Stepping Out for Jesus

The Christian life is a journey of many steps, a process of personal change that begins when you are born into a new relationship with God. This new relationship with God begins the moment you believe completely on Jesus as your God and Savior. At that moment, your personal confidence in the truth about Jesus begins. Once this personal confidence in Christ begins, it never goes away. Not only does it remain, but it also grows over time. Have you believed completely on Jesus as your God and Savior?

If you have believed on him, then your confidence in him grows over time and you take steps that show this increased confidence in Christ. Scripture highlights one important step called baptism, which relates directly to this increase in confidence. Indeed, Scripture does more than highlight this step; it requires every believer to be baptized. What makes this step especially important is that Christ himself commands it (Matt 28:19-20). He commands every believer to do this before he or she learns everything else that Jesus teaches. When you step forward to be baptized, you obey Jesus and reveal a strong, personal confidence in him as your Savior. Your decision exhibits a willingness to move from private faith to public faith. This choice shows the kind of confidence that is willing to identify with Jesus in front of other believers. If you have believed on Jesus for salvation, have you showed your confidence in Christ by being baptized?

After you take this step, you will discover even more opportunities to show even more confidence in Jesus as your God. Once such way is to make decisions that identify you with Jesus in public, outside of a supportive church family and in the view of nonbelievers in the world who will not understand, will not appreciate, and may even respond with hostility to Jesus. For first century believers, identifying as a Christian in public, outside of the supportive church community, was a risky and scary thing to do. Saying, “I’m with Jesus,” and doing the things that he taught people to do would easily incur the same kind of persecution that Jesus himself received.

You will agree that it is less frightening to believe on Jesus in your heart than to profess your faith before a church when people are looking at you. But a church will support your decision and celebrate your confidence in Jesus. Even more frightening is announcing your faith before a world that does not believe on Jesus. Yet despite this daunting prospect, for two-thousand year the truth about Jesus has motivated believers to identify with him in a public way.

As John described the closing scenes of the crucifixion of Christ, he introduced two men who chose to take this third important step of faith – identifying with Jesus in public for a hostile world to see (John 19:38-42). By doing this, they demonstrated a big increase in confidence in the truth about Jesus inspired by seeing Jesus identify with them by dying on the cross for their sins. As they witnessed his crucifixion, their faith in him increased to a new degree. They chose to identify with Jesus in a public way beyond their previous comfort zone of being known as Christians only by other Christians.

As we consider the example of these men, you should ask yourself three questions. First, have you placed your personal confidence in Christ as your God and Savior? Have you been born again? Second, have you shown increased confidence in Christ by announcing your faith to your supportive church community through baptism? Third, have you gone on to identify with Christ outside the safety of your church? Do nonbelievers know that you are firmly persuaded to believe and follow Jesus? What decisions have you made in public which show your confidence in him?

They valued serving Christ more than they valued their professional status in the world.

Both men in these verses, Nicodemus and Joseph, had believed on Jesus in their heart and had identified with him through baptism in the presence of other believers. However, they had not yet identified with Jesus in a public way, but their confidence continued to grow.

Consider Nicodemus first. He had already begun to take steps towards a more open, confident faith in public. At first, he had begun as a secret believer who came to Jesus by night to hear the gospel (John 3:1-9). Later, we find him being less secretive. He was a member of the 70-person Sanhedrin, the ruling governmental body in Jerusalem. That is why he approached Jesus secretly at first. To do so openly would draw unwanted attention and scrutiny from his fellow rabbis who rejected Jesus. After he believed on Jesus, though, his confidence in him increased over time. Eventually, we find him speaking up before the Sanhedrin in defense of Jesus (John 7:50). What risks have you taken for Jesus this far into your Christian journey? How did they turn out?

Now consider Joseph, a wealthy and prestigious man from a place called Arimathea. According to John, he was a genuine, baptized believer, and yet he had remained private about his faith in his public life. Like Nicodemus, he was also a member of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:50). The Greek word John uses for secretly is krupto, which means “to hide or conceal” something. We borrow from this word to get our English words crypt (which is a hidden room or vault under old churches used to bury dead bodies out of site) or cryptic (which describes a message that is obscure, difficult to see, and hidden behind some mysterious clues, puzzles, or symbols).

John used this word to describe Joseph’s faith in Christ as being “cryptic.” The truth about Jesus was real to him because he had believed it for himself, but it was hidden from the public’s view. Only other believers knew about his faith. Apart from them, he had remained quiet about his belief in Jesus because he feared what the Jews might do to him. After all, the Jews had just pushed forcibly to arrange the crucifixion of Jesus. What would they do to his followers next? If he revealed his faith in Jesus, they might sabotage his career and business ventures or worse. Did you know that genuine believers can be afraid of what might happen to them if they live out their faith in public? It is a very normal experience.

