Monday, September 30, 2013

Thoughts from John 3

Nicodemus meets with Jesus: John 3:1-21

John 3 opens with Nicodemus coming by night to meet with Jesus. Who was Nicodemus?  We see that he is a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews. In verse 10 it says he was "Israel's teacher".  In John 7:50 we learn he was part of the Sanhedrin. Over all, Nicodemus was a very influential leader of the time. He was a righteous Jew who was zealous for the law and a religious teacher to the Jewish nation. Nicodemus saw God's hand on Jesus and sought him out to question who He was. Nicodemus was proficient & faithful in the Hebrew Old Testament laws yet his heart was not right with God. As they conversed, he could not comprehend the plan for eternal life that Jesus presented.  In defense of Nicodemus, the concepts Jesus was teaching would have been somewhat incomprehensible (especially that side of the cross) to human logic. In fact human logic can get in the way! God's ways our higher than ours and Jesus came to teach the truth, show the way, and to be the way. The Truth would set Nicodemus free!

Jesus begins the conversation with Nicodemus as "teacher" laying out God's plan:

You must be born again.
This phrase can also be translated "born from above" or "born anew". One must experience a spiritual birth. A spiritual awakening.   "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." John 1:12-13

 ~You must be born of Water and Spirit
Water - represents cleansing, purifying, repentance from sin.
Spirit - God's life giving Spirit" I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:26-28

God Himself will cleanse and purify His people through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ. God takes the heart of stone (spiritually dead heart) and replaces it with a new heart of life and flesh. This is the Spiritual new birth!  This is new Life!  God does it, we cannot. Jesus came to offer salvation and to provide the way!
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4

Jesus moves from teacher to the Son of Man revealing what must take place.
By this point in the conversation, Nicodemus is very confused and trying to comprehend what Jesus is telling him. There is a conversation shift. Jesus shifts from teacher to the Son of God from heaven who "came down" to make new birth possible. 

 ~So must the Son of Man be lifted up
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life."  John 3:14-15

Nicodemus would have known this part of history found in Numbers 21:4-9 - 
"4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived." Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness... must the Son of Man be lifted up...

Some fascinating symbolism to consider:
  • Poisonous Venom/ SIN - The Israelites were poisoned when bit by snakes and death was the result of the bite. The whole world was poisoned when bitten by sin and death is the penalty of sin. (Romans 3:23/6:23) 
  • God made a way - God told Moses to lift up a bronze serpent and all who looked upon the serpent were saved. God sent His son to be the perfect sacrifice paying the price for our sins  
  • Faith - The dying Israelites heard the plan to look up to the bronze snake. Then by faith they looked up to save their physical lives. Mankind as a whole is dying due to sin. We must hear the plan and look to Christ in faith. By faith in Christ we go from spiritual eternal death to eternal life!
  • The snake was a symbol of a curse - The snake on the pole is a symbol of a curse. When Jesus was "lifted up" (crucified), He took on our sins and became the curse of the law.
"For our sake God made Him who knew no sin to be sin..." 2 Corinthians 5:2  
"Christ redeemed us by the curse of the law by becoming a curse, for it is written: 'cursed is everyone who hung on a pole'" Galatians 3:13

JESUS the CHRIST explained to Nicodemus HOW to be BORN AGAIN!

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, whoever believes in Him shall not perish (die) but will have everlasting life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." John 3:16-21

This word for believe in the greek is a verb - Pisteu - and is more than an intellectual belief. It is placing trust and confidence in. With this belief one would take action that would bring evidence of the belief. If you believe - then you love, follow, and obey God's Word.  
In the book of James, James talks about evidence of faith "...Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." James 2:18b-19 
We also see evidence of faith by our love and the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:13-26)  
John says in 1 John 4:8 "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

In the book of John the word believe is written some 99 times. John's purpose in writing the book of John is written in 20:31 "but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,  the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

What do you believe?  

Have YOU been born again? 

This is the most important question one will face on this side of eternity for all eternity depends on it. 

"Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2b

Do not stop praying for your loved ones. Do not stop seeking His face for renewal & restoration. Keep pressing on and finish strong. He is for you. He is with you. He makes a way!

Concerning Nicodemus - we see evidence of a saving faith! In John 7:50 we see him defending the CHRIST and in John 19:39-40 we see Nicodemus identifying with CHRIST at the cross at taking his very body (with Joseph) to prepare for burial. Nicodemus saw the light and believed the Truth! 

"I must decrease" - John the Baptist: John 3:22-36
John 3 finishes with the "testimony" of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was constantly pointing everyone to Christ. He came to prepare the way for the Messiah. Now the mission and ministry of Jesus was in full swing. John the Baptist knew that "I must decrease, but He must increase". He was never confused about who he was. He was not the Christ. John the Baptist said he was not worthy to even hold the sandals of the CHRIST!  Soon after this, we see John the Baptist in-prisoned and beheaded. Jesus speaks of John the Baptist this way, "11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Matthew 11:11
To the end -  John the Baptist was faithfully proclaiming the Messiah!

What about YOU?

Is it evident that you are one of His followers?

Do you exalt the name of Jesus in your daily life?

"And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love." 2 John 1:6

Heavenly Father, 
Thank you for sending Your Word and for loving us. Empower us - Your children - to walk in love. Forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others. Open our eyes to see spiritual things and give us courage to follow. Make us faithful and true. To Your name be the glory. Amen.