Counseling with Nicodemus
Nicodemus thought He had a strong relationship with God and taught other people about God. But when Jesus Christ talked with him for just a few minutes, his entire religious world collapsed all around him. Jesus transformed Nicodemus from the inside out. Nicodemus experienced new birth in the Spirit of God. You may think you have a strong relationship with God, but let us sit in with Nicodemus the night he met with Jesus. I strongly urge you to read the passage you can find in the Bible, Gospel of John, Chapter 3. You can read the whole thing in less than fifteen minutes.
Jesus listened to Nicodemus as he made several positive declarations: (1) Jesus was a teacher, and called him “Rabbi;” (2) Jesus performed miraculous signs; and (3) God was with Jesus. You might be thinking that Nicodemus really understood Jesus, but Jesus had brand new truth to share with Nicodemus.
|John 3:3 (Page 1657)|
“Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless
one is born again he cannot see
the kingdom of God.”
Jesus shattered the religious world of Nicodemus with a simple fact: no one can see the kingdom of God unless you are born again. Let me elaborate. You can not see the kingdom of God, even if you already believe all the things Nicodemus believed when he met Jesus Christ. You can recognize Jesus as a great teacher–and never see the kingdom of God. You can believe that Jesus worked miracles and great signs–and never see the kingdom of God. You can believe that Jesus was God and God was with Him–and never see the kingdom of God. You see, Nicodemus felt confident that He knew God, and had correctly identified Jesus. But when Jesus listened to Nicodemus, and told him about new birth, Nicodemus had no idea what Jesus was talking about. You see, Nicodemus was a religious man who had never been born again. Maybe you are too.
Before you can hope to be a Christian counselor, you must first be a Christian. You cannot be a Christian if you cannot see the kingdom of God. You cannot see the kingdom of God if have not been born again. Furthermore, the first step in Christian counseling will always be to turn to Christ for all help, and not the counselor talking to you. The Christian counselor will always be only a messenger for God. Now let us jump back to the conversation with Nicodemus.
Nicodemus asked a vital question, and revealed the first crack in his religious world. “How can a man be born when he is old?” This question, like his second question, reveals that Nicodemus had no inkling that Jesus was talking to him about spiritual truth. Listen to Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of the water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus stated that every person needs to born twice: the first time of water (natural birth), and the second of the Spirit (Spiritual birth). Without the second birth of the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God, and you cannot even see the kingdom of God.
Jesus continued to explain this birth of the Spirit. When you are born of the flesh, you are flesh. In other words, when you came out of your mother’s womb, you were human flesh with all the limits of being human. Nicodemus had no understanding of the spiritual life produced by being born of the Spirit of God. He had lived all his life of the flesh, until the day he talked with Jesus. That day, after talking with Jesus, he was born again of the Spirit and now is spirit. Jesus amazed Nicodemus. No one had ever gripped his heart like Jesus. No one had ever confronted him with the necessity of being born of the Spirit. Jesus reaches into amazement, and offers clarity. “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone born of the Spirit.” Jesus illustrates the work of the Spirit by using wind. Jesus dispelled the ignorance in Nicodemus by relating the familiar to the unfamiliar. In effect, He told Nicodemus that you must relate the work of the Spirit in being reborn to the wind you hear blowing around you. Notice that Jesus chose hearing as the vehicle to perceive the work of the Spirit. Later, we will read that faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God. Jesus explained that Nicodemus understood the concept of wind from the evidence of wind, even though Nicodemus did not know about the origin or destination of the wind itself. All he knew for sure was the wind blew, because he heard it. Jesus likens that knowledge to everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus then said to Jesus, “How can these things be?” Nicodemus now searched even harder for understanding. Jesus reproves Nicodemus: “Are you a teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” Jesus obviously expected every teacher of Israel to know this basic truth of spiritual life. Jesus will always hold people accountable for ignorance, which is not an excuse. Jesus then put His divine finger on the heart of the problem as only God can do. Jesus focused Nicodemus upon “belief.” Jesus said Nicodemus did not believe earthly things, and so could not believe heavenly things. He then revealed to Nicodemus that the Son of Man had descended from heaven. He continued: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
Nicodemus, like most Jews, thought that he would go to heaven if he was careful to keep the law of Moses. In essence, Nicodemus had the idea that if he was good enough and did enough good things in life, then God would accept him and let him into heaven. But Jesus did not point at the law of Moses for salvation. Instead, he chose a faith story from the Old Testament about deliverance from serpents. As a teacher of Israel, Nicodemus may himself have taught the story of the deliverance from serpents. When the people of Israel were moving through the wilderness, they grumbled against God. In response, the LORD sent fiery serpents upon them and many people died. God provided a remedy. Moses made a bronze serpent, set it on a standard, and commanded the bitten people in the name of the LORD to look upon the bronze serpent. In obedient faith, the bitten people looked and lived. Jesus had chosen a story of faith, and not keeping the law, to picture the plan of salvation. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so Jesus would be lifted up so that everyone who believes in Him would have eternal life. Jesus then provided the plan of salvation in a nutshell.
