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Watch 2022 online sermons » Levi Lusko » Levi Lusko - I Still Feel So Empty

Levi Lusko - I Still Feel So Empty


Levi Lusko - I Still Feel So Empty
TOPICS: Thank You Next

We continue this Thank You, Next series. If you're just joining us today, we're taking some of the most famous verses in the Bible and we're trying to explore and get our bearings and see if there's anything that may be some added context can inform us on. And today we have come to the granddaddy of them all. I remember when I got to preach in Missouri one time and I was trying to do something fun while I'm in the place so I can get my feet wet in the culture. And when I was in Missouri preaching I said, what's to be done? They said, well first of all, we are going to get you the biggest fried chicken steak sandwich plate. You've ever had in your life.

And so I believe I will live a shorter life because of that meal that I ate that day. And then secondly, they said we would like to take you to the granddaddy of all Bass Pro Shops, because this is the fount from which all Bass Pro has emanated around the world here in Missouri. And they did, indeed, take me to the foremost Bass Pro Shop. We were there for hours and I did not see the tenth of what they had in this place. The most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in my life. It was a redneck Disneyland is what it was. And it was amazing. I mean, there was penguins running around. I don't know why. There was alligators run around. But then I stumbled into the Teddy Roosevelt wing, which I was like well, hello, I guess the founder of Bass Pro is a big TR fan. I was like, this is my kind of people.

And so there's all that kind of stuff. There's a Lewis and Clark room. I mean, it was just fabulous. But the granddaddy of all verses in the Bible has to be, let's put it on screen, John 3:16. And John Deere, right? We get it. We get all the things, right? John 3:16. Let's read it together off the screen. "For God so loved," out loud, your help, your participation, church at home family, come on. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. That whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". Is there gratitude in your heart even just reading the granddaddy? I mean, this has been called the Bible in a nutshell. This has been called the gospel in miniature. And literally that is the gospel. What you just read is the gospel. It is the most succinct description of what this book contains to be found anywhere.

hat's what Billy Graham said of this verse, who reminisces or reminisced before he went to heaven to be with Jesus, maybe he still reminisces about when his momma would teach him John 3:16. He said once a week on Saturday they would get a bath when he was growing up as a farm boy on a milk farm in North Carolina. And when they would bring out that tin tub once a week and fill it with water, the oldest would go first and by the end it was cold and dirty water. You were in. You wanted to be first. And he said while they were bathing his mom would recite John 3:16 and have them each as they could recite John 3:16. Parents, if you have not taught your kids to memorize John 3:16, get on that this week. What a wonderful thought. But Billy Graham said it became formative for him just this understanding of the whole Bible boiled down to its irreducible minimum. That's John 3:16. That is the gospel. That is good news.

Quite literally I'm going to show you something that if you have not seen before you will never be able to unsee. Show me this verse with the gospel inside. Look at it right here. Look at it. God, only, son, perish, everlasting life. G-O-S-P-E-L. John 6, 3:16. That's the gospel. And at the center, some of you are like, I don't get it. If you look at those words, it spells gospel. But what I love so much is that it's only 25 words. This thing packs a punch. It is that proverbial left hook. It is that debilitating body shot. But it's only 25 little words. And at the center of it all is the... look at it on the screen, is the son. The son. 12 words in the New King James translation anyway, this is just clever parlor tricks, all right? Because it's the original Greek, it might not even line up exactly. But in this translation, 12 words on the front, 12 words on the back, and the 25th word right in the center it's the son. Because this is all about Jesus. Who he is, what he's done.

And it has so much that can speak to us and change us and help us. In fact, and I boil down what John 3:16 gives us to just four things. And I want to show them to you on the screen. Take note of them. John 3:16 tells us how much we are loved. It tells us that we are lost. It tells us that we are liable. And it gives us the position that we are meant to be as the city on the hill. We are to be a light when we understand this to the whole world. It doesn't start, of course, as a compliment. And that's why I put the word lost in there. You see, John 3:16 when properly read and understood and digested tells us, Houston, we've got a problem. Because we have to do something in order to not perish, therefore if the thing isn't done we will parish. John 3:16 is not a compliment. John three 16 tells us that we have gotten ourselves into a predicament. And that predicament, of course, is that we are lost. We are dead on the inside. Headed to an eternity of death after we physically leave this world. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

But then to infinity, we are told in scripture there is perishing. Perishing is not just die and annihilation. Perishing is not just black and it's over, end scene, the curtain comes down. Perishing is staying and remaining lost from God forever. Now God is Life and God is light. To know him is to know life. To be in his presence is to experience life. To be cut off from that source of life, to be cut off from that source of light is what? Darkness. And that's how hell is often refer, a place of outer darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth. That's the problem of John 3:16 that we are lost, but we are also loved. And we literally could do a whole series 25 weeks long just emphasizing the different words. It begins with God. It begins with one who has no beginning.

