Monday, February 12, 2007

Just Looking Study 2 : (John 3:1-21)

From A Cracking Good Weekend with "Just Looking" Studies.

How can one enter the Kingdom of God?

Q: From our last study, does the Bible claim that God exists?

Duh. Yes.

Q: If we assume that God exists, how can anyone know God?
• only one way: through Jesus.
• because he is the only one who is qualified to tell us about God. No one has seen God but Jesus (John 1:18)
• Jesus is God, Creator, was there in the beginning with God
• Jesus has come to earth as a man (John 1:14) to reveal God to us (John 1:18)
• Jesus is called the "Word" because he is God's communicative tool to man; or God's Word to man
• Jesus is the true light (John 1:1-9)

Q: How does this affect us?
demands a response
• Jesus offers people the right to become children of God if they believe (John 1:12-13)
• if reject Jesus, the consequences are unknown for now. But we will see in this study why it is so important to believe in Jesus.

(1) To show that no one can enter the Kingdom of God (Heaven) unless he trusts in what Jesus has done on the Cross
(2) Rejection of Jesus shows that we are rebellious and do not want Jesus to rule over us]

Ice-breaker: (write down answers on a big piece of paper)
(1) What do you think is wrong with the world?
(2) Assuming there is such a thing as heaven and hell, what do you think determines if a person goes to either destination?
(3) Why do people (not just you but also other people) reject Jesus?

Read John 3:1-21

Terms to explain:
• Pharisees - Jewish sect of religious teachers
• Rabbi - Jewish term for a religious teacher
• Son of Man - a term Jesus often used to refer to Himself; it is also an Old Testament term referring to the person who will rule over all creation at the end of time (Daniel 7:13-14)

1. What do you learn about Nicodemus from v1-2?
• A Pharisee - Jewish sect that welded an enormous influence in those days. They were authoritative in the teaching of Jewish texts.
• Member of the Jewish ruling council (v1).
• In other words, Nicodemus is equivalent to the most religious person that we can think of in today's world.
• Came to Jesus at night; called Jesus "Rabbi"; thinks Jesus is from God (v2).

2. According to Jesus in v3 & v5, how can one see/enter the Kingdom of God?
• No one can enter it unless he is born again (v3)
• Jesus expands on this and says that this means that no one can enter it unless he is born of water and the Spirit (v5)

3. The Kingdom of God is a term that needs some unpacking. What are the different elements that make up any kingdom?
Elements of Earthly Kingdoms:

So what do think are the elements which would make up the Kingdom of God?
Elements in the Kingdom of God:
Believers/Those who are born again
Heaven/Where God dwells

4. So what is Jesus saying in v3 & v5 about how Nicodemus and we can qualify to be subjects in the Kingdom of God?
• People who are born again (v3); born of water and the Spirit (v5)

5. In the light of who Nicodemus is, why is what Jesus saying to Nicodemus in v3 and v5 is shocking?
• Because Nicodemus is a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council - If anyone should know how to get into heaven, if anyone could be good/qualified enough to already have gained entry into the Kingdom of God, it would be Nicodemus.
Even Nicodemus needs to be born again!

6. Jesus uses a harsh term - "born again". In using this term of total rebirth in order to get into the Kingdom of God, what do you think Jesus is saying about Nicodemus'/our current state?
• That there must be something seriously wrong with us at the moment.
• Born again does not mean turning over a new leaf but a complete overhaul - throwing away the old and starting over with the new.

7. How does the fact that we need to be born again of "water" and the "Spirit" add to our understanding of our current state and what needs to be done to make us fit for the Kingdom of God?
• Water: suggests that we are unclean and need to be cleansed.
• Spirit: suggests that we are not born of the Spirit and need to be.

What is the default position?
• there is something wrong with us
• we are unclean
• we are not born of the Spirit
• we cannot get into the kingdom of God
*We do not have a choice. We have a problem. We are already in trouble. We are going the wrong way. We are already drowning.

[This problem isn't new. God already told his people that this is what was needed to enter his kingdom. Look up Ezekiel 36:24-32. What three things did God promise that He would give to His people in the future in v25-27? What is the significance of each promise?
Verse: V25
Promise: Sprinkle clean water
Significance: Cleanse from all impurity and idols

Verse: V26
Promise: Give new heart
Significance: Remove heart of stone (hardened hearts) which was unable to obey God

Verse: V26-27
Promise: Give new spirit
Significance: To follow God's decrees and keep His laws

*Note how God's people will obtain these things.

How do the promises in Ezekiel help us to see what Jesus is promising in John 3:5-8? What does it show about our state before God?
• Jesus is fulfilling all that God had promised He would do in Ezekiel
• It also serves to underline our total inability to follow and obey God unless we are cleansed and made new by Him.]

