Encounter: Provoking Spiritual Growth

Encounter: Provoking Spiritual Growth | March 20. 2011 from Gateway Church on Vimeo.

At Gateway Church in Austin we concluded a series called “Encounter: Learning from How Jesus Did Relationships.”  Here are some of my thoughts:

“Jesus provoked spiritual growth in others. Somehow, even the most close-minded people seemed to become interested around Jesus.

John 3:1-15

1. Look for those who are seeking help.

Nicodemus was a religious leader, a scholar, a teacher, part of the elite, a
Pharisee. He was a part of the group most responsible for harassing and persecuting Jesus, but he came with a question for Jesus– not a trick question but a sincere one. Coming to ask a question demonstrated a spiritual openness. We need to look for those who are seeking help.

2. Seek to understand the people with whom you interact.

As you read through the life of Jesus in the Scriptures, it becomes apparent that
Jesus used different styles with different people. He seemed to challenge those who needed to be challenged and offered grace to those needing grace.

Jesus pushes against the arrogance of Nicodemus and his wrong thinking. Nicodemus was part of the group that required a new convert to Judaism to be ritually cleansed on the outside before they could join with them. In essence, Jesus says: “you don’t know as much as you think you know, and what you think you know isn’t correct. You need to be cleaned and washed from the inside out – a task which you cannot do, but I can.”

Jesus understood what was keeping Nicodemus from a new life and he addressed him on this issue head on. It is important to notice that Jesus only used the phrase “born again” this one time. He knew this line of conversation is what would work with Nicodemus. He had other images, stories, parables, and ideas to help others based on where they were coming from, who they were, and what they needed.

3. Listen for the message behind the message.

Rather than trying to convince Nicodemus that He was both fully God and fully man through a debate, a heated discussion, or even a polite dialogue, Jesus made a statement that took Nicodemus off guard and goes to the heart.

We miss this in the way Jesus interacts with others. We fail to follow His example and we jump into the debates, heated discussions, and polite dialogues rather than move the conversation towards the heart of the person. Rather than talk about the source of power for these miracles, Jesus wanted to find out how Nicodemus would respond to all that he had already seen.

To understand others better, we need to listen. We need to ask questions. We
need to pursue them in an effort to understand what they truly need. Jesus knew that Nicodemus had a greater need than what he had expressed. He needed a new life. As a result, he moved the conversation from knowledge to grace, from the head to the heart, from the physical to the spiritual. Jesus moved the conversation to a deeper place than Nicodemus may have expected but certainly where he needed the conversation to be.

4. Give others a next step to move forward.

Jesus saw a spiritual seeker beneath the exterior of a scholar and teacher and Pharisee so he pushed even further. He pointed out his area of resistance. “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still people do not accept our testimony.” (John 3:11) In other words, I am telling you from experience, you can trust God.”

You and I may not have all of the answers, but if you have already began your relationship with Jesus and you have seen Him change your life – you are ready to share that with others. No one can argue with our experience, especially if they see the changes in us themselves.

Have you noticed how we seem to quickly point people towards the movies we enjoy like “The Adjustment Bureau” or the restaurants we eat at like Third Base or the cafes we love like Irie Bean on South Lamar? We seem to have no problems pointing people towards places, but when it comes to the most significant parts of our lives we remain silent.

Whether you’ve trusted Jesus for years or may be ready to trust Him for the first time, are you willing to follow Him and help bring life to others around you?”

You can watch or listen to these messages here.

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