Searching for Holy Grace

John 3:1-18

May 21, 2006 | Brian Bill

Are you drawn to history or mystery, or both?  What we’ve established in our series called “Cracking the DaVinci Code,” is that while Dan Brown has honed in on the human need for mystery, his history is more hysterical than anything else.  I don’t plan on seeing the movie but I did enjoy this review on “The movie did receive some lukewarm praise, but the majority of the response was highly critical.  One scene during the film, meant to be serious, elicited prolonged laughter from the audience.  There was no applause when the credits rolled; instead, a few catcalls and hisses broke the silence.  The Hollywood Reporter headlined its review, ‘Da Vinci Code an unwieldy, bloated puzzle.”  When I read this quote to my friend Lee on Thursday while we were working out, he had a very perceptive response: “It just goes to show you that the Bible is strong.”   I’m glad that people believe the Bible over Brown.

Reporter Jeffrey Weiss from the Dallas Morning News wrote: “Experts agree: Dan Brown gets most of his facts wrong.  Religion scholars have been whacking the ‘Da Vinci Code’ like a low-hanging piñata.”  We’ve taken some whacks as well this past month as we’ve focused on how to separate fact from fiction.  We’ve also studied who Jesus really is, whether or not you can trust the Bible, and last week we learned how Mary Magdalene moved from chaos to conversion to community to contributing to commitment to communicating.  

While many critics have criticized the “DaVinci Code,” it has capitalized on the human desire to get in touch with something beyond what we can see.  In addition, millions seem intrigued with mysterious conspiracies and alternative spirituality.  Why is that?  Simply put, it’s because God has put within every person a desire to know Him according to Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…”  I’d like to suggest this morning that we cannot settle for superficial answers to deeply spiritual questions.  We’ve spent four weeks dismantling the deception found in the DaVinci Code; it’s now time for us to look at why this stuff resonates with so many people.

Matt Lauer, co-host of the Today Show on NBC, did a special segment this week called, “On the Road with the Code.”  The idea was to search out some of the locations and interview some experts about Brown’s controversial claims.  I only watched one segment and was surprised that the museum director he interviewed at the Louvre in Paris had not even read the book but was quick to dismantle some of the myths.  Matt Lauer also interviewed the major players in the movie.   I was struck by this comment made by actor Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Sir Leigh Teabing, after he was asked whether the movie should have a disclaimer indicating that it is fiction: “Well, I’ve often thought that the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying, ‘this is fiction.”

I’d like to give a couple disclaimers this morning.  First, my own views don’t have any value; no fiction found in a book has lasting benefit; and nothing in a movie has merit if it is not based on the Bible.  Friend, the Bible is not fiction; it is fact!  My second disclaimer is that I’m “DaVincied out,” if that’s a phrase.  While we’ve taken a detailed look at the claims in the book over the last four weeks, this morning we’re going to go on the road, not with the code, but with Christ Himself.  Specifically, we’re going to listen to a clip between a man who was searching for spiritual secrets and how he found them by interviewing the Savior.  

Instead of going to a museum, we’re going to go to the Master; instead of cracking a code of conspiracy, we’re going to learn about the mode of conversion.  This man’s name is Nicodemus and he was trying to solve the puzzle of life.  I’m sure Matt Lauer was thrilled to be able to interview some famous people; this inquisitive individual had to be ecstatic to finally be alone with Jesus and be free to ask him any question he wanted.  Nick wants in on the secret to spirituality.  Jesus reveals three secrets from this passage.

1. Being good is never good enough because it’s not about religion; it’s about rebirth.

Please turn in your Bibles to John 3:1: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.” Here’s what we know about Nicodemus.  First, he was a Pharisee.  In the first century the Pharisees were widely respected for their intense piety and deep scholarship.  These men had taken a solemn vow to devote their entire life to keeping the Ten Commandments.  That meant studying the Scriptures diligently, praying two hours a day, giving a tithe of all they possessed, and being concerned about morality.  There were never more than 6000 Pharisees because they were a select group and not many men would make that kind of personal sacrifice. 

