Jesus the Bread of Life- John 6- Part 2

I love the Snickers commercials about hunger making people do strange things, “Snickers satisfies your hunger.” Our souls are hungry too, and we do STRANGE things when we are hungry.  Jesus is the food that satisfies the hunger in our souls.  In the last post we examined what people want from Jesus.  Today we will see what we really need from Jesus.

What I Want Verses What I Need From Jesus

  1. I Need Jesus, Food For My Soul

 35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst.”  John 6:35

The crowd did not grasp that Jesus spoke about himself as the Bread of Life spiritually; they wanted a daily supply of physical bread, saying, “Give us that bread every day of our lives.” Like the woman at the well who asked Jesus to give her the living water so she wouldn’t be thirsty again, this crowd wanted what Jesus could give so their lives could be made easier. They missed the point. So Jesus told them directly, “I am the bread of life.” If people wanted this bread, they must come to Jesus and believe in him. When Jesus used the words “I am,” he was pointing to his unique, divine identity. In essence this statement says, “I the Lord God am here to provide you with everything you need for your spiritual life.” For Jesus to say he is the Bread of Life is for him to say, “I am the sustenance of your life.” Just as bread supplies our bodies with strength and nourishment, Jesus, the true Bread from Heaven, had come to strengthen and nourish his people, so that they would never be hungry again and never thirst spiritually.

41 Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread from heaven.”  John 6:41

2. I Need Jesus, Life For My Soul

53 So Jesus said again, “I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.
54 But those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them at the last day. 
John 6:53-54

Jesus is alluding to the communion act that he will institute later: his body and blood that will be sacrificed on the cross.  The cross is a picture of judgment and death.  Jesus takes the punishment and death that we deserved.  His body and blood bring life to our souls.

When Jesus fed the 5,000, the crowd remembered the days when God sent manna from Heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness. Maybe they hoped Jesus was the new Moses for their day. They must have seen all kinds of potential for a leader who could bring bread from Heaven. Such a leader could lead an army that would never have to worry about supply-lines. Such a leader could keep any population under his control. Such a leader could rule the world!

But Jesus did not come to feed the world with bread that would give physical life. He came to give Himself as the Bread of eternal life. In his explanation to the fickle crowd, Jesus pointed to the Communion Service that he would institute just before his death.

Jesus offers life to our dying souls.  If we believe in him, we will have eternal life.  But we have heard the gospel wrong if we think Jesus offers an escape from life and its problems. Thousands of Christians still face physical hunger, and millions face crushing difficulties. The gospel frees us to face life. In the middle of the world’s pessimism and despair, the gospel unflinchingly claims that Jesus offers infinitely more than this life can give. We will be disappointed if we expect the presence of Jesus in us to mean that we are immune to sin, struggles, and failures. There are many ways to know hunger and thirst, and we will undoubtedly experience many of them. One of Jesus’ last statements was, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33 nrsv).

  1. I Need Jesus, The Relationship I Am Looking For

 56 All who eat my flesh and drink my blood remain in me, and I in them.  John 6:56-57

This is the first mention in this Gospel of “mutual indwelling” (that is, a simultaneous indwelling of two persons in each other, also known as “coinherence”). When we receive Jesus, we remain in him and he remains in us.

It’s incredible that the God of the universe wants to have a relationship with you and me!  Jesus wants a genuine love relationship with every one of us. His relationship involves more than food handouts, a check list of rules or series of emotional highs.   Unfortunately many people do not care about a relationship with Jesus.

All through chapter 6 we see the people arguing, complaining, grumbling, and then leaving.
When you think about it, the people who walked out on Jesus wanted what he could give to them in the same way a customer might demand service for pay. They wanted to do business with Jesus the soup kitchen, Jesus the cult leader, Jesus the miracle-worker. Jesus, the Bread of Life didn’t resonate with them. It didn’t play well. So they walked away.  Many walk away today as well.

Why did Jesus’ words cause many of his followers to desert him?

