Nicodemus, Part 3: Whosoever Believeth

Scripture: John 3:14-21
Date: 01/19/2008 
What is the significance of Jesus' interview with Nicodemus and what does it mean for us as Christians living today near the end of time?
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning. Welcome especially to our visitors. This is a highpoint in our week when we come together as a family to worship each Sabbath. We had a good business meeting this week, and the Lord blessed. We voted another budget for the coming year. Praise the Lord. The Lord blessed the end of last year, and it’s always nice when a family is able to operate fiscally responsibly and it’s a real encouragement to the pastors as well. You know for the last few weeks I haven’t moved the little ribbon in my Bible. I bought this Bible when I first came to Central and I began to mark up a new Bible. I thought to myself, I wonder how much longer this will last. It’s coming apart in places. I thought I wonder if this one can last until the new church is built. I haven’t had to move my ribbon because we’ve been in John chapter 3 for the last two weeks and by today, by the grace of God, I expect we’ll finish up our series on Nicodemus. Today we’re dealing with Nicodemus, part three. It would be titled “Whosoever Believeth”. Whosoever Believeth. Now just to give you a little background, there is this man named Nicodemus. I don’t want to assume everybody has been here for each part of the series. He is a Pharisee. Pharisees often had problems with Jesus and Jesus with them because there was all of this outward religion. They were preoccupied with the doing of the deeds without the new heart, and Christ said, “Except your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of God.” It could not be simply the external actions. It needed to be the inner attitude, a new heart.

Nicodemus, he thought maybe he was going to help Jesus because he was in the Sanhedrin. A very wealthy man, he was a ruler among the people, a leader. He had heard some of the musings, the talk, among the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin about how we needed to deal with this Jesus. We needed to get rid of Him. He was a threat to the nation. Nicodemus would speak up in Christ’s behalf, but he realized that Jesus needed to be warned. He also wondered, perhaps this is the Messiah. It’s kind of interesting. He thought he was going to come to Jesus and save Jesus. Jesus said, no, you’re not come to save me, but I can tell you how to be saved. You need to be born again. He was going to talk to Him about are You the Messiah? Jesus talked to him as if there is no question about that. Now let Me tell you what to do. You need to be born again. So they entered into this dialog and in our talk last week we ended up, and matter of fact, you might resume with me by going to verse fourteen. Just a little bit of play the tape back a little bit so you know where we’re at.

Jesus says to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,” now all of the Jews knew what lifted up means. It meant crucifixion. It was a phrase. In our culture if someone is on death row, and you say, “What’s going to happen?” You say, “They’re going to get fried.” Well, you know what that means in our culture. I know that sounds kind of crude, but crucifixion they had terminology for it, it meant lifted up so they knew exactly what that meant. That was the Roman method of execution. Also Nicodemus did not have to think very long what Christ was talking about when He talked about the experience in the wilderness with Moses. The people looked at that serpent up on the pole, a symbol of the defeated enemy and through looking in faith, they were healed. I remember reading about a painting, I did not see it, but I heard it described that was in one of these great art galleries and it’s a depiction of that scene where Moses is lifting up the serpent. The children of Israel have all been bitten by these serpents and there are a number of individuals in the picture. Some of the Israelites who have been bitten, and you can see the serpents crawling away, they are putting a poultice on the bite. Some are looking at Moses and they’re not getting any better. Some are looking to their families. Some are looking at the serpents, but only the one that looks at the bronze serpent on the pole is healed. It’s only those, it’s not the ones who look to the preacher, it’s not the ones who look to the problem; it’s the ones who look to Christ that receive the healing. Jesus became sin for us; by His dying on the cross, it symbolized that the venom of sin was going to be neutralized.

Then we read verse fifteen. Now this verse should sound familiar to you because this verse is repeated word for word in verse sixteen. So God wants us to remember this, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Does that sound familiar? Matter of fact, if I was to quote verse fifteen to you, you would think I was really quoting half of verse sixteen, but it is repeated in verse sixteen. Why? When Jesus said “Verily, verily” He’s trying to emphasize something to us, right? Whoever believes, that’s the title of our message this morning. Now are you a whosoever? The Bible ends with the words whosoever. God will give him the water of life freely. We’re going to direct our attention now to that famous verse, John chapter 3, verse 16. Before I go there I want you to notice something. There are approximately (I just want to make sure I get this right) one thousand, one hundred and eighty-nine chapters in the Bible. This is the protestant Bible we’re talking about. If there are one thousand, one hundred, and eighty-nine chapters in your Bible, chapter one thousand is John chapter three. Did you know that? It’s interesting. It’s the millennial chapter. We’ve spent three weeks on that now. In that chapter the most famous verse is what verse? John 3:16.

It is the most memorized verse in the Bible. How many of you, by show of hands, think that you, I’m not going to put you on the spot, I just wanted to know, could quote John 3:16 if you were asked? I realize some have modern translations and instead of believeth it says believe and instead of whosoever it says whoever, but it’s the same verse in all Bibles. Why are these twenty-five words so important? It is the summary of the plan of salvation. Matter of fact, Luther called John 3:16 the gospel in miniature. It is the gospel compressed and blessed in a nutshell. It is a microcosm of the whole plan of salvation. It really is an amazing verse. Matter of fact, as I was preparing the message this morning… for this morning, I didn’t do it all this morning, I was afraid. I thought, they’ve heard this verse so often that I’m hoping that… Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. There are some people that hear a verse so often repeated or they sing it and pretty soon the power of it, they lose it. It’s like the Lord’s Prayer. There are people who recite it many times a day and you wonder does it still have its impact of how incredible those verses are. Well, that’s true of John 3:16. So many people have quoted it and it’s been cited so often that the profundity of that verse could be lost.

