Levi Lusko - When Night Becomes Morning
Hey thank you so much for joining us for this message from God's word. It's such a privilege to get to bring the messages from God's word to you. And I wanna say Happy New Year and I just pray 2019 is incredible. And you just really see this as a brand new chance to rise up and seize all that God has for you. In this series you're about to watch as we just begin it, the conversation. Once A Man Twice A Child. We're talking about how to be child like without being childish. And I pray that in this new year, you'll grow up in all the right ways. But be child like and filled with wonder in all the right ways as well.
A man named Nicodemus. Everyone say Nicodemus. I think we should bring that name back. Any expectant mothers, I don't think we meet enough Nicodemuses these days. But we find his story in John chapter 3. And here's what it says in verse 1. There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, rabbi, we know that you are a tea cher 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 we enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born? Side note, gross.
Verse 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. 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 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? Translation, do you even lift, bro? That's what he said. That's in the Greek.
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 have 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 believes 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.
As we gather as one church for these precious words. They're probably some of the most famous words in the Bible, maybe even some of the most known and memorable words anywhere ever spoken. And yet, we're grateful that we believe you have something new. You want to speak to our hearts through them. And whether this is our first voyage into John 3 or our 42.000th, we pray you would speak something new to our hearts. Help us to see you in a brand new light. And I pray God that the same power that reverberated through Nicodemus' soul as he heard these words spoken to him by your son that night, that that power would be unleashed in our hearts and lives as we listen to you speak to us through them this day. And we ask this in Jesus' name. And everyone who agrees, say together. Amen.
I heard one time that there are four stages to life, and they are as follows. There's childhood, where you believe in Santa. Then you get a little bit older and you don't believe in Santa. And then you become a parent and you become Santa. And then the final phase is where you look like Santa. That's the last phase. That's the phase right before the end. It's like, whoa, wait a minute. Maybe he is real and you are him, right? There's probably some truth to that in that we sort of come full circle in a lot of different ways throughout the stages of life. I think about how this phrase once a man, twice a child conjures up the idea that just before the end, it's almost like we go back to the beginning. They call it retrogenesis, and it can tragically be a heartbreaking thing to see someone through Alzheimer's really become like a child just before they die. But in many ways, that journey happens even when there isn't Alzheimer's. You think about how as a baby, your big goal in life is to grow teeth, grow hair, you know? Grow teeth, grow hair. Grow teeth, grow hair. But then right at the end of your life, what do you do? You lose your teeth, you lose your hair, right?
So you're back to where we started. This much is certain, aging is inevitable. Aging is inevitable. It's happening right in front of us in real time for all of us. the truth is aging, listen, is the universal dilemma. The universal dilemma is that we are moving toward the point of expiration. That's a reality that is inescapable and it's unavoidable, the universal dilemma of aging. But the truth is, all of us have less time in front of us than we would wish. That is the universal dilemma. Life is temporary. Life is fragile life is a vapor. We don't just see Nicodemus, though, wrestling with the universal dilemma. We also see him engaged in an age old quest, an age old quest. And what is that quest? It's the quest to find and figure out and do whatever it is you're put on this earth to do. And Nicodemus on his quest has come to this evening, this evening, speaking to Jesus. He's come to him looking for answers. He's come to him looking for some new teaching. He's come to him looking for a message. He said, you know, we've been following you. We've been tracking with you.
And I love that he says we. It's not just me. It's like, I need you. It's like, there's a lot of people wondering. I may be one of them, asking for a friend. Like, he uses the safety of the plural, right? We've heard a lot about your teachings, and there may be someone I know interested in what you have to say to a person who could be but is not necessarily me. But is there anything you could say to me that could help me? Now why should it just like, whoa, cause us to step back when Nicodemus is coming to Jesus to look for spiritual truth, to look for answers to that gaping hole inside of his heart? That doesn't really phase you unless you understand what clues we have in this passage about exactly who Nicodemus was.
Now if you're taking notes, this text just told us he was highly, highly religious. This dude, this fool, had religion, all right? What do you mean? I mean, he was one of the Pharisees, which meant he was in a rarefied club of only 6.000 members. There were only 6.000 Pharisees on the face of the earth. Now you had Jews. You had followers of the God of the Bible who worship the God who made the Heavens and the Earth and not the surrounding, you know, pagan deities that the people that were around them worshiped in Jesus' day. The Roman Empire had myriad gods that were worshiped. And going back, there were always people who worshipped the moon and worshipped the sun and worshipped sex and worshipped wine. We don't do that anymore. Yeah right. We worship our shoes nowadays. How ridiculous, like, we're judging them for worshipping sex and we literally worship, like, the newest drop, right? Oh my God, I got to get them. I got to get them. I got to get them. I got to get them. I got to get them. so Nicodemus was a Jew, but not just any Jew. He was like Jew 2.0 rated R edition, right?
