Archive for March, 2018

John 3:16-18

John 3:16-18 has the Apostle writing the most famous verse in all of scripture.  Of the 31,373 verses in scripture, this is likely the most well-known of them all.  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.” If you want to know God’s heart in a sentence, this is it.  God loves us enough to send Jesus to earth to redeem us from our sin.  This wasn’t  something God had to do.  He didn’t wait for us to love Him first.  God created the way for all mankind to experience what Jesus had told Nicodemus had to happen to receive salvation – we must be born again.  There is no other way to salvation.  Jesus is our way!

John is clear not only about the way for us to eternity with God, but also the why God sent Jesus to us in human form.  “And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”   God doesn’t just love some of us.  The idea that we have to do certain things or be a certain way is not in the formula.  Most of all though, we need to see the duration of God’s love for mankind.  It is forever – it doesn’t change – and Jesus came to restore us to God from our place of condemnation as sinners.

The translation most of us know goes like this: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”.  That’s the version many of us grew up memorizing or hearing.  From that version, Guzik calls out seven wonders of John 3:16

 

God The Almighty Authority
So loved the world The Mightiest Motive
That He gave His only begotten Son The Greatest Gift
That whoever The Widest Welcome
Believes in Him The Easiest Escape
Should not perish The Divine Deliverance
But have everlasting life The Priceless Possession

So what do we need to do in response to God’s provision of a Savior?  What do we do with this free gift of love God has provided – the unlimited offer of grace and mercy through Jesus Christ to all who receive and believe? We have to make that gift our own and take it as our own and believe it as our own.  No one else can do that for us.  It is a personal gift to each one of us. “Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him”.

Some see God as keeper of a bunch of rules that prevent us from enjoying life.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  God is love.  God does have a standard for each of us as individuals – we have to meet His standards of holiness and righteousness to be able to enter heaven on our own merit.  None of us will manage to live that way on our own.  Sin gets in the way.  So God loved us enough to send Jesus.  He is our way – the only way.  If we trust Him and receive that gift of grace, we are set free from the penalty of sin.  If we don’t, we will stand before God and have to give account for our choices.  Anyone who trusts in Jesus can have their slate cleared – their record wiped clean.  What a God! What a Savior!  Have you prepared for the inevitable?  We will all face God someday.  There is only one path to everlasting life, and it is Jesus Christ!

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John 3:7-15

John 3:7-15 has Nicodemus continuing to be schooled by Jesus on how to be born again.  “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God”.  Jesus is  pretty matter of fact about it.  You have to be born again  – born of water and the spirit.  This rebirth is a supernatural thing.

“Nicodemus was amazed at this statement, because he – like most all Jews of his time – believed they already had the inner transformation promised in the New Covenant. Jesus wants him to understand that he does not have it, and must be born again.  That is the only way to get to heaven.  “Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?”  Nicodemus still doesn’t get it.  “Jesus said, You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay”.  Jesus makes it clear that this isn’t a theory or suggestion.  It is the full and only truth.

He scolds Nicodemus as a teacher of the law and a leader of the Pharisees about how slow he is to understand. “Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God”?  Jesus challenges Nicodemus about his understanding and logic.  It is plain as day in Jesus mind, but cloudy as can be for Nicodemus.  So Jesus  takes another run at it.

No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life”.  Jesus makes it clear that He can speak authoritatively about things in heaven, though no one else can. He alone has been with God, been sent by God, and will make a way for all of us who believe to come to God.  He alone is the source of real life, eternal life.  There is no other way.

John 3:1-6

John 3:1-6 has the story of Nicodemus.  He was a leader in the faith and was keenly interested in Jesus.  He comes to visit Jesus under darkness of night because he didn’t want the other Pharisees to know he was talking to Him.  “There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it”.  Nicodemus shows his hand and that of the Pharisees – they know Jesus is not some false prophet trying to work His way into their turf.  He is the real One – the Son of God.  But Nicodemus can’t say that outloud in public, so he comes quietly to ask some questions of Jesus.

And Jesus answers him straight up.  “Jesus said, You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom”.  Jesus throws a bit of a curveball to what Nicodemus was expecting to hear.  Most Jews of that time looked for the Messiah to bring in a new world, to create a new kingdom, in which Israel and the Jewish people would be at the top of the food chain. But Jesus came to bring new life, in which He would be the center.  Jesus did not come as a political leader or king, which was what many were expecting.  Jesus came to change lives.