We’re going to look at it again on the screen here and you could read it again out loud with me. Then I’m going to take it apart. You ready? John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now I’m going to tell you why I think that this greatest verse is the greatest verse in the Bible. Notice here. First it starts with “God,” the greatest individual, the greatest being, “so” the greatest emphasis, “loved” the greatest motive, “the world” the greatest number, “that he gave” the greatest act, “his only” the greatest rarity, “begotten Son,” the greatest gift, “that whosoever” the greatest invitation, “believeth in him” the greatest opportunity, “should not perish” the greatest deliverance, “but have everlasting life” the greatest possession.

Every nuance of this verse is on steroids. Maybe that’s not a good thing to say these days, huh? I mean, it’s industrial strength. They’re all very potent verses. Now even Ellen White, speaking of this verse, not just Luther and the great reformers, she says and this is in the book Nine, Manuscript Release, page 235, and thank you, Roy, for reminding me to look for this. She said, “Suppose that we had” speaking of John 3:16. “Suppose that we had not another promise in all the lids of scripture.” These are the lids. It means within the volume of the Bible. “Is not this enough to condemn every soul that hath not living faith in a personal savior? Whosoever believes in Him, He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever and whosoever means you and me. It means parents and children. For whom did Christ die? Was it for a select few? It was for the whole world, the world that was fallen because of transgression.” I like that phrase, “Suppose we had not another verse between the lids of scripture…” The whole gospel is blessed and compressed in a nutshell in this verse.

Now we’re going to take it more specifically apart and I want to emphasize again what we’ve talked about. John 3:16, word by word. For, in other words, consider this, God. It begins with God. Something like the Bible. In the beginning God… When you pray the Lord’s Prayer it begins with Our Father. It begins with God. That’s where it needs to start. He’s the greatest lover of all mankind. You know I’ve heard it said that the bestselling books year after year are the love stories and the mysteries. The Bible, and this chapter we’ve been studying in particular, has the greatest love story and the greatest mystery, the mystery of the incarnation of the sacrifice, and that’s perhaps why it is so popular. It begins with God. When we are fully cognizant of His great love for us, we’ll not look to any other.

He so… I want to stop there. So. You know I remember a story I never forgot. I’ve probably shared this before. Pastor Fagel who was the founder of the Faith For Today program, he tells one morning that he was reading the paper. And he read this tragic story in the newspaper about a little boy, four years old, parents bought him a red Radio Flyer wagon for his birthday. First day, on his birthday he’s playing with his wagon and he was, any of you have one of those growing up? How many of you had a friend that had one? I just wanted a little better response. How many of you know what I’m talking about? Red Radio Flyer wagon. Thank you. Alright. He wanted to ride it down his driveway, and you know you have to turn the whole tongue on the thing to turn the wheels. I guess the first time down the driveway he didn’t know how to turn onto the sidewalk and he went straight out into the street, hit by a truck, killed. How sad. Pastor Fagel’s wife walked over to him while he was reading this. His eyes were tearing up, and she said, “What’s the problem?”

He said, “Aw, I’ve just read this tragic story. How those parents, how grieved they must be!” Strangely enough then the phone rang. It was the family calling him asking if he would conduct the service for this four year old boy that was lost. So he goes to the church, and I’ve been at these services before. The little white coffin, they’re very difficult. He said after you do the service and then after the friends of the family typically they file out. The last to leave are the family and they often go by the coffin. The mother fell over the coffin and just kept saying, “We loved you so. We loved you so.” He said from that point on whenever he would preach on John 3:16 the word “so” meant a lot more. I was part of a funeral right here in town, thirteen year old boy that died, same thing. It was one of our Samoan families. They went there and they said, “We loved you so! Our son, our son!” It takes on more meaning when you think about God didn’t have to include that word so. He could have said God loved the world. But it’s saying He loved them so much. It’s the greatest emphasis that you can have.

He so loved. Now that word “loved” there, there are a number of words for love. There is eros, there is filios which is brotherly love. Eros is more of, that’s where you get the word erotic; it’s sort of the romantic love. This is the word agapeo where we get agape. It is that unconditional love, that complete love. It’s a divine love. He so loved unconditionally. He so loved completely to the greatest degree. That’s what this love means. It means it cannot be exceeded in height or depth or breadth. Life and death cannot separate us from that love. It is the so love. By the way, it’s the so love for you. It’s not just the so love for the world. I remember reading about one of these medieval monks who was the friar, the pastor, of a cathedral in Europe. One Sunday morning he said that he wanted the whole congregation to come back after dark.

That evening he would talk to them, he would speak to them, he’d give them a message on the love of God. So they all assembled right around sundown and he invited them all to gather to the front of the church where they have, as they often do, one of these large life-sized crucifixes with Christ on the cross. He waited until the sun went down so that it was just about pitch black in the cathedral, and then he lit a lamp. He held up the lamp first to the head of Christ and held it there for a few moments showing the crown of thorns. Then he moved the lamp down to the hands on either side showing the nail-pierced hands. Then he went down to the feet and he showed the nail-pierced feet and of course in some of these churches you’ve probably seen the figures of Christ are painted with the blood and all. Then he held it up to the side that was pierced. Then he blew out the light. He just wanted to impress on them what Jesus went through for each of us because He loved us so much.