My new pastor friend from California, Rene Schlaepfer  shared some insights in a recent sermon: “Their main rule book was called the Mishnah…there are 24 chapters in the Mishnah about how to keep the Sabbath.  But even that wasn’t enough.  They had to interpret the Mishnah so they wrote something called the Talmud which interpreted what the Mishnah had to say about keeping the Ten Commandments.  For example, in the Talmud there are 128 pages of interpretation about the 24 chapters on just the keeping of one command, the Sabbath.”  The Pharisees made a couple basic and very tragic errors – they externalized their religion and they believed that if they just worked hard enough they could make their way to heaven.  Some of you may be on that same road this morning.

Second, Nicodemus was a member of the select 70-member Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin.  As you might expect, only the leading men were elected to such a prestigious position.   In 20th century terms, he would be like a college professor, a judge on the Supreme Court, a United States Senator, and a bishop in the church – all rolled into one.  The Sanhedrin had religious authority over every Jewish man in the world.

Friend, whatever your status is today, don’t let it keep you from searching for the Savior

Third, we know from verse 10 that Jesus refers to Nicodemus as “Israel’s teacher.”  He’s a member of the 6,000-strong super spiritual society and he’s one of 70 lofty leaders and now we read that he is the instructor of Israel.  He was the top dog religiously, morally, socially, and politically…and yet something was missing.  Friend, whatever your status is today, don’t let it keep you from searching for the Savior.

John 3:2 reads, “He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God.  For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”   Since he came to Jesus after dark, we could say he was “Nick at Night.”  Why did Nick come at night?  Perhaps because he knew that Jesus was controversial and he couldn’t risk being seen publicly.  Or maybe he wished to have time for a lengthy personal interview.  There’s probably more to the story than that.  The fact that he risked his own position to come to Jesus speaks of his own personal need.  One could also argue that the word “night” is a symbol of his own spiritual condition because at this point he is still in the dark.  Notice what he said, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God.”  Nicodemus here admits that Jesus has been sent from God.  He is no mere man; He’s more than just a teacher from Galilee.  Don’t miss the point about how accessible Jesus is.  No doubt He had put in a full day and yet He was fully engaged with Nicodemus.  Arthur Pink says that there is no unacceptable time for a sinner to seek the Savior.

That brings us to the answer Jesus gives to this cultured, educated, well-respected religious leader.  Actually, it’s startling and abrupt and is not in response to a stated question, though it is the question Nicodemus is really asking in his heart.  It’s just a statement of truth delivered without any small talk.  Look at John 3:3, “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’” Jesus always gets right to the point, doesn’t He?  Jesus elevates the importance of what He is about to say by the use of “I tell you the truth.”  In some versions we read, “Verily, verily.”  Jesus only uses this statement when He is about to say something incredibly profound and monumental.   

In the original language the phrase “born again” has a double meaning.  The word means “again” and “above.”  Jesus is telling Nicodemus that the only way to find what he is looking for is to be born again from above.  The word “unless” signals a necessary condition.  In other words, there is only one way (see John 14:6).  Despite all his learning, Nicodemus is utterly baffled by this thought.  Instead of just trying to reform himself, he needs to be reborn. In this one sentence the Savior sweeps away all that this religious man stood for.

In verse 4 we see that Nick is ready to head back to the Delivery Room.  “How can a man be born when he is old?  Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”   Nicodemus misses the point – Jesus is not talking about a second physical birth, but about a completely different kind of birth – a spiritual birth.  Your physical birth introduces you to the physical world.  But if you want to enter the kingdom of God (the world of spiritual reality), you need a spiritual birth.  

Being good is never good enough because it’s not about religion; it’s about rebirth.  That leads to the second secret…

2. Being good is never good enough because it’s not about systems; it’s about the Spirit. 

Jesus replies in verses 5-6 that “unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

The water Jesus speaks of here symbolizes purification.  This is how Nicodemus would have understood it from Ezekiel 36:25-26: “I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”  

Jesus is also saying that trying harder doesn’t work because flesh cannot achieve lasting fruit.  It’s only the Spirit that can affect permanent change.  It’s not about rules and regulations and religion because none of this can give you a new heart and a new spirit.  I like what Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice has said: “It makes no difference how much education, money, prestige, power or pleasure you acquire; if the time and invitation are right, you will go back to your old nature.  That’s why you have to be born again; because only when you are born again do you have the new nature of God planted in your heart.”