  • They may have realized that he wasn’t going to be the conquering Messiah-King they expected.
  • He refused to give in to their self-centered requests.
  • He emphasized faith, not deeds.
  • His teachings were difficult to accept, and some of his words were offensive.

As we grow in our faith, we may be tempted to turn away because Jesus’ lessons are difficult. When discouragement, doubt, or confusion set in, will our response be to give up, ignore certain teachings, or reject Christ? Instead, we must consistently ask God to show us what the teachings mean and how they apply to our lives. We must then have the courage to act on God’s truth.

It turns out that even some of His closest disciples wanted Jesus only for what they could get out of Him. They had no real interest in a relationship with God. Verse 66 gives this sad indictment: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

That led to what I think is one of the most poignant moments in the Bible. Jesus, who was totally God, was also totally human. He felt what any of us would feel. He experienced the pain of rejection … especially the rejection of those he had considered close friends. Jesus turned to his apostles with a question that must have been hard to ask: “Are you also going to leave?”(verse 67) Jesus asked the Twelve.

Thankfully, good old Peter came through for Jesus. He spoke for the group: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69

Peter understood what the crowds had missed. The Apostles weren’t there for fish sandwiches, or to start a Jewish revolt against Rome, or to find a new list of rules to keep, or to get in on a Jesus pep rally, or to hold a big miracle crusade. They were there because they believed and knew that Jesus was the Holy One of God — the Messiah — the Bread of Life. All they needed was what they already had — Jesus himself.

Is He all you need? Is he YOUR Bread of Life? If you had been there the day Jesus called himself the Bread of Life would you have walked away, or would you have echoed Peter’s words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy one of God.”

Darrell

www.RidgeFellowship.com

 

 

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Jesus the Bread of Life – John Ch. 6

What do you want from Jesus?

Is it material gain, financial blessings or perhaps family harmony or happiness?   What about a checklist of things to do to so that you feel better about yourself? Or would you seek a miracle from Jesus to really prove his existence?

What if Jesus never gave you any of these things?  Would you walk away?

These are probing questions that hit us deeply.   In this chapter I asked myself these questions.  I also wondered what it would take for me to walk away from Jesus.  Would I still follow him if he never gave me anything else besides salvation?

In John Chapter 6 Jesus performs the miracle of feeding thousands of people.  Large crowds continue to follow Jesus, but for the wrong reasons.  Jesus reveals who he is and what he is about.  Many people deserted Jesus that day.

Jesus continues to draw people to him today but many lose interest and stop following when Jesus does not give them exactly what they demand.

 So here are the questions that Jesus addresses:

What Do I Want From Jesus? 

 1. Do I Want Jesus For Material Gain?

Many of the people who followed Jesus at this point were hoping for a political savior. They wanted political solutions, free handouts, and material goodies. For them Jesus was the latest and greatest gravy train. These people had watched Rome have limited success by instituting a sort of welfare program that they called a Bread for Peace. There were many hungry, jobless, homeless people in Rome. So the government tried to avoid riots by buying them off with goodies. The plan backfired, because the demands of the crowd simply grew and grew.

Well, Jesus knew that he faced a similar problem the day after he fed the masses with barley cakes and salt-dried fish. In fact, when the crowd arrived, look at how he greeted them. He said: 26 Jesus replied, “The truth is, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign.  John 6:26

On a very minor scale, I can see how Jesus felt.  When I have put out a bird feeder, I can look out the window to see a menagerie in the back yard.  Birds were all over the ground and the deck: Cardinals, finches, titmice, Chickadees and sparrows.  But do they appreciate me?  Did they have any sense of loyalty in return for my generosity? When the bird feeder is empty, the birds completely desert me.   I know as a parent, I provide and pay thousands of dollars to raise them, but for one of them it never is enough.  That hurts.  I think Jesus feels the same way.

Missionaries in third-world countries often talk about “Rice Christians.” These are people who will quickly convert to Christianity in exchange for food or some other physical benefit. The problem with Rice Christians is that when goodies are gone, so are they.
American Christians are not so different. Too many people use church for business contacts or community status. Rice Christians can be found all over the world. These people look to God only for what they can get. They are quick to turn their back on God the first time he fails to deliver.