Oh, by the way, the last word is life and life that's eternal. So the verse starts with "he who has no beginning" and ends with that which "God wants to give you that has no ending". Pretty sick. So it's this alpha and omega. But we could start with God, talk about who he is. We could talk about so, what a great word that is. You're not just loved, you are so loved. God so loved the world. How much did he love the world? That he gave. The love always gives. You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving. For anything that is a source of love in your heart, the automatic result of that will be an out flowing of giving towards that source or object of your love. And on and on we could go. It tells us that we are loved, but it also tells us we are liable. For that love is not automatically given, that eternal life is not instantly appropriated at the moment you come to know about it. You have to choose to receive it, that whosoever receives.

So you're liable. You're on the hook. You have the right to refuse, in other words. It's like I've often said a ticket was left for you it will call. Some friends invited us recently to go to a Bronco... oh no, it was not a Bronco game, it was a Denver Nuggets game. But Russell Wilson, the new quarterback of the Broncos was there in the room for the first time greeting the citizens of Denver to sit on his kingdom as the fresh prince of Denver air. And he throws a ball out. It was an amazing moment. But they left the tickets for us. They left the tickets for us. They said, you can go to this game. We didn't have to pay anything, but we had to walk up and tell them our names and receive what was left for us. That's salvation. Knowing it exists is not enough. You have to walk up and say, I choose to believe that someone, Jesus, who is sent by the father, who loved me so much that he gave his only son.

What precious love is this that the father would watch the son suffer for us? Much is made of the love of Jesus, but let us not, parents, forget the love of the father. To watch his son suffer, to send him on this mission, that is how much we were loved. As well by the Holy Spirit, all three persons of the Trinity are active as we receive salvation, as the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the family of God. As the Holy Spirit is the one who knocks on the door of our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the one who comes into live inside of our hearts and make it God's home when we do receive this precious gift of salvation. And then once we've seen this, once we have this, once we know this, if you know and receive the truth of John 3:16, how can you not tell other people about it? How can you keep that to yourself?

Y'all, if I had the cure for cancer, you would see me running buck wild up and down the corridors of every hospital finding people with cancer and telling them there is something that can be done about this. That is this but even more, because it's not just for this life, it's for eternal life. God so loved the world he gave his one and only son so that whoever, come on, let's get excited about whoever you are, whatever you've done, wherever you've been. I don't care how far you feel away from God, how much you feel like, I'm so messed up. He couldn't change me. Couldn't save me. Couldn't heal me. Whoever would believe, no matter who you are, no matter how you've lived, anybody who believes shall not perish. What confidence is this to stand on shall not perish? I can die in Christ and know I will not perish. You can take my life, come on, William Wallace said it, best but you can never take my freedom for you have everlasting life.

If you're in Christ, you got life. Not just a quantity of life, but a quality of life. Knowing Jesus is not just going to heaven when you die, it's getting the chance and the honor of living for heaven while you live. The kingdom of heaven is within. There will be a day when it will be without and we will experience it physically. We will live eternally in a brand new recreated heavens and earth to taste, to drink, to drink, to dance, to work, to love, to laugh, to sing. It will be without, but currently it's within. And we who have tasted, we who have seen, we who have experienced, it is our obligation. We cannot help but speak about the things that we have seen and we have heard. That's an amazing thing. And it's not even my sermon, because that's just John 3:16.

And that's just what you get when you saw on Tebow's eye black and googled it in 2009 when them Gators played Oklahoma and 90 million people, 90, Tim Tebow has said, million people saw that game, that bowl game, that national championship game, and went to their computers and said what is John 3 colon 16? It also became the number one trending item on Twitter. Number one trending item on Facebook. And Tebow, when he heard that, his exact words, he always says this and he'll probably tell that story this summer when it comes to Movement Conference when him and his wife, Miss Universe herself, are going to come and be a part of our student conference. But he says that his first thought when he heard that wasn't that's amazing, that's incredible. He said, how did 90 million people not know John 3:16? Right?