To make sure that Nick does not misunderstand this truth, Jesus adds an important fact in verse 7: “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” Notice the imperative of that statement.  The phrase, “You must be born again” stands in front of the gate of heaven.  The new birth is not optional for any of us.  Jesus didn’t say, “I recommend that you be born again” or “You should be born again if after investigation it seems to meet your personal need” or “I think it would be a good idea to be born again.”   No!  Jesus used the urgent language of forceful command: You must be born again.  In addition, the word “you” is in the plural, meaning that this message is for each of us, not just Nicodemus.

Before we go on, let me remind you that Jesus spoke these words not to some immoral outcast, but to one of the most religious men of his day.  By all human standards Nicodemus was a very good person and certainly a man we would admire for his intense devotion to God.  Yet Jesus told him, “You must be born again.” If he needed to be born again, what about you and me?  Do any of you have the religious pedigree that Nicodemus had?  I doubt it.  The truth of the matter is that we are much less religious than Nicodemus was.  If he needed to be born again, we surely do as well.  Question: Have you ever been Born Again?

Just in case I haven’t made myself clear, I’m not asking about your church membership, your baptism, your giving record, your Sunday School attendance, or your personal morality.  Nicodemus had all those things down cold, but Jesus said to him, “You must be born again.” 

If we want to go to heaven, we must be born again. If we’re not, we won’t see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus was a good man who knew about God but he didn’t know God personally.  That’s the enigma of his personality.  His search reminds us that being good is not good enough because it’s not about systems it’s about the Spirit.

I need a brand-new start, a fresh beginning.  In short, I need God’s grace.  Grace is God giving to me something that I cannot obtain on my own.  Grace is being accepted by God even though I do not deserve it, even though I am not worthy of it.  The Bible teaches that I receive grace on the basis of my belief and trust in Jesus as my sin payment.  I’m granted grace when I’m given new life through the new birth.  If you’re looking for mystery, look at verse 8: “The wind 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.”  In Greek the word for wind and spirit is the same word.  Jesus is saying that the Spirit is like the wind.  That analogy makes sense for us in the wind tunnel of central Illinois.  The Spirit is similar to the wind in several ways:

  • The Spirit is real, but you can’t see Him.  Nicodemus’ religion was about visible things; those born of the Spirit operate in the invisible realm.
  • The effects of the Spirit are visible, but His ways are unexplainable.  Just like we don’t know where the wind comes from and when it will come again, so too the Spirit blows as He wishes.  We know He is working by seeing the effects.  
  • He’s powerful, and you can’t control Him.  Nicodemus could control his religious life but like the wind, the Spirit is too powerful to contain.  The spiritual life is not about trying to gain more control but about giving up control to God.
  • He’s invigorating, and you can’t copy Him.  There’s nothing like a breeze that blows through the mustiness of a closed up house and there’s nothing like the Spirit as He breathes fresh life into musty lives.
  • He’s irresistible, and you can’t stop Him.  Just like a hurricane that levels a home, so too God’s Spirit is unstoppable.  He pummels the proud and unsettles the secure but only so that He can bring new birth.  When we were in Biloxi several weeks ago we saw some beautiful flowers that apparently are not native to Mississippi.  I’m told that the winds of the hurricane brought these seeds from hundreds of miles away from some tropical islands.  The new birth is like a flower of the Holy Spirit’s sovereign grace.

The first secret that Jesus reveals is that being good is never good enough because it’s not about religion; it’s about rebirth.  The second secret is that being good is not good enough because it’s not about systems; it’s about the Spirit.  That leads to the third truth…

3. Being good is never good enough because it’s not about cracking a code; it’s about making a commitment to Christ. 

Some of us think that we just need to find the correct career, or that right relationship, or buy that certain book and then we’ll find what we’re looking for.  If we can just be “good,” then things will be great.  If we can just solve the puzzle we can finally find our purpose.  Friend, let me tell you that you don’t need to try a new principle; you need to trust in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.  

One pastor says that too many people are following the AVIS advice to just “try harder.”  That reminds me of the homeless man who was standing on a street corner in the Wall Street district of New York, begging for money.  A corporate executive passes by and the homeless man reaches out and asks, “Change?  Change?”  The executive looks at him and says, “I’m trying!  I’m trying!”  The real issue is not to try harder but to trust in the One who has paid the price for us.

