We Cannot Bargain With God

Exodus 10:24-29 (NKJV) 24 Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also give us sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind. For we must take some of them to serve the LORD our God, and even we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Take heed to yourself and see my face no more! For in the day you see my face you shall die!” 29 And Moses said, “You have spoken well. I will never see your face again.”

It is not a good idea to bargain with God. We might not think that we would do something like that but we do it all the time. We try to get the Lord to agree with what we want. We try to compromise standards and practices. The result will always be something we do not want in our lives.

Satan is always trying to get us to bargain with God. He will list all the alternatives to God’s way and make them look very appealing. He has been following the same pattern since the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:2-5 (NKJV) 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan’s tactics have not changed. He is still taking what God gave to us as blessing and protection and trying to make it sound like God is withholding some good thing from us. God is motivated by our highest good and nothing else. When he tells us what we should not or must not do something or we cannot have something, it is to protect us. The devil is motivated by hate, rebellion and the desire to destroy God’s family. His bargains are always bad!

One of the most familiar stories of someone who refused to bargain is the story of Moses in his encounter with Pharaoh. The children of Israel had been in Egypt for more than 400 years. At first, they were honored guests of Joseph one of Jacob’s sons. Through many trials and much wisdom, Joseph rose to become the second in command of the whole nation. He saved his family from destruction in a great famine.

As time went on Joseph died as did the Pharaohs who knew him. Finally, a Pharaoh came into power who saw the prosperity of the Israelites as a threat. He enslaved the people of God and treated them harshly. For generations slavery was all Israel knew. However, the time came when all that was going to change.

Most of us know the story of Moses. He was saved from Pharaoh’s decree that all the first-born sons of the Israelites had to be killed at birth. His mother put him into a boat made of reeds and floated him down the Nile River. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him in Pharaoh’s house.

For the first 40 years of his life, he was educated in the ways of Egypt. He served the Pharaoh and was viewed as a prince of Egypt. We do not know how but he eventually discovered his heritage. He went out to see the bondage of his kinsmen and determined to help them.

His first attempts were using the methods he had learned under Pharaoh. He saw an Egyptian abusing an Israelite and killed him. The next day he saw two Hebrews arguing and tried to intervene. Violence and ruling were the things he had learned from the Egyptians. However, one of the Hebrews had seen him kill the Egyptian. He threatened to expose Moses. Moses knew that if Pharaoh found out he had taken the side of the Hebrews and killed an Egyptian, he would be put to death. He had no choice but to flee Egypt.

Sometimes we bargain with God by thinking we can do things our own way thinking we can fulfill his purpose. We cannot. Nevertheless, God has a way of getting us where we need to be. Moses made some severe mistakes by trying to “deliver” Israel by the abilities he had gained as a son of Egypt. God needed to teach him how to be a child of Israel and a partaker of the Covenant of Abraham. That is where he would find the strength and wisdom to free his people from slavery in Egypt.

Moses spent 40 years in the desert learning that he could not depend on his own abilities. He learned to be a shepherd taking care of someone else’s sheep. He learned that he could only do so much and that he was dependent on the Lord for water, grass to feed the sheep and direction to know where to take them. By the end of his season in the wilderness, Moses is no longer the self-sufficient ruler of Egypt but a simple shepherd.

One thing that Moses still must learn is that he cannot bargain with God. In Exodus Chapter 3 God calls Moses from a supernatural bush. He reveals to Moses that he has chosen him to free the people of Israel. He gives him supernatural equipment and promises to be with him as he returns to Egypt.

Moses is afraid. I do not believe he was afraid that Pharaoh will kill him. I believe he is afraid that he will fail as he did before. He begins to bargain with God. He wants God to send someone else. He lays out his case as to why he is not the man. God refuses to bargain with Moses. Instead, he reveals his name to Moses and provides a helper in his brother Aaron.

Armed with miraculous power, divine direction and the help of his brother, God sends him back to Egypt. Along the way, something very strange happens.

Exodus 4:24-26 (NKJV) 24 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” 26 So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”–because of the circumcision.

Why would God send an angel to kill Moses as he went to do what God told him to do? Moses was to be the covenant deliverer of Israel. His power would flow from the covenant. You cannot go in the power of the covenant if you do not fulfill the conditions of the covenant. One of those conditions was that all males had to be circumcised. This applied to Moses’ son.