And then three years later when he was playing the Steelers as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos and I put the quote on the screen, this is a three year anniversary. The public relations person came to him and told him this exactly three years since that game, that all important game. And during this game you threw 316 yards. Your yards per rush were 3.16. Your yards per completion were 31.6. The ratings for the game were 31.6. And the time of possession 31 minutes and six seconds exactly. And he was like, dang, I'm glad I Tebowed, right? That's just amazing. That's just cool. And of course, that's just coincidental completely, right? He says or it's God. And whichever that is, you decide, right?

I'm not superstitious, but that's super special, all right? But that's, of course, all what we do know when we Google John 3:16 and read the verse or we read it on the crochet that our grandma had in the wall in her bathroom. So while we were relieving ourselves we were like, oh, yes. Lovely, God loved the world and stuff, right? That's great. Now perisheth, now perisheth Granny loved the King James of English or the Queen's English. Perisheth. Perisheth, right? But this series isn't about just the gem itself, the series is about what do we get when we peel back a little bit and read it and its actual historic context? And so that's what we're here to do today.

So if you'll join me in John chapter 3, we're going to start at verse 1. And then we're going to read a bit to understand what's around it that makes it even more awesome. "There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night". Nick at Nite. If you laughed at that, you are not young. "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. Jesus answered and said to him, most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 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"? Everyone say gross.

"Jesus answered, most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not Marvel that I said to you, you must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said to Him, how can these things be? Jesus answered and said to him, are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen and you do not receive Our witness. If I've told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up. That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever beliefs in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 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. And this is the condemnation that the light has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed," we'll end here, "but he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God".

Want to preach to you from these words a message that I'm calling I still feel so empty. I still feel so empty. It's a terrible disappointment when you encounter emptiness when you didn't think it should be or would be empty. I have an affinity for cold water, guilty as charged. If you follow me on social media, you probably have come to the conclusion that I'm crazy. Or perhaps you knew it long ago and it didn't take a follow on Instagram to come to that conclusion. I like ice baths. I like getting into a hot sauna. I like mixing the two together. And I love inviting people over and doing a plunge party in cold water. You really know somebody when they get into 34 degree water. You know somebody. You know what's inside of them. You know if the Holy Ghost is up in there. You discover it real quick.

My personal favorite of all time is Lisa Harper. No one will ever take away her honor and distinction, but I still every single time Jennie gets in it I love it because she makes the funniest noises and says the most ridiculous things. It's the highlight of my life, right? If you ever receive a dinner invitation that comes with a P.S. bring a bathing suit, run and hide, friends. But I went the other day, it was a busy week, a lot going on. And those are the times that I definitely don't miss prayer, the times I definitely have my devotional. The busier my day is, the more I need God and the more I also know I need to get into this cold bath, because otherwise this day is already, really like Tony Robbins said, if you get into cold water right away it's the worst thing that's going to happen to you the entire day. So at least that's behind you and everything else is put into perspective. So it's a good time to say the Lord's prayer. It's a good time to ask for God's peace.

My recent obsession is movement, because if you hold still you get a little barrier of warmth around you. So disrupting that every 60 seconds, I'm just a sick and twisted person, all right? What can I say. So anyhow, I was telling the kids I'm going to cold bath. There's a lid on it. I'm going to cold baths. I'm going to cold bath. I used to have to hype myself up, like I personally have to get motivated every time. Because it doesn't matter, it's always cold, it always shocks, it always hurts. And so I'm doing it. I'm like you're going to do it, I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it. And so I go out there and I do it. And I take the lid off and I get in and there was no water in it. It never happened to me before. And they all laughed and had a good laugh me. I was shocked. I was horrified. I was confused.

Somehow the drain had gotten pulled at the bottom. And so slowly the water in yesterday. I had done a cold bath yesterday. But, of course, the slow trickle, everything I was putting in got me through one day but it was on the way out. And I was horrified to discover there was nothing in the tub when I wanted it to be there. And that is the context for John 3:16. Can I say that without waiting for lightning to hit me? The context is that this is a religious expert who Jesus has just told to his face, you know nothing about the kingdom of God and you clearly have no idea how to get there. The expert of religion in his day who has come to Jesus because despite all he was putting into his life, he still was forced to admit if he was honest that he was empty. A little bit about Nicodemus. He, as scripture presents him, was somebody who was serious.

