Christmas is coming! And wouldn't it be great to give a gift that was received with as much excitement as the kid in this video?
So what does this have to do with the story of Nicodemus. I've read it, reenacted it for Vacation Bible School, heard sermons preached about it and so on all my life. It's a key passage in our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
But when I was preparing to write this 10/2 Grow, I wanted to look up the Greek for the word "born." Something about the conversation recorded in John seemed important!
What I found interesting is that the word for "born" is gennaō and it has two distinct meanings. The first is to be born physically, but it can also mean to excite or sort of stir up. So the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is sort of a word-play that we take for granted because we have read it and heard the term "born again" all our lives!
Take the word "born" out of verse 3 and replace it with excite and from above, which is what the annotated Bible uses:
"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is excited from above."
If we take this verse this way, it shows that what Jesus was trying to tell Nicodemus (and us by extension) was that we have to get stirred up! We have to be inspired! And it comes from above.
We should be creating this sort of passion about our salvation every day of our lives, not taking it for granted. It's the greatest miracle Jesus performed while on earth... sacrificing himself for our sins and rising again to conquer death.
And that's something to get excited from above about.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Think about your salvation from sin today and ask God to create in you a passion and excitement that will honor it as the gift it is.
As part of a project that Peggy and I worked on along with some friends, we visited many churches in our hometown to learn about their history and take pictures of both the outside and the inside of these great houses of worship. It was fascinating to see the different churches, the various architectures, the many stained glass windows and ornate décor within. It was such a spiritual thrill to feel the presence of God in so many diverse places, and to be made aware of how vast and all-encompassing God can be.
I was impressed by these huge churches, it’s true, but those were not the only places that I encountered the Spirit of God. I have been moved to tears and felt the awesome grace of our Lord in small gatherings in living rooms, in dining halls, and even in my own car.
It is not the place that connects us to God, although a place of worship is designed to help us make that connection. What brings us into communion with God is our own soul searching for our Lord and Savior.
The writer of Hebrews is talking about the need to search for God and to find him, connecting with him through Jesus. How does the writer describe this encounter with the Most High? Jewish tradition was to offer sacrifices, sprinkling blood before God to please Him. How does the blood of Jesus speak a better word than the sacrifices of Abel? What is the final warning given?
Where do we find holiness? Is it only in the large cathedrals, the high-ceilinged churches with stained glass windows and tall pulpits? Is God only in those places where thousands gather to worship and raise voices in song?
No. God is in every place made holy by those who come before him acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. The holy mountain that is spoken of, that holy place described here, is within the hearts of the faithful. When our hearts become humble before God, when we confess our sins and ask Jesus to rule our lives, then we are joined with all the angels and the saints everywhere and in every time. We become part of the living God.
We cannot miss this important fact of our faith. We have been taught and warned by those on earth, beginning with Moses and on through all the prophets until Jesus Christ, and then beyond Christ, by the writers of the New Testament and all who preach the good news of salvation even today. Now God calls you from heaven to accept his Son as Savior. Do not turn away from Jesus.
DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be part of thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly?
When I did computer training I never knew the skill level of those who participated in the class. One time I saw a participant clicking away at various programs, and not the lesson I was demonstrating. When I told her how to get back to where I was she said, “I know. I’m a department head. I’m just here to see how you present the class.”
I was not aware of her expertise and had to be told.
We recognize Jesus as the Son of God, as God in human form. But those who were around him were not always aware of who exactly he was. What do the friends of the paralytic do? What does Jesus say to the man in need of healing? How do the Pharisees and teachers react? What does this demonstrate about Jesus?
Jesus seems to have been misunderstood since the beginning of his life. I would even claim that he is still misunderstood by many. It would seem that those who came to see Jesus were coming to hear a good teacher speak and possibly see some amazing healing.
But Jesus offers healing in a unique way when a paralytic is lowered through the roof and set before him. Rather than say, “Be healed” or “Get up and walk,” Jesus declares that the man’s sins are forgiven. And that draws a lot of negative attention.
The religious leaders in his presence take offense and claim that Jesus is blaspheming – insulting God. Their comments are a reminder that only God can forgive sins.
And that is when Jesus proves his point. He equates declaring the man healed with declaring the man forgiven. At his command the invalid is able to rise and walk away. He is physically healed and he is forgiven of his sins.
