Monday, May 28, 2007

In Search Of Truth, John Chapter 3

The Gospel of John, Chapter 3

So who is Jesus, really? Who did HE say that he was? What did HE believe in? Our walk through the Gospel of John is aimed at answering just those kinds of questions. And today, with Chapter 3, we'll start getting some answers.

Nicodemus was one of the most thoroughly educated teachers in Jesus' culture. And even though he did so under cover of night, he put aside a great deal of the pride he had in his education and allowed himself to be instructed by Jesus. Have you ever noticed your pride keeping you from exploring and learning something new? If we really want to advance in knowledge and wisdom, we need to learn with questioning but open minds and try to keep our bias at bay.

There are a few different ideas on what the phrase "water and the Spirit" means.

1. "water" refers to human birth.

2. "water" refers to the symbol of baptism.

3. "water" refers to a cleansing performed by the Holy Spirit.

What IS clear, is that "the Spirit" refers not to a person's spirit, but to the Spirit of God. Aside from the Greek language context, this is emphasized in verse 6. Being "born again" isn't something we can make happen ourselves. The Holy Spirit is the one that gives us new life as a gift. Jesus compares it to the wind in verse 8. Because it is invisible, we can't see where it comes from before we feel it, or where it goes to after.

Sound confusing or maybe a little mysterious? Yep. It's an aspect of God no one can really grasp. Although the Bible DOES tell us quite a bit more about this mysterious "Spirit", so feel free to read and explore the topic yourself. For now, we'll keep moving forward with Jesus. (He'll talk about the Spirit more later, too.)

Jesus talks about his divine nature in v. 13 and then his divine mission in v.14. The incident referred to with Moses is found in numbers 21:6-10. (Read it really quick! It will make what Jesus says much more interesting!) The comparison of Jesus to the bronze serpent displayed incredible foreknowledge of his destiny on the Cross and the PURPOSE for which he would sacrifice himself.

Incidentally, some people may feel more comfortable just believing in Jesus and not all that "crazy stuff" in the Old Testament. It seems pretty clear, however, that JESUS believed in the Old Testament. So it would appear that the Old Testament comes as part of the "Jesus package".

John 3:16 is probably the most famous verse in the Bible. The Greek word used for "believe" here does not simply mean to have head knowledge. It means to "trust in". Very few people would say that Jesus never existed. But Jesus isn't asking us to believe he exists. He's asking us to trust in him and who he says he is.

As we continue to look at the life of Jesus, he will say some incredible things about himself. The question you should ask yourself is, "Do I believe that Jesus is who he says he is? Do I REALLY believe it? If I do, how should I think about this life differently? How should I LIVE it differently?"

Why do so many choose not to believe in Christ? Is it for lack of evidence? And why are those who don't believe in Christ judged so harshly by God in the end?

Look again at verses 16-20. Look also at verses 35-36. God loved humanity. He loved us so much that he gave up his only Son. Now, that concept in itself is hard to grasp. What does the Bible mean when it says that Jesus is "God's only Son"? Instead of going into a study of the Trinity right now, suffice it to say that Jesus uses this term to convey the immense love and connection between Jesus and "God the Father".

If you are a parent, you can only imagine in horror the idea of allowing your child to die.

God saw that we needed rescuing, and that it would need to come in the form of Jesus' death. (More on "why" another time.)

So he allowed Jesus, someone more precious to him than our imperfect love can imagine, to be brutally killed.

Since then, God has seen people live their lives in a way that says, "I have my own ideas about how I want to live life. I know this 'Christian God' probably wouldn't like some of what I do, so I'll just stay away from him and this 'Jesus' figure. I don't need his brutal death to save me. Poor guy was a victimized martyr. But he sure wasn't special enough to be God."

From God's perspective, this casual attitude is extremely disrespectful, even a spit in the face, of the character of Christ and the sacrifice willingly made by both Jesus and the Father.

And so God gives us what we want, and the death of Christ is either applied to our lives for eternity, or it is not.

This is easily the most important decision made in anyone's life, because once truly made, it effects all others. So we'd encourage you to consider what your choice is. And if you've already made the choice to trust in Christ, to DAILY consider what that choice means for all the other choices you will make.

Be sure to come back next week! We're just getting started!

Questions to Comment on: (Leave comments HERE about these questions!)

1. What has made it difficult to have "religious" discussions with people you know?

2. In your day to day life, talking with friends, watching t.v., or getting online, how do you determine if new information is true or false?

3. What do you think of, good or bad, when you hear the word "faith"?

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