• Tony Birkhead

Week 5- Learn them to Jesus



Our Story Was Designed to Lead Others to God’s Story!

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.

Golfers are familiar with the term “mulligan.” A mulligan is a “gimme” in golf. If a player makes a bad shot, a mulligan is the chance to re-do that one shot. Golfers are usually limited to one mulligan per game.

When have you felt like you could use a mulligan—a do-over—with some part of your life?

What did you do to change?

Many of us have experienced a mulligan in some area of life—health issues, a relationship, a career change—but Jesus offers us something far more radical than a change here or there. He calls us to do more than just “do over” a piece of our life; He calls us to be born again, a completely radical change of existence here on earth. Yet as Jesus taught Nicodemus, mere knowledge of God will not cause us to be born again, only saving faith in Jesus will evoke such an incredible heart change.

KEY SCRIPTURE

John 3:1-16

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You 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.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 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 eternal life.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Ask a volunteer to read John 3:1-3.

What convinced Nicodemus that Jesus was from God?

Nicodemus was well-trained in the Scriptures—indeed, he was a Pharisee—yet it was apparent in his coming to Jesus that something was missing in his life. Jesus’ response in verse 3 to Nicodemus’s declaration shows that knowing the truth in not enough.

What is so radically different about begin “born again” (contrasted with what Nicodemus had believed and followed up to this point)?

Why do you think some people freely acknowledge biblical truth but never act upon it?

Ask a volunteer to read John 3:4-8.

What did Nicodemus think Jesus meant when He said a person must be born again?

Nicodemus heard Jesus’ words about being born again in a literal, physical sense. Many people make the same error—they try to unpack God’s truth from a purely literal or human viewpoint. Yet Jesus constantly calls us to aim higher, to approach Him in the spiritual—through saving faith.

How do we see people today misunderstanding the words of Jesus?

According to John 3:3, what is required to enter the kingdom of God?

When someone is born again, what are some of the changes we would expect to see the Holy Spirit bring into their life?

Ask a volunteer to read John 3:9-15.

In what ways did Nicodemus’s extensive knowledge of the law actually hinder his faith?

In what areas of your life have you allowed factual knowledge about God to hinder your relationship with God?

What had Jesus already done that should’ve made it easy for Nicodemus to believe?

Jesus’ miracles pointed to His divinity and gave credibility to His teaching. If Nicodemus took to faith what he saw as facts (the physical miracles), he could have believed what he heard.

MOVING FORWARD

  • What are some ways you can seek out Jesus (the spiritual) amidst your physical surroundings this week?

  • What things cause you to not trust in God’s ability to bring about change in your life?

PRAY TOGETHER

In a time of group prayer, thank the Father for sending Jesus to die for our sins and for sending the Holy Spirit to give us new birth. Ask the Father to continue sanctifying us by the power of the Holy Spirit, to give us the boldness through the Holy Spirit to share the gospel, and to give us the strength through the Holy Spirit to love others and serve them well.

COMMENTARY

John 3:1-16

3:1-2. Nicodemus shows up only in John’s Gospel. The text does not tell us Nicodemus’s motive for coming to Jesus. When Nicodemus called Jesus “Rabbi,” he (a member of the Jewish ruling council) placed himself in the role of student. The conversation that unfolded led him to eternal life with God.

3:3-4. If we view these first fifteen verses of chapter 3 as a series of questions and answers, the first question might look like this: “Are you here to bring in the kingdom?” And Jesus’ first answer is, “You will never see the kingdom without being born again.” The “kingdom” refers to God’s family and rule, both on earth today and eternally in heaven. Jesus got right to the heart of the problem. He told the teacher he must be “born again,” a word which appears again in verses 7 and 31. Unless God changes our hearts His way, from the inside out, any discussion of the kingdom is useless. Now the second question surfaces: “How can a man be born when he is old?” The physical world is often unexplainable just like the spiritual world, and Jesus later used the wind as an example to make that point. A person cannot respond to spiritual truth in natural ways.

3:5-7. The second answer must have hit Nicodemus right between the eyes: “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Verse 3 deals with the way of the new birth, and verse 5 talks about the process. Being “born of the Spirit” means the change provided at the time of faith in Christ.

3:8. In this fascinating conversation, Jesus moves from the metaphor of birth to that of a breeze. Human effort can only produce human results (John 1:13), but the “pneuma”—the Spirit—is a different story. This is a spiritual mystery known only to God and difficult to explain in terms humans can grasp. God brings the breeze when and where He chooses. Life change comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit.

3:16. Eternal life comes not because of anything we do. Salvation comes as a free gift when we believe what God has said. “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Four times in three verses (vv. 16-18) Jesus uses variations of the word “believe,” perhaps the most important key word in John’s Gospel. Jesus classified the entire human race into two groups—those who believe and are not condemned, and those who do not believe and are condemned already. The gospel begins with God’s love, continues through the cross and the empty tomb, and results in eternal life for those who believe. The verb “perish” speaks of eternal death in contrast to eternal life. It represents the opposite of preservation, since death is the opposite of life. Those who refuse God’s gift are alienated from Him without hope for both the present and the future.

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