John 3 – “You Must Be Born Again”

Jesus was very clear about the change that must take place in order to become one of his own and see the kingdom of God.

You must be born again” John 3:7

Must I go to church? No, you must be born again. Must I pray a certain prayer? No, you must be born again. Must I give to the poor? No, you must be born again. Must I be baptized? No, you must be born again. Must I follow the law? No, you must be born again. Must I teach Sunday school or sing in the choir? No, you must be born again!

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3

One of my spiritual heroes, C.H. Spurgeon, illustrated this truth this way (in my own paraphrase):

Suppose that in England, there should be a law passed that admission to courts, preference to office, and any privileges in the nation were only given to the natural born citizens of the country. What then, would court officials say if an native Indian man came to them and said, “I will change my name” or “I will change my dress” or “I will change my family, my friends,” or “I will learn the language” or “I will work for it!” You see none of these things could admit the man, for the law is absolute, the man must be an natural born citizen to obtain the privileges, and he is not.

This illustration also correlates with us as Christians. We cannot change our names (call ourselves Christians), change the way we dress, change our friends, change our behavior, learn to talk like Christians, learn to pray like Christians, give away our money, help the poor, or do any type of Christian service. For God’s statement is clear: “You must be born again.”

This new birth is a sweeping process which is more than a change, it is a creation. Not just reformation, but regeneration. Not just becoming religious, but being born. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefor, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; Behold, the new has come.”

Do you exhibit a different life than you did before? Do you now hate the very things you used to love? Have your desires changed? Do you have a hunger for reading and understanding God’s Word? Do you desire to be around other believers? Can you persist in sin? What is your attitude towards sin- are you brokenhearted over it? or are you still indifferent to it? To whom have you entrusted your whole life to?

We cannot bring about these changes ourselves, nor make ourselves “born again.” We are only born again of the Spirit, the power of God. Salvation is a magnificent work where a soul is saved and made completely new. Ultimately, Jesus is the only one who can bring about this new creation in us.

It is imperative to understand that he brings about this change. “Behold” says Christ, “I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Dear friend, you must be made new; you must be born again! I paraphrase Mr. Spurgeon again, “Christ can make you really pure in heart; he can make you a new creature, so that you shall be converted and become as a little child. “Oh!” say you, “how can I get it? How can I prepare myself for him?” You do not want to prepare yourself for him. Go to him just as you are; trust him to do it, and he will do it. That is faith, you know–trust, dependence. Can you believe that Christ can save you? Oh! you can believe that; well now, will you trust him to save you? Will you trust him to deliver you from your drunkenness, from your angry temper, your pride, your love of self, your lusts? Do you desire to be a new creature in Christ Jesus? If so, that very desire must have come from heaven. I could fain hope that he has already begun the good work in you, and he that begins it will carry it on.”

“”Oh! make me a new creature!” If you have said that from your heart, you are a new creature, dear brother, and we will rejoice together in this regenerating Savior.” (Spurgeon, A New Creation, published July 15, 1915.)

John 2: Jesus Turns Water To Wine: Amazing Symbolism

slide-8-water-into-wine

Most people have heard about Jesus turning the water into wine, but do they really know what it means? Do you really know what it means?

If you have not read this portion of scripture, please read John 2:1-12 now so that we may be taught of the Spirit together as we analyze this passage! This miracle of Jesus packs a deep meaning that radically sets the stage for the rest of his life, ministry, and purpose.

First, its important to know the setting for where He performed his first miracle. We see that he performs it at a wedding feast (John 2:1), one of the most treasured celebrations in 1st century Jerusalem. He is attending with his mother and a few of his disciples, and it is brought to his attention that there is no more wine to be served. To us, this doesn’t seem like a big issue, but the point of all Jesus’ miracles is to demonstrate spiritual truth, and what a amazing truth he reveals through this miracle!

Key Point: Jesus uses the ceremonial cleansing jars to create the wine. (John 2:6)

We need to note what Jesus used to turn the water into wine. He used ceremonial cleaning jars, which probably already had a decent amount of old water sitting in them. The Jews would use these water jars to purify themselves: to wash themselves, and make themselves “clean” before God. By using these jars, Jesus is giving us a sneak peek of what is to come. Jesus is showing us that the cleansing of His blood (as we know, in the Bible, the blood of Christ is represented by wine -Matt 26:28) is far greater than any ritual washings – and the transformation of this very water into wine symbolizes the transformation of Judaism.
The fact that Jesus changed the ceremonial washing water into wine proves that he will do away with the rituals of Judaism, and that we will be made clean before God through his blood. Jesus filled the containers to the brim (John 2:7) to show that no space is left for ritual washings after his sacrifice.