God so loved the world. Now this is the greatest number, and sometimes we might struggle with that because doesn’t the Bible say not to love the world? Matter of fact, it’s the same author of this chapter who says in I John 2:15, “Love not the world, nor the things [that are] in the world…” That’s not talking about the people in the world; it’s talking about the sins in the world. It’s talking about worldliness. When Jesus talks about the world here He uses the word cosmos and it means not only this lost planet but all the people in the planet. Now I’ll confess to you. It’s a stretch of faith for me to comprehend the individuality of His love. Let me explain. You can sort of understand how, you know, if I were to ask you to go and to die for some criminal that’s on death row, to lay down your life for him, you might say, “Forget it.

He’s getting what he deserves.” It might be a struggle for you. Come on. Fess up. Don’t admit it, but you know in your heart right now. It might be a tough thing to do, after all, my family needs me or whatever excuses you might have. I’d have them too. But then if I said, “Look, we’d like to ask you to die for this family. There’s about six or eight of them in the family.” You’d say, “Well, you know, if it’s one on one, I’m probably worth as much as someone else. I might not do that, but if it’s my life for several lives then that might be a worthwhile sacrifice.” Or if I were to say we need you to lay down your life that you could save everybody on an airplane. Would you do it? You’ve got to tackle the terrorists and take the bullet so they all can live. Well, we’ve already seen examples of where that happened during 9/11. These people realized that plane was going to be flown into a public place and they kind of put their lives on the line to stop it from happening. So there are even people who will do that for a larger group or for a town. I think that if you really believed that you had to lay down your life to save every human on earth, there’s six billion, you’d probably say, “That’s a no brainer. I don’t want to do it, but I should because I could never live with myself if I didn’t.”

Right? How many agree with that? I mean it’s you or six billion. You’re not worth that much, of course you should, right? So it’s easy when you say “For God so loved the world…” I could understand; there’s so many. But when he says that, he’s really saying you, just you. You can read, it’s taught in the Bible that Christ loves you individually. And in the Spirit of Prophecy Jesus would have gone through everything He went through just for you whether you believe Him or not, whether you accept Him or not, He did it. So the question is, did He die for you in vain? Well, that’s up to you. He paid for it. How sad that Christ would pay for your sins, and then you have to pay for them too. Penalty for sin is death. He took your penalty. If you believe that, you can be saved and have everlasting life. But if you don’t, then you’ve got to pay as though it’s all your own. Isn’t that right? I’m just giving you basic theology.

“…so loved the world that He gave…” The greatest act in history is giving. The greatest act occurred when the Father sent His Son, the Lord, Jesus, to be a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He handed over His most valuable treasure. You know I heard about a boy, James Harper in Tampa, Florida, who had a new puppy, and the puppy… He lived by the railroad track, by a trestle actually and the puppy started pouncing out onto the train track and down to the trestle and the boy didn’t want to lose his puppy. He heard the train coming, and he risked what he knew would be not enough time to go and to fetch his puppy and ran and tried to dive off of the tracks in time. He didn’t make it. He lost his legs. He survived, lost his legs, true story, to save a puppy. How many of you think it was worth it? Good, there’s no animal nuts in my congregation.

I mean, I love dogs, but I wouldn’t sacrifice my children’s legs for a dog especially when you think about the way the Bible talks about dogs. They’re dogs. It’s not the same as a human. Jesus loves animals, but for a dog? But think about this, when the Creator comes to this earth, think about how big heaven is, how great God is, and He comes to this world to die for humans. When the Creator dies for the creation, when God dies for man, that’s even a greater condescension than a boy losing his legs for a puppy. He must really love us. Amen? Oh, did you know. This is the first time I’ve worn this tie. It was a gift from someone in the congregation. Do you know what it says on it? I’ve got to tell you. John 3:16 I mean, if I don’t wear it today, when am I going to wear it, right? I thought it matched. It was a gift from one of you. I had to wear it. No, I’m teasing. John 3:16, back to it, I’m taking it apart word by word. It’s such a great study and I’m not even doing it justice.

“…that He gave His only begotten Son…” You know, from time to time I’ve been with families who have lost a child, and it is especially hard when it is their only child that they have. Sometimes families lose a child. I know it’s always heartbreaking. I know. It’s always extremely, keenly painful, and you know in the natural course of life people die, and some of us may have to bury a spouse someday. Some of us likely are going to have to bury our parents, siblings, but it’s never more keen than if you outlive a child and have to bury a child. That’s extremely painful, but when it’s their only child… and then the parents go home, and there’s no other children. When it says that “God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son” some people have twisted that and they try to make something out of the world “begotten”. They say Jesus was created at some time in the infinite past, that He was… It’s talking about that God has an only Son and the only time God was begotten as a man is in Jesus, but He preexisted. He is the only Son of God, God the Son.

When the Father withdrew His presence from Jesus on the cross, that just ruptured the heart of not only God the Son but God the Father as well. He gave His only begotten Son, the greatest gift. You know people have said before if your house was on fire what would you retrieve? I’ve often thought it was funny the first thing that people say is photographs. I say, “Do you have any children?” Oh, after the children! Of course I’d get my children. If you had to choose between you making it out or your child making it out, which would it be? So for God the Father… Some people think that God is up in heaven and He’s wanting to snuff out this rebellious human race because they’re so obstinate and God is waiting to zap us with lightening and God the Son is saying, “Please, Father, spare them!” and He’s pleading on our behalf. Some of us have this idea that God the Father is the authoritarian legalist in the heavens who wants to destroy us and God the Son is the loving one who is wanting to save us and Jesus says, “No, no, no, no. The Father Himself loveth you,” Christ said. It is God the Father who loves you so much He gave God the Son. Now it was a joint effort to save humanity, but they both love us. Where is the love even the greatest? What would be the hardest? For you to suffer or watch your child suffer? You could go forever circling around that thought because it broke the Son’s heart to know the Father was suffering so much. Do you know what I’m saying?