That's what the Pharisees were. The nickname of the Pharisees was separated once. They took worshipping God so seriously that they wanted to be separate from the world because they didn't want any Gentile pagan cooties on them of sinners. This is why the Pharisees would say stuff to Jesus like, bro, did you know that that person who touched you was a sinner? She's a full-on sinner. Like, she's a prostitute. How do you know that? Well, a friend of mine was with her, I mean, I mean, right? So wait a minute. Huh, interesting, guys, right? They would wrap themselves up in their special jackets. Oh, their jackets had tassels hanging on them that they put on like Boy Scout wear badges every time they kept one of God's laws. They're like, I'm too sexy for my shirt, putting a tassel on their robe.
And Jesus was always making fun of the Pharisees. Like, when you read the New Testament, it's so funny to watch Jesus, like, every time the Pharisees roll in, it's like, you hear the Darth Vader theme song kicking in, like, dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun. Thump, thump, he goes, you guys walk and you swing your tassels funny because they would swing their tassels to show off how holy they were. And Jesus was like, why you got to walk like that? Why are you always swinging your tassels when you walk to the market? And they would pray and do funny stuff like beat their breast on how holy they were. They would pray and be like, I'm so good, God. You're lucky to have me, right? Jesus was like, fool, you probably think this song is about you. And he's always mocking the Pharisees. And Nicodemus, he was one of them. That means he was an ultra elite of the elite. He was the Navy SEALs of religious people, one of only 6.000. But he didn't just have religion. He also had relationships. Dude was hooked up and connected. First couple of sentences, we heard he's a ruler of the Jews. Now you could just blaze right past that and miss that this is telling you he was one of 71. One of 71? Yeah, he was a part of something called the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was like their equivalent of the Supreme Court.
Now how do you get a seat in the Supreme Court? You've got to have relationships, you know, to the gills, right? I mean, you have to get to know the right people, be born into the right family. Doesn't hurt to have the last name Kennedy, you know, stuff like that. All of a sudden now, you've got the blue blood thing going on. And all of a sudden, you're members of the right clubs and you know the right people. You know the right hands to shake. Every city's got movers and shakers. In every community, there are the kings of the city, et cetera. So Nicodemus obviously knew the right people. That's how he was, not just one of 6.000. He was also one of 71. Now it's getting more exclusive. Why was there always 71? That way, there can never be a tie. So Nicodemus was one of the rulers of the Jews, right? Relationships that homie had. But he also had riches.
According to rabbinical tradition, it's the first time I've ever said that, felt great, I read that he was one of the three most wealthy citizens of the city of Jerusalem. He doesn't just have relationships. He doesn't just have the religious thing going on, but he also had money in the bank. One of three, one of 71, one of 6.000, oh, also, he was one of one when it came to respect. Didn't see that in the Bible. Actually, you did. Notice again in verse 10, Jesus, when he made fun of him, because Jesus had a sense of humor, he said, are you the teacher? the idea being he was the preeminent leading voice in his day on spiritual topics. His lectures, packed. His Ted talk, highly clicked, right? He was the one everyone wanted to listen to on subjects that he came to Jesus seeking answers on, which tells you why he came to Jesus by night, right?
If you're the guy who when you speak out on the topics of the meaning of life and how we got here and where to go from here, everyone's flocking to the lecture hall. Everyone's listening. Oh, did you hear what Nicodemus said? Oh man, that was a good one. I love when, oh, got to get his podcast. Oh yeah, follow him on Instagram. That guy's a legend, right? Oh, he's so wealthy. He's on the Sanhedrin. He's a Pharisee, a Pharisee! He's one of 6.000, one of 71. He's one of three. He's one of one! Ah! And to see this guy talking to an itinerant preacher from a nowhere city with no pedigree, no connections, no credentials, didn't even go to college, was a carpenter, and everyone spent most of the time making fun of his parents and the "virgin birth," right, which really means Mary was shacked up with some dude and homie Joseph was cuckolded, right, and this whole thing, and everyone made fun of Jesus by saying stuff like, do you even know how to read?
