Think and Pray Big!

Think and Pray Big!

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
William Carey

In John 3 we meet a man named Nicodemus.  We see him first coming to Jesus by night.  In fact, this act alone defined his character throughout his life in Scripture.  For example, John 7:50 states, “Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them…” and again in John 19:39, “and Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.”

As Lazarus was known for the rest of his life by the act of grace Jesus bestowed on him by raising him from the dead (John 12:1, 9), so Nicodemus was known as the one who came to Jesus at night.  Under the cover of darkness.  In secret.

So who was this Nicodemus and what was his relationship with Jesus?

Nicodemus

John 3:1 tells us that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews.  Nicodemus was a common name in Jesus’ day and means “victor among the people or one who has won distinction among the people.”1  He was a Pharisee, a member of an elite religious party that strictly adhered to the letter of the Law and believed both the written and oral traditions were the same and of equal value.  It also states that he was a “ruler of the Jews” which meant he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the governing council of Israel.  Tradition held that the Sanhedrin was limited to 70 members much like our Senate is limited to 100.  Thus, Nicodemus was one of the most important religious and, in the time of Jesus, political leaders in Israel.

To further emphasize Nicodemus’ position, Jesus called him “the” teacher of Israel and not “a” teacher (John 3:10) indicating that he was one of just a few who held such a lofty position in the eyes of the people.  It would be like Billy Graham, once elected to the Senate, came to Jesus to ask Him a Biblical question as both a Senator and an evangelist.

The Exchange

When we examine the exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus we see that, like most of us, Nicodemus saw life in only two dimensions, flat, limited, finite— while Jesus understood not only this life we can taste, touch and feel, but also the life to come.  Nicodemus was dealing with the here and now, the black and white, the simple, observable, measurable, while Jesus was living in HD, full color, 1080p, surround-sound.

The exchange between a ruler of Jews and the Ruler of the Universe centered around salvation, regeneration, sacrifice, truth, love, the coming Kingdom, and the crucifixion of the Son of God.  Jesus spoke of the things He knew:

“Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:1).
“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6).
“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:13-15).

But to Nicodemus, these words where difficult to understand, yet alone, believe.

But believe he did.

At some point in time, and John does not tell us when, Nicodemus came to faith in Christ.  How do we know this?  We see our first glimpse in John 7:50 where Nicodemus offers a small defense of Jesus to his fellow members of the Sanhedrin who were demanding his death.  He says, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”  Needless to say, his words were not heeded and we have no record of Nicodemus saying more.

Then, after Jesus’ death, we see Nicodemus and a man named Joseph of Arimathea, coming and preparing Jesus’ body for burial.  John 19:38-40 states:

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission.  So he came and took the body of Jesus.  And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.  Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

And after this, there is nothing more said about Nicodemus, the Pharisee, the ruler of the Jews, who had risked everything to take care of the body of his dead master.  Nothing.  It is like his life after this event faded into obscurity.  Did you ever wonder why?

Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea appears in all four Gospels but only in the accounts of Jesus’ burial.  He was rich (Matt. 27:57), a prominent member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), who had not agreed with its decision to condemn Jesus (Luke 23:51).  Joseph was a good and righteous man (Luke 23:50), who was waiting for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43).  He was a disciple of Jesus (Matt. 27:57), although a secret one for fear of the Jews.2  Even though John usually presented “secret disciples of Jesus” in a negative light (John. 12:42-43), he, and the other Gospel writers, seem to commend Joseph’s actions in requesting from Pilate the body of Jesus to bury in his own tomb (Matt. 27:60).

After overcoming the crippling fear of losing his position and prestige as a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph emerged from the shadows into the light and publically proclaimed his loyalty to Jesus.  At last, Joseph stood for the Lord.

And after the burial of Jesus, just like Nicodemus, he drifts off into obscurity never to be heard of again.