“…that whosoever…” I’m still on my verse. I mean, can you get any bigger than that? That’s a very important verse and I’ll tell you why, because that verse, it cuts off Calvinism at the knees. Now I believe John Calvin was a great theologian. I expect to see him in heaven, but part of his theology “Once saved, always saved,” and predestination that God has just arbitrarily selected some to be saved, they are the elect and the others God has appointed to wrath. I don’t believe that. That idea of Calvinism that God has decided who is going to be saved and we don’t have a freewill? That’s not true and John 3:16 destroys that. If God is going out there and He’s saying, “I’ve created these… Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo. You’re going to be saved and you’re not. I’ve appointed you to salvation and you to wrath. I’ve made you to live holy and you to be a sinner.”

If God makes anyone to sin then He becomes an accomplice. Am I right? Does that make sense? That’s why this verse is so important. God who would not have any man to perish, I’m now in 2nd Peter, is not willing that any should perish. God who would have all men to be saved, whosoever. You know what’s wonderful about this is, if you think about it, that would include you. The invitation is to whosoever. That’s wonderful. I remember hearing a story about a mason who was carrying these big buckets of cement and he’d have one in each hand. Any of you ever carry a five gallon bucket of concrete that’s been mixed. You know those masons, they’ve got arms like Popeye; they get strong. He’s got one in each hand. One day he decided to bring his little boy to work with him. He used to walk up a ladder with two five-gallon buckets full of concrete. That must weigh, what do you think, Barry? A hundred pounds apiece? Something like that. They’re heavy. He brought his little boy to work with him one day and the father wanted the boy to feel like he could help so he took his little beach plastic sand pail, put a little concrete at the bottom, and the boy is struggling, you know, carrying it between both legs. The dad says, “You want me to help you with that?” He said, “No, it’s too heavy for you, Dad.”

If God’s sacrifice is potent enough to cleanse the sins of all of the world, not just all the world today, but all of humanity that has ever lived, how absurd is it for you to think that your sins are too much for Him? How absurd for you to think, “I know there’s been a lot of sinners in the world that Jesus has saved, and some of them have been just as far away as you can possibly imagine and He somehow saves them, but me? I’m pretty heavy. I don’t know if He can save me.” Well, you’ve got very small faith. If He can handle the sins of the whole world then He can handle yours. If the blood of Christ is effective and sufficient and potent enough to wash the sins of the whole world, what makes you think your sins are so special that He can’t wash yours away? If He can save the whole world from sin, He can save you from your sins. Whosoever, He’s not only inviting everybody, He’s assuring everybody, I’ve got enough for you. It’s not, “Here we are at the end of history. He’s probably run out of salvation after six thousand years. The bank’s running low.” No.

“…whosoever believeth in Him…” That word is pisteuo. It means to have faith in, to entrust, to commit especially one’s spiritual wellbeing. Now this verse is key. That’s why it’s part of our title. Whosoever does what? Whosoever believeth. What does that mean? Because whoever does it will be saved. Whoever doesn’t do it will be lost. Matter of fact, you remember John not only says, in John chapter three, whoever believes in Him will be saved, but in John 16:16, [John 3:18] he that believes and is baptized will be saved, he that believeth not will be condemned. Belief is the bottom line. Belief is the bottom line. We are saved by this belief. What kind of belief is it? Is it the same kind of belief that devils have? It’s the word belief here that’s used and you don’t often hear it taught that way, it means to commit yourself to, to commit your trust to, to commit your faith to. It is a belief of commitment. It means really what it says, whoever believeth, it means be live. That’s what the word belief means, whoever believes in Him. That’s what it means to be in Christ.

It means to place all that you are and all that you have into Christ’s hands, surrender, to be live in Him. Whoever be lives in Him will not perish. So it’s not this cheap faith that has become so popular where it’s simply a mental assent, “Yeah, I think Jesus really lived and I’ve asked Him to forgive my sins,” and that’s where it stops. It’s not a surrender. There’s no repentance of living on your own and saying, “I am surrendering. I am going to take up my cross. I’m placing all in Your hands. I believe in You. I can trust You with my life.” That’s what it means. Whoever does that will not perish. That’s why we’ve got to know what it is that happens, and I could spend the whole message just talking about that faith. Yours ought to be a saving faith that leads to deeds. We’re not saved by deeds. Nicodemus came to Jesus as a Pharisee and Jesus said, “You must be born again.” The Pharisees had lots of deeds, lots of work. It’s more than that. Believes what? In Him. It must be placed in Christ. What does that mean? Well, the teachings of the gospel. He is the word. Believing in the word. Isn’t this, Christ is the word incarnate.

Whoever believes in Him “should not perish…” Now that’s so important because God said to Adam and Eve in the day you sin you will die. That’s what it means, to die, to perish. Eternal death. This verse is also very important because not only does it correct Calvinism’s misunderstandings, it also gets rid of this idea of eternal torment. There are two choices, two destinies anybody can pick between: eternal life or perish. Isn’t that what He says? You’ve got believe, not perish, but eternal life. Those are the two options. The Bible tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. The wages of sin is what? Death. But God offers us eternal life. Life and death. Eternal life or perish. The two options, and He’s offering us the best of the two. There’s no third option. There’s no door number three so you need to ask yourself, do I believe in Him? Do I have eternal life? If you don’t, what do you have? Judgment, condemnation, perishing. He talks about that later in this passage too. You know there was a poem and whenever I taught the Revelation seminars I always liked this poem by Louisa Tarkington “I wish that there were some wonderful place/In the Land of Beginning Again:/Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches/And all of our poor selfish grief/Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door/And never put on again.” He’s offering us, when He says, not perish, a transition, a transformation. You go from death to life. That’s where the conversion takes place.