If you're taking notes, Nicodemus was a serious dude. You might not have even realized that as it just flew by, but it says a Pharisee. So automatically, serious guy. There are 6,000 Pharisees and their nicknames were the separated ones. It started out as a good thing, because during the Babylonian captivity they wanted to keep and retain a spiritual purity. How do you live in exile surrounded by a pagan culture, but retain an allegiance to a kingdom that you don't physically live in anymore? That's a really good question, one that we should ask ourselves everyday living on an Earth that is not our home in the midst of a culture trying to squeeze its values upon us at every single moment and make us live as though this were the thing when there's a whole coming kingdom that's actually the thing. A kingdom that cannot be shaken. A kingdom that's builder and maker is God. A kingdom that we will get to live in when Jesus comes.

And our citizenship is there, we're just currently not. So we are essentially in exile. How do we live in exile and do so successfully? Well, the Pharisees solution was let's be separated from this evil culture. A good desire that led to a bad thing. So they pulled themselves back from it. They rolled their cloaks in, allegorically and literally, and said we don't want any cooties from this icky, bad world. We're not getting defiled. And so they pulled back, right? And monastic movements have done this. Let's just live up on a pillar, that's been done in history, guys. Let's live in a monastery and just chant prayers all day. Num, num, num, num, not going to get defiled by this icky wicky world.

Wonderful, except we're meant to reach a world that's headed to hell. You can't reach a world you've abandoned. You can't reach a world that you've said, you're bad, we're good, so we're headed to heaven. Y'all, it's good that we're going to heaven, but we don't want to go empty handed. We don't want to go alone. God loves other places, other people, other cities, other tribes. We want to reach them. So how do we be as Jesus would put it, in the world but not of the world? It's like driving stick. It takes feather in the clutch it takes just the right amount of gas.

Some days we get it good, some days we don't get it so good. Some days we're just around Christians too much only drinking milk from our Christian cows, counting down the minutes till the next chosen episode, right? And other days we're hanging out with the world so much it rubs off on us. We start talking like the world, thinking like the world, valuing things like the world values, right? And then it's just more money, right? And then it's just how much clout do I have? And you're like, wait a minute, you kind of like wake up from a spell. Like oh, man, I'm just coming back under the world's sway. And so it's really I don't want to abandon the world, but I also can't be so much like the world caring about what the world cares like that I then become just like the world and have nothing to offer the world, right? So it really is a dance. And so Nicodemus was a part of all that many years removed when they were back in Israel, but all that to say, he's a serious cat. So I don't want you just to read this glibly or lightly. It's a big deal.

All right. He was not just serious, he was successful as his name indicates. Nicodemus, that's a big name. Do you know what it means? Conqueror of the people. Thanks, mom. And he was. He wasn't just 1 of 6,000, he was also 1 of 71. Because it says a ruler, that's a technical word that means he was a part of the Sanhedrin A.K.A. Supreme Court of his day. There were 71. The high priest had the 71st vote. It was this ruling body that sentenced Jesus formally to be handed over to Pilate to be put to death.

We do not know whether Nicodemus voted, was not there that day, or abstained. But we do know he was a part of that crew. And to be one of those you had to have political connections, you had to know the right people. 1 of 6,000. Homie was 1 of 71. But get this, he was also one of three. According to rabbinic tradition Nicodemus was one of the top three wealthy individuals living in Israel at this time. So he was highly successful. He gave a command. He gave an edict. He made the decision. Stuff was getting done because he had the bills.

All right. He was not only 1 of 6,000, 1 of 71, one of three, he was also one of one. Because Jesus said, did you catch it? Are you not the, singular article, teacher in Israel and you don't know this stuff? When he said to Jesus, how can these things be? Jesus, he was sort of a little shot, a little jab. He said, all right, aren't you the guy people go to looking for information on spiritual matters and you are here with your compass going which way is north, Jesus? I seem to have lost my way. And Jesus goes, you're the teacher of Israel? You're the one people come to and you don't even know which way's up? The teacher, one of one in Israel in these days.