As Moses heads to Egypt, he knows that to bargain with God is impossible. To try to do God’s will but not do it God’s way can mean death. This is a lesson that is going to serve him well as he returns to Pharaoh’s court. It is the lesson that will enable him to not only free Israel from slavery but also take them out in a way that will eventually cause them to be the great nation God intended them to be all along.

Tomorrow we will see that it is a lesson Pharaoh will soon learn as well. Today, take a look at your life. Have you been bargaining with God? Have you tried to do his will your own way? Have you tried to convince God why you cannot do what he wants you to do? Have you tried to compromise his principles? I encourage you to learn Moses’ lesson. Tell the Lord, “Here I am Lord. I will go where you want me to and do what you want me to. I am done trying to make bargains. Give me your will and your way!”

If you do that, you will find that life goes much better and success and victory will always follow.

The Nature of our High Priest

Hebrews 4:14-15 (NKJV) 4 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Yesterday we looked at the fact that we still need a High Priest in our relationship with God and the covenant. We no longer need an earthly priesthood like Israel did because we now have an High Priest who has passed into the heavens. Jesus is our High Priest and he sits at the right hand of God making intercession for us.

In the Old Testament, the High Priest changed through the generations. Some were good and some were bad. Hebrews 7:22-25 tells us that Jesus is a High Priest who never changes. He is a perfect priest and his priesthood will continue through eternity. Because of this, he is able to save us “to the uttermost.” There are no limits on what salvation in Christ can to do in us and through us because he is praying for us and working in us by the Holy Spirit. I believe this passage in Romans 8 is pointing to the High Priestly ministry of Jesus.

Romans 8:26-28 (NKJV) 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

We see here that we do not always know what to pray for or how to pray. The Holy Spirit knows our hearts, the hearts of people we will be dealing with and the will of God. He prays for us according to all these factors and more causing all of them to work for our good. This is part of how our High Priest saves us to the uttermost.

Anytime the term priest is used in relation to ministry, it is referring to holiness. The priestly ministry in Israel was there to offer the sacrifices necessary to maintain the nation in a state of right relationship to the Lord and by extension the covenant. That is holiness. Holiness means to be separated from the World and to God. Israel was separate from the rest of the world by their covenant with God. To be holy meant to be right with the covenant. Without the priesthood, they could not have maintained that separation.

We need a High Priest for the same reason. We are born again in the spirit. Something happened inside of every person who believes in the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for their sins and who receives him as the Lord and master of their lives. However, that does not mean that we are no longer subject to temptation or sin. Jesus paid for all of our sin but the wages of sin is still death. I am not talking about eternal separation from God but the influence of death over our daily living.

Our High Priest remains at the right hand of God pleading our case before the Judge of the universe. When we sin, Jesus reminds the Father that his blood already paid the price for that sin. This maintains our relationship with God even when we fail. However, there is another side of priesthood.

A priest is a mediator between God and man. I mentioned that I grew up Catholic. They call their ministers priests because they believe we still need that kind of earthly mediator. Catholics go to the priest to confess their sins. There are “sacraments” or sacrifices that they cannot offer for themselves. Only the priest who is set apart by God and the Church can offer them. Again, I mean no disrespect to Catholicism but I disagree with that point of view. We do need a mediator but he sits at the right hand of God.

1 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV) 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,

When we sin, we have an advocate with the Father and 1 John makes it clear that we can go to him.

1 John 2:1-2 (NKJV) 1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

1 John 1:8-10 tells us that if we confess our sin God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We come with our advocate, our mediator, and our advocate pleads our case with the Father. Jesus stands as our High Priest and mediator.

As mediator, the High Priest was always supposed to be one of the people but a person set apart to God for service. All of the priests in Israel were prohibited from the business of life. They were supported by the tithe so they did not have to work in the world. This gave them a focus on the things of God that others did not have. However, they were still people. They were not supposed to be so separated from the rest of Israel that they could not relate to them. A mediator must be able to touch both parties.

In the course of their history, the priests and the High Priest in particular became more and more separated from the people for whom he was supposed to mediate. He lived apart from them. His was elevated to a point where he could not relate to the people and the people could not relate to him. Our High Priest is different.

We see in verse 15 that our High Priest is able to sympathize with our weakness because he lived life just as we live life. The bible says he was tempted in every way that we were tempted but he did not sin. The fact that he did not give in to the temptation does not mean it was not real. He knows what it means to be man.