It’s right there where it says “not perish, but…” a conversion, a change. This is the greatest difference. Whenever someone says but. Sometimes you wait for that in a sentence, right? “I wasn’t going to sell you this car… but…” What does that mean when you hear that? That means there’s a turn happening in the conversation, or sometimes you don’t want to hear that word “but”. “You know we’ve been dating a long time, but…” That’s not good. What’s coming next, you don’t want to hear it. Or if the doctor comes out of the emergency room and he says, “We did our best to try to save him, but…” You don’t want to hear that word. That’s an important word, right? You realize that word, how pivotal it is. It’s like the word so. Those are important words. So here we are perishing. We’re on our way to destruction, and God says “but”. Do you like that one? It means I’ve got good news. Everything is going to change.

“…not perish but have everlasting life…” Have, not borrow. Not just look at for a little while, not just touch. I heard about this millionaire rich Saudi prince. He has the most expensive Mercedes. I don’t remember what version it is, but it’s the most expensive Mercedes and he’s plated it with gold and covered it with diamonds. It’s over there in Dubai somewhere. You can read about this on the Internet. I don’t remember his name, Prince something-or-other [Prince Waleed]. They said they had it at a mall in Dubai and if you wanted to pay one thousand dollars you could touch it. You don’t get to drive it, and you certainly don’t get to own it, but for a thousand dollars you could touch it. You can maybe look at it for free. Having it would have been different. That would mean that it’s yours, and God is telling us we can have it. You can embrace it; you can own it. It’s yours. It’s your possession.

To “…have everlasting life…” That’s, of course, our last part. The greatest possession you can have is not just eternal life. Some churches teach you get eternal life, but one of two ways, you either get eternal life in heaven or you eternal life in Hades. I don’t want that eternal life! They say, you’ve got an immortal soul. I keep asking where is that verse that says immortal soul. It’s not in the Bible. We’ve got two choices. It’s eternal death or eternal life. To have eternal life and the right kind of eternal life, not eternal life in some fictitious place of suffering, but this is eternal life in a very real place where there are pleasures at His right hand forevermore. Isn’t that good news? This is a great verse. I just spent the first half of the sermon, and that’s according to plan, talking about just John 3:16. I should have taken off my shoes because we were on holy ground.

Then we go to our next verse, and you know there are a lot of people, they know John 3:16, but you ask them John 3:15 or John 3:17… So many people go to these stadiums, you’ve probably seen it before, and these games, football, baseball games, and they know the cameras pan the audience and so they want to witness for Jesus and so they get this big banner or they get this big sign and they hold up, what verse do they hold up? John 3:16. There was this game that was being broadcast and the camera panned by and this guy was holding up a sign that said John 3:17. The commentator said, “Aw, that poor fellow. He’s not very bright. He got the wrong verse.” He didn’t really get the wrong verse. He was just directing their attention to our next verse that talks about God wanting to save us and not condemn us. Just as important. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” We’re all naturally condemned. We’re born with these selfish, fallen natures. Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” What did we talk about? Being in Christ, believing in Him. Who is not condemned? The ones who are in Christ. How do they get there? Through faith. There is no condemnation. Now without that faith, how do we stand? We’re condemned already.

That’s when you get to the next verse John 3:18 how important it is to believe in His name. “"He who believes in Him is not condemned…” So how do we get to be in Him? Through believing. “…but he who does not believe is condemned already,” in other words, unless you’re born the second time (we talked about this earlier) and you’re only born once, you’re born condemned because you’ve got that selfish, fallen nature. Jesus didn’t need to come to condemn us; we’re already condemned. Do you realize that if when you first have your hearing before the judge if you plead guilty there is no trail? You’re condemned. You’ve admitted guilt. They’ve just got to determine the sentence. That’s where we all are right now. We all stand waiting for our sentence which we know what that is, don’t we? The penalty. So Jesus didn’t come to try us and condemn us.

We’re already condemned. He came to save us from condemnation. He comes, if you will, to stand before the judge and to say, “I’m offering to trade places with the person who is condemned. If they accept Me as their substitute, I am trading places with them.” See, when He died on the cross, He offered to be our substitute. The reason I word it that way, even though Jesus two thousand years ago, He came, lived the perfect life, suffered for all of humanity on the cross, died, took the death penalty, penalty is suffering and death. He took all of that. Even though that’s all in the past, unless you personally cash the check, it doesn’t do you any good today. You know there is another deviant theology that’s going out there that we’re all saved. The reason people are lost is because they reject the salvation. They choose to reject it, and if we don’t choose to reject it, we’re saved. That’s not true. We’re all condemned. We must choose to accept it is what the Bible says. How many of you know what I’m talking about?

There are so many deviant things… some good people getting mixed up in this stuff. As though we’re passively saved by not choosing. That’s ridiculous. The devil wants us to believe that. No, we are naturally condemned and it is through accepting what Jesus provided, cashing the check if you will, you’ve got to act upon His sacrifice then we’re saved. He’s offering us love, but there’s no marriage if you don’t accept His invitation. It’s a proposal. You need to accept it. There is something you need to do, otherwise we’re condemned. We need to do what? He’s condemned. “…he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed” notice “in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” That’s reminding us again when Jesus says the only begotten Son of God, the only time God came to earth in the form of man. There were holy men. There were holy women. There were prophets and prophetesses, but the only time God was incarnate, those angels before, they were not God. There is only one person. It wasn’t Buddha. Nothing personal. It was not Mohammad. It was not any of these other spiritual leaders through the ages. It was only Jesus when God was incarnate. He is the only begotten Son of God. Do you understand what I’m saying? Because they did not believe in the name.

