By Jennifer Devlin
Publisher: Randall House Publications
Release Date: April 2009
Ready for a deeper look into the verses you know by heart? Sound-byte answers give us a little wisdom, and leave us with a lot of questions. Move beyond just a little bit of Jesus, and experience the fullness of a vibrant Christian life. Dive into this six-week adventure and explore the verses we know by heart. Through dynamic concepts and delightful devotions, Jennifer Devlin will lead your small group or individual study time through the truths of godly living one step at a time. Together, we’ll learn the context and content of priceless Scripture passages, and answer the questions hidden in our hearts, cultivating a real life of faith.
The Miraculous Love of God
Embracing the Savior
Do you remember the first time you heard the life-changing words of John 3:16? Sometimes I wish I had been a fly on the wall, listening in and observing this mile-marking scene being played out in my own life. Imagine. The hope of glory spelled out in one unassuming string of letters and spaces. Honestly, I’m not sure I can pinpoint the first moment someone shared this passage with me, although I can promise you it was before I could either read or write. Somewhere between Pampers ® and pre-school, the fact that God loved us so much that He provided Jesus as our path to salvation was embedded into the deepest, most foundational truths of my life. I trust in that certainty today. There’s really no mystery as to why this simple string of words from the middle of John chapter three holds the top place among the verses the world knows by heart. After all, this particular sentence reveals the reality of God’s plan of redemption, and the essence of the Christian faith message.
My own heritage of faith has spurred me on to sharing the hope of salvation with the next generation; sharing my beliefs with the child I’ve been privileged to birth and nurture. The coolest thing about being a mom is the honor of passing on the truths that have impacted my life. Near the back of lower drawer of my jewelry box, next to a pair of earrings and a cute silver bracelet, a precious treasure is stored. A simple wooden heart with a few layers of craft paint and a stick-on clasp backing proclaims the hope of salvation. The pin our son and I assembled years ago while attending our church’s Easter celebration holds a priceless place in my heart. This bright red shape with a simple handwritten “John 3:16” is a mother’s reminder of the first time she shared this life giving verse of salvation’s promise with her son. As he sat on my lap in that church fellowship hall, watching me write a life verse on the heart cutout he had so carefully painted, my emotions were dancing as the joy of inspiring a new generation began.
Does Owen remember that day? I assure you, he doesn’t.
But I do.
Jesus still smiles about it.
The words of hope spoken forth and planted in the fertile soil of a growing mind have taken root and impacted the rest of his days. As I watch our son grow into a mighty man of God, I praise the Lord for the early days of foundation building and seed planting. Now that the branches of his life experiences are reaching out into the world around him, I can have confidence in knowing that Owen knows who his Maker is, and that his Creator loves him more than the world could ever fathom.
Such words of affirmation concerning a God who loves us beyond our wildest dreams are worth hearing over and over, with fresh ears. The truth of God’s love has the ability to revive the weariest heart.
Seeking the Savior
The Focus Verse:
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
The Main Thought:
God answers our questions.
The Story within the Story:
I believe one of the most difficult aspects of growing in our Christian faith is the danger of becoming complacent about the truth we already know. How easy would it be to read John 3, and skip the 16th verse, simply because we’ve known it by heart our whole lives? Thinking that we already know about Jesus because we’ve learned a list of Bible verses and lived through a few seasons of vacation Bible school is a trap that the devil loves to set. If the enemy can get us to take our eyes off the miraculous truth of the gospel message, and demote the promise to a mere statement instead of a praise-filled proclamation, then he’s decidedly winning the fight for our attention.
Even as you read this page, I venture to guess that there is an element of your mind that is bored of reading about John 3:16 yet again. Why? Has the promise of God’s redemptive plan for mankind lessened any since Jesus proclaimed the hope of salvation to Nicodemus? Did the mighty Pharisee, Nicodemus, find this truth worth the risk of hiding in the shadows of the moonlit night? He did. So, two thousand years later, why do we not find it worth our full attention?