On the other hand, he is God. Our minds cannot fully understand that. The King James Version says he is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Yet John 1:1 tells us that the “Word” was with God from the beginning and that Word was God. Jesus is the Word made flesh.

Our High Priest is God but he is also man. He is the perfect mediator. He knows how we feel. He did not live in our modern world, but that does not matter. He was tempted in every way you and I can be tempted. Temptation is temptation. The substance never changes only the methods change.

When we come to our great High Priest he understands how we feel. We can confess our sins to him because he knows the power of temptation. He also overcame temptation and can help us do the same. He understands our weakness. He knows what it feels like to be human. When I am struggling, it is a tremendous comfort to know that.

Do not forget about the ministry of the High Priest. God tells us about him because we need him. He is our mediator. He is our mediator because he died to pay for our sins. However, his role as mediator did not end there. He is our mediator, our High Priest, today. You can go to him. You can confess your sins and weakness to him. He has not forgotten what it means to be human.

This does not mean we are excused from living in line with the principles that God puts in his Word. We must stay in harmony with the New Covenant to reap all of its benefits. It does mean that we have someone who understands us and is there to help us not condemn us when we come to him.

Go to him today. Do not try to clean up your life and present it to him. Take your life as it is and let the High Priest help you grow into the Christian that God wants you to be. Then you will become a channel for his life to your family and community.

(For books messages and more information visit WWW.Livingwordgreene.com and my Amazon book page.)

We Need a High Priest

Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV) 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Yesterday we looked at the High Priest in the life of Israel. We found that the High Priest was far more important than the King or even the prophet. The High Priest was the main person responsible for maintaining Israel’s covenant relationship with God. Without the Law of Moses, the Aaronic Priesthood and the High Priest in particular they would not have been able to maintain their relationship with God and his Covenant.

We all understand the need for good government. As Christians, we want the Word of the Lord to keep us on the right track. The Prophetic voice is certainly important. What we do not understand is the need for the priestly ministry.

There is an interesting period in Israel’s history called the book of Judges. The key phrase of this book is found in the last verse.

Judges 21:25 (NKJV) 25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

This might be the cry of many in our day. “We do not need some religious standard. Each person should just do what is right!” That works out well as long as what I consider right does not interfere with what you consider right. Israel found that each man doing what was right in their own lives led to instability, sin and bondage.

It would seem that since it says they had no King that this was the problem. However, we find that in the book of 1Samual when they asked for a King, God said that getting one would be the worst thing that could happen to them. He wanted to be their King. He wanted to determine what was right. They had leaders set over them by God from the time of Moses to the day we are looking at now. They did not have a human king. What was it that caused them to be unable to submit to God as their King?

We find the answer in the beginning of the book of 1 Samuel.

1 Samuel 2:12 (NKJV) 12 Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD.

Why were the sons of Eli corrupt? They were corrupt because Eli, the High Priest, was corrupt. He did not do his job therefore the people of Israel were not able to function with God as their King. They were not in proper standing with the covenant.

Samuel was one of the most powerful figures in the bible because he was both a prophet and the High Priest of Israel. As long as he was in power, the people served God. Even though they got their King, Samuel was the one who caused them to walk right before God and the covenant.

I grew up Catholic. In that system, the role of the priest is more like it was in the days of Israel. In order to be forgiven of sin I had to go to confession. I confessed my sins to a priest who then gave me penance to do. Once I had done my penance, usually a series of repeated prayers, I was granted absolution. My soul was considered clean until I sinned again.

Though I mean no disrespect to the Catholic denomination, I do not believe that is biblical. One of the main differences between Judaism and Christianity is the personal relationship we all enjoy with Jesus. He took away our sins by shedding his blood. When I sin, I need only go to him, confess my sin and he is faithful and just to forgive my sin and cleanse me of unrighteousness. We no longer need a human mediator. (1 Timothy 2:5)

That does not mean that we do not need a High Priest. The Priestly ministry in Israel is what kept them walking right before the Lord. We are also a covenant people. When we are right with the covenant we are right with God and will be able to partake of his benefits. It is the High Priest of our lives that will help us live in right relationship with the New Covenant.

The ministry of any priest is connected with holiness. Holiness is vital to our walk with God because it keeps us in the covenant. He is Holy and he expects us to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16) The priesthood led by the High Priest was the key to maintaining holiness for Israel. Our High Priest does the same for us.