And to see Nicodemus coming to him, I'm sure with his trenchcoat pulled tightly around his neck, I'm sure with sunglasses and a hat on, I'm sure, yeah, do you want to meet at Starbucks? No, let's meet in the back alley behind the Safeway, right? I can't be seen talking to you. He's coming to him asking for answers of which he was the supposed expert on. Are you the teacher in Israel and you don't even know what is the most fundamental truth? And what fundamental truth is that? That's that man doesn't just need riches to be happy, doesn't just need relationships to be happy, doesn't just need respect to be happy, that's the last one, that he was one of one when it came to respect, but we also need to be reborn. And that's the kicker and that's the key thing and that's the big enchilada, that we need to be reborn.
And that's what Nicodemus found when he tried religion, tried money, tried connection, tried power, all the things that you think are going to make you happy, all things that your friends think are going to make them happy. And that's why they're hoping to become insta-famous, and that's why they're hoping to be come wealthy. That's what they're hoping to become connected, to make a difference. If they could just be known, then they'll finally feel like... that's why they're hoping to be discovered. Yeah, well, I heard so and so was just eating at this restaurant and they got discovered by an agent. You should be a model. Oh, yes, you should be a model.
And so that's why I'm always, you know, dressed up way too much for the environment I'm in, because you think that's going to fill the void inside your heart. Nicodemus has had those things but was still unhappy, so he came to Jesus. And what he discovered, Jesus telling him was, bro, you need to be reborn. You need be reborn. But to Nicodemus, who was on that age old quest, that struck him as an impossible solution. Isn't it an impossible solution? Well, sure, Jesus. Everything would be great if I could just go back in my mother's womb and start all over again. Well, sure, right? Oh, you're not happy. Well, duh, you just need to get born all over again. Thank you, that's really helpful advice. Let's tuck that away for a rainy day. No, I meant something I can act on. I meant like a new teaching, that's why he said, you're a teacher come from God. Give me a new idea.
And Jesus said, bro, you don't need a new idea. You need a new heart. You need a new start. You need a new soul. You need to be washed clean from your sins. You need God to breathe his spirit inside your heart. You need God to touch, you don't just need behavior modification. Yo, you need soul transformation. You need God to reach down inside of you and make you brand new, like a baby coming out into the world. You need to be born from above, not just the water that filled your mother's stomach when you were being carried to term, but the spirit of God to make you new, to activate new life in your heart, for God to take out the heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh to make you brand new all over again. But it's an impossible solution Why do you think I've given my life over to the study of the law?
That's what I want too. I want that more than you could ever possibly know. That's what I've given my whole life to. But now I'm an old man and I don't feel like I have it. I don't feel like I have it. I haven't found it in religion or in respect or in relationships or in any of these other things you think you would find it in. And Jesus says, well, this is what you need. And Nicodemus is like, yeah, I know. And that's why Jesus tells him this is the most important part of the sermon. He said, yeah, you're missing the most important part, the costly sacrifice. It can't happen because of your sins, and sin demands payment. And God in his love is still just. And he told us the soul that sins shall surely die. Nicodemus, the problem is, you're a sinner. And you cannot become brand new without someone or something paying for your sins. Either it's you or it's an innocent third party. But Jesus said, that's exactly what I've come for.
The Jewish story involved this day where Moses was leading the people out of Egypt towards the promised land, translation, out of bondage and sin, and towards a right relationship with God. And on the way, the snake showed up because the people had been complaining. And so as a vivid portrayal of what sin brings, the people began to be filled with the venom of the serpents and began to be moving towards death. In their dilemma, in their plight, they called out to Moses, who prayed to God, who heard, Moses heard God saying, build a brass serpent and put it up above the people on a pole. And tell everybody bit by the snake who is dying because of what sin brings, the wages of sin is death, look to the snake on the pole. If you'll look to the snake on the pole, you'll be saved. Or you could think, well, this doesn't make any sense and I don't understand it, but I'm willing to obey and do something that seems stupid to me. And if I lift my eyes up to the snake on a pole, those who did that were healed. Those who were unwilling to, they died.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, who's involved in this age old dilemma of figuring out what he needed before the universal problem of sin kicked in and he died and the whole quest was over, he hears, just like the snake was lifted up, I'm going to be lifted up. And guess what? Jesus Christ was lifted up from the earth on a pole. The Bible says that as he was lifted up, if anybody would look to him, they would be saved. And listen to me very carefully. You could stand there on the ground with the venom of sin in your veins saying that doesn't make sense. There's no reason that should work. I've read 1.000 books. I know a PhD who said in this dissertation, you know what? You're right. You're probably right. It doesn't make sense. It shouldn't make sense. But listen to me very carefully. It doesn't need to make sense. It just needs to work. It doesn't need to make sense. It just needs to work.