Now some have made a whole theology about you’ve got to say the name the right way. If you pronounce it the wrong way… You know one of the things I love about our church, I really do, is that we’re such an international church and as I visit with the different families it’s fun. I talk to some of us have got the Romanian accent, and I talk some of us have got the Samoan or the Fijian accent and some of us have the Filipino accent and I understand all those nuances and it’s fun listening. Sometimes I don’t know how you understand each other. Because with the accents if you get someone who’s got a real strong German accent and they’re talking to someone who’s got a South Pacific accent then you’re going I barely understand them, how do they understand each other? There are some who teach… You don’t mind my being honest with you, do you?

There are some who teach that if you don’t utter Jesus’ name with the right nuance of pronunciation in Hebrew he won’t answer your prayer. That’s not what He’s talking about. There is a theology going around that you can’t call Him Jesus which is the Greek pronunciation. That’s because the New Testament is in Greek. That’s okay. If you’re Spanish you don’t say Jesus; you say Jesus, right? They’re all a little difference. In Hebrew it’s Yeshua. Some say we’ve got to say it in the Hebrew way. Well, you know what? We’re not even sure how they said it in Hebrew when Joshua was first named or even two thousand years ago when Jesus was named because words and pronunciations change over time. Within a hundred years we don’t say things the same way. Do you know how many times the King James Bible has had to be revised because we don’t talk exactly like this anymore, do we?

So those who are trying to make a theology over praying in the name of Jesus, you must say it in the Hebrew annunciation and emphasis and syllables. If you want to say Yeshua, that’s fine, but don’t condemn those who say Jesus or Jesus. God knows who we’re talking about. Praying in the name of Jesus means much more than that. A quote here from the book Steps to Christ a classic. I hope you have this on your shelf. “To pray in the name of Jesus is something more than the mere mention of that name at the beginning or ending of a prayer. It is to pray in the mind and the spirit of Jesus while we believe in His promises, rely on His grace, and work His works.” Praying in the name of Christ means praying with the mind and the attitude and the life of Christ. It’s not like just a signature on a letter. While I do believe our prayers are heard, they’re authorized, if you will, they’re notarized by the authority of Christ so there is that component, but it’s much more than that when we pray in Jesus’ name. If you’ve just walked away from strangling your neighbor and you think that all you’ve got to do is mention Jesus’ name at the end of your prayer, that’s not praying in Christ’s name, is it? It’s wanting to be like Him; that’s when we invoke His name. Otherwise we’re breaking that commandment that says taking His name in vain.

“…believing in the name of the Son of God…” I’m still quoting from John 3:18 now. Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” No other religion, no other religious teacher. The only name we are to pray in is the name of Christ. He is the only name through which we are saved believing in His name. That doesn’t mean uttering the name like it’s this special magic formula. You’ve probably seen these fables before where you’ve got some witch or wizard or sorcerer and they’re trying to perform some miracle and they’ve got to utter this incantation a certain way in order for this magic to happen. Some people think that you’ve got to say Jesus’ name the right way and then the magic happens. That’s not what it means. It’s talking about praying in His character.

By the way, God says He has exalted His word above His name. I believe that’s Psalms 119. He’s exalted His word above His name, and so praying in the name of Christ means the character of Christ. When someone says that person has got a good name. What does that mean? Well, it might mean that the name sounds poetic and rolls off the tongue well, but most of the time if I would say that person has got a good name, that means they’ve got a good reputation. So when you pray in the name of Jesus it means who He is, knowing Him. If you want to know someone’s character or reputation, you’ve got to know them. Praying in the name of the One that you have a relationship with. I heard about a blind man one time that stood out on the street corner and he was reading this verse we just quoted there in Acts chapter four, verse twelve.

As he was reading a Braille Bible and he came to the part where there is no other name and he lost his place on the page and while he was trying to find where he was, he kept repeating the last three words “no other name, no other name, no other name, no other name” and there was a man who was standing in the crowd who had grown up a Christian and wandered away and he was trying to find happiness and was miserable and wondering where it was. He walked by, and while some people were laughing at this blind preacher, those words repeated “no other name” impressed him and he was converted, just by those words, that he would not find it anywhere else. John 1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power” the right, authority, “to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name…” That means believing in who He is, that’s what it means to believe in His name.

I’m looking at the clock and looking at what I have left. I want to read this to you. While we’re talking about the name of God, let’s be reverent. This is the name that saves. It should be taken very carefully on our tongues, spoken with reverence, never in jesting. Another little pet peeve I’ve got. When you pray you mention Jesus’ name, slow down, say it clearly. I often hear people say, they start their prayers, “D’evenly Father…” I go, what? “D’evenly Father…” I say what is that? Dear heavenly Father and they just slur the name of God. Speak it with reverence; speak it with clarity. I think, well, let me read this to you.

This is from “Signs of the Times” 11/18/1886. “Angels are displeased and disgusted with the irreverent manner in which the name of God the great Jehovah is sometimes used in prayer. They mention that name with the greatest awe...” Angels mention it with the greatest awe “even veiling their faces when they speak the name of God.” Angels do. “The name of Christ also is sacred and spoken with the greatest reverence and those who end their prayers” speaking of those on earth “use the name of God in a common and flippant manner, have no sense of the exalted character of God or Christ or heavenly things.” So believing in His name means also handling that name with reverence.

