Session in a Sentence:
Jesus taught that the new birth is a gift from the Father and the work of the Spirit for all who believe in the Son.
Jesus Teaches About New Birth
Scripture: John 3:1-21
Series: Jesus Among the People (Gospels)
Speaker: Adam Burton
Date: May 28, 2020
In the last session, we saw how Jesus revealed His mission. In this session, we will look at Jesus’ teaching on the new birth, which is necessary to be able to see and enter the kingdom of God. New birth involves all three Persons of the Trinity; it is a gift of God the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit through faith in the Son of God. The new birth is characterized by a hunger for obedience, and it motivates us to share the good news with others as we trust in the transformational power of the Spirit. The reconciling role of Christ on the cross makes possible the true and lasting transformation of our hearts through the new birth.
*Devotionals come from The Gospel Project.
Day 1: Read John 3:1-2
Nicodemus respected Jesus as a rabbi, although Jesus never was formally trained as one. And he recognized that Jesus was special—that He came from God, performed miracles, and that God was with Him. But notice that Nicodemus stopped short in his understanding of Jesus, which is what Jesus pulled out of him in the conversation that followed. Nicodemus failed to recognize that Jesus was special not because He was from God and that God was with Him but because He is God. Nicodemus failed to reach the point of recognizing his need to turn to Jesus, the Son of God, for salvation.
When it comes to trusting in Jesus, close is not enough. Even today, many people view Jesus as a good teacher, an example of living morally pleasing lives. But that was not Jesus’ mission. Rather, Jesus came so that people might come to know that He is the Son of God and have salvation through Him.
In what ways do you need to develop a deeper understanding of who Jesus is?
Day 2: Read John 3:3-8
What exactly being born again means and what Jesus meant by water has challenged theologians for centuries. Even the word translated as “again” in verse 3 is not clear. The Greek word used there could also mean “from above.” This is more than a linguistic nuance; understanding both senses of that word gives the passage its context and reminds us of its basic truth, one that is quite understandable.
When a person trusts in Christ, he or she is born anew spiritually. That is why “from above” is so helpful in addition to “again.” Being born “from above” reminds us that Jesus was speaking of a spiritual truth—that this birth is not the work of the flesh but rather the work of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Spirit also guides us to understand truth—all of the truth in Scripture, even the more challenging parts.
What are some doctrines or passages that you struggle to understand? Which have you grown to understand better because of the Spirit’s guidance?
Day 3: Read John 3:9-15
The life of new birth that Jesus explained to Nicodemus does not occur automatically—it comes by faith. To illustrate this, Jesus pointed the Jewish teacher to the Book of Numbers, specifically the time when the Israelites were plagued by venomous snakes.
When the Israelites grumbled against God, He disciplined them by sending snakes into their midst. But along with that judgment came mercy and grace; God instructed Moses to fashion a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole. Whoever was bitten could look at that serpent—an exercise of faith in God’s provision—and be healed.
In the same way, Jesus would be lifted up. But don’t miss that the physical raising is not the strongest connection between Jesus and the serpent on the pole. Faith is. Turning to Jesus takes faith. It makes no sense, from a human perspective, that salvation from sin can come from a man who was crucified as a criminal two thousand years ago. Nicodemus had facts, but the new birth entails more than that. Eternal life takes faith.
How is faith needed in your relationship with Jesus after salvation? In what areas of your life do you need to trust Jesus?
Day 4: Read John 3:16-18
It is trendy today to see people as basically good—or at least neutral. This is why so many people balk at the biblical teaching of judgment and hell. The belief is that God is unfair to condemn people to hell because people are basically good. They deserve His grace and forgiveness. Notice the irony of believing you deserve that which is by definition a gift, something that cannot be deserved.
John 3:16 is, perhaps, the best known Bible verse. Even unbelievers are likely to know it. But notice what follows. In the next two verses, Jesus explains that He did not come into the world to condemn it. Why? Because it already is condemned. And with that, the myth of people being basically good and deserving forgiveness falls apart. If anything is not fair, it is not that people are condemned but rather that some people are saved.
How do you tend to see salvation: as something that is deserved or as a free gift of God?
Day 5: Read John 3:19-21
As believers, it is often difficult to understand the world—and it should be. People love the darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil. Don’t miss this: People, apart from Jesus, don’t dabble in darkness. They don’t tolerate darkness. They don’t sort of like darkness. They love darkness. They love sin. They love to hate God. And so did we before Christ.
Be grateful when you struggle to understand the world; it is a mark of God at work in you. It is a sign that your new mind is at work, that you have been born again. But at the same time, do not let this separation between you and the world lead you to become arrogant. Remember, the only reason you are now walking in the light is because of the kindness of God—His gift to you in Christ made known to you by the Holy Spirit.
In what ways have you seen your living and thinking change because of the gospel?