And the reason God picked it is because it doesn't make sense. It is foolishness. It defies the wisdom of the world. And it doesn't allow you to be the hero of the story. If he said you go to the highest peak, 14.000 feet above, and pick a purple flower and smoke its essence, you would do it. And you'd be like, I'm Batman. But here's the deal. God doesn't let you be the hero. You and I will always be the damsel in distress tied up on the train tracks. It is Jesus lifted up on the pole, Jesus who died in your place, Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus who loves you and will save you, Jesus who can fill the void inside your soul, Jesus who can give you life everlasting, Jesus who can save your family, Jesus who can work in your marriage, Jesus who wants to work in our world, Jesus who will be honored and glorified forever and ever, who's going to come back to the world he created to judge it. It's Jesus, always only Jesus, who gets the glory.
And that's the power of the gospel. And that's the brutal razor's edge of the gospel because you can persist in the fact that you're right that it doesn't make sense. But you're still going to die. Or you can believe in the foolishness of the gospel message that we've been commanded to preach. It's the only message given. Well, I don't like that there's only one way. It doesn't really matter what you like. It doesn't matter what I like. Are we going to argue with God that he only sent one son? How about this? Let's not bury the lead. Jesus said I'm the way, the truth, and the life. Eh, there should be more ways to God. There's a way. So let's take the way that he gave. If he gave five ways, OK, great. Pick your different way. He gave one son who died on one cross who rose from the grave one time. And there's never been anybody else. No one else died for you. There wasn't a line of people queuing up to die for me.
There was like 90 people who said, I'll save your soul? No, there's one. God said one son. And he loved you so much, that son died for you. That's the precious gospel message. god so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him shouldn't perish but would have everlasting life. God doesn't want to ruin your life. He came to save it. He didn't come to ruin your life. Like, God's such a killer. He didn't come to ruin your life. He came to save it. That's why he came to this world. I like how the message translation puts it. It says it this way. John 3:17, God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger at you, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. And I offer you as evidence of the fact that gospel works the life of Nicodemus, who started out looking at all the things that can't work - religion and relationships and connection and privilege, all that.
And then it came to Jesus one night, and that was the night everything changed for him. And I don't know how because it's like the wind. there's a mystery to it. I don't know how it's going to work for you. there's a mystery to it. It's the wind. But I know this. In Nicodemus' life, by the end, he was a different version of himself, ashamed at the beginning coming to him by night. How about by the end of story when Jesus died? And Joseph of Arimathea loaned him his grave. And Nicodemus, the Bible says, in John chapter 19 who at first came to Jesus by night, he also came, publicly, courageously, breathed a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 100 pounds. That would cost a lot of money. That would be a bank. But Nicodemus took this exorbitant fund and anointed the body of Jesus, bound it in strips of linen with the spices. And then they laid it in the tomb as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
So by the end of his story, the power of the second birth unleashed in his life, this man who was once afraid now proudly stood not caring what any of the people he used to associate with thought of him as he proudly stood to honor Jesus, who had just given everything on the cross. And then as Nicodemus looked at him hanging on the cross that day, did he not hear the words of Jesus reverberating through his heart? The son of man must be lifted up. And if he's lifted up, he will draw all people to himself, all people. You, me, none of us are so bad that we can't be forgiven. There's nothing you've ever done that God can't forgive. But there's not one of us that are so good that we don't need to be forgiven. Born again, that's a polarizing phrase, isn't it? The world doesn't really love that. Like, I'm a born, say that at your next staff meeting, right? I'm born again, so just wanted to throw that out there. It's like, we're like, oh. I don't mind if you, like, want to love God or whatever. But born again? That's the worst kind of Christian.
Listen to me very carefully. The whole sermon is really encapsulated in this thought. Being born again isn't a special type of Christian. It's how you become one. And it's not optional. It's the whole thing. It's being born on the inside by the spirit of God. And God wants that for you. And that's why Jesus died. And if you today would turn to him in faith, he'll save you. He'll give you the promise and heaven, but he'll give you the power of living a life every day, I don't care how many seconds are left on the clock, knowing that God's alive inside of you and he's working in your story.
Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, but that very evening, he experienced the dawning of a brand new day. When God gives you second birth, you've begun an entirely new life, an eternal life that goes on forever. So you don't have to worry about how many hours do I have left. You don't need to try and look younger or strive to live longer. All you need to do is start over. And if you start over that eternal life, you'll no longer need to try and cling to this one as long as you can. You can have a freedom and a peace that whatever happens here in this life, fine, I'll enjoy it. I'll be blessed in it. There's work to do while it lasts. But I'm living an eternal life. I'm living a bigger story. I'm living out something brand new. All of heaven is mine. Eternity is ours. God is ours. He's in control. He is our life and the length of our days.