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Tuesday: Witnessing to the Learned: Nicodemus — 18 Comments

  1. I guess that since I have a PhD I am a certified learned person. But, I am very well aware that in this modern world, those who have a PhD often know a lot about very little. And in my case, my PhD is about concurrency control mechanisms for transactions in persistent systems. Once I get outside that field I am on the same bumpy ground as everyone else.

    Nicodemus was a truly learned person. Not only was he well educated, he recognised that there was still more to learn, not in gathering more knowledge but in growing and developing his understanding. And that brings me to what I think it a really important spiritual point.

    But first, a little illustration from my own learning experience. I did my research degree in the 1990s when personal computers like the Apple IIe were widely used. In our laboratories at the time we were using more expensive computers but they essentially had the same architecture and just did things faster. My research involved investigating techniques for making those sorts of computers more resilient and reliable. I wrote computer programs to implement the algorithms that we thought up. Now over, twenty years later, if I was working in a similar area of computing, our whole work process would have changed. In particular, I would no longer be writing code because Artificial Intelligence could probably write better code than me. There is no such thing as the status quo in computer science. My learning is out of date, period. There has been a paradigm shift in computer science.

    Nicodemus's encounter with Jesus blew apart his status quo. The conversation with Jesus was a singularity where he realised that all his previous learning was of little value.

    Is it possible that much of our own spiritual journey is about maintaining the status quo? I often hear words and phrases in our Christian discussion like "the pioneers taught that ...", "the pillars of Adventism", "Ellen White on page such and such wrote ...", and so on. Often such discussion is an indication that we are learned in Seventh-day Adventism. If we were to seek Jesus out in the night, what do you think he would say to us? "Hey, you have got a pretty good grasp of Adventism!" or "You just need to know a little more about 1844." Or would he ask us to do a reset; to go back into the womb and be born again?

    Nicodemus experienced a paradigm shift that night that changed him forever. And I would be very uncomfortable with the notion that we do not need a similar paradigm shift in our own spiritual journey today.

    • Maurice, the piece you contributed to this platform about how you witness to and prayed for ways to bring mission to your Atheist friends about a week or so ago, could be a factor in the Nicodemus story.

    • Thank you, Maurice, once again for "nailing it" by asking God to use your teaching methods and examples from past experiences to helps the rest of us gain some practical and useful knowledge to help us understand so many of the current lesson topics.

      Your method of teaching is like Jesus saying "You must be born again" and then explaining what it means to be born of the water and the blood, to be converted, to experience having a new heart that replaces our stony heart.

    • Is it possible that much of our own spiritual journey is about maintaining the status quo?

      It is my firm belief that Sabbath School is the place where this problem is addressed, and I'm very glad you made this statement, Maurice. This is the problem many Adventists face. Mrs. White calls this a "formal religion", and it leads to the death of spirituality in the individual and the church if not corrected. And I think Sabbath School class is the place this needs to be addressed first. As a class discussion leader I think we have a responsibility to lead class members to understand their true spiritual condition. This is a true calling from God.

      There is a great tendency for church members to be absorbed with the events of work and play to the detriment of their spiritual growth. We all face that. Our challenge is to allow the Spirit to lead us to get out of that rut and lead others out as well.

  2. 1. We are all have a special need at the feet of Jesus.
    2. We must go to Christ for our needs to be met
    3. With Christ, the most deepest needs are met

  3. Being saved involves accepting God's Love in the death of His Son Jesus through reason and heart, knowledge and feeling. When do we engage with ideas or people? When our minds and emotions click together. We are never simply rational or affectional; there must be at least two dimensions. But a third dimension can also be added to strengthen the other two: spiritual. Get these three together, and the ties may support anything. I hope that my (and your) connection to the Good News is founded in knowledge, emotion, and spirit.

  4. Knowledge of God alone will not save us, we need a deep, personal and ever-growing relationship with God and that was what Nicodemus was searching why he met Jesus by night!!!

  5. For Nicodemus, who was Jesus? An illiterate man, the son of a carpenter, who didn’t start his public ministry until he was 30. Nicodemus, on the other hand, was the ruler of the Jews. However, Jesus didn’t get intimidated by the class differences. He just talked to Nicodemus directly and kindly, and the grace of Christ touched Nicodemus' heart. May we be bold like Jesus, like Daniel, in presenting the living truth, the faith we profess to the unlikely next to us.

  6. Jesus did not hide the truth from Nicodemus, He was not flattered by Nicodemus'commendations of Him.He told Nicodemus the truth that will set him free in love and won his heart.
    Let us not be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation, but let us remember to speak it in love.

  7. I am a second generation Seventh-day Adventist and a scientist. I am thankful to God that I was born in and grew up in a religious environment. However, I continue to ask myself the question, does my church have a strategy designed to make deciples from people who are scientists and orher highly learned disciplines?

    • Same question here. We need to make the difference in our own local congregations, so that we can make the environment a healthy one for highly educated people consistently. The goal is that the environment at our church feels worthwhile to these highly learned people.

