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.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

John 1:19-2-25

John The Baptist

Dressed in Camel hair and leather belt, eating wild honey and locusts, is John the Baptist. He is first character brought forth in the Gospel of John. He is seen by the Jordan baptizing people. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, a voice crying out in the desert preparing the way of the Lord. He was focused and faithful and committed to the call of God in his life. It is said that he had the spirit and power of Elijah. So much so that  some believe that he WAS Elijah (Malachi 4:5). He is the one who baptized Jesus and started the ministry that would change my life and yours forever.

So John the Baptist baptized. Have you ever wondered why? We as Christians read this passage and understand the necessity of Baptism but why would John the Baptist, a Jew, son of a Jewish priest baptize?
Here is a quick overview of the Jewish background of Christian baptism.
Water and blood have always been at the center of repentance and atonement of sins in the Jewish beliefs. The Jewish Mikveh occurred before the high priest  conducted the service on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It was also performed by regular priests before they participated in the Temple service and before each person would enter the temple complex. It was also performed before a scribe wrote the name of God.

What is the Jewish Mikveh?

The term Mikveh means gathering of waters. It was first used in Genesis 1:9. If you read through the book of Leviticus you will encounter that term every time it is mentioned that cleansing had to happen. Several groups observe ritual immersion to assure readiness for the coming of the Messiah. Among those are the Heterobaptists or daily bathers. 


Let's not be too dogmatic about the baptism process and claimed that immersion is the only way to go. The immersion process was more complex that ours today. It had to be done in front of witnesses. The person had to make a new profession of faith, cut their nails and undress completely. I do not know about you but I do not remember the last time I went to a naked baptism.....

Immersion was NOT the only to consecrate oneself either. In Exodus 19:10 the Israelite are asked to wash their clothes before receiving the 10 commandments (also see Revelation 22:14). 1 Samuel 7:6 pictures a scene where they simply poured water before the Lord. 2 Kings 3:11 mentioned Elisha pouring water into Elijah's hands. Ezekiel 36:25 simply mentioned sprinkling. So let's not be dogmatic and lose ourselves in the "proper way" but let's focus on the big picture.

Behold the Lamb of God

The Mishnah (Oral law on how to accomplish the written law) mentions 6 descending orders of ritual bathing. The highest is that of a spring or flowing river. This order is also called the Living Water and illustrated the forgiveness of sins. When John baptized Jesus, all righteousness was being fulfilled (Matthew 3:15) and announcing who he truly was (John 1:31, John 4:10).

Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophesies regarding the Messiah. This was one of them. See Genesis 22:8, Isaiah 6:8, Isaih 40:9.

There is so much about that concept and I would encourage you to dig deeper in the word and make those truths your own.
Here are the main verses that Jews look to in order to recognize the Messiah. Look them up, mediate on them and know in the depth of your heart that Jesus is the I AM, God. Knowing this will make it so much easier to follow Him, become one of His disciple and do whatever He is asking you to do.

  • Isaiah 2, 11, 42; 59:20
  • Jeremiah 23, 30, 33; 48:47; 49:39
  • Ezekiel 38:16
  • Hosea 3:4-5
  • Micah 4
  • Zephaniah 3:9; 14:9
  • Daniel 10:14

Friday, September 13, 2013

John 1:1-18

In the beginning.....Every good story starts with a beginning, even fairy tales.

We do not realize it but when we share a story about ourselves we usually start with "in the beginning". This is what John is doing, he is starting his story. Many scholars refer to this part of the gospel as the prologue.

What is a prologue?
"What is past is prologue." Shakespeare
We discussed last week that there is NOTHING more powerful than the word of God. And it is my prayer that this truth will dwell in your hearts.
Prologue comes from two Greek words
Pro = before
Logos = word

A prologue is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives the background details.

Have you ever read a book that took you away. The writer was so good that you were caught in the story because the words came alive. I hope you have.

John here says that THE WORD came alive. The word that was with God and that was God. The word without which nothing that is would be.

What did this mean to a Jew? v. 17 gives us a clue.
"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
 The other word for law is Torah, which is the word of God given to Moses.

I compare this to listening to your favorite band on your IPod and seeing them in concert. I like the band Skillet and listening to their songs usually makes me run faster but seeing them in concert makes me breathe the fire!

When the Word came alive we were breathing the fire! There are many cross references between the prologue and the rest of the gospel. You can download the form here.

What is past is prologue.....

Look up Psalm 90:2 and Ecclesiastes 3:11

Picture a big tent. God is the tent. All at once he seed the beginning and the end. We are just a dot, a molecule in there somewhere but we are inside the tent.
Knowing this will bring you peace in time of distress and loneliness. You are in His tent.

"He is before all things and in Him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17

So even when you think you are falling apart, you are not because He is holding you together.

This is what John wants you to know without the shadow of a doubt. The word dwelt among us and we have seen him.

You cannot make something like that up.

You cannot fake it.
"You can fake Christianity, but you can’t fake Christ.
You can fake church, but you can’t fake change.
You can fake communion, but you can’t fake commitment.
You can fake religion, but you can’t fake relationship.
You can fake dedication, but you can’t fake devotion.
You can fake faith, but you can’t fake fruit.
You can fake holiness, but you can’t fake godliness.
You can’t fake real."

Matt Maher
The Matt Maher Story

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In the beginning.....

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Genesis 1:1-2

And God said Let there be light

And God said

Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters and let it separate the waters from the waters.

Let the waters under the heavens be gathered into one place and let the dry land appear.

Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants, yielding seed and trees bearing fruits.

let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth
God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves

Let us make man

 With man came lies, deceit, adultery, corruption, greed, idol worship, war............

I will not pretend that I fully understand what it means for the word to become flesh. One thing I know for sure is that the word of God is THE MOST powerful thing there is.

Without the word we would not be here, if the word does not dwell in us we do not have eternal life. Everything you see around you is because of the word.

This immense power is available to us at no cost and we have the freedom and the ability to take hold of that power and live a life of miracles.

The Bible is the word of God and you are holding it in your hands. Do we treat it the way it should be treated? Do we respect it? If you truly regarded the Bible as a book with power, wouldn't you dust it off?

Let's be honest here. We are more consumed by the words on the facebook feed or the reality magazine at the check out line than the word of God.

When we have aches and pains we google our symptoms until we can safely reassure ourselves that we do not have a brain tumor but a simple headache.

We share words with our friends in gossip...
We share words with our husbands in frustration...
We share words with our children in anger...
We share words with God too about all the things and people that need fixing in our lives.

But do we receive the word and do what it says.

 Read Colossians 3:16-17

Commit yourself to reading the word and apply it to your life.

When asked which Bible translation was best Rick Warren answered that "the best translation is when you translate the word of God into your daily life."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

John Week One Homework

                            Week 1 Homework

Memory Verse
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1:1-2

1. Read John 1:1-18 and do a SOAP study

What is SOAP?
Paraphrase the Scripture passage. Write the main idea in your own words.
O  Write down 1 or 2 Observations from the passage.  What stuck out? What was interesting?
A  Write down 1 or 2 Applications from the passage. How does this relate to my life? As a   wife? Mom? Friend?
Pray over what you learned from today’s passage. Write a prayer.

Read or look through the book of John. What do you hope to get out of this study?

Pray and make a commitment with God to seek Him daily as you study the book of John.