Jesus instructs the servants to take a pitcher of this water to the master, and so they did. We don’t actually know when the water turns to wine, but when the master of the feasts takes a sip, he says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). Is this recorded just to show us that Jesus should start a new career as a wine-maker? Certainly not. The Spirit is showing us something here:

The statement made by the master of the feast implies this: That typically, the best wine is served first, so that the people “get their fill” (get drunk) and can’t tell when a cheaper wine is introduced. In the same way, The Jews had been “drinking wine” (aka. performing their ritual washings) for so long that they weren’t able to recognize when something better came along (Jesus)!

Jesus conveys this truth again in the same chapter when he drives out the temple. He exclaims, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Jesus was talking about his own body, and it was through the “destroying of it” and his rising from the dead that was able to accomplish this new system, where his blood covers our sin, not our ritual washings or other works.

Jesus came to make everything new, and he clearly demonstrated that by turning old water used for bathing into brand new wine. He also came to make the heart new. We will see that tomorrow in John 3!

(please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu for further explanation or questions)

John 1: The Word Became Flesh

This year, my family, some friends and I are reading through the book of John counting down to Christmas. Each day we are reading a chapter and I am writing an analysis. Please join us! Today is John Chapter 1.

John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was in the beginning with God.” (verses 1-2).

In the very beginning of the book of John, we are given a clear representation of who Jesus is. From these first two verses, what are we told? That in the beginning, the Word was there, with God, and was God. So who or what is this “Word?” None other than Jesus himself! Skim down to verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Aha! Now we can read these “Word” verses with this knowledge in mind. Lets summarize what this section tells us about Jesus:

  • In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. (v.1)
  • He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. (v.2)
  • All things were made through him (Jesus), and nothing was made without him. (v.3)
  • In him (Jesus) is life, and he is the light of men. (v.4)
  • Jesus put on flesh and dwelt among us (v.14)

Is this odd that John starts with these deep truths about Jesus right at the beginning? Why would he do that? I believe he was intentional about it, because he believed it was absolutely crucial to understand that Jesus was God in the form of a man, to understand the gospel at all!

So what else is unique here? (besides John the Baptist, I will write of him in a later post). Look at this verse, “No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (verse 18). What does this tell us? The 2nd time the verse says “God,” it is referring to Jesus! Some older manuscripts read “The only Son…..has made him known.” We could also read this verse now thinking of Jesus: “No one has ever seen God, but Jesus, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

So Jesus has come to make God known, and so that we can know Him! As we read on in John, we will see that because of our sinful condition, this was the only possible way that we could be made right with God. The Bible calls this “knowing God” eternal life; “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

We will see as we continue reading that Jesus came to accomplish this very purpose, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). But first he must live a life of perfect obedience, offer up his life by being nailed to a cross, and rise from the grave to do so. I hope you will join my family and me as we continue to read the gospel of John this Christmas season, as we strive to know God through the amazing gift he has given us: Jesus!

God’s Word- Purpose Beyond Salvation

bible

God’s Word is amazing. It is inerrant, infallible, and is the literal Word of God! No other book holds the keys to eternal life; We have everything that we need within the Scriptures to lead us unto salvation. Life can be found through them, and a sinner can be eternally changed by them. What other book can provide this kind of strength, meaning, and power?

However, I believe many Christians (including me for a long period of time)think that after salvation, the Bible is supposed to be used for retracting a verse that makes us feel good, or to help convince us that what we believe is true. For years of my Christian life, I read the Word because “thats what good Christians do,” and because I wanted answers to theological arguments that I enjoyed having. I never read the Scriptures for application, I never read them with thoughts of, “How can I apply this?,” “What does this mean for me?,” “How can I actually live this out?,” or “What is this calling me to DO?” Because of my surface level reading and incorrect motives, I believe that I misused a lot of reading time, time that could’ve shaped me into a more Godly man.

At the beginning of my Sophomore year I was challenged by the guy that disciples me to read the scriptures with a different mindset: seeking applications from them to help me walk out my faith. I began reading the Word with the questions mentioned above, and my life started to change. I was convicted of certain sins in my life, encouraged by verses I never noticed before, and developed a genuine hunger for the Word of God. I started reading every morning, journaling my thoughts, and praying through the scriptures, asking for help to do what it commanded of me, and giving thanks for verses that built me up or declared what Christ has done for me.

This morning, I was reading in Luke 11, where a woman exlaims in a crowd to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb you came from!” and Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28. I recalled a passage I read from a few days earlier, where someone else calls out to Jesus, telling him that his mother and brothers are waiting to see him. Jesus continues teaching, and says, ““My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21. I was reminded of the importance to coming to Scripture with the attitude and stance of coming to hear, and hearing so that I can do.

Reading the Scriptures with this mindset provides such a beautiful alleyway into faith and prayer. Upon reading the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings of Jesus, I cannot help but to be humbled and drawn to my knees asking the Father to empower me to be able to do what my Savior teaches. Reading the Scriptures with this mindset has drastically changed my walk and relationship with Christ, as well as my relationship with others! I have come to notice the Spirit working in my heart now more than ever, and I’ve also become more and more aware of sin that I need to repent of! Reading the Word this way has also developed an increase faith in Christ, because I need his help to even begin to do what he says, and after I continue to fail, my eyes are lifted back unto him, who has saved me from my inability to live up to God’s standards!