So serious, successful, and then thirdly, he was searching. How else can you explain the preeminent rabbi in his day in the world coming to an untrained rabbi who had no rabbinic training whatsoever, who is hated by every single religious body? Who many people didn't think he could read. Who came from a backwoods town, born to two peasants, and there were dubious rumors floating around about who his dad actually even was. But Mary purported it was God the Father, so that just made everything make sense. And yet here is Nicodemus coming to him saying, I want answers. Why? Because I have all this information, friends, I have all this money, I am connected out the wazoo. So why am I still so empty? I'm an old man now. He said that. How can I being old enter back into my mother's womb? He was an old man.

And at the end of the life, he's looking back on all he had accumulated. He's looking back at all he had accomplished. He's looking back on everything he had done, every meal he had sat at with the who's who, and the what's what, and the where's there, and the movers and shakers. And he's going, but I'm still empty and so I am desperate. And I'm coming to someone, I'm humbling myself coming to you for help. Coming to you for answers. We know that you are a teacher sent from God, he said. Presumably putting himself down in a place of humility to say, would you please enlighten me? Would you please help me? Because I've heard what you have to say, it's different than what I've been taught to say and I need your help.

He was serious, successful, searching, and then, fourthly, he was self-conscious. And that's why the text tells us this meeting took place at night because he did not want to be seen seeking advice and answers from Jesus, who was kind of being ridiculed by the rest of the religious establishment of his day. And so he snuck in, snuck out, didn't want to be seen, was just kind of embarrassed to come approach Jesus and actually sit under his teaching during the day. He sought audience with him by night. Nicodemus, his name comes up three times in Scripture. And every single time he is referred to as he who came to Jesus originally at night.

So that's Nicodemus. And what was he told? He came to Jesus for spiritual answers. He came to Jesus empty. He came to Jesus seeking. And what did Jesus not do? Jesus didn't say go back to your Sanhedrin and ask them if they know. Go back to the rest of the Pharisees. And there are 613 laws that they claimed to have meticulously kept all of their lives. Jesus didn't say, oh, now you want to hear from me? Come to me by day and I'll tell you. No, Jesus met him where he was at and he told him how to get to heaven. How to get to heaven was to be born again. And what Jesus gave Nicodemus was the plan and the path for salvation, which is the new birth, which is completely different than how the new birth is commonly framed and commonly misunderstood.

You see, because being born again, to many people I want to clear this up for you, is oftentimes viewed as like the hard core kind of Christianity. Like there's Christians and then there's born again Christians. Which is like man, I ain't like the Navy SEAL, like I don't think I'm born again. I'm a Christian, but born again it's like hard core and it's almost like this byword. Like studies have been done that have found many Americans say they would not like to have a born again Christian as a next door neighbor. So there's kind of like this image in mind of what a born again Christian is like, as though it were opposed to like the regular kind of Christian. Like it's like the Red Bull of being a Christian or something like that.

So let me clear that up for you. According to Jesus, being born again, this is what he was telling Nicodemus what we need to understand is not a subcategory of Christian, it is how you become one. Teacher, I'm empty and I got religion. How do I know God? How do I find fulfillment? How do I find purpose? How do I have hope going into the grave? Because I'm old now, I see it's not too far away now. I need answers. How do I get to heaven? Jesus says, if you're not born again, it can never happen. The only way you can go to heaven, the only way you can experience Christianity, the only way to know God is a second birth. Which to Nicodemus was, and this is going to now be four things I want you to take note of about the new birth. It was to Nicodemus completely and totally inconceivable. Inconceivable.

And so Jesus said, well, bro, that's because it's invisible. You're looking at it at the wrong level. And then he tells Nicodemus something that's incredible. And then we have to face up to the fact that this new birth and this whole plan of salvation, John 3:16, the whole deal, is completely and totally insulting. Let's start at the beginning. Inconceivable. You just got to get born again, bro, you're good. No, no, no, no, no you don't need to try harder, you just need to start over. All right. That's not encouraging. I've been trying my whole life, right? Nicodemus could have quoted Philippians chapter 4 with the apostle Paul, a fellow Pharisee or Philippians 3 starting in verse 4. "Though I might have confidence in the flesh, if anyone else thinks he may have confidence the flesh, I more so".

This is what Paul says. This is Paul's pedigree. "Concerning the law," here's my resume, "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuted the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless". But Paul had to come to a place of learning, verse 7, "But what things were gained to me, these things I have counted as loss". And he would go on to say, I actually look at them as excrement. And I just think it's so funny that God has given me this week in my poodle living demonstration of what dung is, because this dog has been going to the bathroom all over the house inexplicably all week. I think it's because we have a little remodel going on and so everything's off. His bed's not there. So he'll go into stand where his bed normally is and just like twitch and stuff. And so as a result, he's just peeing and pooping everywhere. And I've almost stepped in poop multiple times. And Paul said, the religious thing? All this stuff?

