Sunday, March 18, 2012

A New Life

This quarter we have studied how the Word Was in the Beginning. Prov 8:22-35 taught us that Wisdom (Jesus) was here before creation and was with God who delighted in Him daily. John 1:1-14 taught us the Word (Jesus) was in the beginning, was God, was with God, was light, was made flesh, and was rejected. We also saw the power of the words of the Word (Jesus). His first miracle was known only to the servants who assisted in the performance, His disciples, and probably his mother Mary. John 2:1-12 We found at that time that He became flesh to fulfill the purpose as Redeemer for the believers. He had only laid aside his deity. He was all God and all Man. Today's lesson further explains the truths in Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus at John 3:11-21.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of an ancient Jewish religious group who followed the strict interpretation and observance of the Oral Law in addition to the written law (Torah). The Pharisees were in conflict with the ministry of Jesus because of their strict beliefs in the law and His commandments to love God and love your neighbors. In John 3:1-10 we see Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night. He is confused and ready to admit such to Jesus, but he does not want to be seen. So he comes by night. He calls Jesus a "Rabbi" because he recognizes there are truths in what Jesus is doing. However, Nicodemus does not understand or misunderstands things about the "Rabbi". Jesus is patient with him because He knows his heart. Nicodemus is a teacher and genuinely wants to know if Jesus is a teacher "come from God". Jesus turned the encounter into a teaching moment and tells him that he must be born again. He is teaching Nicodemus about heavenly things (Plan of Salvation) through earthly things. The first birth is the human birth. The second birth is by the Spirit. This is the new birth and is also called regeneration. It is initiated by God. In explaining the new birth Jesus also used the wind to assist Him. The wind comes and goes, no one knows from where, nor can you hear it, but God directs the wind. The same is true of everyone who is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus is yet confused, but he stood ready to listen to more teaching. (John 3:9-10)

'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?' John 3:11-12 Jesus asked Nicodemus, basically, how could he believe the things He had to say from heaven as a teacher who had "come from God" when he could not believe Him nor his disciples who were His witnesses of the things that occur on earth. Jesus was a witness of glory and Nicodemus did not know how to trust Him. Nicodemus wanted to believe Jesus and yet he wanted evidence to analyze to confirm his trust of Him.

'And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.' John 3:13 Jesus now reveals three things: 1. No man other than He has gone to heaven. 2. He came from heaven. 3. The Son of man (Jesus) is in heaven and on earth at the same time (omnipresent). These revelations must lead us to assume that Jesus has a relationship with God the Father, and the third Person of Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

'And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.' John 3:14-15 Jesus knew Nicodemus, a teacher, knew the significance of His quoting Moses and the serpent in the wilderness. Numbers 21:6-9 God had delivered the Israelites from the hands of the Canaanites, but they spoke against Him and Moses because they tired of the journey and the lack of their preferred bread and water. (Had they not witnessed God the provider?) God sent fiery serpents to bite the people. Many died and Moses interceded to the Lord for those remaining. God had Moses make a fiery serpent and place it upon a pole lifted from the ground for people to be able to see it. Any man who had been bitten would be healed. This was the parallel Jesus made to Himself. He, too, had to be lifted up on a pole (the cross) in order for those who looked to the cross would live eternally. Jesus did not directly state He would be crucified. It was not time. He was simply teaching. However, Nicodemus must have put all the pieces together because after the crucifiction, he and Joseph of Arimathaea were no longer secret disciples. They asked Pilate for Jesus' body to give a Jewish burial. John 19:38-40

'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' John 3:16 This is one of the best known verses in the Bible. Jesus reminded Nicodemus that he could not receive everlasting life by following the law. That was not God's purpose; he had to have faith in Jesus. Jesus told Nicodemus that God's purpose was centered around His unconditional love for the entire world to the extent that He would be willing to give His unique Son for all sinners who believe and receives His Son. Only those who accept His Son shall be saved, have eternal life, and will have access to God the Father. See also John 14:6

'For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.' John 3:17-18 Jesus taught that He could have been sent from heaven by God to condemn the unrepentent, rebellious sinners. Such was not God's purpose. Verse 17 reinforces the purpose of God stated in verse 16. When Adam partook of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17; Gen 3:6-7) sin began. That action is the cause for the world's condemnation due to sin. Each person is born in sin from his mother's womb. Jesus came to save us from the condemnation of eternal hell, if only we believe in His name. Those who fail to believe in His name is already condemned to eternal hell and damnation.

'And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.' John 3:19-21 Jesus then teaches Nicodemus through metaphors. He lets him know that light has come into the world to shine and give life. But evil men prefer darkness. They seek flesh-type deeds and enjoy the pleasures of sin. They will receive death. Jesus had always told his followers to be '...light(s) of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' Matt 5:14b-16

Jesus explained the consequences for our actions. We either accept Him and receive eternal life. Or we do not and receive eternal damnation. At least we have a choice...BUT there are only two. There are no middle roads. What do you prefer?

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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