Nick At Night

We are called to share Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom with others at all times. Actions and words. Oftentimes the best way to open the door for sharing Jesus with someone is to begin a civil conversation. This means we maintain a sincere, kind, and respectful tone as we dialogue. It also means praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what to say, including when and how to say it.
As Christians, many of us tend to fall into two different extremes. There are some who don’t engage with non-believers at all about spiritual matters because they feel afraid, intimidated, or ill-equipped. There are others who do, but it can be in a manner that is obnoxious or argumentative. Let’s look at 1 Peter 3:15 as the remedy to both extremes. It says:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Our effectiveness for the Gospel begins with a reverence for Christ as Lord in our hearts. We are called to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask us the reason why we have hope. We are to do this with gentleness and respect.
What the world needs now, more than ever before, is for believers to be open, engaging, and available to civil conversations in a culture where people are becoming more and more hostile to Christianity – and to each other. Just look at any comments section of a social media post or news article. It can be the simplest topic to the most controversial. Doesn’t matter. In just about every instance you will have people who disagree with one another and begin labeling and attacking with no filter. Civil discourse seems to have left the building. And we Christians are just as guilty of this as nonbelievers.
The truth is, we are not going to win anyone or convince anyone of anything with our harsh and obnoxious Facebook posts over petty differences. We are not going to argue anyone into God’s Kingdom. Instead, let’s begin in civil dialogue.
Throughout Scripture, almost every conversion story began with some type of civil conversation. In Acts 8, Philip had a conversation with an Ethiopian who ended up getting saved and baptized. In Acts 10, Peter and a man named Cornelius had a conversation and the next thing you know, Cornelius and his family surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. It was in Acts 16:13-14 during a conversation with Paul and his companions, that a woman named Lydia opened her heart to receive Christ as Lord.
Jesus preached and taught people, but in His one-on-one conversations we see that He would often take on a different approach by conversing and asking questions. One of the best examples of this is recorded in the 3rd chapter of John. A man named Nicodemus had an encounter with Jesus – and his life changed forever. And, in John, chapter four, Jesus engages in a conversation with a woman at the well and that one conversations leads to a whole village hearing the Gospel of the Kingdom.
What the world needs now is for Christians to engage with the non-believers in their neighbourhood and, treating them with dignity and respect, watch for the opportunity to share the love of Jesus. Because what the world needs now is love.
So, let’s look at the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus…
Nicodemus was someone you might meet for the first time and think, He’ll never become a Christian. The guy had political influence and clout. He represented the status quo. He was wealthy. A guardian of the rules. A keeper of the laws.
Were you raised in (or have you ever been to) a legalistic church? The kind of church that emphasized “keeping the rules” – lots and lots of rules! Sadly, sometimes even “unwritten” rules are considered biblical.
Nicodemus most likely subscribed to all kinds of unwritten laws as a teacher to Israel. He represents the people who believe that by keeping all the rules they are somehow saved or made righteous. And yet Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he was probable very intrigued by Him. He wanted to learn more about Him and the things He had been teaching. So Nicodemus said, “Rabbi,” which means “teacher,” and the conversation began.
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him (John 3:2).
There are a few things I want to highlight within Jesus and Nicodemus’s exchange and conversation that will be immediately helpful to you as your share your faith.
1> Straight to the point
Jesus was willing to have a civil conversation with Nicodemus, but He also got straight to the point, as we see in the third verse of John 3. It could have been because it was late at night and Jesus was too tired for small talk. But it probably had more to do with Jesus’s desire to see Nicodemus saved. He pulled no punches. He did not shy away from this opportunity to converse with one of Israel’s most important political and religious leaders.
He said to Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
That’s pretty direct. Nicodemus heard this phrase born again and he couldn’t figure it out; he didn’t understand it. So he asked the question heard around the the evangelical world: “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4)
Jesus answered, and once again, He did not mince words: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6).