Who is our High Priest? His name is Jesus. He is a perfect High Priest. He is able to keep us right with God because he is still ministering to the Father for us. Look at Hebrews 7:22-25.

Hebrews 7:22-25 (NKJV) 22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. 23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

The bible says that Jesus is the surety of a better covenant. One of the reasons it is better is that we have a better High priest. He never changes. His reign does not end, as did that of the High Priests of Israel. Some of them were good and some were bad. Our High Priest is perfect and he will remain our High Priest throughout eternity.

Verse 25 is powerful. Because he is an eternal and perfect High Priest, he is able to save us to the uttermost because he is actively making intercession for us. The implication is that without the High Priestly ministry of Jesus, we would not be “saved to the uttermost.” What does being saved to the uttermost mean? Look at verse 25 in the Amplified Bible.

Hebrews 7:25 (AMP) 25 Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.

He is able to save us completely, perfectly and finally or for all eternity because he is our High Priest interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. There are no limits to our salvation. More important, there are no limits to what our salvation can do in us.

We think that our background or even our current weakness limit what God can do in our lives. That is not true. We have an active High Priest who is praying for us and working in us to help us overcome our limitations. We do not have to be limited in our salvation because he is not limited as our High Priest. I do not fully understand this, but that is what the bible says.

We need Jesus’ High Priestly ministry in our lives. We look to many other things as answers to our problems. Like Israel, we may look to politics. They wanted a king. We want a president who fits our agenda. We think that will solve our problems. We may look to economic prosperity, education and social reform to change our culture and our lifestyle.

None of those things will bring the change we need. We need to our High Priest. Then we will walk right with God and the Covenant. Then we will rise up as the Body of Christ and use his power to change the world.

(For books messages and more information visit WWW.Livingwordgreene.com and my Amazon book page.)

Our High Priest

Hebrews 4:14-15 (NKJV) 14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

We have been working through Hebrews 3 and 4 for a good part of this year. Recently our focus has been on verse 11. Paul tells us that we must labor or be diligent to enter the rest that God provides for his people. The Israelites never entered that rest. The second generation did finally overcome the unbelief and disobedience of their parents and enter the land of Canaan as the Lord promised they would. However, this section of scripture makes it clear that there was something else God wanted for his people that even Joshua did not provide. There is a rest of faith and the spirit for the people of God.

How do we enter that rest? We have looked at verses 12 and 13 so far. The first thing we see is that the Word of God is a major key to entering the rest. We must give our attention and our time to meditation in the Word. When my wife and I were first starting in the ministry this was the thing that established us. We raised six kids and it was rarely quiet in my house. I did not have an office. I would get in my old van, park somewhere, put in tapes, and listen to the Word being preached for hours. I would study the scriptures and meditate on what I was hearing. That foundation has caused us to be where we are today.

We cannot minimize the need to spend time in the Word. Joshua 1:8 tells us that meditation in the Word of God day and night is the key to prosperity and “good success.” 2 Timothy 2:15 says that study of the Word of God is key to being “approved of God” as a workman or minister of the Gospel. How much time do you and I spend in the Word of God each week? I challenged my people and I challenge you to log what you spend your time on. I expect all of us will find that the percentage of time we spend in the Bible is very low.

Verse 13 refers to the Word as “he” and says we must give account. God and his word are one. We will never enter the rest of faith if we are not willing to be accountable. That means we must be willing to accept being wrong as well as being right. When we are wrong, we must be willing to repent and to change. God will help us, but if we are not willing to repent, there is not much he can do for us.

Now we come to verse 14. This verse begins with one of those phrases that connect it to the rest of the chapter. We can be successful in our study and meditation of the word. We can be accountable without fear that we will be hurt by that accountability. Why are these things true? They are true because we have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens. We can “hold fast” to that in which we believe because, that High Priest is at the right hand of God praying for us and helping us. (Hebrews 7:25)

We cannot understand the significance of this if we do not understand the role of the High Priest in Israel. When we read the great stories of the bible, we tend to focus on the Kings and the Prophets. The one we do not think much about is the priest and especially the High Priest. However, to Israel the High Priest was the most important person in their lives and culture.

The nation of Israel was a nation based upon a covenant with God not on race. Anyone could become part of the heritage of Israel if they agreed to keep the covenant. The genealogy of Jesus contains more than one person who was not an Israelite by birth but was one by accepting the covenant that God made with Abraham.