Let me make this clear: I do not believe that we must read scripture like I have talked about to merit salvation. Salvation is a gift. A gift cannot be earned, it can only be received! However, lets say you receive an amazing Christmas gift that comes with an instruction manual, wouldn’t you read the manual to make sure you can reap all the benefits and learn all the components of the gift? My friends, this is no different! The fact that Christ reconciled us to the Father and saved us from death by his sinless life and willing sacrifice on the cross alone contains so much beauty that we need all of eternity to admire it. However, theres more to this gift than just Heaven! The Scriptures also give us practical applications on how to live, how to walk with Christ, and how to be conformed to HIS image, which Scripture defines as a life full of joy and life abundantly! Christ refers to those who read the Scriptures who do them as his “brothers.” O, what a beautiful opportunity we have to please him, rely on him, and acquaint ourselves with him daily through reading the Word like this!

I challenge you to read the Word and ask the Father to empower you through his Spirit to DO what is says this week!

 

Anxiety: Responding Biblically

As I have experience plenty of anxiety with regards with what to do about future opportunities, jobs, ministry, I’ve decided to look back at God’s Word to see how He tells me to deal with anxiety.

Do you ever lie awake at night, worrying about a situation, or ever feel paralyzed by anxiety? Although we all (including myself) experience moments of anxiety, we don’t have to let fear control our lives. The scriptures actually teach us that we can acquire peace in the middle of these stressful circumstances.

1.) We must carefully watch our thought lives.

Philippians 4:8 says, ” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  In the last part of the next verse ends with the tagline “-and the God of peace will be with you.”

Dr. Charles Stanley says that, “anxiety is an emotion caused by fearful thoughts.” Changing our pattern of thinking generally causes anxiety to go away. When your thought life becomes negative or counterproductive, deliberately choose to set your mind on something else; something true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable. For instance, you can praise the Lord and thank Him, think about your beautiful children, family, or even the opportunity to know where your next meal is coming from!But perhaps the best way is to meet God in prayer and focus on biblical truths- and the one truth we get from Philippians 4:8 promises that if we focus on our mind on the things listed, the God of peace will be with us!

2.) Set your mind on scripture

It will benefit you to remember certain promises that our Lord makes through his Word. A couple of my favorites are:

“Our heavenly Father is sovereign and in control over all situations.” (Ps. 91) and, “He lovingly provides for the needs of His children” (Matt. 6:25-34).

I had a conversation with a coworker yesterday at my place of employment about anxiety and God’s provision. He was telling me how he was wondering what God was even doing with him in his job, but he reminded himself of a promise in scripture and told me, “ I just stopped thinking about it. He promises me that I don’t have to worry about it. He’s got it!” I was able to also encourage him of the passage in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?It is so true that we are much more valuable than birds, he created US to have a relationship with him, so why would he not care for us more than the birds!
Also, for a cool little side note, birds are chosen because they pretty much inhabit all areas of the earth. So Jesus uses them with the idea of, every time we see a bird, we could be reminded of his sovereign provision and promise to take care of us! I encourage you to think of this every time you see a bird this week!

3.) Turn your anxieties into prayers.

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to let all of our requests be made known to God with an attitude of thanksgiving. Take some time at first to thank him for the things that you do have, (because you might even need to be thankful for the ability to even have the issue your dealing with!) Then place your worry on him. What works best for me is to get down on my knees and try to tell my Father everything that’s weighing heavy on me. Or, write him a letter containing your present worries. Let him know that your giving him control and transferring your anxieties to him! Again, he makes another promise in the same verse –and the peace of God, which surpasses all  understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

4.) Fulfill our responsibilities

When we fail to perform our duties, we sometimes end up with anxiety-causing situations. For example, a person who fails to maintain his car will typically end up with a vehicle that doesn’t work properly.

Those who neglect their responsibilities will face many unnecessary hardships in life. Let’s look at this biblical principle as it relates to money. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus promises that the Father will provide for our basic needs. But Scripture also teaches that in most cases, believers have a role to play in meeting financial commitments (2 Thess. 3:10).

  • Proverbs 10:4 tells us that “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hands of the diligent makes rich.”
  • The Apostle Paul also had an outside job for a living so that he would not be a burden on anyone, and he encourages us to do our work quietly and earn our own living.  (2 Thess. 3:7-9)

Taking responsibility doesn’t guarantee a resolution to the problem. If the situation doesn’t resolve, you can still find supernatural peace by applying the concepts in the rest of this study.

Worry can cripple us emotionally and hinder our productivity. OR it can drive us to prayer and prompt our spiritual growth. Choose to respond to worry in a way that aligns with scripture. Not only will the Lord be glorified, but you will be set free from anxiety’s paralyzing grip!