And what He meant by that was that Nicodemus had already been born physically; he needed to be born spiritually. Nick at night still didn’t get it, but to be fair, consider where we are in history: Jesus hadn’t died on the cross yet, the day of Pentecost was still three years away, and the church hadn’t started yet. There were no baptisteries, no communion trays, and no crosses on church buildings. Jesus was speaking somewhat prophetically when He pointed out the truth about being born of water and the Spirit.
No wonder Nicodemus didn’t understand. I’m not sure he was suppose to understand. Even mature Christians today have difficulty understanding this text! But Jesus laid everything out directly anyway.
Sometimes when believers are talking with someone who doesn’t know Christ, we beat around the bush. We use too many words. We preface or sugarcoat or water down the message. Jesus’s civil conversation with Nicodemus teaches us that sometimes we need to get straight to the point. This doesn’t mean you should be frantic, rude, or abrupt. Jesus was gentle and at ease as He shared the truth. He is the way, the truth and the life, after all, so it was probably completely natural to Him!
It may not be as natural to us, but you and I can learn to hone our message. As we practice sharing our testimony and the Gospel message, we will learn to cut out all the hemming and hawing and get down to what’s most important: the simple story of Christ’s transforming love.
We saw that Jesus lovingly shares with Nicodemus his need to be born again. And that Jesus went ‘straight to the point’.
The second thing we notice in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is that “The Spirit Is Always Moving.”
Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The winds blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” (verse 9) The reason he asked this question is because he was convinced that the law was what saved a person.
But since the law cannot save, there was a restlessness in Nicodemus’s soul. Despite the fact that he was a “law man” – and had money, fame, power, position, and religion – he was empty inside. He was searching. He didn’t know why he was searching. He didn’t know why he was feeling what he was feeling.
I imagine Jesus was trying to quiet the noice in Nicodemus’s mind and heart by saying, “Shh! Listen to the sound of the wind. The Holy Spirit of God is drawing you toward something that can save.”
And here’s the best part: even though Nicodemus came searching for Jesus that night, it was actually Jesus via the Holy Spirit who was searching for Nicodemus.
Do you remember the story in the Bible about a man named Zacchaeus who was small in stature? He climbed up a tree to look for Jesus, who was passing through the town of Jericho. Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).
Let me ask you a question: Was Zacchaeus searching for Jesus, or was Jesus searching for Zacchaeus? Even though Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, a “sinner” by everyone else’s account, he was valuable to the Lord. Jesus was looking for him and wanted to be a guest in his home. After encountering the Lord, Zacchaeus repented of his sins, vowing to give half of what he owned to the poor and pay restitution to anyone he had cheated in the past.
If there was any doubt that Jesus was in fact looking for Zacchaeus, what the Lord declared next should clear things up: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).
The Spirit of God moved in the heart of a wealthy tax collector to climb that tree in Jericho in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world., As we have already discovered, God’s Spirit also moved in the heart of Nicodemus to seek out Jesus for the answers to his questions.
Behind the scenes, this very moment, the Spirit of God is moving! He blows wherever He wants to. As you approach casual conversations with others, I hope you will take comfort in the fact that God’s Spirit is always moving and wooing – even in folks you think would never be saved.
Author Russell Moore penned this powerful statement:
“The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.. But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so.”
Don’t ever doubt whom God can reach or whom God can save!
Right now there are people in your life – and perhaps even folks not yet met – who are restless just like Nicodemus. They are wondering what it means to be born again. There is an emptiness in their hearts that the law, or self-righteousness, or money, or power, or fame, or relationships, or drugs, or alcohol cannot fill. The Spirit of God could be reaching out to them through you. Let this amazing truth be your confidence as you initiate civil conversations with them about matters of faith.
Review:
We are looking at the civil conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. This is the first of three recorded connections that this religious leader and teacher had with Jesus.
We started with seeing that “What the World Needs Now Is Love” …
Then we had a look at the fact that in His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus:
Went straight to the point speaking the truth in love
And that the Spirit of God is always moving and we partner with Him in the work of winning the lost
Let’s look at a third element in this civil conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus.