However, after observing the death of Christ, Joseph’s faith became more confident. He stepped out of the cryptic vault of private faith into the risky but rewarding world of public confidence in Christ and service for him. Would you have made the same decision if you had seen the crucifixion of Christ? You see, it is one thing to hear the teaching ministry of Jesus and to see the miracles that he performed. But the greatest motivation for going public with your faith is understanding that Jesus went public in his identification with your sin. As the perfect, innocent, powerful Son of God, he took on the public identity of being a terrible criminal, suffering and dying in your place, in the cruelest of ways, for all to see. If Jesus did that for you, then why should you be ashamed to publicly identify with him?

Giving serious thought to the crucifixion of Jesus will motivate a believer to be public about his or her faith in Christ. You will learn to value obedience and service to Christ more highly than you value anything else that is so important to you. For Joseph of Arimathea, he had a lot to lose from a social, professional and financial standpoint. But seeing the death of Jesus boosted his confidence to a degree that he set that all aside to serve Jesus above all. Do you value serving Jesus in a public way more highly than acceptance by your peers and family, promotion in your education and career, and financial success? Are you still hiding your faith or are you showing it to the world around you?

When Joseph and Nicodemus stepped out to identify with Jesus, they took a great risk. On that occasion, God remarkably delivered them. Though it was probably contrary to protocol to release the body of Jesus to these men, Pilate granted their request. When you take risks for Jesus, God does not always work everything out as he did for these men. Sometimes you will suffer for your decisions, but sometimes God will deliver you in a very special way. How has God delivered you in the past when you obeyed or served him when it was risky?

They spent an extraordinary amount of personal wealth to support the mission of Christ.

As Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea served Jesus in a public way, something else about their decision revealed an increased confidence in Christ. They spent a lot of personal wealth to accomplish their mission. Perhaps you’ve heard some people say, “If you want to see how much a man loves God, then look at the way he spends his money.” This is more than a popular saying. It reflects what Jesus himself taught us. He said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). The examples of Nicodemus and Joseph on this occasion illustrate this observation.

First, Joseph surrendered his personal family burial spot. This would have cost him a lot of money to purchase. It had a terrific location nearby Jerusalem and was brand new. At that time, families would share burial sites and only the wealthiest would have cave sites like this one. They would bury deceased relatives in the family tomb, similar to how these men buried Jesus. After the body decomposed, they would eventually place the remains in a smaller container and move it away to another place in the tomb. In this case, however, the tomb had never been used, which means that Joseph had purchased this site and had not inherited it. To surrender this site to Jesus was a tremendous sacrifice.

In addition to providing a burial place, I am not able to tell you a specific monetary value of the spices these men used to bury Jesus, though they were definitely costly. But I can tell you other things about these spices that will show you how expensive they must have been. For instance, these spices weighed 100 Roman pounds, which would be equivalent to about 66 pounds by U.S. weight measurements today. Can you imagine one-and-a-half 50-gallon buckets filled with exotic perfume? As you envision this, ask yourself the question, “How much have I spent for Jesus?”

By the way, you should recognize that the way these men buried Jesus underscores his real death and resurrection. Some people and religions suggest that Jesus didn’t actually die; they suggest that he just fainted at the least or slipped into a temporary coma. But if this were the case, Jesus still would not have recovered after being wrapped and smothered by the extraordinary weight and concentrated scent of 66 pounds of spices. When Jesus returned from the grave three days later, he had genuinely resurrected from the dead because he had genuinely and definitely died. The way that these men buried him adds to the weight of evidence (no pun intended) for his real death and resurrection.

They treated Chris as though he were a king.

I say this because of the way that these men buried Jesus. The weight of the spices they used to bury Jesus not only demonstrates the costliness of their actions, but it also demonstrates that they viewed Jesus as a very important person, more important than any other authority figure. The Jewish people would bury ordinary citizens, like you and me, with a fraction of the spices used for Jesus. In fact, you could have buried 100 people with that amount of spices they used on Jesus. Historical records tell us that the Jewish people buried a highly respected Jewish leader named Gamaliel using 40 Roman pounds, which is equal to 26 modern pounds.

By today’s standards, 12 ounces of spices would be used to embalm a regular person, 26 pounds for Gamaliel, but 66 for Jesus. Do you see the significance of that? These details show us how highly these men respected Jesus. They respected him as the highest royalty. They also respected Jesus by burying him in the tomb as they did. If they had not made this arrangement at great personal expense, Roman soldiers would have thrown the body of Jesus into a pit with all the other dead bodies like any other common criminal. But Joseph and Nicodemus believed so firmly in Jesus that they wanted him to have a reverent and proper burial.

