Redemptive Love


Sunday, February 25th, 2023   

Call to Worship: Isaiah 55

It was the fall of 2007 and all by God’s orchestrating, my mom and I were heading to watch our Rio Vikings play football in Portage-a play off game and my kids were very young and we were looking for something to do to entertain them before the game. We heard there were bounce houses in Portage for some reason so that seemed perfect, but when we arrived, they were already deflating those bounce houses. No problem, shift slightly and the next best thing is ice cream! We took the route that would lead us to ice cream and as God would have it, there was a church having a free fall festival that very day. They were inviting the community to stop in and enjoy some fun and what do you think they had in their yard?  Bounce houses. We looked at each other and said yep! We pulled over and the kids were having a blast on the bounce houses, eating snow cones, and playing games. 

They had this amazing music coming out of their open windows of the church that I had never heard before-very similar to music we just sang today. It hit my heart in a way that I was just caught up in. 

Then this man comes walking up, happy, and friendly. He says hello to us and shares he is the pastor of the church. You know those moments that you know you know this person and you’re frantically searching; how do I know you? Then I saw in his eyes, this little boy I used to know years ago, Bobby, I asked? Then he saw too, Karrie? Yes! We laughed. Their pastor also happened to be my former classmate from 3rd grade when we both went to school in Madison! What are the odds we would meet up years later in Portage? These are God arranged odds. 

So as any pastor would do, he toured me around their church, and of course invited me to come to Sunday worship. He gave me his card and I thanked him. Now what you need to know is, I was not going to church at the time, and I did not grow up going to church. We enjoyed some more fun and went on our way to the football game. 

I held on to that card and sat it by my computer at home. Remember I said that music hit my heart in a profound way. So there was a nudge within me, inviting me all that week, to go to that church. Receive the invitation Karrie and go. Part of me wanted to resist, it wasn’t something I did. It would make me uncomfortable. Did I really want to do that? You know full well the questions and thoughts we have when we try to resist an invitation-we’re good at coming up with excuses as why we don’t need to go right? 

But I couldn’t shake this urging and stirring within me. So Sunday came around and I got the kids ready and off we went to church. Everyone was so welcoming and so nice, whew that made it easier. Then the music started and I’ll never forget the song, it was “He Reigns” and then the floodgates were opened that I never knew were being held back. Tears started streaming down my face and I had no idea what was happening to me; I was uncomfortable but it was also awesome. That day, something was awakened in me and I had found what I never knew I was searching for. I found and felt God’s love. 

God opened my heart to His redemptive love and amazing grace and it came upon me like a tidal wave. 

I am so glad I received that invitation and went, pushing past being uncomfortable and getting out of my routine, because from that day, I have kept coming back to the well and never looked back. That invitation changed my life… clearly, as I stand before you all today in this role. He had a plan for me that was far greater than anything I could understand at that time. He simply called me to receive that first invitation to come and meet with Him. 

God continues to send us invitations throughout our walk with Him, to know Him more intimately, more fully as He would have us know Him. So we have a choice all throughout our lifetime, will we receive those invitations to go into the deeper waters with Him, to let Him expand our understanding of His truth, to let Him put us in uncomfortable places so we might grow in our knowledge and understanding of who He is, so we might grow in our ability to serve Him and show others who He is. 

Will you receive His invitations as He beckons you? I pray you do, over and over again. 

We can say no, and we all likely do at times, but I promise you from experience, it is always worth saying Yes. You know this too for the times you have said yes Lord, I will come. Saying yes doesn’t mean the journey will be easy, far from it; but it will absolutely be life-changing and worth it! 

So we will wrap up this series on Redemptive Love today and if you’re a guest here today, you can go to our website or Facebook page to watch the previous weeks videos or read the notes from our messages this month about God’s Redemptive Love. 

Today we’re going to look at a man who had a stirring in his heart, much like I felt, and he desperately had to know who this Jesus was. There was one big problem with his knowing, he was a Pharisee, part of their religious order in the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth. The Pharisees had set their heart against Jesus and felt threatened by Him. They chose not to believe in Him as the Messiah and were plotting against Him, to have Him arrested and killed. So this man could not openly share his desire to meet with Jesus with his fellow peers; yet this feeling persisted. So this man, Nicodemus, sought out Jesus at night, when no one else would see him going to meet with Him. He makes his confession to Jesus about what he knows Him to be. In His grace, Jesus meets Nicodemus right where he is at. Let’s look at how Jesus responds and what He offers Nicodemus in this secret encounter they have. 

John 3: 1-10 

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “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.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “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. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 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.”“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

  • Born of the Spirit. 

We have to be born again Jesus says. This was something entirely new to grasp and receive. It still remains hard to understand yet today when we try to use logic and our own reason to process this. This was the trouble Nicodemus was having. He was thinking in logical terms and what Jesus was saying here and says to all of us, faith is not based on logic. It is based on belief of the One who is our Creator, who is greater than this world, who is beyond what we see in our physical realm, who is of Spirit and dwells within us. 

If we keep reading in Isaiah that was our opening Scripture, we’ll see God states, “My ways are not your ways and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” So we won’t be able to logically analyze the ways of God.

John 3: 5-6 Jesus answered, “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

When we are physically born and come into the world in the flesh, we bring all our fleshly nature and tendencies along with us. This is what Jesus meant that flesh gives birth to flesh. We operate in our fleshly nature which is sinful and rebellious to God. It is also unrighteous because of our sin nature so therefore is not justified before God. 

When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He gives us new life in Himself, for He cleanses us from our sin through His death on the cross, and imparts His Holy Spirit to us, giving us new life. A life that is righteous and justified before God. Our spirit within is awakened and fused to His Spirit. We are given new life in the Spirit as we walk with Jesus, that Spirit within us grows stronger and stronger. The righteousness of Christ becomes more and more evident in our lives. 