Every King or Prophet in Israel held their position because of the covenant. The covenant was their power and their right standing with God. If they were right with the covenant, they were right with God. When they kept the covenant, they were always successful in battle. When they did not, they were defeated. When they kept the covenant, they prospered. When they did not they fell on hard times. The story of Israel was the story of their relationship to the covenant.

When the covenant was just between Abraham and God, Abraham could repent of his sins and maintain his covenant relationship that way. When the Israel became a nation, the individual did not have the relationship with God that Abraham had. They needed a way to deal with the inevitable breaking of the covenant that would occur due to their sinful nature. God needed a nation through whom the Messiah could come. Israel was that nation but they had to be able to stay in their covenant relationship.

We do not understand blood covenant the way Israel did. They had received the idea of covenant from God. It was understood that the only penalty or payment for breaking a blood covenant was the shedding of blood. If you broke any blood covenant, you died. How much more this applied to a covenant with almighty God!

God knew that Israel could not keep the covenant so he gave them two things that would enable them to put off the judgment of death until the Messiah could come. Those two things were the Law of Moses and the Lavitical Priesthood. The law defined what constituted a breaking of the covenant and the priesthood was the vehicle for the offering of sacrifices that would put off the judgment each year until the Messianic sacrifice would wash away that judgment permanently.

When any Israelite sinned, he would bring a prescribed offering to the priests and they would offer it to God on his behalf. This was true for all Israelites. It did not matter if they were regular people, Kings or prophets; sin required an offering and the priests were the ones who could present them to God. Without the priesthood, Israel could not have maintained its covenant relationship to God. That is why the priesthood in general and the High Priest in particular were the most important people in Israel.

At the head of the priesthood, stood the High Priest. The first High Priest was Aaron. The high priest determined the nature of the priesthood under him. If he were righteous, they would generally be righteous. If he were corrupt, the rest of the priesthood would be corrupt as well. Any priest is a mediator between God and man. The High Priest was the main mediator under the Old Covenant.

The High Priest carried one more responsibility that elevated him above everyone else in the nation. The covenant was everything to Israel. The Law and the sacrifices gave them a way to maintain the covenant. However, all of that was contingent on one specific sacrifice. That sacrifice was called the Great Day of Atonement.

Once a year an offering was brought to the High Priest. The High Priest laid his hands on that offering and confessed the sins of Israel over it. The offering was slain and the blood was taken into the Holy of Holies in the temple or the tabernacle. The sprinkling of the blood of this offering on the Mercy Seat of the Ark was the thing that validated all the offering brought by the priests during the year. Without the Day of Atonement sacrifice the rest of the Law and the priesthood were useless. Only one man could bring that offering. He was the High Priest. Without him, Israel was lost.

It is easy to see what God was doing in all of this. There is one offering that was taken to another Holy of Holies: The Heavenly Holy of Holies. Another High Priest carried the blood of the one true sacrifice there. This High Priest did not take the blood of bulls or goats. He took his own blood. This offering did not put judgment off for a year. This blood cleansed all who would come to him paying for sin itself. This High Priest was Jesus and he remains at the right hand of God today.

Personal Interview

John 3:2-5 (NKJV) 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Today we will continue looking in on the encounter between Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus. The Pharisees have been watching Jesus to see if he is a threat to their authority. While most of them have decided they need to stop Jesus before his influence gets out of hand, Nicodemus cannot get past what he has heard and seen from this extraordinary young prophet. Today we will go with Nicodemus for a personal interview with the one who will become known as the Messiah.

Personal Interview

Nicodemus had been a little embarrassed about coming to the teacher at night, but there was so much controversy surrounding this man that he did not feel he could risk coming to him openly. As he approached the place where the teacher and his disciples were staying, one of his followers stopped him and asked him his business. He explained who he was and that he had come to talk with the teacher about matters of some urgency.

The man walked to a figure relaxing next to a tree and said, “Master there is a member of the council here who wishes to speak with you. Will you see him or should I send him away?” “I will see him.” He said and got up turning towards Nicodemus. Once again, he was struck with how normal the teacher looked. The words of the prophet Isaiah came to his mind.

Isaiah 53:2 (NKJV) 2For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.