Drop down to verses 14-15: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  I love how Jesus speaks to Nicodemus here.  In order to get him to see the importance of the new birth through the Spirit by a commitment to Christ, Jesus holds up his hero.  As the giver of the Law that Nicodemus was set on keeping, Moses was his model.  Jesus then retells the story found in Numbers 21, the last known miracle performed by Moses.

The Israelites were out in the desert dying because they had been bitten by poisonous snakes.  This was part of God’s judgment for their complaining spirits and rebellious attitudes.  After scores of people died, they pled with Moses to pray that God would take the snakes away.  Moses did so and God told him to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole and lift it up high.  All the people had to do was simply look at this pole and they would be healed and would not die.  They didn’t have to do any good works, make an offering, or jump through any holy hoops.  It doesn’t make much sense but all they had to do was look at the pole.  Some may have thought this was too easy and maybe they chose to ignore God’s provision.  If they did, they died!

Friends, we are all dying of a poison in our souls because we are sin-bitten rebels.  The only antidote is to accept the sacrifice of God’s Son on the lifted up Cross.  He experienced the fiery venom of sin in order to deliver us from it.  2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The key is to believe in Him to have eternal life.  When you look to Him with the eyes of faith, His sacrifice on the cross will be applied to your life.  If you don’t, the pervasive poison of sin will consume you.

Listen to these very familiar yet forceful words from John 3:16-18: “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.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” God’s love is so intense that in His sweet plan He gave what was most dear to Him.  He did it all so that we could be saved from condemnation through belief in His Son.  To believe means to rely on Christ so completely that you are casting all that you are, and all that you have, and all that you hope to become, on Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, your Forgiver and Leader.   In John 1:12, we read about the importance of receiving what God has done for us: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  The key then is to believe and to receive which results in rebirth.  To reject Him results in condemnation.

When I was in college I attended a Bible Study that changed my life.  The first week I went they were studying John 1 and I just listened.  The next week I went and argued with everything they said about John 2.  The third week I almost fell out of my chair when I read the words that Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3 about the necessity of being born again.  I didn’t know much about the Bible but I knew the words in “red” were important.  The guys in the group explained that what Jesus did for me was like a gift that I had to receive.  Until I received it, salvation would not become activated in my life.  That very night, after I finished reading the entire Gospel of John, I believed and received and was born again and became a child of God.  I finally understood that I needed to respond to what Jesus had done for me.

There was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States.  Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution.  Every student was required to take this course his or her freshman year, regardless of his or her major. Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.
This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve.  Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going onto seminary for the ministry.  Steve was popular, he was well liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting center on the school football team, and was the best student in the professor’s class. One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him.
“How many push-ups can you do?”  Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”  “200?  That’s pretty good, Steve!” Dr. Christianson said. “Do you think you could do 300?”  Steve replied, “I don’t know… I’ve never done 300 at a time.”  “Do you think you could?” again asked Dr. Christianson.  “Well, I can try,” said Steve. “Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work.  Can you do it?  I need you to tell me you can do it,” said the professor.
Steve said, “Well… I think I can…yeah, I can do it.”  Dr. Christianson said, “Good!  I need you to do this on Friday.  Let me explain what I have in mind.”  Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts.  No, these weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls.  Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson’s class.  
Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?” Cynthia said, “Yes.”  Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”  “Sure.” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?”  Joe said, “Yes.”  Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?”  Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut.  And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.
Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship.  When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?”  Scott’s reply was, “Well, can I do my own push-ups?”  Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them.”  Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.” Dr. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?” With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten push-ups.  Scott said, “HEY!  I said I didn’t want one!”  Dr. Christianson said, “Look!  This is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts.  Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.”  And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow.  Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?”  Sternly, Jenny said, “No.”  Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?”  Steve did ten…Jenny got a donut.
By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say “No” and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks.  Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut.  There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push-up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set because he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could count the set and watch Steve closely.
Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row.  During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room.  He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.  Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next.  Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time.  He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.  Steve asked Dr. Christianson, “Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?”  Dr. Christianson thought for a moment, “Well, they’re your push-ups.  You are in charge now. You can do them any way that you want.”  And Dr. Christianson went on.
A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “NO!  Don’t come in!  Stay out!”  Jason didn’t know what was going on.  Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”  Professor Christianson said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?”  Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut.”  Dr. Christianson said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?” Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on. “Yes,” he said, “give me a donut.”  “Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?”  Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters.  Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity.  By this time sweat was profusely dropping off of his face, there was no sound except his heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular.  Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a doughnut?”  Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”   Professor Christianson quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?”  Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.
Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. “Susan, do you want a donut?”   Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Dr. Christianson, why can’t I help him?”   Dr. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, “No, Steve has to do it alone, I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.  When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked through  my grade book.  Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade.  Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work.  Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push-ups.  I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups.  He and I made a deal for your sakes.”
“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?”  As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, pleaded to the Father, ‘into thy hands I commend my spirit.’  With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He yielded up His life.  And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.”  Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile.  “Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, adding “Not all sermons are preached in words.”
Turning to his class, the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He spared not only His Begotten Son, but gave Him up for us all, for the whole world, now and forever.  Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid.  Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?” 