Jesus told the crowd: 27 But you shouldn’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose.”  John 6:27

Those seeking material gain turned away from his message. Others would eventually turn away also such as those wanting a set of rules to follow.

  1. Do I Want Jesus For Rules Or Religion?

They asked him, “28 They replied, “What does God want us to do?” John 6:28

If these people couldn’t get a free lunch, they at least wanted a list of rules they could hang on to. I never cease to be amazed that religion, by its very nature, draws some people who are actually looking for a dominating, charismatic leader to call the shots and take over their lives. There is a new cult group on every corner these days led by a control freak who turns his followers into some sort of robots.

Throughout Christian history, the church has often fallen into the sin of legalism. The problem is, it’s easier to make rules than to build relationships. Jesus wants to live in the heart of every individual believer. He has sent his Spirit to write His Law on our hearts. He calls every one of us to study His word for ourselves and learn from Him. When we do that, the church enjoys an amazing unity in morals and principles. That’s why you won’t find our congregation publishing a list of Do’s and Don’ts. Instead, we want to teach the scripture and to encourage everyone to seek a personal relationship with the Lord.

But some people simply don’t want a relationship with God. They’d rather find a strong leader and memorize a set of rules. Jesus had no interest in these kind of followers. Jesus came to build relationships, not rules.

When the crowd demanded a list of works, Jesus gave this surprising answer: “”This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29

As amazing as it sounds, Jesus wants a genuine love relationship with every one of us. That kind of relationship can’t be bought with goodies, and it can’t be built on rules. The material gain crowd wanted the goodies more than they wanted God. The Rules and Religion crowd wanted the law but not the giver of that law. They rejected Jesus as a replacement for the rule-keeping religion of that day. And one more group walked out on Jesus that day. They were those seeking emotional sensation.

3.  Do I Want Jesus For Emotional Sensation?

 These people asked Jesus this absurd question: 30 They replied, “You must show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What will you do for us?  John 6:30

Think about it. Jesus had just fed over 5,000 people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. The very next day, they are asking him for a SIGN! Obviously the miracle of feeding the 5,000 gave them enough faith to climb in boats and row all the way across the lake to find Jesus. But yesterday’s miracle was not enough to last until the next morning.

We have plenty of these kind of churchgoers in America today. Some have called  these kind of people “pep rally believers.” Keep them “wowed” and you’ll keep them around; bore them and they are gone. These people crave spiritual excitement. They love spectacular entertainment. They want new experiences all they time. They want Jesus to take them from one mountaintop experience to the next with no valleys in between. They want all kinds of rewards but no responsibility.

It reminds me of a quote attributed to Ronald Reagan. When the nation was mourning over his death, the news was been full of stories about his life. One commentator remembered something he said about the fickle public. Ronald Reagan said: A baby is a lot like the American public: Insatiable appetite at one end and total lack of responsibility at the other end.

Churches today are filled with these kind of people. Insatiable appetite for spiritual excitement, but total lack of responsibility toward the Lord Himself. The sad truth is that many believers are very fickle. That’s why so many people hop from church, to church, to church — always looking for the newest style, the latest seminar, the most electrifying concert, and the most exciting presentation. The American church scene is clogged full with “Forty days of this…” fifty day adventure to that… “Seven habits” of successful whatever… “21 irrefutable laws” and on and on…” It never ends.  Now, I’m not saying these things are bad. We need to focus on special emphasis now and then, and some of these programs are helpful. But it’s way too easy for church-going crowds to start chasing after the latest fad in the religious world.

Jesus did not come to give us endless spiritual highs. He came to give us a chance to know Him.

The response of the crowd tells us a lot about the difference between what people WANT and what people NEED. So often the very thing people need the most is the last thing they are looking for.   In the next post, I’ll cover what we need from Jesus.