I've learned to view it as dumb. I've learned to view it as lost. That's what Nicodemus is being forced to confront, that everything he thought would give him a leg up when he stood before God in heaven, that everything that you today might think is what's going to get you into heaven. He's saying, I'm realizing it's garbage because Jesus says you don't need, being in heaven, being in the kingdom of God, listen to me, is not a set of rules you adhere to. It is a new life you enter into. But that's inconceivable because this dude is saying my mom, I'm not going there man. How do I get born again? And Jesus responded by saying no, no it's invisible. It's something the Spirit does. It's not something you do, Nicodemus, it's something done to you. Righteousness is not based on you, it gets placed on you. And it is the only hope of salvation. Only if you are willing to admit and to humbly confess that you cannot earn it but you are willing to receive it.

Therein lies the insult. Because it's not sexy to receive. It's not sexy to grovel. It's not sexy to have a handout. You know what is sexy? My wife thinks it is. What do you want me to do? I can do that. That's how we want to stand before God. But no one in heaven is there because they earned it, they're there because they received it. They're there because they said without one plea I come to thee, just as I am. And God, because of what Jesus has done, who was sent to this world to perish so that we wouldn't, we can be given everlasting life. I hate snakes, but it's in the context of this chapter. Who'd have thought John 3:16 is a verse all about snakes? The ultimate moment comes down to Jesus comparing himself to a snake.

My step mom knows I hate snakes. And she encountered a rattlesnake this week while hiking. And she sent me this video. This is from my step mom, who I used to love. Yeah, that's enough. Stop it. That's enough. That's enough. That's enough. It goes on like that. But it's evil and wicked. Larissa, if you're watching, how could you? I hate snakes. So I was invited this week while I was in D.C. preaching on my new book, The Last Supper on the Moon, shameless plug, to go to Joint Base Andrews where Air Force One is housed and takes off from. And someone in the church said, you want to come? I'll give you a tour. I was like, yeah, this is amazing. So we're driving around and we're looking at stuff. There's the base. Here's the President's private lounge where the President's guests who are going to fly in Air Force One get to hang out.

And there was an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie station there and I stole a napkin. And the President was overseas and I got a napkin. And then I said, what do you do here? He said, I'm in ordinances. I'm in explosives. We make sure there's no explosives around. If there's an explosive around, we detonate it or take care of it or wipe it out. Do you want to see the base where we work in? It's an Air Force ordnance explosives lab where if there's a bomb that someone puts here to try and blow up Air Force One, we go out and we take care of it. I said, of course I do. And he said, do you want to try on my suit? And I said, of course I do. And here's what happened. Check this out. I'm coming to you from Joint Base Andrews wearing the bomb suit currently for the explosive ordinance for the United States Air Force. I think my helmet alone weighs 75 pounds. I feel like a baby and at any point my neck would break.

Fortunately, this is keeping me safe in the event of an explosion. Not so much here or here, mostly just right here. And what does this weigh 100 pounds? I think it weighs around 70 pounds. 70 pounds? Can hardly even tell I'm wearing it. Gives you a nice girlish figure. Can you let the visor down? Yes, absolutely. Here it is. Yeah, claustrophobia just went to a different level. Can you put that back up? Please. That visor coming down really took the claustrophobia to a different level. I am not joking. I am not joking. I was like, oh, this is not so bad, having to stay calm for a second. That came down and it's like panic, panic at the disco. Hey, thank you. All right. So it was real though. They put the thing on me at first and I was like, OK, I have to focus and go to a happy place and breathe. And I was like, I just need this to stop. But right after that, let me drop the bomb robot that goes driving around and messes with the bombs.

And then he said, hey, you know we have this little ATV thing. It's like what the Navy SEALs rip around in and we do fence perimeter checks in this. And said, do you want us to drive you around in it? I should have known when he said do you want a helmet for this? I was like, what do I need a helmet for? No. And then he puts me in the thing and steps on my chest basically and straps me down. I swear to God, to a degree that I've not recovered from emotionally. And I mean, we're ripping around. I think we have a little footage of it. We were just going around this fence line, just driving around. There's like shooting ranges for different branches of the military they have there. There's no there... there it is. Yeah. It's just absolutely pandemonium.