Now our last verses. John 3:19 and I’m going to read right through verse 21 because they really go together. And by the way, the story of Nicodemus we’ve been covering goes from verse one to verse twenty-one. The chapter goes on, but the discourse with Nicodemus ends there. Now we’re talking about loving the light. John 3:19, “And this is the condemnation,” this is why the world is condemned, “that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,” why? “because their deeds were evil.” People loving darkness rather than light. You ever notice that at night when you turn on a light moths are attracted to the light, but if you walk into a dirty kitchen and you turn on a light the cockroaches run. The light has an opposite impact on both. Something about their natures, the cockroaches are afraid of the light, the run from the light probably exposing that they’re feeding on filth. The moths are attracted to the light. How a person responds to the light usually has something to do with what’s going on inside. When we want the cleansing of the Lord in our lives, then we’re drawn to the light. We want that light; we want to walk in the light as He is in the light.

I know this is in print and so you’ve probably heard it, but I used to have a 1971 Volkswagen three-speed automatic. It was a vacuum-shift. I owned it in the desert, had a delivery business when I was there. It wasn’t in good shape. For one thing, the desert winds I’d get caught in sandstorms going across the windy pass there. Some of you have been to southern California where they’ve got all of the wind generators now because there’s so much wind down there. They didn’t have those back then, but they had the wind and it actually sandblasted the paint off of the fenders and certain parts of the car. It was my first car I ever owned. I grew up in New York City taking the bus and the subway. I did not know how to take care of a car, knew nothing about a car. I remember one time lifting up the front trying to figure out how to check the oil.

Someone said, “Doug, make sure you check the oil.” There was no engine in there! Then someone said, “Make sure you check the water in the radiator.” They didn’t know I had a Volkswagen. There is no radiator. I knew nothing about cars. Someone said, “Keep the oil full.” I finally found where the oil was in the back and I kept pouring oil in until it ran out figuring, “Oh it’s full now.” I’m embarrassed to tell you that. It’s true though. That blew out all of the seals on the car and so it used to leak a little oil. Parking in the desert sun it would crack the vinyl and the tires and it didn’t look that good. So one day I decided to sell the car. I wanted to get the most I could possibly get for it so I went to K-mart and got some white paint, painted the fenders almost the same color. It’s hard to match it exactly when you go to K-mart for the paint.

I got Armor All, and I Armor All’d the tires and the vinyl to try and dress it up a little bit and cleaned it up. The windshield had been pitted by the sandstorm so that if I came around a turn and the sun hit my windshield, my windshield just whited out and I couldn’t see through it any more than you could like a bathroom window. It was totally opaque. I’d have to stick my head out the window to continue driving without wrecking. Some of your windshields get dirty and you know what I’m talking about. All of a sudden the sun hits it and you can’t see. Well, mine was always like that, but I noticed that when the sun went behind San Jacinto, this eleven thousand foot mountain. The sun would go behind San Jacinto; there in the kind of the twilight for a couple of hours, the car looked pretty good in the shade. So when I ran the ad, the ad in the Palm Springs paper said “1971 Volkswagen 3-speed automatic, want $600. Will show after 5 o’clock.” I really did that because there was something wrong with the car; I didn’t want the light. I wanted to hang out in the dark.

Some people don’t come to Jesus because they say, “The closer I get to God the worse I look.” Come anyway. You’re not condemned because you’ve got sin. We’ve all got sin. You’re condemned because you love darkness rather than light. God is offering you cleansing. There is something they say about those who live in the desert. When you’re out in the sun a lot, the sun actually has a purifying influence on your clothes. It’ll bleach them. Isn’t that right? It cleans. Walk in the light. As I finish this up, I hope I don’t disturb you too much, but I’m going to tell you something you don’t hear very often. Sometimes people abuse chapter three of John and they abuse John 3:16, and the emphasis is on the believing and they never keep reading what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Notice. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. The important thing for a Pharisee was works and deeds, action.

Listen to what Christ says. I’m reading the whole thing again John 3:19-21 “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds” their works “were evil. For everyone” who practices… Is it just believing or is it practicing? “For everyone practicing evil hates the light…” Is it understood God wants us to practice something other than evil? “…and [he] does not come to the light, lest his deeds”, his actions, his works “should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” Now that is so important. It tells us that when you come to Christ just like you are, you’re born again, you walk in the light, and your life changes and your deeds are different. You’re not a cockroach anymore, you’re now a butterfly and you’ve got the new heart. I just think it’s so significant that John chapter 3 begins with, it says, “There was a man…” and it ends with “in God”. It starts with man and it ends with God.

It begins with a man who is a Pharisee trying to save himself by deeds and it ends by saying “done in God.” How is it that we could have different kinds of lives? Because if you really do believeth in Him it’s a be-living in Him. There is a change in your heart that then first it’s the love of God that changes us. Don’t ever miss that. We love Him because He first loved us. The more we behold His love, it transforms us. That’s where the new heart comes from. It’s a regenerating love. But then it’s seen as their deeds are different because now their deeds are done in God instead of in the darkness. So what’s the secret? Run from God or run to Christ? Run from the light or run to the light. Believe Him.

In closing off our story on Nicodemus, I want to take you to the end of the gospel of John. When he first came he maybe thought he was going to save Jesus. Jesus said, “No, I need to be lifted up.” He wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah. He tried to speak up for Christ, but ultimately you might say Nicodemus came out of the closet as a believer towards the end. John 19:39 after Christ died and Joseph got his body off the cross. Joseph and Nicodemus were no doubt good friends, both rulers. “And there came also Nicodemus,” finally comes out “which at the first came to Jesus by night,” he came in the dark, now he’s coming before sundown “and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.” This is commonly what would be reserved for someone like Alexander the Great, a fabulous amount of fragrant embalming oils. “Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” Nicodemus was actually there personally involved in wrapping the body of Jesus that had been lifted up for him. Did you ever think about that?

