Undercover Boss

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


There is a popular television show called Undercover Boss in which high-level corporate executives leave the comfort of their office and secretly take low-level jobs in their company. It is riveting television. These bosses, using disguises, infiltrate their own company to study it to see how things work, and how their employees feel about their jobs and the company. It is funny at times to see the CEO of a company putting on a wig, mustache, and glasses, and then taking out the trash. As we read John 3:1-20, it seems like an episode of Undercover Boss. Nicodemus, the guy in the passage is a boss. In verse one he is called a “ruler of the Jews.” He is a powerful and well-recognized man in his society. But he wants to ask questions of this young, up-and-coming new teacher. And it probably is not a good look for a ruler like him, a boss, to be seen asking questions of this young guy.

So he goes undercover. Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of night so that he cannot be seen and recognized by those in his fan club—by those who follow him. This ruler is in a weird position because in most circles he is the teacher. But here he comes to Jesus to ask questions and inquire about things.

The initial dialog portrays Nicodemus as trying to engage in cocktail party, networking talk. He said to Jesus, in essence, in verse 2, “I’ve been checking out your references and your reputation, and it seems like you have it going on.” Now the usual way this dialog works is that the person who received that compliment should reciprocate. Jesus should have said to Nicodemus how much he admired him and his body of work as well.

But Jesus took this conversation in another direction. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (verse 3). These are confusing metaphors and quite contradictory. Being born, which is a quite powerless image, and entering the kingdom, which represents a place of power. You can see how confusing it was to Nicodemus by his reaction. He wondered if he had to go back into his mother’s womb and come back out.
Jesus was having a conversation with an undercover boss, and showed us some powerful things about the Christian life by His imagery. In speaking to someone who understands having power and knowledge, and who is accustomed to depending on human strength, Jesus used surprisingly powerless images.

Jesus compared the start of the Christian experience to birth. If I remember anything about when I was first born (and I do not) it was my most helpless and vulnerable time. I was completely dependent on someone else for everything. We are so helpless that our entrance into the world, the birth process comes about because of the efforts of the mother and those delivering the baby. The baby does not give birth to his or her self, which is a telling lesson for us as we consider how the process of conversion happens. It is through the power of Christ that we are born again. We do not birth ourselves spiritually (so stop pushing).
As if He had not confused Nicodemus enough, Jesus then used another image that showed lack of effort. In verse 8 Jesus described wind blowing and not seeing it. Wind? Seems weak, right? But if you have ever seen wind move a seemingly immobile piece of debris and deposit it in some far-off place you understand its power. Maybe Jesus was trying to help Nicodemus and us—to understand the process by which we grow. We are not the wind; we are the piece of paper on the floor. And God’s spirit moves on us gradually and slowly, and causes us to be moved. Sometimes we wish it was a tornado, but Jesus describes a calmer wind. But I guess the good news for us is that the wind still moves things. And God’s spirit still changes us, even if it is not as fast as we may want it. Nicodemus, the undercover boss, did not expect this. He had come to depend on his own strength, but Jesus kept pointing to being powerless under the control of God. It makes us uncomfortable as well. We are accustomed to getting things, and accomplishing things based on our knowledge, capabilities, gifts, and connections, but in this system that Jesus is describing all of them go out the window. The Christian life is based on the acknowledgment that we are powerless, and

God is all-powerful. He is the One who is able to save.

Recently I saw a real tear-jerking episode of Undercover Boss. At the end of each episode, the boss reveals who he is and gives promotions, gifts, and awards to some of his or her employees. Well, in this episode, after the boss revealed his identity to an unsuspecting dedicated worker he then gave her a new home. She was homeless with her kids. His act of kindness blew her away.

The twist in this Bible passage is that even though Nicodemus comes in as the Undercover Boss, he discovers that Jesus is the real boss. He is the one in full disguise and Jesus is the one doling out gifts. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus is God under the cover of humanity. And in Him God gave, and gives us, the best gift He can ever give—
His Son. He extended that gift not just to Nicodemus, but also to all of us. And anyone who accepts that gift gets another gift, eternal life. To think about it, it almost blows you away.

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KYMONE HINDS, his wife, and their three energetic children live in Memphis, Tennessee He pastors two churches, Overton Park, and Journey Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist churches. He also speaks, and blogs regularly on different life issues. You can connect with Kymone via twitter@kymonehinds, or on his blog at comejourney.org.

