Good morning. It's good to see you. I want to start this way. If you're one of our first through fifth graders, I want you to do me a favor. Stand up real quick, and let us see you. Be bold. If you're tiny and your parents will let you, you can stand up in the chair. Yeah, you guys are awesome. Do this for me real quick. Look at me. A couple of words, and then we'll sit down and get after it.
We not only love that you're in here today, but we need you. You, in our imaginations, are not the church of the future. God has put an innocence in you, a joy in you, and a delight in you that Jesus says we need to learn from you. I love that you're in here and want to bless you and thank you. I'm going to teach 8 verses for about 20 minutes, and I know you can nail this. I know you can do it. I know you can hang in there.
Moms and dads, I understand there's going to be some squirming. I'm alright with that. You should be alright with that. Dying churches don't have squirming problems. It's life that leads to squirms. I'm not asking you to not parent, just for clarity's sake. If your kid is yanking somebody's hair or is trying to take a lap. Unless they're taking a lap because I made a solid point biblically, then they shouldn't be lapping. Love you, kids. Why don't you have a seat?
I'll be talking with you quite a bit throughout our time together today, but moms and dads, I'm not just talking to them. If you're single in here, don't let your mind go to this not being for you. Family Worship Weekend is about the family of faith here at The Village Church. You as a man or a woman, (as a part of our congregation) belong to the household of faith. If you're one of our children, you might not even know who I am. If you have your little sheet of paper, we're going to fill in some of those blanks together today.
My name is Pastor Matt. You might be able to call me other things than that. Maybe your parents will let you call me something else, it depends on what that is, but for today's sake, I'm Pastor Matt. I've been pastor here…the guy that teaches moms and dads most weekends of the year. I'm the one that does that. I'm not just called Pastor Matt. Some people call me Mr. Chandler. Other people call me Matt. My mother at times, growing up, called me Matthew Lee. I am Uncle Matt to nine other boys and girls. I am a pastor. I am a teacher. I am a leader. I am a minister.
All of those titles work. You wouldn't be wrong if you came up to me and called me Matthew Lee. It might be inappropriate, but you wouldn't be wrong. That's what I am. If you were like, "That's Pastor Matt," that's not wrong. I am that, but there are certain relationships I have that don't use any of those categories for me.
Let me introduce you to Nora. Nora is my youngest child. As you can tell by this photo, she loves life. I'll scroll through a couple more. She is sassy. She is sweet. She is a lot of fun. She is awake going a thousand miles an hour, or she is asleep. She has no other gear. She is a wonderful and frenetic explosion of joy. Her mother and I are happy that God gave her to us by his grace. This little girl has never called me Pastor Matt. She has never called me Mr. Chandler. She has never called me a teacher. She has never called me Uncle Matt. She calls me Daddy or Dad.
She calls me that because of the way that we relate with one another. There's a way that she relates to me that's different than the young boys and girls who call me Uncle Matt. She relates to me differently than those who call me Pastor Chandler. She relates to me differently than those who would consider me leader or teacher or any of those roles that I fill.
She calls me Daddy because there's a uniqueness in the relationship we have with one another that is different than anybody else in creation other than her older sister and her older brother…who I might've put pictures on the screen, but they're in that space where that's not cool anymore. Nora is still game.
All those pictures were used by permission, by the way. If you're like, "I can't believe you roasted your daughter like that." I didn't roast her. I said, "Can I use these pictures?" She answered with a robust, "Fine." So I went for it. We'll see how she answers next time. She relates to me in a different way than anyone else relates to me.
What we're going to look at today in the Bible is how we're supposed to, how we've been designed to, relate to Jesus Christ. If you have your Bibles…hopefully you do...we're going to be in the book of John. Once again, if you're filling out your little sheet, the book we're going to be in is the gospel of John. The chapter (big number) is 3, and the little numbers are going to be 1 through 8. So 8 verses in the next 20 minutes, and then we'll be set for the day. I want to give you some time to turn there in your Bibles, and then we'll read this text and dive in. I have three points today, and I'm eager to discuss them with you.
John 3 starting in verse 1. It says, "Now 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 teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs [miracles] that you do unless God is with him.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to him…" This is a good question.
"'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, 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 its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.''
There are three things I want us to see in these 8 verses.
- Jesus is more than a teacher; he's a Savior. It's important to know that Nicodemus is a serious man. He is a serious man with serious questions. He's come to Jesus, and he's said a lot of right things about Jesus. He called Jesus Rabbi. That's true. Jesus had followers who were following him, which is what made him a Rabbi.
He calls Jesus a teacher, which is true. Jesus is a teacher. We would do well to take seriously that Jesus as our teacher. Jesus has much to say to us about life and about how life works for our joy and for God's glory. So Jesus is definitely a teacher who needs to be listened to, but he is more than just a teacher and wants us to relate to him in a way that is greater than, simply, his teaching.
If you are in school now, or you went to school growing up, you know there is a way that you relate to your teacher who is teaching you well. What a beautiful vocation is education. Yet the way you relate to your teacher at school is not the same way, and certainly not at the same level of intimacy, safety, and protection, as the way you would relate to maybe a mother or a father or husband or a wife. The way we relate is different.
