John 3:1-8 – This don’t make sense! What is life with Jesus? It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1) We long to live freely – lives of peace and clarity. Not turmoil and confusion. Have we still got some way to go to grasp what life with Jesus is about? Even those who made a commitment years ago! This is what being born again is about. Living in the way of God, set free through Jesus. This is what Jesus is teaching Nicodemus and what John is doing in his gospel writing this ‘so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that through believing you may have life in his name (John 20.31). Writing so that we may live a transformed experience of life. Do you want that? Vv 1-2 A connected but new reality prompts questions Nicodemus was a learned man and, well known in Jewish religious circles. He had a clear framework of belief about God. For 400 years there had been no prophet. And then John the Baptist pops up. This got the attention of the leaders but now something new again. Jesus has come. Nicodemus doesn’t know it or better, cannot see it, but God has showed up in human form. That is beyond his frame of reference – his understanding of the world. One shaped by history and the present experience of being under Roman rule I‘ve looked out of the window several times in the wintery months and a usually distant view where the hills of Westbury can be seen was not seeable because of the fog. If all I had ever seen was the foggy view and then suddenly the hills miles away were revealed then I might wonder what was going on. The new view is connected to the few hundred yards in front of me, but it looks like a different world. I’d have questions. What are your questions for Jesus right now? If he were sat next to you What is the Jesus of your reality like? For Nicodemus it was beyond his thinking that this man might be God. Jesus brings a new reality For Nicodemus it don’t make sense. The pandemic is presenting a new reality. We may have questions about faith, church life and what God is doing. Where is he? What’s next? We can ask those questions because Jesus welcomes us to. As he did Nicodemus. So ask them How Jesus response may not immediately make sense (v.3) Jesus doesn’t really answer Nicodemus, in spite of what the translation says. Jesus sees that Nicodemus has a hint that something important is happening - “we know you are a teacher from God.” But Jesus sees that Nicodemus will not see the truth within his current view of the world, so he addresses that bluntly. His view is limited by his learning, power and knowledge. “Truly, truly no-one can see the Kingdom of God (recap – what God is doing, God’s way) unless he is born from above” (v.3). This don’t make sense. What is Jesus on about? In God’s way, human knowledge is a good thing but it does not set us free Now Jesus, who is full of the spirit from above (John 1:32) and therefore sees the kingdom (unlike Nicodemus) and so trusts the Father completely can tell Nicodemus what needs to change. This is not based on human knowledge (tradition, religious learning). This is the ‘Spirit of God’. This is ‘Kingdom Sight’ Are you willing to consider that you may be operating your walk with God using knowledge (which may be theological, scientific, sociological, psychological) rather than God-sight when confronted with questions you face? They are not bad things, just has Jewish religion was not for the pharisees but ultimately they will not free us, we’ll be left with a foggy view. He discovers his understanding of the world is incomplete (v4) We live in a world of knowledge. Knowledge is an idol. Many want to be knowledgeable. We live evidence-based lives. We prove something and having good clear understanding and then we act. This is a good thing in lots of ways BUT it won’t set us free. Freedom does not come through hindsight or risk management. Daniel Kahnaman’s book ‘Thinking fast and slow’ would suggest that often humans make decisions based on limited knowledge. He’s right but his answer is we need more knowledge to make good decisions. I am not so sure. What if not all truth is knowable through a scientific approach. What if there is mystery in the world? Which if you are here you probably agree there is. We believe there is mystery but do we live like that? I think one of the reason humans live in turmoil is because we’ve bought the idea that we can be gods having power over our worlds and those things we care about but struggle because whether it is wanting the best for our children, success at work, growth of church and even our own discipleship we look for the knowledge to help us live free. The pharisees lived this way too. They looked back, they saw Israel’s painful past, they created additional rules to stop Israel falling again and had a framework that was built on what they know so as to secure the future for God’s people, so when Jesus comes along, he does not fit. Which is the problem for the religious leaders all the way through Jesus’ life. Healing on the sabbath, saying weird stuff like, “I am the bread of life, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” There lots more like that but no time for those... “Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” - his knowledge limited his view. Kingdom sight (clarity / faith) only comes through Christ. Alpha and Omega. King of hindsight and foresight. Matthew 