Darrell

www.RidgeFellowship.com

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Jesus the Living Water – John Ch. 4

Are You Satisfied?  Our bodies thirst; so do our souls. But our souls need spiritual water. We don’t generally deprive our body of water when we thirst. Why then should we deprive our soul? In John chapter 4 we see that the Jesus loves us and can satisfy our thirsty souls, like he did for the woman at the well.

 Jesus Talks to a Woman at the Well

 Jesus had to pass through Samaria on his way to Galilee. In Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman and with the Samaritans in Sychar, he revealed that he is the expected Messiah.

 (Jesus) had to go through Samaria on the way. 5Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime

The trip made Jesus tired. He had walked from Judea to Sychar—a trip that probably took two days. Jesus’ weariness shows his true humanity. He waited while his disciples, more rested, or hungrier, than he, went to find food. He never seemed to worry that the limitations he took in becoming human might somehow undermine his claims to be the Son of God. Such expressions about Jesus’ humanity help us identify with him. So he sat wearily beside the well at about noontime, the hottest part of the day.

7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. 9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

Where did these prejudices come from? Samaria was a region between Judea and Galilee where Jews of “mixed blood” lived. In Old Testament days, when the northern kingdom of Israel, with its capital at Samaria, fell to the Assyrians, many Jews were deported to Assyria. King Sargon of Assyria repopulated the northern kingdom with captives from other lands to settle the territory and keep the peace (2 Kings 17:24). These captives eventually intermarried with the few Jews who remained in the land to form a mixed race of people who became known as Samaritans. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were no longer “pure” Jews. The Jews who lived in the southern Kingdom felt these Jews had betrayed their people and nation through intermarriage with foreigners. And the hatred continued down through the years.

  • Jesus Loves Me Regardless of My Past

The woman came to the well with shame on her mind. She was avoiding human contact, but the stranger at the well was probably little more than an inconvenience. How often at the supermarket, gas station, or even in church do we pass by people loaded down with guilt. They find themselves having to pursue life’s necessities, hoping to avoid anyone who knows their real needs. Dreading judgment and rejection, they live in fear. And yet, when shown real concern,     these same people find great relief in unburdening themselves. When you greet someone with “How are you?” do you stop long enough to show him or her that you really want to know? From Jesus we learn that simple caring is a gift valued infinitely more than it costs to give.

Two facts are unusual about the woman’s actions: (1) she could have gone to a closer well (scholars have identified wells that were closer to Sychar); (2) women generally drew water later in the day, when the temperature was cooler. This woman, whose reputation seems to have been well known in the small town (4:18), probably chose the well farther away from home and came to that well at an unusual hour in order to avoid contact with other women. It was also highly unusual for a man to address a woman, but Jesus said, Please give me a drink. Again, this statement reveals Jesus’ true humanity; he was really thirsty. Even though such a request startled her (4:9), it drew her into a conversation with Jesus.

No Prejudices with Jesus

This woman (1) was a Samaritan, a member of the hated mixed race, (2) was known to be living in sin, and (3) was in a public place. No respectable Jewish man would talk to a woman under such circumstances. But Jesus did. or Jesus to ask for a drink of water from a utensil belonging to a Samaritan woman was to go against the accepted prejudices of the time.

Jesus and his love is for every person, no matter what his or her race, social position, religious orientation, or past sins.  Jesus crossed all barriers to share the gospel, and we who follow him must do no less—even if misunderstood.

  • Jesus Loves to Give Me Something Lasting

10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”  11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this is a very deep well. Where would you get this living water?  12 And besides, are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his cattle enjoyed?” 

13 Jesus replied, “People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water.

14 But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.” 15 Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me some of that water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to haul water.” 

Jesus makes an extraordinary offer to this woman—living water that would quench her thirst forever.    

People need water daily because they soon become thirsty again. The water from Jacob’s well would indeed satisfy the woman’s thirst, but only temporarily. So also are all the other “drinks” of life—they never satisfy. Some of them even create more thirst. The human needs for love, food, sex, security, and approval, even when met, do not give complete satisfaction. Attempts to find full satisfaction will lead only to disappointment and despair. But the water Jesus offers takes away thirst altogether. Jesus’ “water” continually satisfies the desire for God’s presence because it becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life. The gift that Jesus gives—this perpetual spring—suggests the availability, accessibility, and abundance of the divine life for believers.