I say such a bold statement only because if I’m not careful, I find myself grabbing the oar handles and rowing my own boat of apathy. What is the most familiar to us can easily become the most easily overlooked. Yet, as we learn more about God, His Son, and His Word, everything about the Scriptures points us back to John’s gospel, and the hope found in the third chapter. God has given us His Word to point us to Jesus. God gave us Jesus to point us to salvation. God gave us salvation so we could enter a restored relationship with Him, and enjoy eternity in heaven with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, my friend, this familiar verse, the very one we know by heart over every other verse, is our lifeline to the Father. It is our hope, our promise of grace, and our picture of mercy. It’s all about Jesus.
In my first Bible study, Life Principles for Christ-like Living I take the reader through an in-depth look at all the 3:16 verses of the New Testament. While this adventure is a comprehensive and exciting one, one of my favorite chapters in that work is obviously the focus on John 3:16. Why? God’s love for us jumps off the pages of Scripture in the verses of John Chapter 3, and our hope is written in ink that can never fade. In our journey together, we will take a bit different approach, but with an equally investigative eye for the life application principles found in God’s promise to us.
Take a moment to read John 3:16, phrase by phrase. How would you separate out the four sections of this verse?
We will spend our week going through these different segments of our well known sound-byte, John 3:16, digging for morsels of the miraculous within the verse we know so well. As we look at little clips of our verse, we’ll also check out the background information concerning the context, purpose, and intent of the verse’s content as it confirmed in John 3:1-21.
But first, let’s discover why we need to be born again. Today, we’ll take a specific look into the concept of being born again, and will look into the curiosity of a man that spurred this conversation with Jesus. We’ll understand the whole passage in context, so that we’ll be better equipped to tackle the sections one at a time for the rest of our week together.
Read John 3:1-21. Write down key points from the text and journal your thoughts about what you have read:
1. What question/statement does Nicodemus ask in John 3:2? What was Jesus’ response, and how did Jesus use this question and answer to open up dialogue about the concept of salvation?
Did Jesus seem upset about answering the questions of a religious leader?
How does this story about Nicodemus provide us with a clearer understanding of salvation?
2. What specific questions have you or your acquaintances had about the idea of eternal salvation? How did those questions get answered (and who provided insight)? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How does John 3:1-21 in particular answer questions about the possibility of eternal life?
3. The term “born again” is a stumbling block to some unbelievers who can’t grasp what the words imply. How does Jesus explain the process of being “born again” to Nicodemus?
A Closer Look:
When Jesus describes the process of being brought into relationship with God through salvation, He uses the peculiar phrase, “born again.” Born again has nothing to do with our initial physical birth and everything to do with a brand new start on life spiritually. As we are “born” into the family of God through our acceptance of the sacrificial atonement found through Jesus Christ, we spiritually shift our family heritage from the family of earth to the family of God. Our lives that were once filled with the darkness of this world are flooded with the light of life. The Holy Spirit dwells within us at the moment of conversion until the moment we leave this earth. We are new creations in Christ Jesus
The Bible Knowledge Commentary shares the following: “to be born again or born “from above” (anōthen has both meanings; e.g., “from above” in 19:11 and “again” in Gal. 4:9) is to have a spiritual transformation which takes a person out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God (cf. Col. 1:13).”[i]
A Question for Your Life Today:
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. In relation to our standing as “born again” believers, how does this verse comfort you as a Christian? Where are the sins of your past?
Topics Addressed: Beautitudes, Lord's Prayer, Fruit of the Spirit, love passage, John 3, Romans 8
Jennifer Devlin is passionate about sharing Jesus with the nations. She is a Bible teacher, speaker, author, and women’s ministry leader. Jennifer is also the author of “Life Principles for Christ-like Living” (AMG 2006), "Verses We Know By Heart" (Randall House 2008), and "Verses We Know By Heart New Testament Edition" (Randall House 2009). She and her family live in Huntsville, AL. Visit Jennifer Devlin's website at http://www.ministryforlife.com
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