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Call Him By His Name: Wonderful Counselor: God Can Make Something Great Out Of You

John 3:1-16

I am about to read to you these verses from the 3rd chapter of the Gospel according to John. This is the Word of God.

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the miraculous signs You are doing if God were not with Him.’

“In reply, Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth. Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

“’How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born.’

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth. Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’

“‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked.

“‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth. We speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen. But still, you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things, and you do not believe. How then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into Heaven except the One who came from Heaven, the Son of man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’”

May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.

Pray with me, please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.

I came across a wonderful little story not long ago about a small church in a small town far from the big city. The people in this little church decided that they wanted to decorate their church for Christmas by constructing a huge sign with some appropriate words upon the sign. They then learned that one of their members, a businessman, was going to be traveling to New York City on business. And so they asked him if he would be willing to have a sign made for them while he was in the city. He agreed, and so he made notes on what the people wanted on the sign, both the words and the dimensions of the sign. When he arrived in New York, he discovered that he had left his notes at home. Immediately, he called his wife and asked her if she would find his notes and then fax to him the words that were to appear on the sign and the dimensions of the sign, and to do it as quickly as possible. Shortly thereafter, he went down to the hotel desk to inform the desk clerk that he was expecting a most urgent fax from his wife. Well, just about that time, the fax started coming. The desk clerk walked over, picked up the fax, looked at it, and promptly fell into a dead faint. The man, somewhat alarmed, went over, picked up the fax that was addressed to him, and read the words in the message. “Unto us a child is born, six feet long and four feet wide.”

Well, I suppose if you want to, you can look at the words of Isaiah in that light. However, I think it is so important for us to look at what the great prophet, Isaiah, said as he was looking ahead to the coming of the Messiah, to the One we know as the Christ. You know the words so well. “Unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. And the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” I have come to believe that those four magnificent names perfectly capture both the personality and the character of the Christ who came at Christmas. And therefore, during these weeks leading up to Christmas, I want us to focus on those four names delivered to us by the prophet, Isaiah. I want us to look at each one in turn, beginning today with the first name, Wonderful Counselor.

Now in order for us to truly understand what a wonderful counselor Jesus really is, I think it would be good for us to look at one of what I would call Jesus’s counseling sessions. He had a whole host of counseling sessions all the way through His earthly ministry, but today, I want us to look at just one, the counseling session between Jesus and Nicodemus. It’s shared with us in the third chapter of the Gospel according to John. And if we look closely at that remarkable encounter, I believe that we will come to understand just what a wonderful counselor our Jesus really is.

In the first place, a counselor who is wonderful is always available and accessible.

We see very clearly here, right at the outset of this story in John chapter 3—we see that this counseling session between Jesus and Nicodemus took place at night. That’s what it says. At night. I want you to focus for just a moment on those two little words, “at night.” Remember, please, that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, was subject to all of the physical limitations that we all know. And remember that Jesus was preaching every single day, and that can be very draining physically, emotionally, intellectually.

Furthermore, remember that Jesus was healing the sick and ministering to people hour after hour, day after day, and nothing quite saps a person’s strength like that. And so consequently, at the end of any day, Jesus was longing for a time of rest and peace. That is why the gospels tell us so frequently that Jesus, at the end of the day, would steal away into the shadows of the evening for some time alone. And the gospels tell us that frequently, Jesus would slip off to the homes of good friends, the home of Peter in Capernaum or the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. You see, Jesus needed to have time to replenish the resources of His own strength. And so therefore, those times of rest and refreshment were so much in His mind and heart every day. And yet, here we are told that Jesus, on this particular day, bone weary though He must have been, Jesus went out at night to meet with Nicodemus. Jesus was willing to set aside His own rest and refreshment in order to be available and accessible to Nicodemus. That is the mark of a wonderful counselor.

Now you know, occasionally, I hear people say that they wish that Jesus were physically present in the world today. Well, at first blush, that seems to me to be a rather happy thought. But you know, the more I think about it, the more I disagree with it. Because can you imagine if Jesus were physically present in the world today—can you imagine the crowds, the lines, the waiting, the frustration of people trying desperately to get into His presence? This last summer, Trish and I actually spent more than three hours standing in the blazing sun in a line just to see the ancient palace of Versailles in France. Let me tell you, that was not a happy experience And can you imagine—well, probably you know what it’s like to fight the lines at places like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Well, just think, if all the people in the world were crowding to be able to get into the presence of Jesus, think what that would be like.