THE SECRET OF SEARCHING

Deep and wide: A familiar description that accurately depicts the real estate of being a Christian. We all from time to time have the unction to go deeper. It also dawns on us periodically that our God is wider than the breath of our imagination. Hopefully this drives us, like it did Nicodemus, to have a confrontation with the Christ. Talk to us about your thoughts via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

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Day 1 - Read John 3:1, 2

Is it not immediately interesting that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night? What would cause someone to have a conversation with a stranger after dark? Curiosity? Fear?


Day 2 -Read John 3:3

Is it just me, or is Jesus making a statement that has nothing to do with what Nicodemus just said? Has it ever seemed as though what God has allowed to happen in your life has nothing to do with what you pray about? You talk to Him about peace and you always deal with stress. You converse with Him about love and you are always lonely. Do you have any experiences like that?


Day 3 - Read John 3:4

I believe that in my lifetime I have had some legitimate observations that God did not consider. There were some things I thought should happen that did not happen. I believed a certain way should have been taken that He closed off. Have you ever disagreed with God?

 


Day 4

Job was one who had an observation for God. God also had a response for Job. Listen to the beauty of God’s way. Watch Bob Sorge— God could have left Job. http://youtu.be/9FZ5uM_YfB4


Day 5 - Read John 3:5-8

Jesus explained what it is to be born again.
The struggle Nicodemus was having is one that most of us have had. How do we, who are not naturally attuned to the spiritual, decipher the spiritual? Jesus uses something comparable to try to make it clear. He says, “We must be born again.” We must have a spiritual awakening from the womb of our previous mindsets. Have you had any “awakenings?” Talk to us via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

 


Day 6 - Read Philippians 2:5-11 & John 3:9-15

It cannot be overemphasized how central the Gospel is to be in Christianity. Look at what Jesus did, and then look at what Jesus says as His words conclude. Can you see what searching leads you to?

Day 7 - Read John 3:16, 17

Very often our seeking out of God is rooted in selfish desires and yearning for personal comfort. I believe God has to sometimes make our journey an adventure so that we can loose ourselves in the process. It’s only when we loose ourselves that we are truly ready for the secrets of God. He gave all so
that we can have more


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 





The Sabbath As A Memorial of Creation

The Psalmist declares, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Psalm 33:6). In a mere six days, the creative power of God changed what was without form and void to a beautiful planet sprawling with living creatures and verdant vegetation. Beginning with light on the first day, God spoke a life-sustaining world into existence, and it was good. He divided the waters of the atmosphere on the second day, created the seas and dry land on the third day, and covered the land with vegetation. On the fourth day the Creator brought into existence the sun, moon, and stars. On the fifth day, He fashioned the birds that filled the air and marine life that inhabited the seas. On the sixth day, God made the animals, and then He made man, the crowning act of creation. God made man in His own image, male and female God created them, and God saw everything He had created was indeed “very good.” (Genesis 1.)

On the seventh-day, God ended His work of creation and rested. After which, God blessed the seventh-day and sanctified it meaning He “set it aside,” which makes the Sabbath, the memorial of God’s creation. (Genesis 2: 1-3). Given this designation, this weekly 24-hour period is a time for us to reflect on nature, and the Creator of the universe. When I consider the magnificence of our Creator God, additional words from the Psalmist David come to mind,“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun” (Psalm 19:1-4).

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All of nature functions as a witness for God. When we observe the majesty of lofty mountains, we cannot help but be moved by the splendor and power of God. When we plumb the depths of the ocean, we cannot but marvel at God’s amazing grace and forgiveness, for He buries our sins in the depths of the sea! When in nature we see the grace with which an eagle rides invisible thermal columns of air and soars effortlessly to great heights, or see the elegant grace with which a twenty foot tall giraffe languidly walks and then starts running in a style which can truly be described as “poetry in motion,” our hearts cannot but confess that our Creator is an awesome God! Again we echo, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

Because nature functions as a witness for God and His glory, no one can miss this unmistakable message from nature. Paul says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

God has ordained that beside work, life should include communion with the Creator, rest, and celebration of God’s marvelous creative works. That is why He declares, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your  stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

Praise God for this endless injunction in the heart of the moral law as an everlasting sign and symbol of Creation! Praise God for the Creator! Praise God for Creation! Praise God for the memorial of Creation, the Sabbath.




