The Evangelism Tightrope
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.” 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, “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.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? — John 3:2-12
This is an interesting moment because it's all a lead-in to one the most well-known verses in the entire Bible (John 3:16).
You will watch Jesus go head-to-head with one of the sharpest thinkers in their movement at the time. I assume the other disciples were greatly intrigued by this one because there is no doubt they knew who Nicodemus was and his mission — to determine the legitimacy of the signs done by Jesus.
Nicodemus begins his investigation reverently. He addresses Jesus with the formal title "Rabbi" and recognizes him as a "teacher" but hints that he's come because he's curious about the signs he is performing. He is running with the assumption these signs are from God unless he discovers something different. The obvious is declared. Nicodemus came to either confirm or deny the validity of these signs and thus confirm or deny the legitimacy of Jesus.
This is laughable because Nicodemus is going to end up delegitimizing himself.
But Jesus does this in the most clever way. He's going to catch Nicodemus off guard by directly and immediately addressing the question stirring in Nicodemus's mind, which is:
"Are these signs from above or not?"
And Jesus is not going to answer this question. And here's why. He won't get it. Why? Because only people born from above can see and determine if signs are actually from above. By the end of the interaction, we discover that Nicodemus is stuck seeing things from only a natural perspective, not a supernatural one. And we know this is true because he thinks Jesus is talking about natural birth and rebirth. This renders his ability illegitimate. Thus Nicodemus is not a valid judge of this matter. In others words. Go home.
As a believer, I love this moment because, in one way, Jesus out maneuvers the intellect of Nicodemus. But I also love it because of the way Jesus does it. Jesus knows the future. He has already demonstrated that in chapter one with Nathanael. So Jesus knows that later Nicodemus will defend him, and after he is gone, Nicodemus will provide for his burial. So, what Jesus is doing is helping Nicodemus take the next step in faith toward "seeing from above." He's helping him along by pushing him a little, but not so much that he pushes him away.
This is something that many Christians get wrong about evangelism. They either say nothing because they don't want to offend and miss the opportunity. Or they say too much and offend, pushing people away. But Jesus walks right through this tension and balances the evangelism tightrope. We must keep in mind that he is Jesus, so he does have unusual discernment, but we still need to do the same.
So get out there today and figure it out. The goal is this: Don't say too little, and don't say too much.
ASK THIS: Is there someone you need to share your faith with again today?
DO THIS: Do it, and balance it, so it's just right.
PRAY THIS: God, give me the words today with the people you put before me.
PLAY THIS: Send Me.
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Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.
Being the salt and light is the tight rope, too much salt and NO ONE wants to eat the food for overpowering flavor, too much light and you blind the people you are trying to help. Too little salt and NO ONE wants to eat the food for lack of flavor, too little light and everyone is stumbling around in the darkness, encouraging people to avoid you, since you are the blind leading the blind at that point. Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light because He is The Good Shepherd, The Way, The Truth, and The Life. He did all the hard work for us, we just have to plant seeds of faith and let Him grow those seeds with His living water.
My daughter is back from the hospital with new meds. She’s very emotional and misses the other kids from the hospital. She’s now learning that there are kids that can be kind and loving. We found her a new counselor that is a mom, takes our insurance and oh wait… is a Christian !!! I feel the power of God entering her life. Thanks for your prayers and keep them coming. God Bless! Chris
Nicodemus faced the question we all face “are you willing to surrender all you have to get all Jesus will give you?” Fear will hold on to what we have. Faith says take the promise.
Exactly one of the questions we discussed in our men’s group last night- how do we effectively discuss our faith with nonbelievers? Seems its a conversation that I either stumble over words or let emotions rise and becomes argumentative. Thoughts?
Timely to share!
I’m currently taking a course called Empowered to Influence. Day one reminded me that we are to be the salt and light of the earth. To engage and live out our Kingdom values (righteousness, peace, and joy). These are action words. We show Jesus and glorify God through action, through how we live. People don’t care how much we know about God but when it comes time to share, tell them your story why you believe and have faith in Jesus.
Great information, Massimo. I agree, and thanks for sharing.
I am loving this series. Got behind so I did binge watch a few episodes. John is my favorite book. Thanks for your work!