Do you treat Jesus this way – as a king? Or do you act as though he were just a nice historical person? There are many ways to apply this principle and to do so in a way that the people in the world who observe your life know for certain that you believe and follow Jesus as your God and Savior.

By way of example, consider the way that you come to the morning worship service at church on Sunday. Do you get up early enough, prepare early enough, and leave early enough that you get into the Word for Bible Study at 9 a.m.? And for the start of the 10:15 a.m. service? If you are perpetually late to church, but you actually believe that you are coming to worship Jesus, then you are revealing a lack of respect for Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In fact, you probably treat your employer better because he pays your salary and has the authority to fire or promote you. But Jesus is far more superior than any employer and any political figure. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Do you treat him that way? Nicodemus and Joseph did.

They understood the spiritual significance of Christ's death.

Not only does the death of Jesus deliver believers from the penalty of sin, which is the eternal judgment of God. It also delivers us from the power of sin in this world. When you realize that the death of Christ has removed you from the spiritual darkness of this world, then you should be confident enough in him to come out from this world in a visible way by identifying with him before nonbelievers.

Being public about your faith does not mean that you should stand before nonbelievers and say, “I am a Christian.” Nor does it mean that you should refuse to interact with nonbelievers or build meaningful relationships with them. Quite the opposite is true indeed, for how can you show people your faith when you are not around them?

To step out from the world in a visible way means that you will choose to obey the teachings of Jesus and to do things that will advance his mission in the world. When you see this need, you do things that may risk your professional status, threaten your social network and family ties, or cost you material wealth. But you step forward anyway because you are that confident in Christ and in your preparedness to get involved in what he is doing in the world. Through decisions like this, you as a believer will learn your true freedom from the power of this world. Sometimes you may face persecution, lose your job, or something else difficult may occur. Other times (as with Joseph and Nicodemus), God will grant you favor and open doors of opportunity.

Ultimately, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea understood that Jesus was the Messiah who had come to deliver them from their sins, He was the divine Son of God and the suffering Servant of God prophesied in the Old Testament centuries before. He was both their King forever and their sacrifice for sin.

By mentioning Christ as the sacrifice for sin, you should recognize that John described the day of Christ’s crucifixion and burial as the Passover preparation day. You may already know that he repeatedly refers to the Passover throughout this entire gospel book, but this serves as the last and final reference (John 19:42). This is significant because of what Christ said on the cross moments before he died, “It is finished” (John 19:30). What was finished? The payment for your sins and mine. The final sacrifice for sins had been made.

Do you remember how the Passover also commemorated God’s people, Israel, coming out from Egypt? Today, the final Passover sacrifice of Jesus on the cross not only delivers people from the penalty of sins, but it increasingly pulls people out from the shadows into public identification with and service to God. Is his death by crucifixion doing this for you?

How has your belief in Jesus and your serious awareness of what he did for you on the cross affected your life, as it influenced Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea on that day? Has it pulled you into the circle of belief before God? Into the circle of baptism before believers? Into the circle of identification before the unbelieving world? What have you risked? What have you spent? Do you see what needs to be done for the cause of Christ? Are you willing to stand out to get that done? To get involved at a risk, at a price?

Are you stepping out for Jesus? Or are you hiding in the shadows, hiding your confidence in Christ like a cryptic code hides an important message. In closing, here are some ways (though there are many more) in which you may step out to make your faith in Christ public.

  1. Invite co-workers and colleagues to your home, to a recreational event, to a Bible study, or to a church service.
  2. Ask thoughtful questions about Jesus and speak about him with others.
  3. Carry a Bible to school and read a chapter during lunch or use a Bible verse as your desktop screen saver.
  4. Share your conversion testimony with associates when the opportunity arises.
  5. Stay home when your company is hosting a late-night party featuring inappropriate entertainment.
  6. Make work and life adjustments that allow you to participate more faithfully in church on Sunday each week and in other events that your church is doing for the cause of Christ.
  7. Share a biblical perspective about a topic you are discussing in your class at college.
  8. Increase (or start) regular giving to the church budget, sponsor a specific ministry for the year ahead, give more towards foreign missions, or brainstorm and fund a new ministry through your church.
  9. Treat Jesus like a king. Do what he says and don’t be lazy or stubborn about it as though obeying him were optional.

Christ stepped out for you when he died publicly on the cross for your sins in your place. Will you step out for him?

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