|John 3:16 (Page 1658)|
“For God so loved the world, that He
gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him shall
not perish, but have
Jesus revealed the love of God for everyone in the world. Jesus also described to object of faith, the gift of God in His only Son, Jesus Christ. You must look in faith to Jesus lifted up on the cross, for the sins of the world, to escape the penalty of sin, death. Faith alone provides rescue from sins. Jesus explained further that God did not send Jesus, His Son, to judge the world, but rather to save the world.
Jesus does not sit in judgment upon you today. He gave His life in your place on that cross. He died for all the sins you have committed, plus all of your future sins. Jesus made it a personal decision for Nicodemus. Jesus placed the truth of faith squarely before Nicodemus, and then Nicodemus had to decide. You have to make that same decision right now. Do you believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you? Let me illustrate it this way.
As I go over this passage, I often hold my car keys before someone and offer to give them my car. I then ask them if they would like to receive the gift. My car is not the greatest vehicle, but being polite, most people say sure. You see, they have plenty of faith that my car key will unlock the car and start the car. But watch what most people lack. As they look at the keys, still in my hand before them, I ask them when the gift becomes theirs? Invariably, they say when they reach out and take them. I point out to them that until you personally reach out and take the keys from Jesus, and accept His death as your own, then you are just looking at the keys, and not accepting the gift. For many people, they have gone all of their lives to church, but are just staring at the keys. Like Nicodemus, they have been staring at the keys, learning about Jesus, teaching others about Jesus, but they have never taken the keys from Jesus by faith. They know nothing about Jesus personally forgiving them because He died upon the cross in their place. Maybe you feel the need to reach out right now and take the keys from Jesus.
Reach out to God by faith and believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for you, and rose from the dead, to live forever as your Lord. With your heart you believe, and with your mouth, you confess Christ as your Lord, resulting in righteousness. If you believe in your heart, then you can pray the following prayer.
The Prayer of Peace with God
Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner and
I fall short of the glory of God.
Lord Jesus, I confess that I deserve
the death penalty.
Lord Jesus, I accept your free gift
of eternal life right now.
Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me and paying
the death penalty for me on the cross.
Lord Jesus, I confess you as Lord with my mouth.
Lord Jesus, I believe that God
raised you the dead.
I repent of my sins, and thank you for saving me.
Jesus promised that He would bring peace to every one of His children. He offers His own peace which removes fear from our lives and comforts troubled hearts. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have prayed that prayer.
Nicodemus found saving faith too. He alone stood up for Jesus when the Pharisees sought to judge Jesus without first hearing from Him, and then later joined Joseph of Arimathea in preparing the body of Jesus Christ for burial.
Now, we can move on to showing how believers can counsel their friends. We will start with the concept of counseling, and what it means to counsel someone. We will then move on to more applications of God’s Word to specific situations. On the way, we will look at the messenger, the hearer, and the message.