The woman’s response reveals that she took Jesus’ words literally. The woman must have been thrilled to think that this man could give her water that really quenches thirst and would not have to be drawn from a well. Obtaining water was hard work—requiring trips to the well twice a day and carrying heavy jars full of water home. If she had some of that water, she would never be thirsty again and wouldn’t have to haul water every day.

Many people who claim to be Christians admit they feel unhappy and dissatisfied over the same problems mentioned by nonbelievers. Feelings of low self-esteem, lack of love, loneliness, and struggles over sex, money, work, and position in life are often as severe with believers as with unbelievers. Are differences between Christians and non-Christians merely on the surface or even imaginary? Did Jesus overstate his claim? Questions like these come from interpreting Jesus’ words as the Samaritan woman did—expecting that physical thirst and all other life-related needs will be satisfied by Jesus’ “living water.” But that is not what Jesus promised. He offered freedom within life, not freedom from life! Later he told his disciples in no uncertain terms: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (16:33 niv). Believers will experience many of the same difficulties encountered by unbelievers, but the presence of Jesus in our lives should make a significant difference in the way we respond. Living water gives us spiritual power to face the challenges of living, not escape from them.

·       Jesus Wants Me to See My Emptiness Before I Can be Filled

16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. 17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet….

Jesus abruptly shifted the subject from his living water to her style of living. The woman perceived her need for living water at one level; Jesus knew that her need was far deeper, so he turned the conversation to reveal his knowledge of her personal life—and her sin of adultery. By asking her to go and get her husband, Jesus wanted to make this woman see her sin and her need for forgiveness and then offer her the living water—salvation. She must have realized that this was not a man who could be fooled, for she answered transparently, “I don’t have a husband.” The woman spoke the truth without any explanation.

Although he confronted the woman’s sinful life, Jesus managed to affirm her truthfulness. He did not accuse or excuse; he simply described her life so that she could draw some clear conclusions about the mess in which she was living. The conclusions we reach without knowing the facts will usually err in one of two directions: We will accuse others and raise their defenses, or we will excuse others and enable their denial. We see in Jesus’ communication with this woman that when faced with an accepting confrontation, people will often respond positively.

The woman acknowledged the truthfulness of Jesus’ remarks about her life. At the same time, she recognized that he must be a prophet who had the power to “see” the hidden past as well as the future. The theme of people “seeing” Jesus appears several times in John.  The persons Jesus encountered saw him many different ways, but he consistently directed their attention to recognize him for who he really was—their Savior.

 The discussion had reached a point at which the Samaritan voiced her hope that someone would eventually be able to settle all her questions and problems. Sooner or later, in a conversation on life, people will reveal their hope. They will tell us what they rely on when worldly answers fail. At those times, we certainly should reveal our hope. Peter reminds us to “quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3:15 tlb). Unlike Jesus, we cannot claim to be the Answer, but if we believe in Jesus, we can claim to know the Answer. When someone says, “Someday I’ll figure it all out,” we ought to respond, “I know someone who has the answers today!”

·       My Response to Jesus’ Love is to Tell Others about Him.

25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah will come—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah”!
27 Just then his disciples arrived. They were astonished to find him talking to a woman, but none of them asked him why he was doing it or what they had been discussing. 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and went back to the village and told everyone, 29 “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

Beyond displaying the woman’s excited state of mind, her action of leaving her water jar beside the well as she went back to the village has several significant explanations: On the one hand, it speaks of the woman leaving behind her water jar representing her thirst for true life and satisfaction; on the other hand, it also reveals her intention to return. The water jar was a valuable and practical household object. But as useful as it was to get water from the well, it was useless for obtaining the water of life. However, she had just met someone who promised living water and who had displayed intimate knowledge of her life and profound understanding of spiritual truths. We can’t be sure how much she understood of what Jesus had told her, but she was convinced that everyone in town ought to hear what he had to say.

