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Last week was all about the story where Jesus ran people out of the temple with a whip. And not just any whip, but one that he made himself. He even turned over tables and scattered money on the ground.
When you dig into the details of that story, you find out that Jesus was passionately protecting His house – His family. The Jewish people were being taken advantage of for financial gain, and Jesus wasn’t having it.
When studying the Bible, one thing you have to remember is that the original book was not split into chapters and verses. We did that later to make it easier to study and share with others.
So what we are about to read in John chapter 3 is a continuation of what just happened. In other words, Jesus went from yelling at the religious people for being self-serving fools and shortly after He goes to have a calm, one-on-one conversation with one of the top religious leaders.
This is why it’s important to read around the story or scripture you are looking at, because you need to understand the context. What happened before? What happened after? What’s really going on here?
In this case, we learn that Jesus doesn’t hate the religious people. He hates religion. Sure, He just yelled at religious people and ran them off with a whip. But now He is taking time to lead a religious leader to salvation.
Jesus isn’t going to ignore your bad behavior. He’ll run it off with a whip if He has to. But He will never ignore you because of your bad behavior. He always wants to reach you with the message of salvation – you just have to choose to listen.
The Religious Leader and Jesus
That’s exactly what the religious leader, Nicodemus, did. He chose to listen to Jesus whereas most of his colleagues wouldn’t listen to anything Jesus said.
Watch the conversation that took place between Nicodemus and Jesus:
This story is such an amazing example of grace and truth working together.
Jesus had just come from delivering truth with a whip which was motivated by the love He has for His people. And then He met with one of the religious leaders to lead them to salvation.
Sharing the truth isn’t always going to be pretty. But like I’ve said the past two weeks, as long as it’s motivated by love, you are doing the right thing.
You may have noticed in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus you heard the most popular scripture in Christianity:
John 3:16 NKJV – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
This is a beautiful scripture and it really shows us how simple it is to receive everlasting life: believe in Jesus. It’s also one of those scriptures that you hear a lot by itself, but don’t often hear the rest of what Jesus said.
He goes on to further clarify what it means to believe in Jesus and receive everlasting life. So, I want to take you through the rest of what Jesus says so we all have a crystal clear picture of what it means to be saved.
John 3:17-21 NKJV – For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Aren’t you thankful? We didn’t need anyone to condemn us to hell, because we were all already headed that direction on our own. We needed a way to salvation, and that’s why God sent Jesus to the world.
John 3:17-21 NKJV – He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Once again it’s made clear: the only way to escape eternity in hell is to believe in Jesus. There are no other conditions.
But, if you choose not to believe in Jesus, you will go to hell. Some people think that God wouldn’t send anyone to hell, but He is not the one sending people to hell. People send themselves to hell when they reject Jesus.
It really doesn’t matter how many people tell you that hell isn’t real. Jesus just explained that it is. And if you do not believe in Him, that’s where you’ll end up. I’m not saying this to scare you, you just need to know.
John 3:17-21 NKJV – And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
This goes to show you that some people are going to see the light – they are going to see Jesus – but they will choose to love darkness instead. And they reveal themselves by what they do. Their deeds are evil.
John 3:17-21 NKJV – For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
Wait a minute. I thought I could say I believe in Jesus and continue to live a life of sin. I mean, that’s what the American church has been telling me for the past couple of decades, “Just say a prayer on Sunday and go do what you want.”
Your good behavior cannot save you. Believing in Jesus is what saves you. But here’s what Jesus is revealing to us:
When you believe in Jesus, you follow Jesus.
How foolish is it for us to say we believe in something and don’t follow it? That’d be like you saying you believe in the Dallas Cowboys but then you don’t watch any of their games or wear any of their gear.
You don’t follow your favorite football team in hopes that you’ll earn something from them one day. No, you follow them because you believe in them.
You don’t follow Jesus to try to earn salvation. No, you follow Jesus because you believe in Jesus. And you’re saved because you believe.
All of this reveals the next thing I want you to know about following Jesus:
To follow Jesus, I must hate darkness.
We just read that those who reject Jesus love darkness. So if we are going to follow Jesus, then we must hate darkness.
These days, the word “darkness” is left open to interpretation. The world seems to think that calling a man a man and a woman a woman is evil, yet they have no problem with all the sexually explicit TV shows and movies people are watching.
I’ve always wondered what the Bible meant when it said that in the last days people will call good evil and evil good. Well, it’s pretty clear now. But we can’t be deceived by this foolishness because we are people of the light.
To bring clarification, I did a study on the original Greek work translated to “darkness” in this scripture and found that it appears a total of 32 times throughout the New Testament.
I went through these scriptures and found two places where it’s made very clear what Jesus meant when He said that people loved darkness rather than light.
Romans 13:13-14 NLT – Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
I’m pretty sure we just described about 99% of the TV shows and movies people are watching these days. Even Christians are watching this stuff and we excuse it like it’s no big deal.
You know, this is one of those things that if I could, I’d take a tip from Jesus and come throw your TV on the floor if you were watching that stuff. Because I love you. And I hate it when Hollywood deceives people into thinking it’s okay to entertain your eyes with darkness. It’s not okay!
So, in this scripture, darkness is defined as: wild parties, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, immoral living, quarreling and jealousy.
Let’s see how Ephesians defines darkness:
Ephesians 5:1-14 NLT – Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Good stuff, right? I agree. I love this. But, if I were to follow the pattern of the feel-good Christianity we have today, I’d have to stop right here because the feel-goods are about to end. Let me show you:
Ephesians 5:1-14 NLT – Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible.
We are to imitate God in everything we do. We are to be filled with love and follow the example of Jesus Christ. That’s why we are doing this series! So we can learn the way of Jesus and follow it.
Sexual immorality, impurity (wasteful living) and greed all have to go. Obscene, foolish and empty words must go.
We can’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, which is pretty much the entire world right now. The world is obsessed with making sexual immorality normal, but we are not deceived. We are people of the light.
We don’t take part in these worthless and destructive deeds of evil and darkness. Instead, we expose them like I am doing today. We walk in freedom and we lead others to freedom.
I’m shining the light on darkness today and you get to choose, are you going to run from the light because you love darkness? Or are you going to come to the light because you hate darkness.
I pray you will run to the light, just light Jesus says when he wraps up the scripture we were reading earlier from John:
John 3:21 NKJV – But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.
In other words:
When I follow Jesus, my deeds lead people to Jesus.
This is who we are. We believe in Jesus, so we follow Jesus. And as we follow Jesus our good deeds are brought into the light for all to see.
This is one of those messages that might feel a little like sandpaper. Maybe you realize you’ve allowed darkness in your life and now you feel guilty and ashamed.
That’s not the purpose of this message. Remember, Jesus didn’t come to condemn you. He came to save you. He came to set you free.
So don’t walk away with your head hanging in shame and regret. Instead, choose to believe in Jesus. For God loved you so much that He sent His only son, Jesus. And when you believe in Him, He gives you life that lasts forever.