Today we will continue on with my Beyond the Book Review Series on Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. Last week we began to look at what it really means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Many of us may claim to be followers, but when push comes to shove, a lot of us are merely fans. [ A fan, as defined in Chapter One, is an enthusiastic admirer. ] We may honestly believe in Jesus Christ, but we don’t want Him interfering with how we live our lives. We believe that the minimal we do (go to church, serve in the nursery,etc.) is enough, and some people just take this “Jesus thing” too seriously. If this sounds familiar, this book was so written for you, so please, please keep reading.
In our quest to diagnose fandom, we will be taking a closer look at those who have gone before us. Therefore, in the next few Chapters, we will be looking at some of the most famous (infamous) fans and followers.
Chapter 2: A decision or a commitment?
John 3:1-21 (NLT): There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,[a] you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.[b] 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.[c] 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man[e] has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.[f]
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[g]”
“You should know that Nicodemus wasn’t just any fan. He was a well-known respected man of God. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, an elite group of community religious leaders. He had been an admirer of Jesus for some time……Nicodemus was ready to take his relationship to the next level, but it wasn’t that easy. It never is. There would be much to lose if he went public as a follower of Jesus. What would people think if they found out Nicodemus was an admirer of this homeless carpenter turned rabbi from a nothing town called Nazareth? At the very least he would lose his position in the Sanhedrin and his reputation as a religious leader. Being a secret admirer of Jesus cost him nothing, but becoming a follower came with a high price tag. It always does.” (p.29)
How do we know Nicodemus was a secret admirer? Well, verse 2 tells us he came after dark. Jesus taught openly during the day all over the city in public places. Nicodemus had plenty of opportunities to approach him then but did not. The only good reason for this discreet approach is to avoid other people seeing him talk to Jesus.
“At night no one would see him. At night he would avoid awkward questions from the other religious leaders. At night he could spend time with Jesus without having to make any real changes. He could follow Jesus without impacting his job. In fact, his friends and family wouldn’t even have to know. He could talk to Jesus at night and quietly make a decision in his heart to believe in Jesus; that way it wouldn’t disrupt his comfortable and established life. That sounds like a lot of fans I know. Fans are happy to follow Jesus as long as that doesn’t require any real significant changes or have negative implications.” (p. 30)
Is this sounding familiar to you? I know this used to be me. I am grateful and blessed to say that this description no longer fits me. Sadly, it still fits a lot of those around me. Even sadder, I find it in my church and in my own family. This is why I find the “grace is everything” approach so damaging. Most babes in Christ (and you can sit your butt in a pew for 50 years and still be a babe in Christ) are not mature enough to understand what is truly being said. Grace is the only way to salvation, but it is not a free pass to live your life any way you want. True followers of Christ do just that; they follow Christ; they follow His ways, and in following his ways, you will have to give up your own wants and desires.
“There is no way to follow Jesus without him interfering in your life. Following Jesus will cost you something. Following Jesus always costs something. For Nicodemus it would cost him his powerful position. It would cost him the respect of his co-workers. It would cost him the source of his income and livelihood. It would cost him friendships. It would likely cost him some family relationships. This brings up a very telling question for most fans: has following Jesus cost you anything?” (p.30)
Seriously, take a moment and write down the costs you have paid.
“ Most of us don’t mind Jesus making some minor changes in our lives but Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down. Fans don’t mind him doing a little touch-up work, but Jesus wants a complete renovation…Fans want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives.” (p.31)
Let us go back to the second part of John 3, verse 2:
“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Nicodemus clearly believes that Jesus is connected to God. I would even go further to state that Nicodemus believes Jesus is from God. Yet, knowing this is simply not enough for Jesus.
Let me repeat that again, knowing Jesus is of God is not enough: belief is not enough seeing as Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus that he must be born again (Vs 3).
“Nicodemus has made a decision about Jesus, but that is not the same as following him. Jesus would not accept a relationship with Nicodemus where he simply believed; Jesus wanted Nicodemus to follow. Jesus didn’t just want Nicodemus at night; he wanted Nicodemus during the day too.
So that brings me to question 2 of the day: Have you made a decision for Jesus or have you committed to Jesus?
There is a difference.
I know some of you are fuming at this point. I know some of you are screaming, GRACE, GRACE, GRACE! But, I ask that you join me tomorrow where we will take a closer look at this issue.
Have a blessed day,