Nicodemus didn’t leave it on the desk of the Teacher.  While we don’t know if he became born again at the end of his interview with Jesus in John 3, we do know that he stood up in front of the religious leaders and defended Christ in John 7:51: “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” Then, after Jesus died, Nicodemus, who by then had come to faith in Christ, partnered with Joseph of Arimathea and helped to bury the body of Jesus.  We read in John 19:39 that Nick brought seventy-five pounds of spices to anoint the body of Jesus.  

What we see here is a process.  He first heard about the new birth, and then he started taking steps toward Christ and finally He crossed the line and declared publicly that he was a follower.  Recognizing that the Spirit blows where He will, I wonder this morning if some of you are ready to respond to the invitation to be born again and become a member of God’s family.  

I like how Josh McDowell shares the truth about Jesus’ family in his book called, “The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers” :  “In fact,” said Chris, leaning closer, “here’s a little tidbit for you…while the Bible is utterly silent on whether Jesus married and had children, it is utterly clear that we – every one of us…can become children of God, adopted into his family with all the rights and inheritance that children enjoy.  To me, that seems to be a greater mystery than the Da Vinci Code.”

I entitled this message, “Searching for Holy Grace” as a word play off the search for the Holy Grail.  The Grail has traditionally been thought to be the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper, which according to tradition was then used to collect Jesus’ blood when he was on the cross.  Dan Brown on the other hand, redefines the grail to actually be a person.  Which is it?

In the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Indy has to save his dying father by selecting the “correct” Holy Grail.  The problem is that he is faced with a table loaded with hundreds to choose from.  He starts sweating as he struggles to pick the right one, the only one that will save his dad.  Instead of picking the most beautiful or expensive or the biggest or the most obvious one, he chooses a very plain, easily overlooked cup, with turns out to be the right one.  In the end, his dad is healed and recovers.

Friend, there is no secret code to break because it has been revealed by Jesus

Friend, you can search in a lot of places but you will only find what you’re looking for when you surrender to the Savior.  It’s time to admit that you’ll never be good enough and it’s time to receive the invitation.  The Da Vinci Code asserts that the truth about Jesus Christ has been hidden from the world by a select secret society.  Ephesians 1:9-14 says that the secret is out and the mystery has been solved: God’s secret plan is centered on Christ, designed long ago according to His good pleasure: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ.  Friend, there is no secret code to break because it has been revealed by Jesus.  Here it is: “You must be born again.”

  • Being good is never good enough because it’s not about religion; it’s about rebirth.
  • Being good is never good enough because it’s not about systems; it’s about the Spirit.  
  • Being good is never good enough because it’s not about cracking a code; it’s about making a commitment to Christ.  

This is your time to publicly identify with Jesus, just like Nicodemus did, and to let the world know that you want to receive holy grace.  Let me just say that there is nothing magical about coming down but it may help you obey Romans 10:9-10: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Closing Challenge

  1. If you’ve not been born again, this is what you must do.  You’ve received the invitation; now you must RSVP.  Let me say it once again just in case you missed it.  Jesus says to you: “You must be born again.”
  2. If you have already been born again, it’s time to move towards maturity1 Peter 2:2: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?