The teacher said nothing to him, but somehow Nicodemus had the sense that he knew exactly why he had come. After a moment, Nicodemus spoke the words he had been rehearsing on his way to this place. “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.”

The teacher answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The teacher’s words seemed to make no sense to Nicodemus. At first, he wondered if he was being toyed with. He felt more than a little indignant, but he remembered his first encounter with this man and once again, he felt what he did not understand.

Nicodemus strained to comprehend and asked the teacher, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

The smile on the teacher’s face was unmistakable. He seemed to be enjoying Nicodemus’ confusion. He 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 tried to reach into his memory of the scriptures to find some allegory; some thread of understanding he could grasp onto from what the teacher said. Yet it was like the wind. He felt the effect of the teacher’s words, but he could not quite grasp where they came from or what they could mean. He could only utter, “How can these things be?”

Nicodemus could see a little sadness in the teacher’s eyes. It seemed that he had hoped for more from Nicodemus. “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 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. Moreover, 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.”

Nicodemus remembered this story. Israel had sinned in the wilderness and judgment in the form of fiery serpents had come to the people. Many were dying from the poisonous bites of these snakes. God had instructed Moses to make a bronze replica of the snakes and told him to have the people look upon it. All of the people who gazed upon the bronze serpent were unaffected by the poison.

The snake was made of bronze and bronze represented sin. He knew that. The snake was the judgment of God upon the people. He knew the symbolism. Sin had caused the judgment to come, but God had taken the sin, and with it the judgment, and placed it on this metal symbol. When the people looked upon it in obedience, the judgment brought upon them by their sin was removed.

The teacher had used this story to explain what he was trying to get Nicodemus to understand. He knew that Nicodemus would know it, but he had added something. Something that Nicodemus was not sure he could accept. Yet once again he felt the truth of it. The brazen serpent in the wilderness was only a type and shadow of what God really intended. The teacher said the son of God would be lifted up. He would take away the judgment of sin.

Not only would he take away judgment, but he would also give everyone who looked to him in faith life. This life would not be just natural life but eternal life. His mind still could not fully grasp what the teacher had said, yet he knew that it was speaking to something inside of him. It was something he knew was deep in the Words of the bible: The same scriptures he had studied from his youth.

The words that struck him the most were these, “. 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.” This was so different from the God the Pharisees thought they knew. God so loved the world. Could this be true? The teacher spoke the words with such natural conviction that Nicodemus had the sense that the teacher had a personal knowledge of this love, but how could that be.

The teacher continued, “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 loved 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. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Then it was over. The teacher smiled at him, touched him on the shoulder and turned back to his place of rest. Nicodemus did not know what to do at first. The words this man had spoken to him burned in his mind. He wanted to ask more. He wanted to discuss these things with the teacher, but somehow he knew that the conversation was over.

The teacher had never said it. He had spoken of a Son of God and a Son of Man. He never said he was the one he referred to, but in his heart, Nicodemus knew that the teacher was speaking of himself. Could it be true? Could this ordinary and yet extraordinary man be the Messiah? His words pointed to something else that Nicodemus had a hard time accepting as true. This new life was not just for the Jews. He said anybody who looked to him would receive eternal life. Nicodemus remembered God’s words to Abraham.

Genesis 12:3 (NKJV) 3I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God had said all the families of the earth would be blessed. What the teacher said was not heresy it was the scripture. Nicodemus knew that it would take much prayer and study to understand fully what the teacher had told him that night. He also knew something else. He still did not fully understand what the teacher meant by being “born again”, but he knew that it meant there was a new kind of life coming to man. He knew that the world was about to change. He also knew that it would not be without turmoil and suffering. There was one more thing of which he was certain. This Jesus of Nazareth had changed his life that night and Nicodemus was not going to be the last.

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Night Visitor (Continued)

John 3:2-6 (NKJV) 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Yesterday I began sharing a fictionalized account of an encounter between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus taken from John chapter 3. My attention was drawn to this very famous bible story by a wedding at our church. A couple who had been divorced were remarried. They both had encounters with the lord that led to their being “born again” as Jesus coined the phrase in John 3. They were so different inside that God revealed to me that, although they had been married before, they deserved a completely new ceremony.

