A Sermon Under the Stars – Pastor Stacey Shiflett

A Sermon Under the Stars

John 3:1-21

Intro: One of the greatest messages that Jesus ever preached was preached in the dark of night – under the stars – to one man. This message has been preached thousands and thousands of times. Multitudes have been saved from hearing these verses preached. I cannot recall how many times I have read this chapter, preached this chapter and heard this chapter. But God showed me some things that I had not seen before.

Let’s look at some things about Nicodemus that many people can identify with.

A. His Confidence“…for no man can do these miracles…except God be with him.”

What had Jesus done up to this point? What miracles had He accomplished?

  • The miracle of Divine Approval – 1:29-34 “…this is my beloved son…” (vs. 32)
  • The miracle of Divine Awareness – 1:48 “…when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.”
  • The miracle of Divine Abundance – 2:3-9 (turned the water into wine)
  • The miracle of Divine Abolition – 2:13-17 (cleansed the Temple and drove out the moneychangers.)

Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God…

How many people today are attempting to impress God with their flattery and false adoration…

  • Isaiah 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…
  • Matthew 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

B. His Caution

The Bible is clear to tell us – he came to Jesus BY NIGHT.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few days.

How did Nicodemus do this? Did he hide and wait for Jesus at some place?

Did he wait outside a house or hide outside where Jesus was staying?

Did he stalk Him and follow Him until he caught Jesus alone?

Did he wait for Jesus as He came down from a mountain from praying?

But the Bible is clear that he came to Him by night, which is put there for a reason.

Why would a man whose position was one of spiritual leadership be ashamed to be seen talking to a man from God?

               1. His Pride – The Pharisees were proud people. They were the elite of their day.

               2. His Position – he was a ruler of the Jews.

               3. His Peers – I imagine he had no desire to face his peers and their questions about his curiosity

C. His Confusion

He was a religious man. But he had no idea what it meant to be born again.

He was a ruling man. But he had no concept of salvation.

He was a “righteous man.” But he had no clue about the reality of his spiritual condition.

Jesus confronted him about his lack of knowledge and awareness.

  • John 3:10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

Notice several things about this message preached under the stars:

I. The Straightforwardness of the Response

Nicodemus said, “WE know…”   Who was the WE he was referring to?

Had he and the other Pharisees been talking?

Was he referring to the people in general?

Jesus didn’t ask him who the “WE” was in verse 2.

He looked directly at Nicodemus and said, “Verily, verily I say UNTO THEE.

Jesus made it personal.

This wasn’t a group decision.

This wasn’t something everybody had to agree on and vote on.

This was concerning Nicodemus, and he needed to stop hiding behind the group.

Nicodemus was filled with flattery and insincerity, but Jesus wasn’t.

He loved Nicodemus too much to beat around the bush.

Jesus didn’t waste time recognizing Nicodemus for his accomplishments and status.

None of that mattered.

It mattered to him, and it mattered to others, but not to God.

Jesus didn’t reciprocate with the flattery and religious double-speak.

Jesus went straight to the heart of the matter.

II. The Simplicity of the Requirement

Ye must be born again.

Ye must be born the first time, and then again the second time.

They are different. One is of the flesh, the other is of the Spirit.

The greatest message that Jesus ever preached was preached in the dark, under the stars, to one lost man.

The simplicity of the lesson is established in verses 11, 12, 15, 16, 18 – BELIEVE!!

It’s just that simple.

No works, no religious rituals, no formality. Just putting faith in the message of the gospel.

III. The Severity of the Rejection

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

The consequences of not being born again is an eternity in hell.

Back to the original question. Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night?

Why did he wait until the sun went down to have this discussion?

Why did he lurk in the shadows and hide in his pursuit of truth?

We can speculate all day long, but Jesus tells us exactly why.

  • 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
  • 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
  • 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Jesus preached a message at night – in the dark, about the importance of light.

Paul said it like this:

  • Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

Nicodemus was a religious man; a ruler of the Jews.

But he was trying to earn his way to Heaven.

That made his “good works” in all actuality “evil works.”

Matthew 7 put it like this:

  • 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
  • 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
  • 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

They thought they were doing wonderful works.

Jesus called their works “works of iniquity.”

Religion without God is not good works.

They are dead works. They are works of iniquity.

They are evil deeds.