NO NAP? The Sabbath Rest that Isn’t

One of the many myths held by Christians that cry out for busting is the myth that the Sabbath is mankind’s day of rest. This belief presupposes that because the Sabbath is God’s day of rest, when the end of the week arrives to find a believer of God tired, it is perfectly acceptable to avoid church and to sleep in. This absence from a worship service is also quite self-serving because it is a belief anchored solidly on a foundation of personal convenience. And, it is a concept that no doubt finds its origins in the creation narrative of Genesis 2:2 where we learn, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

There is no disputing the fact that at the end of creation week, God rested on the seventh day. However, there is before us a two-fold question: 1. Why did God rest? 2. What was the nature of His rest? To reach an erroneous conclusion to either question would lead us straight to, well, bed.

The Pulpit Commentary on the book of Genesis reminds us that God cannot be conceived of either resting, or being in need of rest because of exhaustion or fatigue. The nature of the rest was connected to God’s creative genius. He rested merely as a cessation from His activities of creation as described earlier in the Genesis passage (p. 35).

As far as God is concerned, the weekly Sabbath was not designed as a day of lazing around the house, or recovering from the toil of the week. Indeed, there is no mystery as to the purpose served by the weekly Sabbath. In Ezekiel 20:20, God admonishes His people to “hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.” From God’s perspective, the Sabbath is a sign He has given to mankind to demonstrate that humanity owes its existence, not to some evolutionary accident, but rather to the creative majesty of a Sovereign God. To embrace the Sabbath is to embrace God as our Creator.
Interestingly, the word “Sabbath” simply means rest. Thus, on the surface there would seem to be a connection between the Sabbath and getting additional sleep. So then, how do we know the Sabbath was not intended as a day for getting more sleep?

The thinking seems to be that since the seventh day is viewed as God’s day of rest, it is logical to assume that it is a day of rest for His children as well.

For starters, 1 Peter 2:21 helps us to remember that Jesus is our perfect example. Therefore an examination of His life and ministry should bring understanding. The Bible provides a treasure trove of the activities of Jesus on the Sabbath day, and, we find no evidence that He used the Sabbath to catch up on sleep. What we do find is evidence that for Jesus, the Sabbath was a time for engaging in the work of building the Kingdom of God through active ministry. According to Luke 4:16 it was the custom, or habit of Jesus to be in a worship service on the Sabbath. The same passage informs us that Jesus preached on the Sabbath day. The Gospel of Luke 13 is just one of many passages where we find Jesus using the Sabbath as a time for teaching and healing.
Of the myriad verses that outline for us how Jesus related to the Sabbath day, Matthew 12:12 is perhaps most significant because it reminds us of the lawfulness of doing “good” on the Sabbath day. What we learn through examining the Sabbath practices of Jesus is how to experience the refreshing benefits of Sabbath rest by shifting our focus away from self. Repeatedly, we see Jesus, on the Sabbath day, directing His attention to the worship of God, and helping others improve the quality of their lives through active ministry.

Curiously, we do not find any Biblical evidence of the Sabbath being a time that Jesus used to slip in some extra rest. God has given the Sabbath to all as a sign of His creative genius. It is a reminder that He is our God, and we are His people. The sons and daughters of God do well when we utilize the Sabbath as a day for the worship of God, as well as for active ministries.




Why You Need the Sabbath

By the age of eight, I knew, as do most children in Sabbath-keeping homes, that Friday is a time for preparation. Aromas of fresh-baked foods, the clean scents of a mopped floor, laundered and pressed clothing, the polished piano, sparkling windows and hair that was done—that’s what Friday smelled like. Sabbath, at sunset, began a welcome rest, and its peace, with all of the attendant readiness, was a time to relish. We sang the familiar Sabbath hymn and welcomed the presence of the Lord into our home for this special time.

But at seven this was lost on me. I wanted to go to the movies with my friend one Friday afternoon, and after an uncharacteristic display of brattiness on my part, my mom let me. When Charlotte’s Web was over, though, I found myself standing on the side of the theater as the vermillion sunset was turning dusk, the streetlights blared and the city bustled on. How strange. Far from feeling afraid or alone, I sensed instead that I was out of my place, out in the world, where no one seemed to know or care that it was Sabbath. I was caught out there doing my own thing.

If you grew up to appreciate the Sabbath, immersed in the full 24-hour experience, I want to say that sensitivity was probably not the product of apologetics, historical events, or theological interpretation. Realistically speaking, that sensitivity to the Sabbath is born of the Word of God, secured in the heart by the Holy Spirit.

What I am calling sensitivity is a profound awareness and honor of the Almighty Creator God on His special day, and the smallness and selfishness of our own spheres. If you seek to honor God, this is precisely the experience that you want.
Interestingly, as I read the New Contemporary Version of the Bible recently, I noticed the chapter heading in Isaiah 58: “How to Honor God.” There the prophet mediates a conversation between God and His purported people.