  8. I am very happy about Nicodemus joining the family of believers and revering and loving Jesus whom he was only able to acknowledg at the beginning as ‘a teacher come from God.’ What a moving account of one who once was trapped by the self-sufficient, self-serving system of the religious elite of Israel at a time as they were challenged by Jesus to give up the old and accept the new Covenant of Faith.

    I consider His conversion to be even more remarkable than that of an ‘average’ believer because, like Saul’s who become Paul, their influence was significant in the religious community of their peers and those they taught. Jesus asked him outright: “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” followed by - ”Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” Jesus pointed out Nicodemus' inability to perceive God's Truth spiritually.

    This ability to ‘know’ and ‘testify’ to that which one hears and sees regarding Jesus' Gospel is only possible by being born-again spiritually. In my opinion, individuals from the ranks of organized religious education, higher secular education and natural sciences are the most vulnerable to forming within themselves their own mixture of a secular and religious understanding about 'who man is and his purpose in life' which they become comfortable with.

    Nicodemus, like all others having a certain understanding but not perceiving God’s Truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit, is the example of those who need to come to terms with the most important aspect of the Christian Faith – the aspect of needing ‘to be born again before one can see or enter the Kingdom of God.’ – John 3:3; 5.

    Accepting that BELIEVE AND FAITH are acceptable aspects of our Christian Religion is prerequisit, as Jesus informs us that “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him”, and again, ”Everyone the Father gives Me will come to me …” – John 6:36-38. When accepting His call, our life starts anew – we are being born again to know who we are and the purpose to which we have been brought to life - to live to honor and glorify the Father, as it is He who drew us to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

    I consider the most significant failure by the organized church to be placing the teachings of theological aspects of God above the instruction/teaching how to help the individual believer to form a personal relationship with our spiritual, heavenly Father. Most teaching focuses on the correct theology about God and not on the Truth that loving Him with all our being will establish our living relationship with Him.

    Therefore, it appears to me that most of the religious leadership's effprt assures that correct theological doctrines are conveyed and properly respected. But, just like the old Nicodemus before his born-again exprience, all who are ‘taught/indoctrinated’ by institutionalized religion requiring them to submit to a religious creed which upholds the identity of the organization they are part of, will need to come to realize that - first and foremost - they themselves also need to be born-again first to be taught by the Holy Spirit to love their God with all their heart and being before they can teach others – Mark 12:30-31.

    • I agree, Bridgette. My wife and I have rallied against those who just feel the need to teach the doctrines without emphasizing the relationship that saves them. We have made some headway in our church. I hope this realization grows denomination-wide.

      • Dear Bob,
        Welcome to our blog!
        I do hope that "My wife and I have rallied against those ...." is merely an unfortunate choice of words. I don't think a relationship with Jesus can be taught by "rallying against" anyone. Rather, I believe that making sure of your own relationship with Jesus and sharing your experience whenever you can, including Sabbath School, will make the desired difference. And, yes, you can share at every opportunity that what saves us is our dependence on Jesus, rather than merely correct doctrines. I believe there will be many people in heaven who never did get the doctrines right. (See Matt. 7:22-23; Matt. 25:31-46)

  9. Sometimes I have problems when I'm introduced in the church during our church service. I'm sure some of us would've experienced the same, for instance, SDAs platform leaders like introducing preachers and speakers at the services. At times I feel we tend to overdo our introductions. We have long list bio of acquisitions, qualifications, experience, to raise the status of the speaker, possibly suggesting that these attributes are so important to qualify the speaker or preacher. Maybe I should start humbling myself like Bro Nico here and approach the great teacher of all time for knowledge and wisdom. He's the only qualifier for his work. Don't you feel the same?.

  10. Praise the Lord for Nicodemus and the record of this dialog between him and Jesus. He sought out and found Jesus and was not afraid to confess what he understood (that Jesus was a teacher sent from God) and sought to understand more. Jesus recognized the Holy Spirit moving on Nicodemus and very simply explained to him the conversion that was already happening in his own heart. Jesus lead him to understand that He was not just a teacher but the Son of God sent to save the world! As a result of this dialog we are blessed with some of my most treasured scriptures on salvation. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. How many have been saved as a result of this Leader in Israel coming to Jesus for understanding... While the encounter may have been in secret its content has become one of the most known passages of scripture.

  11. In answer to the final question, knowledge cannot save us and never has been able to save us. All knowledge can do is show us where to go to be saved. As for "having the truth", we have some truth. We may have a lot of truth or even the most truth of anyone, but it really is arrogant to say we have all the truth. Only God has all the truth and we need to remain humble and teachable.

  12. What did Jesus mean by being born of "Water and of the spirit"? Apparently, we need to revive our "Spirit" by The Holy Spirit, to see God's Kingdom. And we need to this on a day by day basis to coninute "Seeing God's Kingdom in our lives."


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