Envy is everywhere you look. It’s when you see someone in the workplace get the promotion that you wanted. It’s when you see someone win the lottery and you didn't. Its when you see the married couple that is so cute but your marriage is struggling. Its when you're in the slow lane and people are zipping by you. Its anytime you fail to rejoice with someone because you want what they have. Envy always causes dis-unity, and the disunity caused by envy is always sin.
This is the exact temptation that John the Baptist was confronted with in this text. A Jew has tried to pin John the Baptist against Jesus because all of John’s followers were leaving him and flocking to Christ. At one point John the Baptist was the most influential person in his region and now he is becoming a “nobody,” except Jesus' cousin. That said, John shows incredible humility as he continues to rejoice in Christ's rising influence and his declining influence. For John the Baptist, life wasn't about winning a popularity competition or trying to win "Pastor of the Year". For John, life was about making Jesus the Hero. John was more interested in being faithful than being famous.
Later in the text, there is an odd turn as John the gospel writer talks about the relationship between belief and obedience.
Scripture is clear that It is impossible for a person to consistently act in a way that is contradictory to the belief that they hold in their heart. Anyone who calls them-self a Christian but is able to continue deliberately sinning with no remorse or repentance may find that Jesus will tell them that He does not know them as His followers or as having been under His blood covering. True repentance comes to our life by the Holy Spirit convicting us of our sins and us then changing our daily life so that we no longer commit those sins. When we do sin there should be a heart-held grief that causes us to repent of the sin and try to change our life so that we can be free of the sin in the future. When we love God, our relationship with Him makes us want to please and obey Him. Therefore, we show our love for God by living our life in a way that is pleasing to Him, through our obedience to His instructions for our life.
Netcast will be hosting an Easter Egg Hunt for the community on March 31st at Lynch Park. Because of an angry email that I received from a complaining Christian, it is necessary that I address why we would support an Easter Egg Hunt when Easter is obviously about the resurrection of Christ and has nothing to do with Eggs, Bunnies and Candy. Please take a moment to read the email I received as well as Netcast's stance below that.
I saw a note on the North Shore Facebook page that you are sponsoring an "Easter Egg Hunt" to be held at Lynch Park.
I am curious why a Christian church would be sponsoring an Easter egg hunt. Easter is NOT about easter eggs, bunnies, baby chicks or other things like that. It is not about Easter baskets. Easter is about the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who broke down the dividing wall between God and man.....To me this is such a wrong thing for a Christian church to do. I understand that perhaps part of your reasoning to do this is neighborhood evangelism....a way of reaching out to the community. But to do so using Easter egg hunts to me is so very wrong.
I know that no one asked me how I felt about this, but I just wanted to let you know how at least one person feels about this. Yours Truly, "Disclosed Name"
In many cultures around the globe eggs and rabbits have been cultural symbols that resemble fertility and new birth. In most of the world, and particularly here in the States, the "Easter Bunny" has become a commercialized marketing tactic and the origin of that is so old that there are no real trustworthy documents that can shed any light on its true origination.
One thing that Netcast is passionate about is being Culturally Liberal and Doctrinally Conservative. In other words, Netcast will always fight for the things that scripture fights for; yet for the cultural things that scripture is unclear about, we will leave up to the matter of personal conscience. The other thing that Netcast is passionate about is our philosophy of mission. In many churches, missions is defined by going across the country or to another nation to bring the gospel. Yet, often when we do that, we neglect to remember that we live in a mission field. No longer do we have to leave the country to spread the gospel, but now we just have to walk across the street. Netcast is passionate about walking across the street.
What does an Easter Egg Hunt have to do with that?
Netcast has a desire to bring the Kingdom of God to the Communities on the North Shore. In order to do that, we have to stop thinking of how to get more people into church and rather how we can send the people from our church into the community. During Easter; bunnies, eggs and candy are a wonderful cultural bridge that allows Netcast to love on, interact with and potentially minister to the community. The Apostle Paul used this specific tactic in Acts 17 when he partially affirms the religious beliefs of the Greeks in order to use those beliefs to teach them the gospel of Christ. Easter Egg Hunts are no different, it is a way to partially affirm our culture in order to create a bridge to bring the gospel to our culture. Rather than standing on the outskirts of our culture yelling at it, lets enter the culture and minister to it.
As a believer in Christ; If you don't have a clear conscience about utilizing tools such as “Easter Egg Hunts” to be a blessing to the community, please don't. Follow the Holy Spirit as He guides your conscience. For those of us who's conscience is clear, I look forward to locking arms with you and blessing our city with eggs, face-painting, candy, bunnies, games, and some awesome family fun. We will do this in order to bring good to the community and use that to tell the good news of Jesus Christ.
Honestly, I've never sent out an email like this before, however I felt led by the Lord to do it this week. I have really been enjoying the book of John thus far. Beyond the fun I am having in preaching it, it is doing wonders to my own soul.
This week we will be in John 3 where Jesus tells us that everyone must be born again. On Sunday, there will be a clear call to salvation and a clear description of the gospel. I would encourage everyone to find a person who is not a Christian or maybe on the fence and invite them to Netcast this week.
College students will be out this week, so there should be plenty of seats. Also, see the quote below from recent research published by Lifeway and when your done, drop an email to someone and invite them to "Come and See" this Sunday.
The friendship factor.
We’ve asked more than 50,000 people over the last 10 years why they came to church, and between 75 and 90 percent of respondents say, “I began attending because someone invited me.” Those friends and relatives are critical to the growth of churches. They far outweigh factors like the facilities, music, preaching, or children’s ministry—people may stay because of these things, but they come because someone they knew invited them.
Nicodemus had amazing credentials. He was talented, a good communicator, generous, religious he knew the bible, he had a ferocious prayer life and millions of good deeds. Beyond that he also had humility and a respect for Jesus. If anyone on the earth had an argument for getting into heaven, it was this guy. All of that said, Jesus totally overlooks all of Nicodemus's credentials and tells him that it's not enough, be must be "Born Again."
Being "Born Again" is not something that you can do yourself. It's not a list of deeds that we can accumulate and hand in to receive "New Birth"; rather it is a work of God. Saying we're born again does not make us born again again, just as much as saying someone is a millionaire makes them a millionaire.
So, how does someone become "Born Again"? Jesus answers this for us in John 3:13-15. In these verses, Jesus compares his death on the cross to an event that happened in the Old Testament. In Numbers 21, God punished Israel for their complaining by sending venomous serpents to attack them. Then, to build their faith, God told Moses to make a golden serpent and lift it up. As people would look at that serpent, they would be miraculously healed. In the same way, we have a poison called sin. Christ tells us that as we look at the cross and believe that the penalty for sin was paid for by Christ on the cross; that "believing" is how one experiences a New Birth. Its not what we do, it's seeing and believing what has been done for us that gives us eternal life. Its not paying for all of our bad deeds that gets us eternal life, its seeing and believing in the one who had the riches to pay for our bad deeds. Jesus Christ our Lord.