The Resurrection

What happened to these two men?  Did they follow Jesus and become part of the upper room 120 who were filled with Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1)?  Or did they go back to their jobs and spend their lives debating with other members of the Sanhedrin about “what to do with these Christians?” (Acts 4:16)  Logically it would seem their lives had to follow one of these two paths.  Either they forsook all and followed the Lord seeking to bring others into His Kingdom or they would withdraw back into their prior lives hoping the story of Jesus would just go away.  Maybe they wanted to become “secret disciples” once again even though their “secret” was out and known to all.

We don’t know what happened to these two men.  The Scriptures are silent regarding them.  If, however, they played a great part in the founding of the church at Jerusalem, like Peter and James, it seems Luke would have recorded that fact in the Acts of the Apostles.  But he didn’t.

The sad part of their story is that they could possibly have become like us.  Jesus begins His encounter with Nicodemus in John 3.  But John 2 ends this way: “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25).  Seems that Jesus was warning about casual, non-committed followers or half-hearted disciples.  A lukewarm church (Rev. 3:16).

Maybe they became just like us.

Think about it.  We have experienced the resurrection of Jesus and the proof that we are now children of God and join-heirs with Him (Romans 8:16-17).  We know He is the Lord and He has disarmed both Satan and death by defeating both and leaving an empty tomb as confirmation of His, and our, victory (1 Cor. 15:55-57).  Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8) and made a public display of His triumph over them (Col. 2:15) and we, by virtue of divine regeneration through salvation, have become the recipient of that great gift of grace (Eph. 2:8).

Yes, we know all this is true and we know we are now seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6).  But has that fact prompted us to a life of reckless abandon to Him?  Have we forsaken all and followed Jesus?  Has the resurrection of our Lord transformed our love and affection from a two dimensional life in this world into life everlasting with Him?

Paul says of our Lord in Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”

Did you get that?  Jesus is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”  That means He is willing and able to exceed what we have the faith to ask for or even imagine in our minds.  He is, after all, God.  And He lives in each of us.

This Easter, commit your life and thoughts and dreams to Him who can do far beyond what we can possibly imagine.  Do not, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, fall back and fade into obscurity regarding the moving of God and remain satisfied with the trinkets and toys this world offers and neglect the “riches in heaven” prepared for you, the “abundant life” our Lord promised (John 10:10).  Look around you and see the mission field God has place you in and begin today, on Easter, to faithfully serve Him who gave His life for you (Matt. 20:28).

And remember the words of William Carey:

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”

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1.  Zodhiates, S. (2000). The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
2.  MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (p. 366). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

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Have I Seen Him?

Have I Seen Him?

Wonderful words from Oswald Chambers:

Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many are partakers of God’s grace who have never seen Jesus. When once you have seen Jesus, you can never be the same, other things do not appeal as they used to do:

Always distinguish between what you see Jesus to be, and what He has done for you. If you only know what He has done for you, you have not a big enough God; but if you have had a vision of Jesus as He is, experiences can come and go, you will endure, “as seeing Him Who is invisible.” The man blind from his birth did not know Who Jesus was until He appeared and revealed Himself to him. Jesus appears to those for whom he has done something; but we cannot dictate when He will come. Suddenly at any turn He may come—‘Now I see Him!’

Jesus must appear to your friend as well as to you; no one can see Jesus with your eyes. Severance takes place where one and not the other has seen Jesus. You cannot bring your friend unless God brings him. Have you seen Jesus? Then you will want others to see Him too. “And they went and told it unto the residue, neither believed they them.” You must tell, although they do not believe.

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The Outline of the End Times

The Outline of the End Times

“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are,
and the things which will take place after this.”
Revelation 1:19

One of the key truths that explains almost everything pertaining to the Christian life today is found in the second and third chapters of the Revelation.  Here our Lord Jesus writes seven letters to seven churches that are, on the surface, intriguing.  But once you dig deeper into the meanings of these letters, they are breathtaking and prophetic.  In fact, they chronicle all of church history from the days of the Apostles until now.  They are a timeline of church history and, for us, present church life.  And once we come to grips with that fact alone, the meaning and purpose of the life we live, or try to live, or claim to live, or don’t live in Christ today opens up and unfolds like a spring flower.  Everything becomes clear and focused.

But, as usual, I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me step back and explain.