18:3 (Passion translation)- “Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in.” So how do we have that? PART 2: Jesus will show us the way (vv5-7) Kingdom sight comes by being born from above. Being born of water and of Spirit as Jesus puts it. My sense is that as Christians we may need to remind ourselves of this and recommit to live in the light of this truth. That our salvation is from above. Let me read a strange verse from Isaiah 43:1-2 – yes this is metaphor but it is still saying something bonkers. V.1 It is a reminder to trust the one who called and redeemed you. He will show you the way, even when all earthly knowledge might lead you to believe you will be ‘metaphorically speaking’ drowned or burned. Let’s root it in a very present reality... How many of us find it easy to sit in a place of waiting or uncertainty? The psalmists write about this. It’s not easy and I know in such moments I can find it hard to think of anything else, I am more selfish, less attentive to those I love, distracted. At such moments we are blind to the kingdom of God. Imagine if it was possible to be peaceful, kind and generous even when your circumstances might suggest to you that’s impossible. But let me tell you. It is possible. Jesus, Paul The surfer jumping in the sea to rescue the woman caught in the riptide (as recently happened), risking their own life, does not stop the surfer doing so. Thankfully we don’t face such situations too often but what if we operated in this way day to day. Let’s tackle an area where we put knowledge before kingdom sight (or I do anyway) - Money Most don’t worship money. But we (in the west in particular) do want to know we got enough not just for today, but for tomorrow, the next month, year and the rest of our lives – that is what the pension industry is built on. Pensions aren’t bad but they are about securing our future (knowledge that we’ve done as much as possible to make sure it will be okay). But here’s a thought...what if by saving less we gave away more and rather than securing our future, we saved someone else’s present? Would that be kingdom sighted? Vaccines... The sad thing is, if anything has been revealed this year, it’s that life is uncertain. We could strive for more knowledge to try and control our circumstances or we could accept we can’t control, let go (as many poorer communities have not choice but to do) and dive into the uncertainty of life’s waves. We will only be saved into freedom and a fog-free view. We will only see and be able to live our lives within God’s way, God’s kingdom if we know that our salvation is from above. in the words of Dallas WIllard - To be born from above means to be interactively joined with a dynamic system of divine reality in the here and now” That is like Jesus to be full of the spirit from above, like Jesus, and so to see what God is doing and join him. It may not be what you expect (v8) What this means for our day to day lives is not a particular prescribed way of being or that a particular tribe has got it all right. Rather kingdom sight is humble, it means that if we live as those who know that spirit-sighted living, being and doing comes from above our lives will transcend the spirit of our age, the prevailing view of society and rather draw on something far deeper. That is the Holy Spirit. He will enable us to not to be simply pragmatic but prophetic Who, we are fools, if we think we can predict, put in a box or pre-judge! “The wind blow where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.” Did you hear that. This is why the most free are often mistaken for fools by those who rely on knowledge. Their blindness means they cannot even see freedom, they cannot see the Kingdom. Listen to this... John 7:50-52. They thought Nicodemus was a fool. As we live lives rooted in a birth from above. Full of the spirit we also will live unpredictable, adventurous, sometimes praised, sometimes criticised lives. It may not be what you or others expect... A Spirit-sighted, kingdom sighted life will enable you and me to live freely. With a peaceful clarity that enables you to live out the gifts of the spirit, being kind, generous, joyful etc even when your circumstances (work issues, home challenges, losses we’ve had) might suggest that is impossible. But it will be transformative Nicodemus was on a journey. He is the one pharisee we know came to Jesus. I would suggest in that act the Holy Spirit was already at work. It didn’t make sense but he went to the one who could give him sight. In John 7 Nicodemus sticks up for Jesus and John 19, he and Joseph give Jesus an honourable burial. At some point Nicodemus, who as far as we know did not stop being a pharisee chose to be born from above, to make his view not limited by theology or knowledge but rooted in the kingdom. Do you ever think – this life, it don’t make sense? Nicodemus did. But he came to Jesus But you also have nagging doubts? Life don’t make sense? Long for this freedom that gets talked about at church but it don’t seem real? Then let me encourage you, you are on the right path. But let me challenge you too. Go to Jesus, not waterstones or amazon or your favourite newspaper, theologian or blog site for the answer. Go to Jesus for kingdom sight on how to live for him, how to live freely. Unless you do, it don’t make sense!
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