The Sabbath of the Creator links social and economic justice with true worship of Him.

“They still come every day looking for me and want to learn my ways,” said God. “They act just like a nation that does what is right, that obeys the commands of its God. They ask me to judge them fairly. They want God to be near them. They say, ‘To honor you, we had special days when we fasted, but you didn’t see. We humbled ourselves to honor you, but you didn’t notice’” (Isaiah 58:2, 3 NCV).

Didn’t notice? Really?
The all-knowing and all-seeing Creator God retorted that on these special days workers were being oppressed, people mistreated, and folks were brawling. Yet His people wondered why their prayers were not being heard and His presence not felt.

Lose the selfish agenda, He said:
“I will tell you the kind of fast I want: Free the people you have put in prison unfairly and undo their chains. Free those to whom you are unfair, and stop their hard labor. Share your food with the hungry; bring poor, homeless people to your homes. When you see someone who has no clothes, give him yours, and don’t refuse to help your own relatives” (Isaiah 58:6,7).

Then God says in effect, let’s talk about the Sabbath—the Sabbath—not all the feasts and festivals and little holidays you supposedly set up for Me.
“You must obey God’s law about the Sabbath and not do what pleases yourselves on that holy day. You should call the Sabbath a joyful day and honor it as the Lord’s holy day.”

You want to make me happy, says God. Treat people with love and compassion and honor Me on the Sabbath by not running roughshod over it, treating it as a burden or day of recreation. It’s My day, and I want to spend it with you.
These passages are exactly why people like me may wander from the traditional practices of our parents in an effort to modernize and contemporize our worship, yet we cannot shake the overall sense of the Sabbath’s impact. The ultimate prize is what He wanted all along, deep communion and closeness. “Then you will call out, and the Lord will answer. You will cry out, and he will say, ‘Here I am” (verse 9).

I want you to sense that God is trying to reach you, too. Remember, the first Sabbath shared with God’s people was when there were just two people on earth—in the Garden of Eden after Creation. This was long before there were nations, cultures, religions, or politics. And, as Creator—God of all—the invitation traveled then as it does now: not on the lips of a chosen few to be delivered to a privileged few, but in the indication of the setting sun on the evening of every sixth day.

You have wanted a deeper experience, wanted to know how you can honor your God. Meet Him on His day, His way. You will sense His nearness and blessing on what you do.




2015 May/June Issue

Catch Your Breath – It is on God’s day that we see His power to create, His power to transform, and the grace-filled, elevated place for you in His plan.


Tired of this yet? How God’s Sabbath brings you into communion with Him on a different plane.

10  MY SABBATH JOURNEY
by Mina Collins / If you earnestly seek God He will meet you where you are.

11  YOU’RE SCHEDULED TO WORK ON SABBATH! WHAT NOW?
by Edward Woods III / God is an ever-present help in times of trouble.

14  SABBATH AND FESTIVALS
by Bertram Melbourne / Are all Sabbath festivals relevant and required today in light of the cross?

16  WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE SABBATH?
by Russell Seay, Jr. / The observance of the seventh-day Sabbath has been a part of biblical Christian history since the beginning of time.

18  INVESTIGATE: A QUESTION OF TIME
by Faith Johnson Crumbly / The Sabbath is a definite day according to the fourth commandment.

20  WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES A DAY MAKE?
by James R. Doggette, Jr. / One relevant question provides the answer.

22  THE BIG 10 NEVER-CHANGING PURPOSES OF THE SABBATH
by Wintley Phipps / A compact with humanity written by God’s own hand.

4  ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley / MEDIA THAT TAKES YOU HIGHER

5  EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford / WHY YOU NEED THE SABBATH

6  EYE ON THE TIMES
by James McWilliams / CASUALTIES AND BELIEF SYSTEMS

8  OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman/ FOODS THAT HEAL by Bernice DeShay / REST AND THE SABBATH

13  RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver / LONG SUMMER DAYS AND SABBATH-KEEPING

24  FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd / THE SABBATH AS A MEMORIAL OF CREATION

26  THE EXPERIENCE
UNDERCOVER BOSS by Kymond Hines / NICODEMUS COMES TO JESUS UNDER THE COVER OF NIGHT

THE EXPERIENCE STUDY
by Rashad Burden / HAVE YOU MET JESUS?

31  MYTH BUSTERS
by Donald McPhaull / NO NAP? THE SABBATH REST

   

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