we have God as our Father, and in our flesh as our brother, and in our hearts through the Word with the Spirit. For indeed, He came that we might have life and that more abundantly (John 10:10). Amen.

Now the peace…

Soli Deo Gloria

No comments: