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FAN VERSUS FOLLOWER - Part 2
FAN VERSUS FOLLOWER
This morning we began a challenging series I have called FAN VERSUS FOLLOWER. This series is designed to help you determine whether you are just a fan of Jesus or a follower.
Tonight we begin with another example of a fan. We read about him in John 3. I am going to read the first 21 verses:
John 3:1There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" 10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 "Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."
Nicodemus belonged to the Sanhedrin council. This council consisted of Sadducees and Pharisees. There were 71 of them and they were the highest ruling body in the Jewish nation, though their power was limited at the time of Christ. We learned this morning from John 12:42 that there were many of these rulers who believed in Jesus but were afraid to confess Him because it would cause them to lose the position on the council and get them kicked out of the synagogue.
Nicodemus seems to be one of the rulers who believed in Jesus. At this point, he was just a fan because you will notice that he came to Jesus at night. Why did he come at night instead of during the day? He had many opportunities to talk to Jesus as He was out and a bout teaching the masses during the day. Though the Scripture does not specifically say it, I am convinced in my own mind that he came at night so that he would not be seen by other members of the council or by someone who could rat him out.
Nicodemus knew he was treading on dangerous ground just being seen with Jesus. Not only could it cost his position on the council and cause him to be kicked out of the synagogue, it would cost him friendships with his fellow Pharisees. Once a Jew was labeled by the council as a traitor, that person would find it hard to find work or people to buy from. Even though he came under the cover of night, you could just imagine how nervous he must have been, but his desire to know more about Jesus caused Him to risk it.
Nicodemus had enough sense to know that there was no way Jesus could have been doing the great miracles He did without God being with Him. Nicodemus has made the first step of becoming a follower because he wants to know more about Jesus. Jesus tells Him plenty. He tells him that he must be born again of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus tells him many other things to think on to help him to decide to either remain a fan or become a follower.
A fan of Jesus is one that does not mind following Him as long as he does not have to make any significant changes in his life. Yes, he will change the easy things, but will not make any real sacrifices to follow Jesus. However, Nicodemus understands that to follow Jesus will cost him just about everything.
As you think about this, I want to think about this question. Has following Jesus cost you anything? What changes have you made in your life because of Jesus? Most people do not mind making minor changes, but Jesus wants to turn our world upside down. While we might be thinking about a minor tuneup, Jesus is thinking about a complete overhaul.
Nicodemus had made the decision that Jesus must be someone great because of what He was able to do. However, deciding something about Jesus is not the same as making the commitment to follow Him. Jesus wants more from Nicodemus that mere belief, and He wants him more than just during the night. He wants him to be committed to following Him day and night.
So how about you? Have you simply decided that Jesus is someone great or have you made the commitment to follow Him all the way? There are many Christians that believe in Jesus, but that is not enough. As James says:
James 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 ¶ But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Whenever we just believe in Jesus without making the commitment to follow Him in word and deed, we are nothing more than a fan, and a fan will not be pleasing to God. Jesus asked:
Luke 6:46 " But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?
Merely believing and paying lip service will get you nowhere with God if it is not proven by your actions. When the Bible talks about believing, it is not talking about mere mental acknowledgment of God, but an active belief. I think it's interesting Jesus says "believe in Me" 4 times, but He says "follow Me" 20 times throughout the four gospels. Both belief and follow go hand and hand, but the idea here is that we cannot just merely believe and be pleasing to God because we must show our belief by following Jesus.
Many in the religious world focus on the word believe. As mentioned this morning, they try to sell Jesus instead of preaching the whole truth about Him. In doing this, they create a bunch of fans for Jesus, but very few if any become followers of Jesus.
The way that some preachers present the Word of God, they have missed their calling as infomercial speaker. All of us have seen these infomercials on TV. Some of us have probably been suckered in by all the promises they make about their product. While some things are good, they are never as good as they make them out to be. Many times when you buy into the hype and buy the product, you find out that it is a piece of junk.
I know someone who bought one of those ab machines that promised you could send it back if you did not like it and it would only cost you 19 dollars for the trial period. What they did not make clear was that there was a weight limit on who could use it, and they didn't tell you that if you want to send it back that it will cost you about 60 dollars to ship it. Not every product is bad and not every infomercial will rip you off, but many of them will. They promise you a lot that will not supposedly cost you much money or time.
The reason I said there are some preachers that have lost their calling in infomercials is because they present God's Word in the same manner. They will praise God and what Jesus did for us and how He can take away our sins. They will focus on the blessings that God offers us. Some even make the false claim that if you give your money to God that He will give you back 10, 50, or even 100 fold. Others claim that Jesus will heal you from whatever is wrong with you, but they will not talk about what God expects from us. If you have ever flipped through the channels on your TV you will see preachers like this doing their best to sell Jesus.
While you might laugh at how ridiculous the preacher is being and then turn the channel there are many people that will buy into this tainted version of Christianity because people love the idea of going to heaven and having a God that provides for them at no cost to them. They like the idea that they can spend a 100 dollars and that it will come back to them 10, 50, or 100 times over.
Preachers must not sell Jesus like some cheesy infomercial. Yes, we need to tell people about how great He is and what God offers us, but we must also talk about what God expects from us. We must tell people that being a follower of Christ will cost you something because living for Jesus can and will be difficult at times. In order to follow Him, you must do more than just believe, you must be committed to following Him in the good times and the bad times. Being a follower of Jesus is more than just assembling with the saints or putting a fish symbol on your car, it is about living for Him every day and always putting Him first in your life.
We talked earlier about Nicodemus and how he came to Jesus at night. If all we had was John 3, we would be left to wonder if he remained a fan or if ever became a follower of Christ. The Bible gives a little more information about him in John 7. In this Chapter, we find Jesus speaking at the Feast of Tabernacles. I want you to notice the response to Jesus's preaching:
John 7:25 Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill? 26 "But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? 27 "However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from." 28 Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 "But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me." 30 Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31 And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?" 32 ¶ The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. 33 Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 "You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come." 35 Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 "What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?" 37 ¶ On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40 ¶ Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet." 41 Others said, "This is the Christ." But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him. 45 ¶ Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?" 46 The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!"
There was a lot of confusion going on about Jesus. The rulers wanted to shut Jesus up, but not even those sent to arrest Him would do so because they were amazed at what Jesus was saying.
47 Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived? 48 "Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 "But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."
These Pharisees were making their stand and were looking down on these men who did not arrest Jesus. They were implying by their question that no one on the council believed in Jesus, though we know that many did. This was a tense moment and these Pharisees have just said that anyone who believes in Jesus is accursed and has been deceived because they are ignorant of the law. Notice what Nicodemus says:
John 7:50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"
I have no way of knowing how Nicodemus felt at that moment, but I could imagine that his heart was pumping faster and it no doubt took great courage for him to say what he did. I see this as the beginning of him moving from just being a fan to a follower of Christ. He did not confess Jesus as Lord, but his statement was said in defense of Jesus. Notice what his fellow Jews said back:
John 7:52 They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."
They mocked him for his words. They had not done the research to see where Jesus was born nor had they really listened to what He had to say. They just knew they wanted Him dead. This gives us a small glimpse into how Nicodemus was changing.
I think most of us have probably experienced what Nicodemus was going through. We have been in situations where the crowd wanted to do something that was not right. It would be easy for us to stay out of it and just go with the crowd. Maybe we have went with the crowd before, but hopefully you have taken a stand for what is right and spoken out before. If you have, do you remember how you felt? Were you nervous? How hard was it for you to say something? It takes great courage and faith in God to speak out for what is right and that is exactly what Nicodemus did, and we must do the same when the opportunity arises.
It is hard to say for sure, but I still see Nicodemus as being a fan at this point, but based on the final information the Bible tells us about him, I believe he became a follower of Christ.
John 19:39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
Though many of Jesus' disciples had abandoned Him, we see Nicodemus making an expensive gesture for Jesus. It would be hard for this to go unnoticed. I believe this gesture implies that Nicodemus no longer cared about his position on the council or what he would lose to become a follower of Jesus because he finally made the commitment and understood how much better it is to follow Jesus than just to be a fan. We do not know anything else about this man from Scripture, but Christian tradition says that he died a martyr in the first century.
We are all on a journey, but I hope we are all moving closer to God instead of further away. I hope something I have said tonight about Nicodemus and his transformation has challenged you to examine your life even closer to see if you are a fan or a follower. If you are just a fan, I hope you will find the courage and the strength to make the commitment to follow Jesus for the rest of your days because being a fan is not what Jesus wants; He wants your total commitment.
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