And there's two people I brought with my friend Ben and my friend Kip, one of them I'm not going to tell you who cussed multiple times because we would just be going along and then all of a sudden he just turn left and we would go up a berm. We were fully airborne coming down. I swear, like one time, one tire. One time, two tires. So that's enough of that footage. We get to the end and I'm like, bro, 0 to 10. Where were we on that ride? And he goes 6. I was like, I don't want to see 9, OK? We get to the end and I'm praying for him. God has you right where you are. Thank you for what you do. And thank you for who you are. You're a bright light, no doubt to shine. To people here, he's a Jesus person. And then he goes, it was actually a 7. It's actually a 7. I was like, I'm glad the Holy Spirit got a hold of you. It's actually a 7.

But the worst part of all was halfway through this ride, which the allergies being churned up in the atmosphere, it was it was unbelievable because we're just going through this brush. And at the end he goes, I need you all to check your bodies for ticks multiple times. I got done with this and there's ticks all over my body. It was like, you should have told us that before I would have said no and stuck with the robot, thank you very much. But he goes, did you guys see that snake? And I was like, the snake where? Snake where? And he goes, it's back there. Let me go back around. He starts doing a U-turn. I start protesting vigorously about going back to the snake. He goes, I think I killed it. I'm like, I hope you did. Now, let's go, right? And we get back around and this enormous snake is just doing this awful thing. He's like, oh, the shape of the head, you can tell it's poisonous. I said in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, drive away. There's no doors. OK. I'm so vulnerable. I've been strapped. I don't know how to open the seat belt. I will never get out of this vehicle in time. I start crying, peed a little.

What's the point of the story? Do you see the context, the actual climax of John chapter 3 before he gives verse 16? Is Jesus to help Nicodemus understand how he can go to heaven, because he was a religious teacher, an expert in the law, who happened to have no idea how to get to heaven. And to help him understand the only way any of us can go to heaven Jesus said, I am like a serpent. And Nicodemus, it would have all snapped into focus because he spent his whole life reading the Old Testament. He knew numbers 21. It's pretty cool. Moses' very first miracle is Exodus 4. He lays down a staff that turns into snake. Moses' very last miracle, a snake is put on a pole and raised up. I don't know who this is for, but some of you are making decisions about what to put down and what to take up. What needs to stay and what needs to go. And it is not human wisdom that you need to make that decision, it is faith in the Son of God and believing in the Holy Spirit, who like the wind is coming to lead you.

How can we go to heaven? Number is 21, the snake raised up in the air insulting. Insulting. Because we should be able to do this on our own. We should be able to try harder. We should be able to access the goodness within. He says, no. Because remember when the Israelites were in sin and as a punishment for their sin of complaining and not believing God snakes began to bite them, and they dying from the venom? And Jesus spoke to Moses and said, make a serpent and put it on a pole. How do you put a snake on a pole? You need a cross beam. And when that cross is lifted up with that vile creature, a symbol of the poison, a symbol of the sin raised up, if people dying in their own choices will look up and believe, they will not perish But have everlasting life. Jesus said, I'm that serpent. Because man listen to the serpent in Genesis 3, God promised to crush the head of the serpent when Jesus came. But only through him being that which he came to deal with and being made sin for you and for me on the cross.

And there would have been Israelites that day who hearing the plan, because when you get bit by a snake, you're like, no man, you need anti-venom or someone to pee on it. Or that a jellyfish thing? I don't know. But looking at a serpent on a pole is not going to help. They would have been right and they would have died and had no one to blame but themselves. And if you hear me saying, Levi, it's 2022. We have CRISPR and Wikipedia, and you're telling me with the problems that plague mankind I need to lift my eyes to one who was put on a cross? That shouldn't on paper work. That doesn't make sense and you would be right. It's insulting. It's foolish by design. The Gospel of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. But should you lift your eyes, should you look up at the cross, should you lift your eyes in faith to the Son who was sent by the Father who so loved you. And should you believe in Him, you will not perish. You will have everlasting life.

