Jesus says to Nicodemus, "Unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God." (v. 3) Nicodemus responds --"How can a man be born when he is old?" Jesus answered, "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." (vv. 5-6) In these words, Jesus made the conditions for entering the kingdom clear. The kingdom of God is not entered by anything we do, but through a transformation brought about by God. We do not enter the Spirit's realm through our own efforts. We enter the realm of God's Spirit through the water of Baptism and the Holy Spirit's efforts. Baptism is the washing of regeneration -- rebirth. Through it, the Spirit adopts us as his own, bringing us under his dominion. Jesus offered Nicodemus and us the key to understanding. What is "heavenly" has come to earth: "the Son of man" (v.13). In the Son, God has come to earth and opened his heart and will to us. Perishing in spiritual confusion and death, we have only to look to Jesus to find life, as the smitten children of Israel looked to the bronze serpent erected by Moses as a sign of God's grace. Then the text leads naturally to the best loved passage of Scripture, John 3:16-17, the heart of the gospel. The Spirit of God is seeking you out to make you his own. The Greek word "anothen" (v.3) has a double meaning -- "anew" or "from above." Tragically, the "born again" movement of the 1960's interpreted "anothen" as "born again." The word "again" is used to describe how one can be accepted into the Kingdom without being baptized. However, according to the New Testament and this passage in particular, Jesus describes salvation as a gift of God's Spirit given through the "water and Spirit" of baptism alone and does not imply any "decision," or "will" on our part. This text is for Trinity Sunday because it declares God to "be one". As our Father, He is behind all the good that occurs. As the Son, He is the revelation of love. As the Spirit, He is bringing us a new and eternal life in His Kingdom.
Churches around the country are using The 7 Habits of Jesus handbook for their discipleship and faith formation groups. Any book orders of 10 or more will receive the publisher's discount! To take advantage of this temporary promotion, follow the steps below:
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(15:26-27) The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The mission of the Spirit is not to bear witness to himself, but to the resurrection of the Son. (16:4b-15) Christ comforts his disciples before his death by promising to send them the Holy Spirit who will guide them into a deeper understanding of Christ's role in God's mission. Christ is present with us through the Holy Spirit. It is not easy to answer the question, who is the Holy Spirit? We seldom ask, who is the Holy Spirit?—and that tells us something about our understanding of the Spirit. The Spirit is usually associated with something rather vague, unseen, and unfelt. Our minds, it seems, are unable to connect the Spirit with anything but unreality. God the Father is not hard for us to understand and even to picture; we know what a father is like. God the Son is easier to picture. We have thousands of representations of Jesus Christ the man from Nazareth, as a baby, as a man, teaching, healing, praying, suffering, dying, rising, reigning. But the Spirit is a challenge. How do you portray a Spirit? As a bird perhaps, but that is obviously little more than a simple illustration. We describe “who” the Holy Spirit is by describing what he does. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is that he calls us to the Gospel; gathers us in Christian community; enlightens us to the work of the Triune God; makes us holy (set aside) for Christ’s mission of reconciliation; and, preserves our faith in Christ throughout our earthly pilgrimage.
The hour of Christ’s departure had come. In this hectic, tragic moment the disciples may well have wished to find some escape from their fears and tensions. It was all over for them, their dreams of glory were ended. But Jesus did not ask for this kind of escape. “I do not ask that you take them out of this world,” he prayed. He expected his disciples to remain in the world, not only because he had work for them to do but because remaining in the world would help them reach maturity in their own personal sanctification. In a limited way, the disciples were to take up where Christ left off—spreading the word of salvation in the world. This world is to be saturated by the Word of God. As it is, the world offers lies and darkness. The Word is light and truth. Armed with God’s Word, they would stand distinct from the world and because of this distinction, be pursued by the world’s inevitable hatred. That is our position, too. As followers of Christ we cannot remove ourselves from the world. Rather, we are to be “in the world” but not “of it,” as Jesus said. His goal all along, had been in nurturing them for the time when they would be sent out into the world, mature in their relationship to God, and thereby be equipped to minister to others. And so he prays. For them. For us. Not that we might spiritualize ourselves out of this world and out of our responsibilities of discipleship in this world, but that we might be enabled to immerse ourselves in those daily concerns of life in this world, even as Jesus did. At this important and challenging moment of discipleship, we are invited to join with our Lord in prayer and trusting that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:15).