The first step to being born again, or given this new life, is to declare that Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Savior. It’s a genuine belief and confession from your heart. 

Romans 10: 9-10 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

You are saved. Period. There is nothing else required of us, but to believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths who Jesus Christ is to us, the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again, who sits forever on the throne at the right hand of the Father. For it is by grace we have been saved, so that none of us can boast in our own good works. We don’t earn salvation, it is the free gift of God from His vast love for us, His creation. 

As we believe and receive Jesus, we are given new life! We are made new from the inside out. We are given His mind and His heart. His character begins to take shape in us as we walk with Him, and the purpose that He has had for us all along, begins to be made known. We start to see what He has for us and we begin to live out a greater purpose in our life then we knew before. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

I have personally experienced this and I know many of you have too. We are not the same when we truly let Jesus into our hearts. We learn how to walk with Him, but our heart is forever changed simply by receiving who He is, by faith.

This was hard for Nicodemus to process because he couldn’t get past the physical understanding and grasp purely spiritual birth that must take place in each of us. Israel’s religious teacher was struggling-because he was fixed on relying on his own knowledge and there were so many rules that had to be followed to be pure and clean before God and now Jesus was telling him, simply be born again. What about all those rules??? What about all our works and performance to be holy unto God?  

His heart was telling him one thing, but his head was resisting hard. Ever been there? 

Faith is of the heart. 

  • Respond to the Truth in Your Heart.  

John 3: 9-10 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

Jesus goes on to teach very profound truth to Nicodemus, that we must all hear about God’s divine purposes for His Kingdom, and for His sending of His Son, to be our Savior. 

John 3: 11-12 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 

Resistance. Disbelief. Doubting. “You do not accept…”  Yet you know in your heart Nicodemus what is true. 

Then in this exchange is where Jesus shares this famous Scripture we quote all the time, the truth about God’s love for humanity and why Jesus came to turn everything upside down. Along the way, man had lost sight of keeping their hearts pure and in tune to God, giving thanks for His grace and favor upon their lives, remaining humble before Him and letting God be their guide in every way, and they began to focus more on the rules of being religious. They began to worship the rules over the Creator who set the rules in place to draw people’s hearts to Him. They began to look down upon others who were not nearly as religious or holy and their hearts were set on judging others vs. loving others. Mankind was spiraling downhill fast. We don’t do well on our own. We become judge and jury; we condemn others in their sin while justifying or ignoring or our own sin; we isolate from groups of people; we don’t share well and distribute resources so all have some; and we deeply hurt one another. The truth is on our own, we self-destruct. We need God. 

We need a Savior to save us from our sin and to save us from our destructive nature. We need Jesus and that is why He came. 

John 3: 16-17 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Why did Jesus come?  For God so loved the world… that’s it. Out of love for us, His creation and desiring that we should all be saved and be able to  be in relationship with Him, now and for all eternity. 

John 3:18 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.

Notice this truth Jesus shared with Nicodemus- I came Nicodemus to save you and not condemn you. But Nicodemus hear me if you don’t receive Me, you stand condemned before My Father, because you do not believe in Me and receive My invitation of salvation. No matter how religious you are Nicodemus, how good you look to your fellow Pharisees, that will not save you. You must be born again in your spirit and receive Me. 

That was pretty heavy for Nicodemus to take in. His heart so badly wanted to say Yes Lord, I believe! I’m all in! But, his head was saying, what will others say? What will happen to my standing among my peers, in society, the comforts in how I have been living? I will lose all of that. 

Their exchange ends and Nicodemus just fades away into the darkness much like how he arrived. Did he miss his opportunity to receive Jesus as His Savior? Did he turn it down? We might think so because we don’t hear any more until later when Jesus is going to be put on trial by his fellow peers, the Pharisees who were threatened by him. Until this point, Nicodemus remained in the shadows about his beliefs in Jesus. 

  • Out of the Shadows, into the Light. 

Then we see a new level of courage arise within Nicodemus and some final words Jesus had spoken to him played over and over in his heart. He couldn’t shake them. 

John 3:21 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Nicodemus had to come out of the shadows into the Light about his belief in Jesus. So he took one step of courage among his judging peers. 

John 7: 50-51 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

This was a huge step for him. While it didn’t change the course of Jesus being condemned to death because that was ordained by God, so He might be our sacrifice and Savior, it did change how his peers would look upon him. 

We see a final act of honor and belief in Nicodemus’ heart to recognize who Jesus was and is, after Jesus died. 

John 19: 38-40 38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[a] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

Too late? No, because Nicodemus came out of the shadows and his actions professed his belief and reverence for Jesus as His Lord and Savior. The invitation remained open, just as it does for you and me. He received it and God honored Nicodemus for showing up. You can bet he faced some trouble hear on earth for his choice to believe, but Nicodemus determined in his heart that God’s approval was worth far more than what mere man could do to him. 

Conclusion:  Jesus invites ALL to receive His redemption. It is an invitation given with urgency because in His redemptive love we find new life, we find purpose, and He will use us to build His Kingdom.                   Why the urgency? Because God so loved the world… 

Let’s pray. 

Call to repent and believe. Offer your hearts to Jesus today. Lord Jesus, this is my simple prayer to you. I know that I am a sinner and that I often fall short of the glory of God. No longer will I close the door when I hear You knocking. By faith, I gratefully receive Your gift of salvation. I’m ready to trust You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming to Earth. I believe You are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Thank You for Your forgiveness of sins, thank You for forgiving my sins and for giving me the gift of eternal life. I invite You Jesus to come into my heart and be my Savior. In Your name Jesus, Amen. 

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