In essence, the Samaritan woman was saying that Jesus could have told her everything about her life, for in telling her about her relationships with various men, he revealed his knowledge about her history. She made no promises about what Jesus might know about everyone else, but she appealed to their curiosity. What was it about this stranger that could make a woman who had every reason to be ashamed of her life now speak publicly about her experience of transparency before him? Yet she said to the townspeople, “Can this be the Messiah?” Her invitation proved irresistible. She probably knew that her reputation preceded her, and any assertion on her part regarding her belief in this man would go unheeded. But her question did serve to stir up curiosity and had the desired effect—the people came streaming from the village to see him.

 What To Leave Behind

When we return to the world of family and friends after encountering Jesus, there are two kinds of “water jars” we must leave behind:

  1. We must leave behind our shame about the past. Because Jesus knows all about us, we can repent and receive his forgiveness. God may use the emptiness of our past life to help us convey to others the wonder of forgiveness. But we must not dwell on or carry guilt about the past.
  2. We must leave behind some habits and pleasures. Certain pleasures and relationships (not bad in themselves) may hinder our living for Christ and telling others about Him. The water jar would have slowed the woman down. She probably retrieved it later, but was not concerned about it in the light of her discovery.

Even though we know that our old way of living never truly satisfies, the tempter deceives us into believing that there still may be an instant, easy source of happiness in the old empty ways. Have you turned your back on old habits, old treasures, old pleasures in order to seek what only God can give?  Leave them behind and satisfy your thirst in Christ.

Darrell

www.RidgeFellowship.com

Sources:
— Life Application Bible Commentary
— Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary

 

 

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Jesus Gives New Life – John Ch. 3, Part 2

I enjoy jokes about people showing up at the pearly gates, seeking entrance into Heaven and are met by Saint Peter.  Like this one:

Three men died and were standing at the pearly gates. “What have you done to deserve Heaven says Saint Peter?” The first man was a police officer who enforced law and fought crime. Peter says, “OK, go on in!”  The second man was very wealthy man and gave lots of money to charitable causes. Peter say, “OK, go on in!” The third man was a director of an HMO organization. He had helped save millions of dollars for health care and insurance companies. He had helped cut down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. Peter says, “OK come on in, but you can only stay for 3 days!”
While many of these jokes bring a smile to our faces, behind most of them is the false assumption that we must we can earn our way into Heaven.  It is shocking to people to hear that they can’t do anything to earn entrance into Heaven.  This is exactly the truth that Jesus is sharing with Nicodemus in John chapter 3.  It’s not about our works or religion.   Salvation and new birth is about Jesus and what he did!   That’s the message that Jesus had for Nicodemus… That’s the plan that God has for us.  In today’s post Jesus shares with Nicodemus the words that have become known as the “Gospel in a nutshell” John 3:16.

Before we get there Jesus is still explaining to Nicodemus the concept of “New Birth” spiritually.

8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked
.

We see from this dialogue that it is OK to

  • Ask Questions    In addition to asking questions I must also…
  • Be Honest

Many times people that claim to be seeking are just looking for justification to live the way they want.  We must be honest.  Don’t let anything stand in the way of eternity, not pride, tradition or selfishness.

  • Understand My Greatest Need

What each of us needs to understand is the message that Jesus gave to Nicodemus In order to have acceptance with God into his kingdom, there has to be a personal, individual change that takes place. See, Nicodemus greatest need was not for Religion, Tradition, or Position.  His need was to be changed. He didn’t need to be taught by the Teacher; he needed to be birthed by the Spirit.
Why do you go to church, read the bible or pray? Do you want to hear some principles from God’s Word that you figure will help you live life a little more peacefully? You can find those. Do you want to make some new friends? You can find that too. Do you want some more business contacts to sell to?  Or did you come to Jesus in order to be changed by Him – not cleaned up, not overhauled, not refurbished – but completely and utterly changed. If that’s what your need is, then you’re at the right place. That is your greatest need.