Seven Letters to Seven Churches

In Revelation 1:19 John is given a command by the risen Lord Jesus.  He is told to, “Write the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”  Here we have the outline from Jesus Himself for the entire book of the Revelation.

First, John is told to write what he has seen— the seven lampstands, the seven stars, the sharp two-edged sword, the Lord Jesus in all His glory, for example.  All this takes place in chapter 1.

Next, John is told to write “the things which are”— the current church situation, the seven letters to seven churches in what we would now call Asia Minor.  He is to write what the Lord says to the churches at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7), Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11), Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17), Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29), Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6), Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13), and Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22).  When we look at these seven letters to these ancient churches with strange sounding names we often see them as something mystical, something confusing, and something that we don’t really need to bother ourselves about except maybe in a purely academic sense.  But that would be a grave mistake on our part.  These seven letters are anything but dry, academic and boring.  As stated before, chapters 2 and 3 reveal to us all of church history, our history, from the Apostles to the coming rapture of the church.  They show us why we do the things we do, good or bad, in the name of Christ.  They show us why we worship the way we worship, why we “do” church the way we do, and why we live the way we live.  These letters show what the Lord commends in His church and what about His church He abhors.  And they also show us what about His church literally makes Him sick on His stomach.  But I am getting ahead of myself again.  We will talk more about that later.

Finally, John is told to write the “things that will take place after this.”  He is to write about events that will take place in the future, the incredible events that make up chapter 4 to the end of the Revelation.  These events speak of great tribulation, of two witnesses, of the throne of God and the scroll sealed with seven seals, it speaks of the Lamb as if slain, the woman and the dragon, the Whore of Babylon and much more.

As you can see, John is given the outline for the entire book of the Revelation and of human history.  In fact, the Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a special blessing to those who read it.  It begins with these words, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written in it; for the time is near.”1   Or, as Chuck Missler would say, “Read me, I’m special!”2

Tomorrow we will look at the seven letters in detail and show how they reveal to us past church history and, amazingly, our current church situation.  These letters from the Lord to His church are as timely as any news blog and as prophetic as the book of Daniel or Ezekiel.  In fact, you will learn more about yourself from these letters, especially the last one, than you would have thought possible.  And finally, you will see how God views His church, and you and I, compared to how we view ourselves— and the difference will take your breath away and drive you to your knees.

Are you ready for an incredible journey?  Then let’s begin.

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1.  Revelation 1:3
2.  Missler, Chuck.  2002.  Learn the Bible in 24 Hours.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 271.

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Podcast 237:  How Can God Show Such Mercy?

Podcast 237: How Can God Show Such Mercy?

In the fourth of Zechariah’s eight visions we see the following prophetic words about Jesus:

For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the Branch. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes.
Behold, I will engrave its inscription.

I think I’ve got the part about the Branch and the stone and the seven eyes. But what inscription is engraved on the stone?

The answer to this question will alter your view of Jesus… forever.

The following is a study on Zechariah 3:1-10.

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Podcast 236:  Aslan is on the Move!

Podcast 236: Aslan is on the Move!

In the last verse of the second chapter of Zechariah we find the chilling statement that God will no longer stay silent while His people, the apple of His eye, are mistreated by others.  The sleeping Giant has awakened.  Momma bear is ready to protect her cubs.  The time for the great awakening is upon us.

“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused (or, awakened) from His holy habitation!”

In other words, Aslan in on the move!  And you’d better be ready.

This following is a study on Zechariah 2:1-13.

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Podcast 231:  The Mistake of John the Baptist

Podcast 231: The Mistake of John the Baptist

When John the Baptist saw the sky crack open and the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove all he could utter was, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” And then John sent two of his disciples to follow Jesus.

Did you ever wonder why John didn’t also follow his Lord? Did you wonder why he continued to baptize after he revealed Jesus to the world? And did you ever wonder why his message changed from, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” to “Herod, it is not lawful for you to take your brother’s wife as your own.”

How is that preparing the way for the coming of the Lord?

Want to know more? Then keep listening.

The following is a study of John 1:19-37.

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