The new birth is the most radical change any person can undergo. It is not a philosophical or emotional change. It is the rebirth of the inner man. It is the joining of the human spirit to the God himself. It is the complete cleansing of the inner man of sin and its influence. Paul tells us that the outward transformation can only be completed as the mind is renewed but the inward change is immediate. (Romans 12:1-3)

Join me as we hear these words from Jesus through the ears of Nicodemus. Yesterday we walked with the Pharisees as they tried to find out about this new “prophet.” They were not interested in his message but in what kind of threat he could be to their power. As we left them they were about to hear this new prophet for themselves. Let us listen with Nicodemus and the others as they experience Jesus’ public ministry.

First Encounter (Cont.)

They had arrived at the place he was to speak early in the morning. It was a hillside outside of the town. They were surprised to find that there were already thousands of people waiting. Many were obviously sick or crippled. Some were blind and others seemed to be deaf. There were men, women and even children. Some exhibited the strange behavior of the deranged or demon possessed.

Many simply sat waiting to hear his words. Nicodemus felt sorry for them. How many times had the poor and sick been given false hope by some new teacher or prophet claiming to hear from God and have supernatural powers? It made him a little angry and he wondered how much money this one would collect from those who had the least.

Soon a commotion arose in the crowd. He heard whispers around him, “I think he’s coming.” Then the whispers became shouts, “There he is! It’s the Rabbi!” He saw him for the first time. He was not overly impressive to look at. He was just another man, and yet all these people had come for something. He began to speak and the commotion immediately turned to a startling silence. No babies cried, no children stirred and there was not a sound but his voice.

After the meeting, more like a spectacle, was over, they began to discuss Jesus amongst themselves. Some of his Pharisee brethren were convinced that he was a threat to them and to the nation. Others, like Nicodemus, heard nothing seditious in what he said. There had been reports of healings after he finished speaking. They had seen people who came on crutches running with no help. They heard some cry out, “I can see, I can see!” Others were rejoicing that the pain they had been living with was finally gone. Those who had exhibited the signs of possession by evil spirits seemed to be in their right mind. These things could have been fakes and emotional excesses. What Nicodemus could not escape were his words.

Nicodemus remembered that he had never heard…..no that wasn’t right. He had never felt such words in his life. They seemed to deposit something in him that he could not define nor fully understand, but he felt it nonetheless. The teacher had not spoken in “deep mysteries” as so many of his own acquaintances did. Mostly he told stories. Simple stories about everyday life but in those stories Nicodemus recognized truths drawn from the Psalms and Proverbs. The message of the prophets seemed to come alive in the simple things he spoke.

Nicodemus and his Pharisee brethren debated endlessly the fine points of the Law of Moses, but this man seemed to capture the true essence of the Law in terms everyone could understand. Yet with all his simplicity, Nicodemus knew that this young teacher’s words carried even more profound meaning. Truths he could not quite grasp and yet he knew they were there. It was then that he decided he must find a way to talk with this extraordinary young man personally. Nicodemus was a teacher of Israel and he must find out what this man knew that he did not.

Tomorrow we will continue as Nicodemus finally meets Jesus personally. He was not yet the Messiah as we know him today. He was a young man of thirty years. However, Nicodemus, a mature Pharisee, could not escape something in what Jesus said. As we follow through with the encounter we will see what Nicodemus saw. I hope you will feel what Nicodemus felt.

If you have never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, let me encourage you to read the biblical account of this encounter. Let me direct you to Romans 10:9-10 as well.

Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV) 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Jesus wants to bring this radical change for the better into your life. It comes as you do what Nicodemus did. Open your heart to Jesus and ask him to forgive your sin. Not every sin you have committed. Ask him to forgive you for them all. He will.

Accept the fact that his death, burial and resurrection was the payment for your life personally. Then give yourself to him and accept his lordship over your life. You give him your life and he gets yours. That is the deal and it is a good exchange.

You may say you do not understand what I am saying. You do not have to. Just accept the truth of what the bible is saying and you can be “born again.” All the bad that you were will be done away with. Inside you will be a “New Creature.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) You will begin a journey that will make you a better person and will secure your eternity in the presence of God.

We will continue with our story tomorrow.

(For books messages and more information visit WWW.Livingwordgreene.com and my Amazon book page.)