I Need to Respond to Jesus      

Start my Spiritual Renewal by responding to Jesus’ invitation. Jesus answered and said to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’ (verse 3) Jesus answered, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” (verse 5) Twice Jesus answered. Twice the condition given by Jesus was the new birth. Twice the ultimate fulfillment of these conditions was entrance into the kingdom of God.  Jesus gave the invitation: “Come on in!   He gives the same invitation today to you.  Come on in!

Jesus further explains who he is,
13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.
14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

To emphasize his point, Jesus turns to a familiar OT story. He refers to the desert incident when God sent venomous snakes into the Israelite’s camp because they kept complaining and not doing as God asked them to do.   The venomous snakes that lived in the region are called. “Palestinian Vipers.”    Her’s a picture of one:

As these snakes began to strike the people, the people became sick and some died.  they cried out to Moses.  Moses prayed and God instructed Moses to make and erect a bronze serpent. And all those who looked up at the serpent were saved. Even so, Jesus would be lifted up on a cross, and those who look to Him will be saved.

Like the Israelites in the desert, we have all been struck down by sin.  Sin has sunk its fangs in our spiritual souls and we are dying. The venom has made its way to our hearts and we are dying in our sins.

But God saw us in our sinful hopelessness, and He made a way. He sent a Savior, who was lifted up on the cross. And now the message is clear, “Believe in Him. Believe in Him. Believe in Him!. Look to the cross. There is healing in the cross. There is a Savior. The new birth comes through a Savior.

Our salvation is driven by the love of God based on our need for healing, and restoration.

From here we find the most popular Bible verse of all times.

16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

I read a story about an instant cake mix that was a big flop… The instructions said all you had to do was add water & bake… The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell – until their research discovered that the public felt uneasy about a cake mix that required only water… Apparently, people thought it was too easy…

So the company altered the formula & changed the directions to add an egg in addition to the water… The idea worked & sales increased.

That story reminds me of how people react to the plan of salvation or being born again.  To them, it sounds too easy & simple to be true.  Unlike the cake mix manufacturer, God has not changed His “formula” to make salvation more marketable… The gospel we proclaim has nothing to do with being good enough, its about Jesus and that he was good enough.  It’s not about us, its about Jesus.  It’s about grace.  Grace goes beyond human comprehension. By our nature, we want to merit God’s favor. The shocking revelation of Jesus about the scandal of grace challenges our normal way of thinking.

Here are the Steps to Spiritual Rebirth

Psychologists say that there are three steps to change.  First, realize the need to change – what they call dissonance. Second, have a desire to change. Third, commit to changing. Simply put, it is I should change, I want to Change, and I have Changed.  It’s a decision we make not a deed we do.
Christianity has talked about those same three steps for generations. The biblical words are Conviction, Repentance, and Rebirth.

  1. Conviction“I need to change”
  2. Repentance“I am moving away from my old life and towards Christ. My mind is changed!”
  3. Rebirth/Conversion“I’m committing myself to Christ. I’m breathing in the new life spiritually that Jesus offers.”

We recognize that these are not steps that we can take by ourselves. The Holy Spirit is involved in each step.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin in our life and our need for him.  We repent because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life and then when we move towards God then he supernaturally gives us new life.

Nicodemus was radically challenged and went away different than he came.  This story ends well, eventually; Nicodemus experienced a spiritual renewal of his own.  We read of him defending Jesus before the Pharisees as they were plotting against him — earning him a severe rebuke (John 7:50-51). He also shows up after the crucifixion of Jesus and helps Joseph of Arimathea anoint the body of Jesus, wrap it and bury it (John 19:38-40). Both of these acts were done at great personal risk, and possibly got him expelled from the Temple. Something had happened to the heart of Nicodemus. He could have held on to his title as a religious teacher in Israel and resented that Jesus was trying to teach him something, but he humbled himself and experienced a new birth.

I hope you will do the same.  We need to see the verses after John 3:16 which are just as important:

17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.

The choice is ours, spiritual renewal in Jesus Christ or judgment and spiritual death.  Will you chose Christ?

Darrell

www.RidgeFellowship.com

 

 

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