What are you skeptical about in life? When I asked that in worship last week, I thought I heard someone say “politicians.” No doubt many are skeptical about what politicians say and promise. I asked my wife what she was skeptical about and she had some interesting answers. She said fat free food, driver-less cars, Siri and Alexa. I added aliens, the flu shot and the Carolina Panthers. These are just a few things we are a little, or a lot, skeptical about or not sure what to believe. You probably can add to this list too.
There is a story in the Bible about a man, named Nicodemus, who could be described as a “skeptic” toward Jesus. (John 3:1-21). He wasn’t sure what to believe about Jesus. Because he was a Pharisee, even part of the ruling council (71 of 6000), he had been taught that salvation was based on what he did. Pharisees were zealous followers of Mosaic law, rigid rules and rituals they had created. They were strict legalists; they believed that if you speak right, act right, and do right, you would be saved. But Jesus teaches that salvation is not based on what you do, but what you believe.
Jesus was not a fan of the Pharisees’ teaching because they had an outward focus on appearance. Jesus’ teaching focused inward, on the heart and spiritual transformation. So where is your focus?
Jesus’ teaching was new for Nicodemus and he was trying to take it all in. Because he was a Pharisee, he was naturally skeptical toward Jesus, but he was also a seeker. He wanted to know more about Jesus; he wanted to know what to believe about Jesus. The question for Nicodemus, and for those who may not yet believe is clear: Will he move from skeptic to seeker to believer?
Jesus tells Nicodemus, and us, what is necessary to be a part of the kingdom of God. It is nothing we can do on our own. 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3. Do you know what it means to be “born again”? This phrase literally means to “be born from above.” It is the heart-transforming work of God in our lives. It is not something we do, but it is what the Holy Spirit does in us. (John 3:5-6, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:3)
In the second half of this narrative, there is one word that appears again and again. Do you know what it is? “Believe!” Jesus makes clear that the key to salvation is belief! It is not about what you know or what you do, it is about what you believe!
Jesus knows that some will have trouble believing. He knows that Nicodemus is struggling to believe. You may not yet believe. You may have friends who don’t yet believe. What Jesus says next is designed to answer unbelief. Jesus makes clear that He has come to offer salvation to all who believe! 16 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
Jesus wanted Nicodemus, and us, to know God sent Him to this world to save us from our sin. There is nothing we could ever “do” to save ourselves or to earn our salvation. Jesus saves us by His sacrifice for us on the cross. If you believe, your life is changed for today and forever! This is great news!
But if you don’t believe, if you choose not to believe, then you bear the full weight and penalty of your sins. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:18. Jesus doesn't pull any punches with Nicodemus or with us. He makes very clear who He is and what He came to do… our choice is simple: to believe or not.
What might keep someone from believing? What could keep you from believing? Jesus says there are two reasons: An unwillingness to acknowledge sin and a desire to live in darkness over light. (John 3:19-21)
Will you choose to believe? Will you trust Jesus as Savior and Lord? Will you step from darkness into light and allow the Holy Spirit to begin to transform you? Do you think that Nicodemus believed? We see him two more times in the gospel of John that helps us answer that question… once standing up for Jesus among his fellow Pharisees and again, after Jesus is crucified, helping Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
Did Nicodemus believe? Was he born again? Was he changed by his experience with Jesus? His actions would indicate yes! How about you? Do you believe?
For much more, click here listen to The Jesus Experience - Part 7 - The Skeptic.