Setting Captives Free


And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:  that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:14,15


Lord, it’s actually two other verses that persuaded me to choose these verses this morning.  One verse came right after You spoke of Your temple, Your body being torn down and then being raised after three days.  John 2:21,22 shares, “But He spake of the temple of His body.  When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.”  Hm, that means they didn’t fully understand and believe at the time that You first told them.  That’s interesting.

Now the second verse or verses are tough ones, Lord.  It comes after You tell us that You didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save us.  And then the sad part comes.  Some people will still receive condemnation.  Why?  John 3:19, 20 goes on to share, “Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone that does evil hates the Light, neither do they come to the Light, because their deeds would be reproved.”  So there are two things going on here, and I want to look at both today.

But first I’m going to look at the context of the events, the story going on here.  You are sharing with Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  Nicodemus is really trying to take a real look at You.  But he’s not ready to do it openly.  He knows there would be ridicule and maybe even expulsion involved among his peers and community.  But he is curious enough and I think seeking enough to at least take the risk of coming to You at night.  Good for Him.

It’s interesting that Nicodemus refers to You as Rabbi, which can be a title that means master and not just teacher.  But he wasn’t to that point yet.  And he wouldn’t have been the first ruler to have used that term not meaning it at all except for polite appearances before the people.  But I think that Nicodemus at least did see You as a teacher from God.  And he even said that “we know You are a teacher come from God.”  Hmm, who is that we?  And why did they know You were from God?  “[F]or no man can do these miracles that You do, except God be with Him.”  Wow, pretty powerful stuff here.  These religious leaders, including Nicodemus could clearly see Your evidence and Nicodemus admitted that they knew.  They just wouldn’t admit it.

And then You throw Nicodemus for a loop.  You tell him it’s not enough to see the way man sees.  It takes more to really see and know.  To see You, Jesus, we have to be born again.  What in the world does that mean?  Well, if we don’t understand what that means, that’s not a surprise because neither did Nicodemus, who would have been a really intelligent man and highly knowledgeable of Scripture and everything about God.  And I think that even a look came over Nick’s face.  Because, Lord, You tell him, “Marvel not about this being born again.”  This marvel, “thaumazo” in Greek, means “to be struck with astonishment.”  this is something for which there is no natural explanation.  Something You can’t explain even by amazing physics or rocket science.  You just can’t explain it.  And this is Nick’s reaction to Your words.

So these words filled Nick with awe.  And right now I have to share someone else’s thoughts on this type of awe.  “[T]he first step in transformation is awe, not conviction.  Unless we are confronted with a God whose power forces us beyond the limits of our understanding, we will have no need to listen to His instructions about life.  We have to be pushed to the edge before we admit that life is much, much bigger than we can control.  When we are filled with awe, there is nothing left to do but glorify God, and that starts the process of walking toward Him.”  And this is the point that Nick has come to.  This is a point each one of us must come to in order to truly begin our journey with and to You.

You, Lord, go on to remind him that the Spirit isn’t explainable at all.  It’s not something we can see or predict or explain.  But It’s effects are fully visible and It’s strength is incomparable.  And still Nick doesn’t understand.  Why?  He’s a religious teacher, straight from the religion of Jesus’  (Your) people, so what’s up here?  And then, Lord, You give this, well, weird answer.  “Truly, truly (In other words, this is double important here!), I say to you, we speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen; and you don’t receive our witness.”  Who is we?  As far as I know, it’s only You and Nick here.  Were you referring to You and the disciples teaching?  Or are You referring to the words and testimony of Yourself through the Trinity?  I’m leaning on thinking that this was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working together here because all three have to come together in us for us to be able to see and to know these things of You.

