Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What Matters Most?

Madalyn Murray O'Hair was the matriarch of the American atheist movement. She adamantly campaigned for the removal of prayer from public schools, and the mention of God in any public forum. Funnily enough, O'Hair was raised in a strong Christian home. She and her family attended church every week. In her senior year at high school, she even wrote that her goal upon graduation was “to serve God for the betterment of mankind.” As it turned out, that was a pledge she abandoned early and completely. She was asked once in an interview if there was anything from her early years and experiences in church that remained with her, or had she turned her back on God and church completely. i found her reply interesting. “The music,” she said, “Almost every Christmas and Easter, I slip into the back of a church to listen to the music. That's the part I can't resist.”

She loved the music, but she rejected the One whom the music exalted. She denied what mattered most. What is it that matters most?
It's not the music. It's not tradition. It's not religious zeal or ceremonies. It's not church membership. In fact, none of that stuff matters at all, unless you have what matters most.
What matters most is having been born again by the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know who first made that statement? Jesus did.
In a private conversation with a man named Nicodemus. A conversation that is recorded in John 3:1-21. The first three verses of that passage read as follows:
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
We are able to learn a little bit about Nicodemus from this passage. He was a Pharisee, which means he was a very religious man. He was also a sincere man. He had witnessed all the wonderful and miraculous things Jesus had done, and now he had come to Jesus at night to talk to him rather than accuse him as many of his colleagues had done and would continue to do.
Nicodemus was a sincerely religious man, but that's not what matters most. Jesus told him so. Jesus did not commend Nicodemus for being religious, instead Jesus confronted Nicodemus with his need of salvation.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What does 'born again mean?” Nicodemus asked that question. He said, (v. 4)
...can a man enter his mother's womb a second time and be born..."
Nicodemus' sarcasm asidem that is a question with which many people (perhaps even you) still grapple, but it is the most important question that you or anyone else will have to answer. Christ answered Nicodemus in the best way possible. He took him to the Bible. Christ said to Nicodemus in ,
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
Jesus referred to an event that was recorded in the Old Testament; a story with which a sincerely religious Jew like Nicodemus would definitely be familiar. The incident was “snake on a pole” episode in Jewish history thatis recorded in Numbers 21. This Old Testament story explains a section of Israelite history after they had been miraculously and graciously emancipated from Egypt, but before they had arrived in the Promised Land. During their "wilderness wandering" the nation began to complain.
About everything.
And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. (Numbers 21:4-5)
They began to speak against God and Moses. They complained about the lack of water. They complained about the food that God providentially provided. They complained about Moses leadership (which was also an indirect complaint about God's leadership). As a result of their sin, God sent poisonous snakes into the camp. Many people were bitten and died. They realized that they were being punished for their sin.
They repented.
And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee... (Numbers 21:6-7a)
Moses prayed to God on their behalf. God instructed Moses to make a brass serpent and stick it on a pole so that all could see it. Any person who looked at the pole would be immediately healed from their snake bite.
...pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Numbers 21:7b-9)
For the Israelites, the solution to the “serpent problem” was not in
  • killing the serpents
  • performing serpent rituals
  • making serpent antidotes
  • pretending the serpents were not really there
  • passing antiserpent laws, or
  • climbing the serpent pole

The answer was in looking by faith at the uplifted serpent. In telling this story to Nicodemus (and you), Jesus was making a connection with His cross. Just as that snake on a pole had to be lifted up, and people had to, by faith, look to it to be healed, Jesus had to be lifted up on the cross and we must look to Him, in faith, to be born again.



The whole world is snake bitten by sin. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The penalty for sin is death: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” After reminding Nicodemus about the story of the snake on a pole, Jesus said what has become the most famous verse in all the Bible.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For all perishing sinners, aware of their need to be born again, willing to abandon useless human remedies and religion, daring to venture all on faith, Christ promises eternal life. Two things are necessary for you to be born again. First, Christ had to die on the cross for your sins. He did! Finally, you must in repentance and faith look to Jesus for eternal life.

That's what matters most.

2 comments:

Odale said...

Please read my posts entitled, http://wordforit.wordpress.com/2007/10/11/american-atheists-part-one/ and http://wordforit.wordpress.com/2007/10/11/death-of-an-american-atheist-i/

I am not leaving this to be a smart aleck. I appreciate your work here and am a sister Christian. I did some papers on MMO'H several years ago and have recently been studying b/c of a person close to me renouncing his faith and claiming atheism...I am interested to know where you got info that MMO'H was raised in a Christian home b/c, as you will see in my blog, her son and others say otherwise. I just don't like it when we (Christians) are blasted for misinfo and want to be sure we both are correct in our info! Please let me know and do not think it will hurt my feelings if you delete this comment!! As stated, I do not intend to harass you or pompously correct you!! God Bless and Keep You!

Travis said...

I read that in an article by Edward Plowman for World magazine which ran in March of 2001. This link should take you to the article.

I appreciate your visiting the Oxgoad and hope you'll continue to come around. I also do not like it when Christians are lazy with their research.