What do you do when you’ve been raised in a certain religious environment and the picture you’ve been given of God is still in need of being painted? Do you allow the picture to continue to be formed or do you halt the process and restrict God to your incomplete understanding? It is true that the mission of Jesus the Christ was to set humanity free from the chains of sin but what happens when the chains that bind us are the same ones that lead us to reject the One who came to help us? One of the challenges those of us influenced at an early age by any religion face is that of consciously examining our beliefs to understand why we hold them. Sometimes we become defensive towards anyone who appears to challenge our system of thinking as though the foundation of our very existence would crumble. One writer says: “Those who cannot impartially examine the evidence of a position that differs from theirs are not fit to teach in any department of God’s cause.” I have learned that a belief unexamined is not worth believing.
Let’s take a journey back in time to about A.D. 30 somewhere in Jerusalem where an interesting encounter is taking place between Jesus the Nazarene & Nicodemus the Pharisee. It’s an encounter that you and I can relate to. An encounter where long cherished misbeliefs come face to face with Eternal Truth. The third chapter of John tells of the conversation from the first verse to the last. From it we learn that Nicodemus is a member of the Jewish group who laid the foundation for rabbinic Judaism known as the Pharisees, who were known to value oral tradition over written law. He is a man of social status, broad intellect and deep experience. Lately he’s been very uncomfortable while in the presence of his colleagues because he cannot find good reason for hatred towards this man thought to be the Christ. He has a deep desire to calm the stirring of his unsettled soul and discover for himself if Jesus the Nazarene is the One who the prophets declared would one day come to redeem Israel. According to the popular opinion in his camp, Jesus is just another fraud. Void of all support from his friends Nicademus sought a private meeting with the Saviour where he heard the words “you must be born again.”
Here is a man who is possibly a third generation Pharisee, popular in his town and who holds a high position on the Jewish Supreme Court being told “you must be born again.” Jesus confronts the deep rooted misbeliefs in his understanding and clarifies that his understanding of religion is not enough to confirm his acceptance with God. In other words, ‘Nicodemus, you must be rewired to think the thoughts of the Divine mind and reconditioned to value what the Alpha & Omega values.’
Nicodemus’ response testifies that he had been allowing the Holy Spirit to lead him into further understanding before this meeting because instead of asking ‘why’ he asked ‘how’? Those of us born into certain religious persuasions are sometimes the furthest away from God because we’ve learned to build our hope on the sand of legalism. Second Corinthians 3:6 says “…the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” And John 4:24 tells us that “God is Spirit…”
In order to know the Lord in a saving way we must journey through the bushes of honest examination and swim through the deep waters of un-comfortability to arrive at the coveted place of knowing God. Nicodemus decided to re-examine his religious views when he ventured to meet face to face with the One who had developed the reputation of tearing down the traditional mountain of Jewish faith. Rather than taking the more conventional route of accepting things as they’ve always been this humble ruler is in search for Truth. Proverbs 4:18 tells us that “…the path (journey) of the just is like the shining sun that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” Jesus concluded His discussion with Nicodemus with the words “He who does the truth enters the light…”
When it is our desire to know the Lord in an intimate way we too will seek the light where all within us (perspectives, biases, traditions, etc.) can be revealed. Maurice Maeterlinck said: “Each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand mediocre minds appointed to guard the past.” Remember that it was religious people who voted to crucify the Nazarene who had no evidence against Him of deserving death except for carrying my sins and yours. ‘To know the Lord or not know the Lord? This is the question!