And I pray that many of you, who like Nicodemus are religious. You've grown up in church your whole. Life your mama told you John 3:16 every bath time. But you've never come from death to life. You've only been born as a human, born out of water, but you've not been born a spirit. Because what this verse is teaching us is that being born again is not a subcategory of Christian. You're Christian, yep. Born again? No, no, no, no, no. That's a little hard core for me. Being born again is not a certain kind of Christian, it's the only way to become one. And God is willing to give you that new life if you trust in him. We'll pray for that in just a moment. But just some quick points of application from this passage.

Number one, we cannot overestimate how important it is to guard your strengths. A lot of us think our weaknesses are going to be our undoing, but for many people it's their strengths that are. Nicodemus' greatest strength was an area of weakness for him and that's what the Bible says when it says, "let him who stands take heed lest he fall". The enemy will come at you not just where you're weak, but also where you're strong.

Second point, so guard your strengths of application, is that we should embrace interruptions. When did Nick come to Jesus? At night. That's not 9:00 to 5:00, bro. Jesus and his team prioritized rest, had days off. Saw, as we all should, rhythms of recovery in their life and health and wellness. And yet, when someone asked him to spend time with him at night, which was an interruption and would be that way to all of them, Jesus embraced it. And as a result, we have John 3:16. So there may be some of the greatest things God ever does in your life that may in the moment come across as inconvenient, as an interruption, as ugh. And yet Jesus embracing, spending some moments with this man at night and the world has never been the same.

And then thirdly, we must never trust our human instincts on who God wants to save, our preconceived notions on who is ready to be touched by God. Because had you seen Nicodemus in the Sanhedrin, you'd thought that is never trusting Christ. Had you seen him walking around with all the rest of his Pharisee friends and you hear the Darth Vader theme song dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun. These are the people who get to put Jesus to death. And yet, this man becomes one of the greatest believers in Christ. But it's not instantly. In fact, you should take a picture of this. This is the process and progression of Nicodemus' journey, which you have to read the entirety of John's gospel to read. Yeah, because here in John 3, sure, he fearfully comes to Jesus by night not wanting anyone to see him. By John 7 it's a little bolder, he timidly speaks up for Jesus. When they're piling on he goes, shouldn't we hear him before we judge him? And he gets his hand slapped for that little gesture of faith.

So he's not out now as a follower of Christ, but then by the end when Jesus dies he courageously stands up for Jesus in broad daylight, helps Joseph of Arimathea give Jesus a proper burial. And I'm just encouraged by that. I don't know about you, because sometimes growth in my life feels like watching paint dry. And I've touched it and it's still tacky. And I've touched it. When am I going to grow? When am I going to grow? I'm just telling you, keep walking. Keep going. Keep trusting. God's doing more in you than you know. But Nicodemus gives us hope that even if our faith is small at the beginning, God could work in anyone. God can do anything and take them anywhere. And those who trust in him, if you keep walking with him, you'll watch progress if you don't lose hope.

So Father, we thank you for this time in your word. Thank you that we haven't scratched the surface of what John 3:16 has for us. I pray for anybody today who has any response to you. If some part of this message touched you or resonated with you, can I just ask you to just let God know. Raise up a hand. Raise up a hand. Raise up a hand. Thank you, Jesus. Bless these. Church online, bless these. Every location who are just saying, I hear the Spirit's blow. And I don't know exactly what that looks like, but the wind is blowing in me. Bless these. Give them courage to move forward and to take that next step, even if their knees are shaking while they do. I pray for a courageousness to your body. I pray that we would be confident. What does the world have that can compare to John 3:16? We have nothing to be ashamed of. I pray we would not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation.


You can put your hands down. And I want to give an invitation for anybody who today is going to make that all important decision to open up your life to Jesus to be born again, to be born from above. You were born out of your mother's womb, born of water, but that's not how you enter the kingdom of heaven. You enter the kingdom of heaven by being born of the Spirit. So in this moment I'm going to lead you in a prayer. The Bible says if you believe and confess in Jesus that he is Lord, that he rose from the dead, you will be saved. This is that accessing of that power. This is the gospel. This is our hope. Power for life after death. Power for life during life too. Eternal life starts here. It starts now. So I want to pray with you. Pray it out loud with me. Say the words I'm going to say out loud after me. Mean them in your heart and God will hear you. This becomes a labor and delivery unit. But Jesus did all the labor, we just get to be a part of the delivery. Say this. Church family, say it with us:

Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner. I'm empty and lost, and endangered. But thank you that I'm also loved. Thank you for sending your Son to die in my place so I could have life. I believe in Jesus. Thank you for new life. I give you mine.

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