He never forgot that. He came out as a believer after that. By the way, Psalms 45:8, “All Your garments” speaking of the Messiah “are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia…” Any of you ever heard that song, “Out of the Ivory Palaces”? There’s a verse in there talks especially about this. I’d like to read from the book Desire of Ages in closing speaking about Nicodemus, at the end of the chapter by the same title. “After the Lord’s ascension when the disciples were scattered by persecution Nicodemus came boldly to the front. He employed his wealth in sustaining the infant church. In the time of peril he who had been so cautious in questioning was firm as a rock encouraging the faith of the disciples and furnishing means to carry forward the work of the gospel. He was scorned and persecuted by those who had paid him reverence in other days.”

The other Sanhedrin, the other Pharisees, they persecuted him, but he didn’t care anymore. He took his stand for Christ, was firm as a rock. “He became poor in this world’s goods yet he faltered not in the faith which had its beginnings in that night conference with Jesus.” He gave so much of his wealth he ultimately became poor for Christ’s cause. “Nicodemus related to John the story” that we just read. John probably set up the meeting. That’s why you and I have a firsthand account of this personal interview. He related the story to John, that story of the interview “and by his pen it was recorded for the instruction of millions. The truths there taught are as important today as they were on that solemn night in the shadowy mountain when the Jewish ruler came to learn the way of life from the lowly teacher of Galilee.” He came to Jesus.

It starts with this man coming to Jesus and ends “done in God.” That’s the story of salvation, friends. It has to do with do you believe? Christ got right to the point with Nicodemus. Do you believe? You’re questioning, you’re coming at night, you’re not sure, you’re not going all the way. He finally went all the way, didn’t he? And he invested his life and his means. His deeds were proof of that. He was willing to be persecuted and take his stand for Christ. Can you trust Him? Can you commit everything to Him? Do you believe He’ll let you down? Whosoever, that’s you, be-live-eth in Him will not perish, that’s a guarantee, but have everlasting life. How many of you would like to have that kind of faith and leave with that confidence. We’re going to sing a song; I think it’s an encouraging song. It’s not somber. “I Know Whom I Have Believed” I think it’s 511 in your hymnals. As always let’s stand as we sing this together and I want to hear you sing.

I know not why God’s wondrous grace To me He hath made known, Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love Redeemed me for His own. But “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day.”

The end of Nicodemus. I need to make an appeal, friends. We do most weeks here. There’s always visitors. There are some, maybe you’ve been here for years and still haven’t made that decision. I don’t want to have that on my soul that someone was here on the borders of saying “Yes” and coming to Jesus and missing that opportunity. Do you mind if we have these appeals almost every week? We don’t do it every week but almost every week because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? People accepting Christ. So as we get ready to sing the next verse, there might be some who have been stirred by the Spirit. They felt that wind blowing in their hearts and they want that new birth. They don’t have that assurance. Maybe you’ve doubted whether you really could be saved, and today you believe “I think He could save me.” I want to have that assurance that I am not going to perish, that I have everlasting life. We’re going to have a special prayer in your behalf at the end of this song. Come as we sing verse two and we’ll have prayer for you.

I know not how this saving faith To me He did impart, Nor how believing in His word Wrought peace within my heart. But “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day.”

You know this song is based upon that promise of Paul and that statement where he says “I know in whom I believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” He said I know. Do you know? He had placed his life in Christ’s hands. It means to entrust who you are to Him in every area. Nicodemus did it. I expect to see him in heave, don’t you? I want to be there to see him. Do you have that assurance, friends. If you’d like to pray and you have some special need, come. There may be some who have not been born of the water; they want to be born of the Spirit and they haven’t been baptized yet, and you’d like to prepare for that. We’ll talk to you about it. We’ll have the pastor’s up front here. You come. Verse four.

I know not when my Lord may come, At night or noon-day fair, Nor if I walk the vale with Him, Or meet Him in the air. But “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day.”

Amen. I’m going to miss Nicodemus. It’s been a wonderful study for me and I trust for you as well. I’d like to have special prayer for those who have come forward this morning. I see a young lady. I think maybe she’s planning on baptism, praise the Lord. Some young men. Amen. Pastor Mike is over here, and if you’d like to visit with a pastor just share your information. If there is some special prayer need, we’d be delighted to pray for you. I’ll be at the door to visit with our visitors in just a moment. Let’s close with prayer now.

Dear Father in Heaven, Lord, our hearts are warmed in spirit as we consider You so love us. Lord, we want to begin by asking You to forgive us for being so unappreciative of that love and the sacrifice that You made in giving Your only begotten Son and the way that Jesus suffered for our sins. I pray that we will trust that if You can die for the sins of the whole world, if You’ve got enough in that sacrifice to save a whole world, You can save each of us as individuals. Not only did you love the whole world, but You love each of us just that much. I pray that love will melt our hearts and that it will spawn and germinate that new birth within. I also pray that like Nicodemus that we will totally entrust ourselves to You and what may begin in the dark will end in the light. What begins with a man coming with his works ends with deeds of love done in God. Bless each person, be in a special sense with those who have responded to the altar call this morning and I pray that You’ll fill them with Your Spirit and give them victory, Lord. Help them to find that peace that they have everlasting life. Bless this church family. May we be witnesses for Jesus as we go from this place. We ask in His holy name. Amen.

You may be seated. As we’re dismissed I want to remind you some will be staying behind for prayer. Please, let’s respect the sanctity of this place and take our fellowship out into the beautiful sunshine in the courtyard.

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