Jesus has proven that, just as the Pharisees and teachers claimed, God can forgive sins. Therefore, Jesus is the Son of God.
We may call Jesus “Lord.” We may call him “Savior” and “Messiah.” But we must remember exactly what we mean by that. Jesus is more than just a good teacher, a kind helper, a good man. Sometimes we need to be reminded exactly who he is. Jesus is God in human form, and we are called to accept him as Savior so that we may be forgiven.
This requires that we confess our sins to Jesus and ask for the forgiveness we need. We are not asking a teacher or helper, but we are asking God to forgive us. We should never forget that Jesus is the Savior we need. And we should never forget that we are all sinners who need forgiveness.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you acknowledge Jesus as the Savior by asking forgiveness from him?
“It looks like a professional did it.” That phrase has become a joke around our house whenever any of us does something good, but something that is well within our skills and abilities. When Peggy creates a great bulletin cover – “It looks like a professional did it.” When I write a sermon that I am proud of – “It looks like a professional did it.”
It started many years back when Peggy, who is skilled at producing marketing and public relations material, created something for a friend. They were so impressed with what she did, forgetting that it was something she does almost daily.
Today’s passage is a familiar story of the miraculous ability of Jesus Christ. Where are Jesus and his disciples? What problem arises? What does Jesus do? How do his disciples respond?
In our weekly Bible study I shared my perception of Jesus and the frustration he must have felt when dealing with the disciples. This story has been used again and again, usually focusing on the lack of faith that the disciples had. But I want to focus on the concluding comments that the disciples made.
The twelve have been following Jesus and his ministry for enough time that they have heard him preach and teach. If Matthew is written at all chronologically then Jesus has also healed many sick people prior to this trip in the boat. We might assume that these men are following Jesus because they believe he is the Son of God.
But do they really?
Apparently not. If they truly believed him to be the Son of God, God in human form, then they wouldn’t have been amazed at the miracle of the calming of the storm. And if such a miracle did amaze them, the question arises – why did they ask him to save them?
But my fear is that so many of us who call ourselves “Christian” would be equally amazed by the power of Jesus. We claim that we believe Jesus is the Son of God. We claim him as Savior, but we seem to act as if we doubt his ability to forgive our sins or remove them.
Are we simply paying lip service to Jesus, or do we really believe in him as Savior. And if we really believe in him as Savior, can we have faith in the power of Christ? Our faith must be real and not a superficial, shallow cover to what we really believe.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Do you truly believe Jesus can remove your sins and save your soul?
Many years ago my uncle, the owner of a small business, made a decision about an almost daily opportunity. His business brought him in contact with people every day, and he said that many people would greet him with a cliché saying – “What’s the good news?” Never certain how to respond, he finally came to a realization. When asked what the good news was he should always say, “Jesus died for my sins.” In this simple way he could spread the Gospel message.
In this passage from Luke we see Jesus after the resurrection, at the close of his ministry. What did Jesus do for those who believed in him? What did he remind them about in verses 46 and 47? What is important about verse 48?
I was reminded the other day about a message from a few years back. The message focused on the fact that none of us know how long our lives will be. None of us know what day may be our last, and none of us know when or how often we will have an opportunity to share the good news of salvation.
A common misperception is that only preachers or evangelists are able to tell other people about Jesus Christ. But the fact is that each of us can say something that at least serves as a reminder that Jesus died for our sins.
As we look at who Jesus is, the most important thing we must remember is that Jesus is our Savior. Through his death Jesus took on all of our sins. Jesus suffered the punishment for all the wrong you have done and all the sins you will ever commit. Your sins, past and future, are paid for. They are removed – if you accept Jesus as Savior.
But how can anyone accept Jesus as Savior if they have not heard about what Jesus has done?
This passage from Luke is Jesus talking to his disciples and followers, but the message is for all who take on the name of “Christian.” It is significant that this encounter involves more than just the eleven disciples (see Luke 24:33). What Jesus did – open their minds so they could understand – was done for all who believe and have faith, not just the elite eleven.
It is also significant that Jesus claims, “You are witnesses of these things.” I believe the term can apply in two ways. We have witnessed what Jesus has done because we have believed the Gospel story and experienced Jesus in our own lives. But we are also witnesses in that we can share the message of Jesus as Savior.
DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you witness every day?