Jesus here is confronting Nicodemus a bit because Nicodemus has about half of it right, but he's still relating to Jesus wrong. If I could make it simple, it'd be like me. October's been crazy. I've had to travel more than I usually do in the month of October, and when I got home last night Nora ran up to me. "Dad! Dad. Give me a kiss," and, "Missed you."
It'd be real weird if I came in last night, and Nora was like, "Teacher. I have not known what to do without you. Teach me how to…" That's a different way of relating. Right? To walk in the door and hear, "Daddy," is very different than to walk in the door and go, "Can I have help with algebra?" Those things are different.
It's not wrong to want help for algebra (thank Jesus' name), but the way she's going to relate to me is not as a teacher (although I am one). She's going to relate to me as Daddy. So when I walked in the door last night, she ran up and said, "Daddy," not ran up and said, "Pastor Matt… Mr. Chandler… Uncle Matt… Teacher… Preacher… Pastor…" How weird would that be, and how bad for our relationship? If my relationship with my daughter has her calling me by vocation and not by the name, "Daddy," then we're both operating out of step with God's good design.
So Jesus is confronting Nicodemus here about, "You got half of it right, but you're relating to me in a wrong way." How are we meant to relate to Jesus, then? Great question, kids, because that's my next point. The way we relate to Jesus rightly is…
- We must be born again of water and Spirit, not just flesh. Okay, I have a trick question. You ready? How many of you have ever been born? Just in case that's confusing… All of us. When Jesus says, or he talks about, being born of the flesh, he's saying that you and I are human beings. We are made in the image of God. We are the crown jewel of creation.
How many of you have a pet? A dog, a cat, a hamster? Go ahead. This is confession time for all of us. How many of you have more than one? More than two? More than three? More than four, and it's not a farm? More than five? Okay, phew. Anybody more than five? I have mad respect if that's you. One? Oh, okay. I'm sorry, it's Kevin. How many do you have?
Nine. Why? We'll talk about it later. Anybody beating nine pets right now? You're not counting your children, right? Okay, that's a different category. Okay, good. Anybody smoking nine pets right now? Okay. Wow. Seriously, I need answers later, Kevin.
What Jesus is saying when he says we need to relate to him in a way that's different than just the flesh is just because I'm a human being, I cannot relate to him in the way he wants to relate to me in things that I can do in my flesh. I will not be able to be good enough. I will not be able to follow the rules enough. I will not be able to do all that I need to do in my own strength or by my own humanity in a way that helps me relate rightly to Jesus.
So he says, "If you want to relate right to me, you must not just be born of the flesh, but you need to be born of water and of Spirit." So let me talk a little bit about that, briefly. When Jesus talks about water, the first thing (more than likely) that's going to pop into Nicodemus' mind is John the Baptist, who has been leading this massive revival in and around this part of the world.
A revival, kids, is when the Spirit of God is drawing tens of thousands of men and women to be more serious about their relationship with God. So there was a revival going on around this period of time, and people were being baptized. John's baptism with water was a baptism of repentance. This is the way you guys define repentance in Kids Village. It's a beautiful definition.
Repentance is turning from sin to know, love, trust, and obey Jesus. We're talking about repentance. We're talking about turning away from sin. We're going to turn away from something, but we're not just turning away from something, we're moving toward something. What are we moving toward? Loving Jesus, trusting Jesus, following Jesus, and obeying Jesus.
Look right at me. You are going to repent for the rest of your life. Kids, look at me. You are going to repent for the rest of your life. Kids, especially, I want you to watch this. I'm going to help you. How many of you kids know what's right but still sometimes do wrong? Go ahead and raise your hand for me.
Okay, so there are kids with hands up and then there are liars, but we already knew that because of the Ten Commandments. Now, watch this, kids. Moms and dads, how many of you know what's right but find yourself from time to time doing what you know is wrong? Okay. I've been trying to get this into the grownups' imagination for 16 years and with various degrees of success.
For the rest of our lives, you and I, to relate rightly to God, are going to turn away from sin and towards knowing, loving, and obeying Jesus. We're going to stumble and fall. We're going to fall short. We're going to mess up. We're going to not do what we're supposed to do. We have to keep repenting and keep turning back.
You don't ever arrive. You don't ever get to a place of perfection where you no longer need to repent and turn and know and love and follow and obey Jesus. So if you don't understand this, kids, what ends up happening is you keep trying to do in your flesh what only the water of repentance can do. The way for us to relate rightly to Jesus is via water and via repentance. Turning from sin and turning toward him. That's not the only word he gave here. He said water and Spirit.
- We must believe. When he's talking about the Spirit in this text, and we've already covered this before you kids got in here this week, the Spirit brings the gift of belief. So it is repentance and belief. Another word for belief is faith. Here's the definition of belief. Belief is not just facts about him but is knowing Jesus, trusting Jesus, and loving Jesus.
