Tag Archives: Gospel of John

A Truly Good Life ~ John 3:1-21

Registered trademark for Life Is Good, Inc. Photo Credit: businesswire.com

Registered trademark for Life Is Good, Inc. Photo Credit: businesswire.com

“Life is good.” In the mid-1990’s an apparel line was launched by Life is Good, Inc. According to their website, the company’s mission is to spread the power of optimism as they remind us that life is not perfect, life is not easy, but life is good. Featuring their eye-catching logo (pictured here), the apparel line quickly grew in popularity; I had a few of their t-shirts myself. This is a good, relevant, and healthy message. I like it. But in the grand scheme of things it is not complete.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘you must be born again.’” John 3:5-7 ESV

Jesus and Nicodemus. Photo credit: catholicireland.net

Jesus and Nicodemus. Photo credit: catholicireland.net

Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It is rich with meaning and insight. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a leader in the Jewish synagogue. The Pharisees as a group had been badgering Jesus with trick questions and false accusations since He began His ministry. Here, at night, Nicodemus approached Jesus in private, as if something in his heart was leading him to believe that Jesus was something more than a carpenter who taught with authority (verse 2). Nicodemus seems genuinely curious about the Lord, but to approach Him in a manner offering credibility and respect in public would likely have resulted in great personal trial for Nicodemus.

These days, we tend to toss the phrase “born again” about rather casually. But this is a big deal, really. In this passage, Jesus describes a changed person; one who evolves from having been born of the flesh to one who is now born of the Spirit. This is a new life; a life with a focus beyond the things of this world. It is a life rooted in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of the overriding principles of Scripture is that the person who truly loves the Lord knows, first and foremost, that his salvation is solely rooted in the sacrifice that Jesus made in our behalf on the cross. There is nothing any of us can do to earn our salvation.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” ~ John 3:16-17 ESV

Photo credit: newjerusalemcoming.com

Photo credit: newjerusalemcoming.com

Through Christ, God’s work of salvation is perfectly completed. We believers are the humble recipients of His mercy (not receiving the condemnation we rightly deserve) and His grace (receiving salvation from Him, even as undeserving as we are). What does this have to do with being born again? Having received the gift of salvation through Christ, our lives ought to change in response. When we are born again, our priorities ought to reflect God’s priorities, not those of the flesh: the sinful world in which we live. Sadly, however, this is not the case. If each of us is truly honest, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that we still cling to the things of this world even as we live under God’s mercy and grace.

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” ~ John 3:19-21 ESV

Friends, these words of Jesus ought to give each of us pause; they certainly do me. I have complete confidence in the redeeming work of my Savior, but I still catch myself living in the flesh every day. When I examine my life in the light, I realize there is still a lot of darkness that needs to be dealt with. And I want to deal with it. I want to change the things in my life that point to the flesh, and instead, point to my Lord – not because it is a requirement of salvation (it is not), but as a product of my love and gratitude for my Lord.

Such change is difficult, for we face significant headwind from our society, which appears to grow more in love with the darkness with each passing day. But even worse is the trend we are seeing in some Christian churches to embrace some sins of the flesh over God’s revelation in Holy Scripture. Don’t believe me? Consider, for example the casual approach to marriage and divorce in many churches or the trend towards legitimatizing LGBT relationships by practice and even by rite in some cases. The enemy wants us to reject a life under the Spirit and, instead, live by the flesh. Sadly, he has successfully influenced several major Christian denominations towards embracing such things. Indeed, living in the light under the Spirit is not easy, but it is what all Christians are called to do.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. ~ Philippians 2:12-13

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

As believers, we are not to stand quietly on the sidelines and wait for something to happen. We must arm ourselves, not with weapons, but with the knowledge that comes from reading and studying God’s Word. We must read our Bibles daily. We must be in prayer, asking God to reveal His eternal truth through His Word and arm us with the loving words of witness to people, even some within the Church, that so desperately need to hear the Truth. Living the Christian life is about humbly accepting Jesus’ gift of salvation, sharing the good news with others, and living a holy and God-pleasing lifestyle in response; even in the face of criticism and persecution from secular society and misguided brothers and sisters in the church.