And then You told Nick that You would need to fulfill Scripture by being crucified.  That just like the Israelites who had pursued their satisfaction in something other than God and had received the penalty by being bitten by the snakes and were now in danger of dying, so are we.  We’re all in danger of dying and separation from You because of what we have chosen, not because of what You have chosen.  Just like You gave people a way to live in the desert by only turning and looking upon a bronze serpent, You came for us to turn and place all our trust in You.  But some people refused to look at the serpent, and some people still refuse to turn to You.

But in Your measureless love, You stand here before us, before all men.  You stand here calling out, showing Your evidences of love.  You throw us life line after life line in order to save us.  And those that respond to the life line are brought to safety and eternal life and relationship and wholeness and forgiveness.  But if I were drowning, why wouldn’t I reach out and grab the life line?  Why would I refuse?  If I were dying in the desert and could look at a snake and live, why wouldn’t I?

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s my pride, my fear, my desires, my lusts, my need for approval.  Who knows but You, Lord, and myself if I will really stop and let You show me my own heart.  You don’t condemn man.  But sometimes man accepts condemnation for himself instead of freedom.  Sometimes, we have become so attached to our own way, we choose not to change.  Sometimes, we would rather hate than let go of the pain.  Sometimes we don’t want to admit who we really are, what we’ve really become.  Sometimes we don’t want to let go because the truth hurts.

Well, it does hurt.  Correction hurts.  Disease doesn’t feel good.  Sin is ugly.  Nobody wants to think they look ugly.  So we avoid the doctor.  We decide not to look in the mirror.  We don’t stand on a scale.  We avoid certain people.  And we condemn ourselves.  We refuse healing.  When all along, healing and wholeness was waiting there for us.

Well, that brings me back to my first point because I think I’ve already looked at the second.  At first the disciples didn’t understand about Your body, the temple, being raised, until after the crucifixion and they saw it happen and You brought to their minds Old Testament Scripture and Your words.  Then they understood.  So, sometimes, like Nick, we don’t get it right away.  But now we’ve heard the truth.  We need to turn from all these things we’ve been trusting in, leave them behind, and turn to You in faith.  We need to cling to You, the One who came to save us, to save me not only from my sins, but from myself, and unto You.  In You there is new life, whole life, and beautiful Light that gives me the power to be part of You and to partake in what You are doing so that what I do sheds light on others.  So there is hope.  There is hope for me if I don’t understand, if I don’t get it.  You can bring it all together for me.  You can give me understanding.  You can give the answers my seeking heart needs.  You are the Answer.

Now, there is always hope for the one who seeks.  “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7)  Now isn’t that the most beautiful truth you have ever heard!  And these are Your words, Jesus, straight from Your mouth to each of us.  And You never lie!  Never!

Oh, let us never lose sight of You.  No matter the depth of the pain or suffering I go through, let me look to You to lift me above the pain and suffering, or to just bear me through.  Don’t ever let me wallow in my sin.  Let the pain of embarrassment be so much less than the joy of the cleansing and the freedom in You.  Let the acceptance and love I receive from You abound so much more than any praise from man.  And may I come to the point of so embracing Your correction in my life that I joyfully come before You honestly and with an open heart continually so that You may ever draw me nearer to You.

Lord, I am truly amazed.  I look back at my life and without the power of Your Holy Spirit, I wouldn’t get it.  I wouldn’t understand the first thing about being born again, of knowing the presence of You in my life.  I look back and I see Your hand in my life.  And I see times as a child, and a teen where You were giving me the information I needed to have.  And then I see that day when it all came together.  When I had enough of the right truth.  When the Holy Spirit brought it all home, and brought me home to You.  And there is no explanation except that You are an amazing God who loves us.  And my prayer is, that even those people who have a tendency to turn their back on You because of their pain, or anger, or wrong treatment, or sin, or addictions, or pride, or whatever, would just stop long enough to get a little glimpse of You.  And that in that glimpse, it would be just enough for them to be awed.  And that You would start an amazing work in their lives.  May the wind of Your Holy Spirit blow strong and free and set the captives free.




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