My real world job is that of an architectural draftsman. I draw plans for buildings so other people can get an idea of how to build them. One of the phrases I use when I label things is N.I.C. which stands for Not In Contract. That way when people see things on the plans I create they will know that that particular object is not included in the job they are about to perform. They know what it is but they don't have to do anything with it. That's one example of NIC.
Nic is also a name. I have a few people in my life named Nic. One hiked the Appalachian Trail last year. The other is going to be marrying one of the coolest young ladies I know this summer. Her name is Meghan . . . and you spell his "Nic" with a 'K' at the end of it. There is Saint Nick, Nicholas Cage, Nick Nolte, Nicholas Sparks, Tsar Nicholas . . . both the First (I) and the Second (II). There are lots of Nic's in this world . . . whether they are included in the contract or not. But today I'd like to write about and another Nic - Nic O. Demus - and the topic of false converts.
First of all, false converts are those people who consider themselves "religious." They go to church, they put money in the offering plate . . . or not. They SAY they know God or Jesus but they really don't. It's like they know OF Him but their lives do not reflect a true belief.
I'd like to show you an example of a false convert in the Bible, Nicodemus, and how an encounter with Jesus changed his life and change his false beliefs for the truth.
Nicodemus was one of the religious chief priests, scribes and religious rulers; the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin as they were called. He was very much about following the law of Moses, sticking to the rules. In other words, he went to church, he knew about God, he did everything right in terms of what he believed. But then he heard about this man Jesus and his teachings so he went to investigate for himself.
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 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." - John 3:1-11
At this point, "Nic" had heard about Jesus but was still living in a religion he had believed all of his life. "I've always had faith in my life," he might have said. But now Nic was asking questions. He went right to the source and asked Jesus about what He (Jesus) was saying. And Jesus delivered The Gospel. This third chapter of John is where we hear John 3:16, the most famous verse ever spoken, the "Bible in a single verse."
“16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
At this point Nicodemus is without excuse. He has heard the Gospel message right from the source! Now he must wrestle - this new message vs. his current lifestyle and belief system. What will he do? Later on in scripture we get a hint. He's still playing it safe, but he's beginning to come around.
"45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”
52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” - John 7:45-52
Nicodemus "kind of" came to Jesus' defense but still clung to his position as a religious leader. All that was about to change. After the crucifixion, the body of Jesus had to be removed from the cross. Who did it? Most people remember Joseph of Arimathea. But Joesph was not alone that day.
"38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” – John 19
Let me ask you a question. Do you think that Nicodemus was born again? Verse 38 said that Joseph was secretly a disciple of Jesus. It also said that his status was "secret" because he feared the Jewish leaders. Well, if he feared the Jewish leaders so much, what was he doing there with Nicodemus - one of the Jewish leaders!?!? It HAD to have been because Joseph trusted Nicodemus not to betray him and his faith in Christ. That trust could only have existed because Nicodemus was also a disciple. A brother, in Christ.
This Nic, a religious leader of his day, was a false convert who placed his entire faith in the law. But then he became born again and lives a life devoted to Christ. I look forward one day to hearing the testimony of Nic and how specifically things happened. I wonder how many self-professing Christians of today are like Nicodemus was. Trying to live a life under the law, trying to do their best, going to church . . . religiously. Doing this, doing that. That's all worked based. The faith of a Christian is NOT ABOUT WORKS! It's a about grace through faith.
As we remember the death of our King on the cross - a death required because of OUR sin - let us offer our lives back to Jesus for the price he paid. Joseph of Arimathea did, so did Nicodemus. They both faced potential persecution, even death, for their beliefs and faith. Still, they both made the conscious decision to follow Christ . . no matter what. The question of the day is . . . have you?
Were you there?