Now I know we have modern means of communication. We have faster means of transportation. And so Jesus could simply be whisked about to the great population centers of the world. And Jesus could speak to everyone be television or by the internet. Well, I’m sure that’s true. But to actually be in the physical presence of Jesus, that would be impossible.

Now Jesus, because He is the Wonderful Counselor, longs to be available and accessible to all of us. And so in His infinite wisdom, He says later on in the Gospel of John, He says, “I must go away. But my Father will send in my Name the Holy Spirit.” Now notice, please, in the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit is also referred to as what? The Counselor. And so Jesus is saying, “I must go away. But the Father will send in my Name, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, who will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance everything that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit, the Counselor, that’s who makes Jesus available, accessible to every single person in every single moment in every single day. That, I submit to you, is the mark of a truly wonderful counselor.

But also, a counselor who is wonderful always delivers guidance and direction.

Once again, we see that very clearly here in John chapter 3. During this nighttime counseling session, Jesus very astutely analyzed the source of Nicodemus’s troubles and difficulties. And once He saw that, He then delivered to Nicodemus a clear path to solving those problems. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Listen, Nicodemus. You can never belong to the family of God, you can never experience all the glory of life by just making a few little minor adjustments to your life. No, no, no. You’re going to have to make a complete turn-around. You’re going to have to be born again. You’re going to need to be reborn, regenerated, redirected in the way you are living your life if you are going to experience the new life that God has waiting for you.”

Notice how Jesus functioned here. Jesus very carefully, very lovingly, very sensitively delivered to Nicodemus the guidance and the direction he needed. Notice He did not condemn Nicodemus for what he had been. Instead, he pointed Nicodemus to what he might yet become. That’s the mark of a wonderful counselor.

Several years ago, the great boxer, Muhammad Ali, was approached by a young man in one of the ghettos in the city of Chicago. The young man came up to Ali and said he wanted to become a boxer like Ali, wanted to find out how he could go about becoming a professional boxer. He was in school, but he hated school. He wanted to drop out. His grades were bad. He wanted to pursue this career of being a boxer like his idol, Muhammad Ali. Well, in response, Muhammad Ali smiled at the young man. And then as he so often did, Muhammad Ali responded with a little poem. “Stay in college until you get the knowledge. Stay there until you get through. If God could make penicillin out of moldy bread, God can make something great out of you.” The poetry is not so great, but let me tell you, the message certainly is. That’s the great truth that we see shining in this nighttime counseling session between Jesus and Nicodemus. God is ready to make something great out of you, out of me. God is engaged in making something great out of us. As a matter of fact, if you stop to think about it, that’s one of the reasons that God chose to send His only Son to the earth in the first place.

Someone once asked John McNeely of Scotland why he never preached on John 3:16. “Ah,” he said, “because I have that in every sermon.” Well, here it is in this sermon. God so loves the world, God so loves you, God so loves me, God so loves you, God so loves all of us that God gave His one and only Son. And when we accept Him in our lives, when we surrender our hearts to Him, when we decide that we’re going to follow His guidance and direction in our everyday living, then we experience rebirth. We are born again, born of the Spirit, and God then gives to us a new life. New life in this world, new life in the world that is to come. Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, is the One who guides and directs us, the One who inspires and instructs us, the One who enables us to become everything God wants us to be. He is the Wonderful Counselor.

There’s a terrific little footnote in the Gospels to this nighttime counseling session between Jesus and Nicodemus. Later on in the Gospels, we’re told that after the crucifixion, Nicodemus, at the risk of his own life—make no mistake about that—at the risk of his own life, Nicodemus came, bringing precious spices and ointments to anoint and prepare for burial the body of his crucified Savior. It is on the strength of that that I contend that that nighttime counseling session with Nicodemus had the result Jesus wanted. Nicodemus’s whole life was turned around. He was born again. He became a new person under Christ. And I think that simple gesture after the crucifixion, risking his life, that’s all the proof you need. Ah, but you see, his belief in Jesus as his Savior was gloriously, wondrously confirmed when not long thereafter, on the glory of the first Easter morning, the Christ who came at Christmas was raised from the dead for Nicodemus and for us all.

So my beloved people, there are many, many things we can be merry about this Christmas. But surely one of the things we can be merry about is the fact that we have a Wonderful Counselor in Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Lord, the one and only Son of God.

Soli deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen and amen.


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