This doesn’t compute for Nicodemus.  “How can anyone, said Nicodemus, be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk”?  Jesus is changing the rules for how we come to God.  We must be born again.  Tenney wrote ‘Essentially, this means to have new life. A theological term for this is regeneration. It isn’t simply a moral or religious reform, but the bringing of new life. To belong to the heavenly kingdom, one must be born into it.’  This isn’t something we can do on our own.  It isn’t about trying hard or doing some set of actions.  This is about a personal relationship with the Christ.  This is about being born again.

Jesus takes another run at trying to help Nicodemus get his head around the truth of being born again.  “Jesus said, You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit”.  This isn’t  some option for how we enter God’s kingdom.  This is the new Covenant and the ONLY way we can enter.  If we want to enter heaven, we have to know the One who can give us that gift.  He is Jesus, and our only ticket to eternity in heaven is a personal relationship with Him!

John 2:18-25

In John 2:18-25 the Jews are upset with what Jesus has done.  He has literally come into their turf and upset the applecart.  It isn’t a bad question.  Jesus had come and driven out the merchants from the temple courts, so He obviously claimed the authority to do it. The Jews wanted to know if Jesus really had this authority. The problem is that they demanded credentials or a sign from Jesus to prove it. “But the Jews were upset. They asked, “What credentials can you present to justify this”? This was completely upsetting the economy associated with the temple.  That wasn’t God’s plan for it, but what the Jewish leaders had turned it into.

Jesus gives them a very short and confusing response, at least to the Jewish leadership.  “Jesus answered, Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ll put it back together”.  Jesus speaks in a language they don’t understand.  But He knew that these religious leaders would attempt to destroy His body, but He also knew that they would not succeed.  He would raise Himself from the dead and fulfill God’s Word.  Of course, the Jews miss it completely. But He planted the seed that the disciples would remember in the future.  “They were indignant: “It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?” But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple. Later, after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this. They then put two and two together and believed both what was written in Scripture and what Jesus had said”.

Jesus is in Jerusalem and did some signs and wonders which caused people to be drawn to Him.  “During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him”.  But they were chasing what He did, not who He was.  Faith in Christ is not about what He can do for us, although that is unlimited and without boundaries.  Faith in Christ is about who He is.  The people in Jerusalem missed that relationship.  They were focused on what He did.

So Jesus didn’t commit Himself to them.  It was a superficial faith on their part.  “But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them”.  Morgan wrote “If belief is nothing more than admiration for the spectacular, it will create in multitudes applause; but the Son of God cannot commit Himself to that kind of faith”. Faith in Christ is based on one thing – a personal relationship with the Savior and Lord.  It isn’t about what He does.  It is completely about who He is and who we can become when we are deeply committed to walking with Him.  Have you given your all to the Master?

John 2:11-17

John 2:11-17 has Jesus after His first miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding feast of a friend.  Did it matter?  After all it was a small group and very few even knew He had done it.  “This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him”.  It certainly does matter.  His disciples knew what He had done, and they believed!  But the importance is more than the Christ Followers believing in His power.  This changes everything – it is a miracle of conversion, from the old ways of law, ceremony and purification to the new life of Jesus.  Things will be different from here forward, forever!

He leaves Cana and heads to Capernaum where He hung out for a few days before the Passover Feast.  That happened in Jerusalem, so He traveled there and is appalled by what He saw.  “After this he went down to Capernaum along with his mother, brothers, and disciples, and stayed several days. When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength”.  Jerusalem would be crowded with thousands of visitors coming for the Passover celebration. The temple mount, a place of holiness and worship, would be particularly crowded, and Jesus saw many doing business in the outer courts of the temple, not focused on worshipping the One True God.

He demonstrates His passion for the Father in a very intense and visible way.  “Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture, “Zeal for your house consumes me”.  Jesus often does things to change the focus of what was happening in one of the holiest places on the planet.  It doesn’t happen in a flash of anger – He methodically takes time to put together a whip made of strips of leather – but make no mistake He knows exactly what and why He will do what He does.