If we're going to relate to Jesus rightly as our Savior, as the one who fixes our sick hearts, we do it by repentance (turning towards Jesus and loving him and following him), but we also do it not just by knowing facts about him but actually knowing him. So it's not enough if we're going to relate rightly to Jesus to know he was born in Bethlehem and know his mom and daddy's name, and to know that he liked to eat fish and was pretty good working with wood. Those things are great, but that's not how we relate to Jesus alone. We don't relate with facts alone.
We relate via the Holy Spirit through faith. Just like repentance, for the rest of your life, you will choose to believe that Jesus is your Savior. You will get up over and over. You will choose to believe that he loves you, that he's for you, that he's forgiven you, that he delights in you, and that he rejoices in you. Just as I love hearing my daughter say, "Daddy," and want to hug me and linger and hang out with me, so the God of the Bible via the Spirit through belief rejoices in you as sons and daughters.
Just like repentance, we'll need to choose faith over and over and over again. The world can be hard and difficult. We will be disappointed. We will be lonely. We will get sick. People we love will betray us. People who are meant to protect us won't. It can be scary out there, and if we're not careful, we will choose doubt rather than choosing belief.
What it means to relate rightly to God is on the daily turning in repentance (water), turning toward Jesus, and away from sin, and it also means believing. Belief. This is a real mysterious thing. Jesus actually gives this illustration to help us understand it. He uses the illustration of the wind. We need the wind, or the power of the Spirit, in order to relate rightly to Jesus.
I want us to look at this verse again. Look at verse 8. "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." I love this. He's saying, "The way you can see that repentance (water) and belief (Spirit) are actually happening is you'll see lives moving.
A couple of pictures real quick. This is a sailboat. Here's what I want you to notice about the sailboat. They're not going anywhere. They're just stuck. Do you see it? There's nothing cresting up, the sails are flat, and there's no wind in the sails. They're just stuck. They can't move. Here's what happens when the wind blows. Now that the wind blows the sail is full, the boat is tilted, and if you look down at the bottom you see waves lapping up on the bottom of the boat. This boat is moving because the wind is blowing.
One of the ways our souls are meant to be encouraged over and over and over again is watching the wind of the Spirit move in the lives of God's people. What does that look like? What's kind of an easy, daily…? Every time you get together as a family, even if you're just praying over a meal, that's the wind blowing. If you watch your parents be generous, that's the wind blowing? If your parents have ever said, "I'm sorry for that," that's the wind blowing. If you guys ever open up the Bible at your house and read it, that's the wind blowing.
When we gather here in the name of Jesus, that's the wind blowing. Me being up here and yelling loudly, that's the wind blowing, because I'm animated by the Spirit of God to plead with you to understand this and get this down in the depths of your guts. It's the wind blowing. Have you ever seen your mom and dad invite people around the table and share Jesus with those people? That's the wind blowing.
If you read the gospel story, the birth of Jesus, on Christmas morning, that's the wind blowing. If you see Mom and Dad growing in kindness, that's the wind blowing. When you choose right over wrong because you love Jesus, that's the wind blowing. On and on and on I could go. If you come across a friend who's serious about righteousness, that's the wind blowing.
I'm not sure when this happened. It's been in the last couple of weeks. I was lying in bed. I was in that space between falling into sleep and being awake (it's a weird spot), and I heard what I thought was our door opening but didn't hear anything. Then I could sense that something was in the room. So I just cried out, "Hello? Who is it?"
Nora had come into our room because she had had a bad dream. She didn't come in and wake us up. She came in and then just stood there and tried to figure out whether or not she was going to have enough courage to go back up and go to sleep, or if she needed to wake us up. But, I was in the space between and I could just… It's like a scary movie. If someone's up in your bedroom just staring. That's scary to me. So sweet Nora's trying to figure it out. So she answers, "Ah, it's Nora."
"What's wrong baby?"
"I had a dream."
She kind of talked a little bit about what she saw and that she was scared. What she needed in that moment wasn't a good teacher. The way she wanted to relate in that moment was not for me to go, "Hey, moths don't eat people. Okay? It's going to be fine." What she needed was Daddy. She needed to feel safe, wanted to feel protected, and wanted to know that it was okay. She didn't want rules on how the universe actually works. She just wanted to be safe.
In the same way, you and I are meant to relate to Jesus as the Savior of our souls and the one who makes our sick hearts healthy. So the teachings of Jesus are incredible. They are to be heard, respected, and submitted to, but we relate to Jesus as Savior via ongoing repentance and the choosing to believe via the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is what you have been invited into, this is what I have been invited into, and it doesn't matter what your background or struggle is or home dynamic is. He is making himself known through the preaching of these 8 verses, even this morning. Let me pray for us.
Father, thank you for your word and for what's true. Thank you for the gift of repentance. Help us, over and over and over again choose to turn from our sin and to know you, love you, trust you and obey you. We want to walk in faith. God, many of us, grown and small, have come in. We're just a little bit weary because of this or of that.
Give us the strength. Let the wind blow across the bow of our lives, and give us the strength to choose to believe that you are our Savior, that you love us, that you're for us, that you transcend our circumstances, and that you're working in our lives. We bless your name. It's for your beautiful name I pray, amen.
Scripture John 3:1-8