Southside Christian School of Simpsonville, South Carolina was blessed by the preaching of Pastor Matt Densky, Student Ministries Pastor of Fellowship Greenville, during the new evening Spiritual Life Conferences on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 and Thursday, October 8, 2020. If you are interested in my summary of Matt’s message on these two days, “Born Again!” please read on. . . .
By Matt Densky, Student Ministries Pastor, Fellowship Greenville
Southside Christian School
Spiritual Life Conference
Grades 9 and 10 on Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Grades 11 and 12 on Thursday, October 8, 2020
Summary Notes of Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal
All mistakes are mine alone.
Text: John 3:1-21 (English Standard Version)
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 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.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Have you ever been lost? It’s the most terrible feeling in the world.
For me, it was when I was hiking in the woods with one of my friends. We were both experienced hikers. I like control. I was lost. I did not have control.
The weather was terrible. It was raining. A wet cold. Water had permeated every fiber of our gear. My buddy was exhausted. His legs started cramping. In Day 3, he was entering into the initial stages of hypothermia. He started thinking irrationally. We needed to get out of there!
We got on a road. We hiked to a deserted parking lot. The road was closed in winter. We were a day-and-a-half walk from people. I was feeling very alone.
We kept walking. No one came by. A storm hit us. We had to get into the woods! The trail washed out! We were lost in the woods in the midst of rain, lightning, and thunder. We were lost without hope.
My eyes scanned for anything familiar. My eyes found no reference point. We walked and prayed. I tried to keep my friend’s spirits up.
We found a logging road! We found a paved road! We turned right. My buddy was almost comatose. I was looking for any reference point I could find. I saw red through the trees! That meant tail lights! My eyes had found something familiar!
I saw a tent. I saw him. When I saw this guy, my heart said, “Don’t talk to him.” Something wasn’t right. But I mustered-up courage. I tried to talk to him. He didn’t look. He didn’t hear. I spoke louder. He told us he could give us a ride.
I opened the back door of his car to get in; pots and pans filled the car to the ceiling. I wanted to know what was in the trunk. The entire trunk was filled with Kraft’s mac and cheese boxes!
He got on the driver’s side. He drove over potholes, bouncing on the road like a NASCAR driver. I struck up a conversation. His name was Mike. He lived in the woods during the sixth months of winter. He took his eyes off the road. He said, “I’m usually good when I’m on my meds.”
He “opened the door.” I “walked through it.” He said he was schizophrenic. Macaroni Mike took us to our truck. I prayed for him and his mother, who was in the hospital. He floored it back into the woods. I have never seen him since. I hope to see him again.
We were lost without hope, and we trusted Macaroni Mike.
In John 3, the extremely religious Nicodemus came to Jesus. He was incredibly religious and “familiar” with God and the law. He’s heard it all.
He was curious about the Jesus.
We can be familiar with Jesus and His Word.
Nicodemus was embarrassed. He came to Jesus at night, because he didn’t want others to see him with Jesus.
Nicodemus had a lot to lose. He was a prominent leader. He had a lot of influence. Being seen with Jesus could discredit his rep.
Sound familiar? Sounds like the Southeastern United States. Aligning with Jesus could cost us our reputation.
Nicodemus did not ask a question. He did not ask if Jesus was the Messiah. But he wanted certainty about Jesus. If he was not certain about Jesus, he would not go all-in.
But Jesus gave an “answer.” Nicodemus needed to be “born again.” He discerned Nicodemus’ heart. Nicodemus believes he was “already in” as a result of his religious knowledge and credentials. Jesus said this life is not about knowledge.
Imagine the phone call between Nicodemus and his mother. “Mom, Jesus, said I needed to be born again. I know. I know. It hurt to be born when I was little.” Nicodemus took this birth to be physical.
I was the “receiver” of all three of my kids.
For the first delivery, my wife “turned” on me! She bit me! I told the doctor that I don’t do well with blood and guts. I would help, but I would not look at the kid and the blood. He was out! The doctor declared him to be a beautiful baby boy. I shrieked. He was a conehead. “What are you?!” I asked! They asked me to cut the umbilical cord. It’s like cutting sailor’s rope. The doctor was laughing his head off. It was traumatizing.
Nicodemus was imagining that kind of physical birth.
We know the Christian term. “Born again.” Nicodemus did not think that was possible. The Savior was supposed to deliver the Jewish people!
Jesus clarified that birth by water and spirit would allow one to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus wasn’t talking about earthly re-birth. He was talking about spiritual re-birth.
Jesus said Nicodemus needed to be born of the Spirit to enter the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus could not reconcile this metaphor.
Jesus declared that He was from heaven. Jesus was very gracious to Nicodemus, referring to Moses in the Old Testament. In Numbers 21, the people of God were bitten by venomous snakes; if they were bit by a snake, they were dead. Moses went to God. God told Moses to make a bronze statue of a serpent and to set it on a pole. The Israelite looking at the serpent would allow him to live. Snakes were killing the people. They should look to a snake for delivery?! But this was their only hope for healing. They should orient to that serpent for life! They set their eyes in faith on that bronze serpent.
Jesus used this story to connect the dots for Nicodemus. He pointed ahead to the cross. Jesus would be set up on a wooden pillar. Jesus would heal the spiritually dead. Sin was killing Nicodemus. Nicodemus needed to look to Jesus in faith. Jesus would bring deliverance. That’s how a person is born-again.
Nicodemus didn’t quite get it yet. Later, we learn that Nicodemus becomes more receptive to Jesus. I believe he believed in Jesus as the healer.
We crave certainty. We believe in Jesus. We prayed a prayer. But we need more than inconsistent approaches to him. It’s not a one time look. It’s an every day thing. Jesus doesn’t just save you. He sustains you.
You can have a more rich relationship with Jesus than with cultural Christianity. Think of the serpent in the wilderness. If you knew that bronze statue would give you life, you would strive to get there and see that statue. Jesus says we need to tether our lives to Him. He is a steadfast anchor for our souls.
It’s not a one-time look at the cross. It’s an every day reference point. Jesus is at the center of everything you do, say, and Snapchat. Jesus is your reference point. He is our hope. We need Jesus every single day. The relationship is not just a one-time prayer.
So, brothers and sisters who are so familiar with the Gospel, you need this reminder. Tie yourself to Jesus as your hope. Find yourself at the cross every single day.