A word for the heart

with Alan Bailey

From the Gospel of John

Jesus
Artist’s impression of what Jesus may have looked like. PHOTO: iClipart

John 3:7-21

Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.

Introduction

In our last study we saw the meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee. Nicodemus was surprised to hear that he needed a new birth to enter God's kingdom. Jesus was referring to the coming of new life into a person, brought about by the Holy Spirit.

In this third chapter of John, much is said about the way of salvation from sin, mostly from the lips of Jesus Himself. It pays for us to listen closely to what is being taught as so much hangs on it.

Ch 3 verse 7, 8
"You should not be surprised at my saying 'You must be born again. ' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You may hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Jesus is saying that the new birth is a miracle. It is unseen, just like the action of the wind. The blowing of the wind is beyond our control and so is the moving of the Holy Spirit. Of course, we can see the effects of the wind and the effects of the new birth.

Verses 9—13 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. "You are a teacher of Israel," said Jesus, "and you do not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.

Instead of accepting the truth told to him by Jesus, Nicodemus still queried what was being said. He was giving no scope to God to do a wonder in a man's life even though he was a teacher of Scripture. So the words of Jesus are a rebuke to his slowness to believe. Jesus is now showing that He, the Son of Man (an Old Testament title Jesus chose for Himself) has in fact come from heaven.

Verses 14, 15 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

Now Jesus speaks plainly about the way people can be saved and enter God's kingdom. He illustrates this vital truth with an incident in Israel's history. When the children of Israel were crossing the wilderness with Moses, they became angry and discontented with the manna God provided for food.

As punishment, God sent snakes among them and many were bitten. Having cried to Moses they had directions given from God to place a model snake made of bronze on a pole and erect it for all to see. The message was given that all who looked in faith to the snake were healed and saved from death.

Jesus likens His coming death to this event. He was to be nailed to a cross for all who will look to Him by faith to receive the gift of eternal life.

We would
be lost if
God had not
moved to
save us.
Verse 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

This is without doubt the most well-known verse in the Bible. It has been called the Gospel in a nutshell. No one needs skill to interpret it, it is plain to understand. In one sentence we meet the love of God, the gift of the Son to earth and to the cross, and the promise of everlasting life to all who will exercise faith in Him.

We are not sure whether these are the actual spoken words of Jesus or the words of the Gospel writer, John, but here is the centre and heart of the Good News, to be relied upon, to be responded to.

We would be lost if God had not moved to save us.

Verses 17, 18 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

What God has done has been done by love and grace. For people to harden their hearts in unbelief, turning away from God's kind offer, leave themselves open to a just penalty. They will be left in their unsaved state. Our salvation involved the sacrifice of the Lord of Glory. How then can we treat it with disdain?

Verses 19, 20 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

The light in these verses is the truth of God. His Word not only informs us, it opens our eyes of understanding so that we see things we have never seen before. But many shun the light. They would rather have their own way, their own sinful way. How true it is to this day that people do not want the wrongs they do to be exposed.

Verse 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

The light of God can be accessed or avoided. It is our choice. The difference between a life lived in the light and one in the darkness is very great. Right now we have the light in front of us.

Conclusion

The first 21 verses of this chapter are among the most important in the New Testament. They plainly tell of the plan of God for our salvation. A religious man is told that his religion is not enough. He needs to be born again by God's power.

This message is still relevant in our day as many think the practice of a religious formula will get them to heaven.

The truth is that we are unable to save ourselves by any good things we may be able to do. We are sinners and what we do is not acceptable to God who is holy. But He has taken the initiative, moved by His love for us. Gladly the Son does the will of the Father. Coming to earth as man was a great step of condescension. Living among us displayed His compassion for the lost. Dying on the cross was the final humiliation. Rising from death was an indication of His triumph. He did what He came to do.

Again, we ask the question, "What are you doing about the vital choice that has to be made?"

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