Jesus revealed to Nicodemus the Pharisee the fact that He is God and Lord, that He came to save the world from the eternal consequences of it’s sin, and that a life reborn of His mercy and grace is a different life, indeed. All believers are called to live that life. It isn’t easy and living under the Spirit does not make us perfect. But if you think that life is good living under the flesh, try putting yourself under the love, grace, authority and power of Jesus Christ. It is then that you will discover how truly good life can be.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to save me from my sins. Help me to respond by sharing the Gospel, even in the midst of deepening darkness, and by helping me live my life according to Your good and perfect will as revealed in Scripture. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.

Over/Under…At Church?? ~ John 2:13-17

IMG_1644About 25 years ago, I agreed to volunteer at a coworker’s church bazaar. I helped work the “over/under” booth, the most popular booth at the bazaar, I was told. Over/Under was a dice game in which patrons would guess whether the roll of two dice would be over, under, or equal to 7. They made their choice by placing $1 or $2 in one of three spots on the table: “over”, “under” or “seven”. Two dice were rolled. Players who selected “over” or “under” with a corresponding roll over or under 7 received their original money back plus an equal amount. If they selected “seven” with a seven rolled they received their money back plus a double amount. Money placed in the incorrect spot was donated to the church. It sure looked like gambling to me, but I was told the money placed on the table was not a bet; it was a “contribution”. As we worked the booth into the nighttime hours, patrons were three and four deep around the booth, drinking beer (as we were, too – it was free for volunteers), and pushing their way to the tables to offer their contributions.

Admittedly, I enjoyed working Over/Under. It was fast-paced and we got all the food and beer we wanted. But with all of that, I felt that something wasn’t quite right about this game at the church bazaar.

And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” (John 2:14-16)

According to my Bible’s study notes, the money changers and vendors selling doves and other livestock were there to serve foreigners that came on pilgrimage to offer sacrifices to God. They arrived with foreign currency that needed to be exchanged, and rather than haul sacrificial animals with them on their journey, these were offered for sale as a convenience. Apparently, human greed had taken over, and the money changers and other vendors were making a handsome profit by charging exorbitant prices for their goods and services. The purpose for visiting the temple was overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of the temple marketplace. God had been shoved into the background in favor of money and profits. Jesus, rightfully angered, literally turned their tables and ran them off.

I’m quite certain that Jesus would have had the same reaction had He visited that church bazaar. Aside from being on church property, I recall nothing at that bazaar that pointed to Christ. The Gospel was not shared. Worship was not discussed. This was not a community outreach; it was a church fundraiser. Many of the activities going on at the bazaar were activities that could happen at any club fundraiser. We looked just like the world. We were conducting business, nothing more. As I ponder this many years later, having matured somewhat in my faith, I feel bad for having participated and I have asked God to forgive me. Thank God for His mercy and grace!

The cross at First Baptist Church of Keller

The cross at First Baptist Church of Keller

Today, many churches are blurring the lines between things of the world and things of God. Many feel it is important that the church “fit in” to society to attract and retain members. Make people comfortable. Use décor that says anything but “church”. Offer a booming sound system and a gourmet coffee bar. Surrender to societal norms and values. Preach about prosperity and self worth with a big smile while never mentioning the eternal consequences of sin and the forgiveness offered only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m certain that Jesus would disagree. Interestingly, the other three Gospels record these words of Jesus as He drove the vendors from the temple, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it a robbers’ den.’” (Luke 19:46) We must all lift our church leaders in prayer as we work with them, not to blend with the world to suit our own fancies, but to be salt and light unto a world that so desperately needs to hear the Gospel.

Ponder this: What would Jesus think if He walked into my church? What would He see? What would He hear? Would He be pleased, or would He clear the place out?

My Prayer for Today: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for leading me to First Baptist Church of Keller. Be with all who preach and teach there, that Your Word would always be our focus. I lift up Your church around the country and around the world. Open our eyes and ears that we might see any points of diversion from Your Word and compel us to be faithful stewards of the Gospel. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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