Night Visitor

(I wanted to encourage you once again to check out our website, WWW.livingwordgreene.com for information, messages and more. I also want to ask you to check my Amazon book page. We have a number of books available, but I want to direct your attention to one in particular. It is my newest book, Divine Prosperity in Trying Economic Times. I have been doing this blog since 2009. In all that time, I have had the most comments and questions about the subject of tithing. Most have been good questions that I have tried to answer from my perspective on what the bible says about this subject. Some have disagreed with me. That is fine. I had a friend who used to say, “That is why there is more than just vanilla ice-cream.” This book contains what I believe about the tithe as well as a spiritual foundation for experiencing Divine prosperity. All purchases of my books will go to help us travel around the world helping churches and church leaders grow and prepare for the coming move of God.)

John 3:3 (NKJV) 3  Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

This week we had the privilege of re-marrying a couple whose divorce had recently become final. They were originally married under difficult circumstances. She had a child already and they had two together. As often happens the marriage did not work out, but then she started coming to our church. God touched her, saved her and filled her with the Holy Spirit. Their son, I believe he is somewhere between 8 and 10, would ask almost weekly if we would pray that his father would come to church. The parents were not speaking much at the time but we agreed in prayer with the young man who wanted his family restored.

One week, his dad came. He was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. After a number of weeks of prayer and searching their hearts, they believed it was the will of God for them to restore their family.

She did not have a “real” wedding the first time and she decided she wanted one this time. I am not much of a wedding person. That is my wife’s department. At first I thought, “They are really already married. We just need to take care of the legalities so there is no ‘resemblance of evil’ to the world.” The Lord rebuked me. He reminded me that these were not the two people who had been married before.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

They were new creatures and if she wanted a “New Creation” wedding, she should have it. They were starting all over again. They could not be “joined in the spirit” before but now they could!

Sunday after church, we had a full wedding ceremony. She walked down the aisle and her father gave her away. They exchanged vows and rings. Songs were sung and unity candles lit. I believe that God did a wonderful miracle in that service and a family that had been destroyed by divorce was established because the husband/father and wife/mother were born again in the spirit.

At the end, I did not just introduce the new couple to the congregation, as is tradition. I asked if they would mind if I called up the children as well. I told the church that we were introducing a new family not just a couple. This family has a new beginning because of the reality of the new birth!

Of course, I do not believe that all people who were married before salvation need to be remarried. This was something the Lord said to me about them. However, I want to share it with you because it emphasized to me the power and importance of the New Birth.

As I was sharing before the marriage ceremony, I talked about the first time this term was used. A man by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. He was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the most powerful religious party of their day. They saw Jesus as a threat. They followed him and listened to his teachings to find a way to neutralize him.

Among them was Nicodemus. He knew there was something different about Jesus. He heard what the majority of the Pharisees said about him, but he needed to find out about this man for himself. Was he a prophet or a heretic? What did he really believe? What about the miracles he performed? The other Pharisees discounted these things but Nicodemus had to know more. He comes to Jesus by night because he knows he is risking his position and maybe his life by talking to him directly. He just does not feel he has an option.

I want to share a fictionalized account of Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus. I like to put myself in the action of the bible. Let yourself become Nicodemus and listen to what Jesus says as if you have never heard the words “born again” before.

First Encounter

As Nicodemus left the strange meeting, his mind was filled with ideas and his heart with emotions. He thought back to the first time he had heard this young man speak. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and those of his party were called “Doctors of the law.” They believed it was their responsibility to protect the Law of Moses and the traditions of the elders. These two things kept Israel from becoming just another province swallowed up by the pagan Roman world. They were the chosen people of the one true God, and it was their duty to protect that identity.

When they first heard that yet another “prophet” had appeared, they decided to see for themselves what kind of threat this man posed. Was he a heretic, a revolutionary or just another would be leader seeking a following? When John, called the Baptist, had appeared, they had done the same with him. They concluded that he was not dangerous but watched him closely. His preaching on repentance from sin could hardly be challenged, and as he baptized he did not try to draw a following to himself. He proclaimed openly that he was not the one to come. The people saw him as a true prophet, so they decided to leave him alone

The new arrival had burst on the scene with John’s endorsement. This was more of a problem. John himself had proclaimed that this new prophet was the one who was to come. The implication was that this man was the Messiah. Many in Israel looked for the Messiah to bring them freedom from Rome. There was even some talk of a voice from heaven proclaiming him the Son of God himself. Upon further investigation, this had been proven just some random thunder. There were, however, the reports of healings and miracles. They were probably exaggerations or tricks, but these reports were so widespread they could not be completely ignored. Yes, they must see for themselves.

(We will continue tomorrow.)