Patience – Even When They Don’t Understand
After Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” Jesus continued to talk with him and explained Himself in quite some detail, Even though Nicodemus was a teacher of the law and should have been able to grasp these concepts. Even though, by all appearances, his conversion was nowhere in sight.
And what we learn from Christ’s approach and demeanour is that be must be patient with others, even when they don’t understand.
Jesus patiently took Nicodemus back to a familiar story in the Old Testament – Numbers 21 – to explain salvation. The people of God were complaining when they should have been rejoicing because God had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and was leading them to the promised land.
They questioned Moses’s leadership abilities.
They didn’t like the monotonous and dry food.
They began to second-guess leaving a life of slavery in Egypt.
And they began to infect the camp with poisonous words
So the Lord sent real, live snakes into their midst, to do literally the very thing the people were guilty of doing figuratively: poisoning. Many of the Israelites died. Those who were left realized their sin and went to Moses to repent. They knew they were doomed and beyond hope.
In recounting this story, Jesus reminded Nicodemus how Moses lifted up a bronze snake on a pole and whoever looked upon that snake would live. Just as He did with His “born again” statement earlier, Jesus was juxtaposing the physical with the spiritual. In fact, He told Nicodemus that He was speaking about heavenly things: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15).
Jesus was patient with Nicodemus as He led him to the truth of the Gospel. We are called to do the same in our civil conversations with others. It may look like they don’t understand. It may look like they are never going to receive it. But God has called us to lift up Jesus so that He can draw all people to Him (John 12:32). That is our only job. That is all we have to worry about.
More and more every day, our world is becoming so divided and confused. Like the Israelites who had snakes in the midst of the camp, it may seem as though we are all doomed.
Our only hope is Jesus Christ.
In everything we do, in every conversation we have, we believers must be loving, patient, truthful, and above all, lift Jesus so that the entire would will believe.
Let’s finish looking the civil conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.
We started with seeing that “What the World Needs Now Is Love” …
Then we had a look at the fact that in His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus:
Went straight to the point speaking the truth in love
And that the Spirit of God is always moving and we partner with Him in the work of winning the lost
And a third element – third element in this civil conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus – Patience … Even When They Don’t Understand
As I attempt to put myself non Nicodemus’s sandals after this fascinating conversation with the Saviour of the world, here is what I imagine Nicodemus saying or thinking:
“Jesus, everything that You’re saying has completely turned my thought process upside down. Everything I have ever been taught since I was a child is that the law is what saves! You come along with these miracles and signs that force me to listen to You. You  tell me I have to be born again of the Spirit. And that the Son of Man must be lifted up (crucified and glorified).”
I imagine him continuing, “Jesus, I’m an educated man, but I need you to simplify this for me. I’m very interested – but I don’t understand. I know the Scriptures front to back. I know what the rabbis have taught for thousands of years, but … I have no idea what You are saying.”
Then, in perhaps the greatest verse in John’s entire gospel, Jesus really did simplify it all for Nicodemus when He declared: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
People can keep all the laws, but the law can’t save. They can be leaders among leaders, but fame and recognition can’t save. They can be wealthy, but material possessions cannot save. Only knowing the Son of God – Jesus – can save a person.
Christ went to the cross and died for the sins of the world. All who believe in Him will not perish (go to Hell) but have everlasting life (know God personally and the, when they die, go to Heaven)! As Jesus spoke amicably with Nicodemus, we can show others through patient civil conversations that it was all part of God’s plan.
God’s story.
God’s love.
God’s Spirit.
God’s calling.
God’s Son.
God’s salvation.
Any time you see people getting saved, lives being changed, miracles and signs, and people moving from darkness to light – it’s all God. Anything good you see is because God is at work around the world to redeem mankind before Jesus returns. Unbelievers may not understand this, but we can help them. Today, you can initiate civil conversations about matters of faith with someone you meet.