Why does this offend Jesus so much?  These business folk were set up in the outer courts of the temple which was the only place Gentiles could come and worship.  They weren’t allowed to go any further.  The selling of all sorts of merchandise spoiled the only place where Gentiles could come to worship and pray – it was a very busy market.  But more than that, there was a flood of dishonesty by those who sold there which made it even worse.  So Jesus drove them out.  He’d seen enough.  At first it shocked the disciples but then they remembered the first of many prophecies that Jesus would bring to truth.  He was zealous for His Father’s house.  And because of that, He wanted it to be used to worship God, not sell stuff.

John 2:1-10

John 2:1-10  has Jesus in Cana at a wedding with His mother.  The disciples were also guests and a problem was beginning to appear.  “Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus’ mother told him, They’re just about out of wine”. Scripture is full of stories where Jesus was part of a good time.  Some believe that walking with Christ means we can’t enjoy life.  That’s not what Jesus Himself demonstrated.  He was often in the middle of enjoying things.

But there is a problem at hand at this wedding party.  The wind is running low.  It may not seem like a big deal, but in that day this would be a major fail.  The wedding celebration was about providing adequately for the guests, and if not it would involve social disgrace. In the closely knit communities of Jesus’ day such an error would never be forgotten.  Jesus doesn’t really want to get involved.  “Jesus said, Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me. She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, Whatever he tells you, do it”.  Jesus respectfully tells Mary that it isn’t time for His public ministry yet.  But she doesn’t want to see her friends disgraced, so prepares things for a miracle telling the servers to be prepared to do whatever Jesus instructs them to do.

Mary knows the supernatural ability her Son has.  She doesn’t seem to understand the timing of His ministry, but she has complete confidence in His ability to change the world around Him.  “Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, “Fill the pots with water.” And they filled them to the brim. “Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” Jesus said, and they did”.  Jesus respectfully honors His mom’s request to get involved.  He has the servers fill six big pots with water.  No abra cadabra or other magic – merely following His instruction was all it took.

They did and then filled their serving pitchers from the water filled containers. “When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now”!  The host can’t say enough good about the miraculous wine that Jesus had created without any fanfare and very few knowing what He had done.  He didn’t just create something as good as what was there – He generated the best.  This is the first of His many miracles that begin to reveal His supernatural power as God’s Son.  He starts with people He knows, demonstrating His love and care for people.  What a Savior we have!

John 1:43-51

John 1:43-51 has the story of Jesus continuing.  Jesus had just met up with Andrew and John, who both had brought their brothers to meet the Master.  Now Jesus is moving on to Galilee, and we see the same type of interaction.  “When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, Come, follow me”.  Philip was from the same hometown as Andrew and Peter – Bethsaida – which is interesting in itself.  But Jesus runs into Philip in the course of life and says three simple words to him: ‘Come follow me’.  Sometimes we are looking for a call from the Lord that is complete with bells and whistles and bright lights.  Jesus doesn’t necessarily work that way.  He simply asks us to come and follow.

It is interesting what Philip does after he meets Jesus.  “Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth”!  Philip doesn’t pause, or wonder, or stop at Go and collect $200 (a Monopoly illustration for those who play that game).  He meets Jesus, and just like Andrew, he went and got someone else who needed to meet the Christ.  He didn’t keep the relationship to himself.  He didn’t get what he could from Jesus before sharing him with another.  He met, learned and believed who He was and immediately, without any hesitation, got his friend and dragged him to Jesus.

Guzik says this chapter shows us four ways that people come to know Jesus:

  • Andrew came to Jesus because of the preaching of John.
  • Peter came to Jesus because of the witness of his brother.
  • Phillip came to Jesus as a result of the direct call of Jesus.
  • Nathaniel came to Jesus as he overcame personal prejudices by a personal encounter with Jesus.

When Nathanael heard Philip’s request, he had some serious doubts.  “Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding. But Philip said, Come, see for yourself”.  Philip didn’t try to argue the point – he merely asks his friend to come and see.  Jesus can do the convincing, all we need to do is bring people to meet Him.

The rest of the process of Nathanael coming to know Jesus was all Jesus.  “When Jesus saw him coming he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.” Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” Jesus said, “You’ve become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet”!  Jesus connected with Nathanael and brought him over the line through a personal encounter.  As Christ Followers, it isn’t our job to try and save people.  In fact, we can’t.  But we can do what Andrew and Philip both demonstrated – bring folks in our patch to meet Jesus.  He’ll take it from there.  All we need to do is to follow Him and then introduce others to the Savior!

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