8. Looking at v6, two different types of birth are mentioned. What are they? (write out on a piece of paper in a table format)
First Birth=Flesh=Physical (v6)
Second Birth=Spiritual (v6)

Who is born physically?
• Everyone

Where do we end up after we are born physically?
• This world

Do we have any choice in being born physically?
• No

According to v3-6, who is born spiritually?
• Only those who are "born again"; in other words, not everyone

According to vv3-6, by being born spiritually, where does one gain entrance to?
• The Kingdom of God

John 1:12-13 refers to the same idea of spiritual birth. Looking at John 1:12-13, do we have any choice in spiritual birth?
• Yes, it is based on whether we believe in Jesus
(born again = born of the Spirit = receiving Jesus (remember first study) = believing in him.

9. Why should we trust what Jesus says? What right does Jesus have to say such arrogant things? Look at vv10-13.
• Jesus speaks of what He KNOWS (v11)
• Jesus testifies to what He has SEEN (v11)
• Jesus claims His authority to speak from being the ONLY PERSON to have ever seen Heaven because He comes from Heaven (v13)
[Son of Man - Jesus' most common description of himself. In the Old Testament, it is a reference to the glorious heavenly figure who will rule over creation at the end of time, forever (Daniel 7:13-14)]

10. All well and good. Very interesting stuff. But why should this affect us? Why can't we just mind our own business, God can mind his own business. If we don't worry about God, God shouldn't worry about us. Why can't we just ignore each other?
remember that having to be born again suggests that our present situation is dire. Something is wrong, seriously wrong, with us at the moment. Something so wrong that requires a complete overhaul, replacement of the old with the new.

We will understand the danger of our situation with a narrative that Jesus draws attention to from the Old Testament (Numbers) in v14. Read Numbers 21:4-9. Context: God rescued the Israelites from Egypt by parting the Red Sea (remember Prince of Egypt?) to bring them into the Promised Land. But the Israelites grumbled against God and as a result, had to wander in the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. Numbers 21:4-9 is set in this time when the Israelites are wandering in the desert on the way to the Promised Land.

11. Looking at Numbers 21:4-9, why did God send the snakes to the Israelites?
• Because they spoke falsely against God.
• They doubted God and His character. So they doubted his word. They didn't trust that he would protect and care for them. They were sure that he meant to harm them instead by rescuing them from Egypt.
• So God was judging them for their sinful behaviour. Rebellion against God is sin (Numbers 21:7). Sin is not just murder, adultery, jealousy, lust or theft. It is more than that (those are just symptoms of sin): it is not acknowledging God as God who is the epitome of good; it is doubting his character and not taking him at his word.

12. What does this show about the character of God?
• God is holy. He cannot tolerate sin.
• God is just and righteous and so his must punish sin.

13. Why does God provide a way out for them? What more does this show about the character of God?
• The people called for God's help; God is merciful

14. What must an Israelite do in order to be saved from the snakes?
• They must trust in God's word/solution by looking at the bronze snake to be saved.
*Note that there is nothing in the Bible that is magical. The bronze snake is not a magical object.

15. What is the difference between what the Israelites asked for and the solution God provided?
• They asked God to remove the snakes but instead he asked them to look upon the bronze snake.

16. Why do you think God does this? What does this show us about God?
• But He saves us on His terms, not theirs (or ours).
• God alone provides the solution, not the effort of the Israelites.
• God does not remove the snakes because the Israelites sinned and deserved to be punished; he is just and righteous so he cannot take away the punishment and still be true to his own character.
• But God is also merciful and provides a way out for the Israelites if they trust in the solution He has provided (the bronze snake).
*Note that this is repentance, doing the opposite of what they were doing when they sinned. The solution is to now trust in God's character and take him at his word that looking at such a stupid thing as a bronze snake will save them if they have been bitten.

17. Jesus likens the lifting up of the snake to the lifting up of Himself on the Cross in John 3:14-15. In so doing, what is Jesus saying about our problem?
• That we have sinned and rebelled against God like the Israelites. We have doubted God's character and word.
• That the consequence of sin is that God must punish sin against him because he is holy and because he is just and righteous.
• All of us stand condemned already. We are not a clean slate. We are not at a fork in the road when we can choose to go either on the road to heaven or the road to hell. We are already on the road to eternal condemnation. We stand condemned already (v18).
* There is a real God, real anger (v36) and real punishment. This is death beyond death (Revelation 20:14), eternally separated from all good things (2 Thessalonians 1:9). It is not a Halloween party.

18. By alluding to Numbers, what is Jesus saying about the solution to the problem?
• That God will provide the solution. It will not be our own work. We cannot work our way out of hell and into heaven.
• That we must believe or trust in God's word that his solution is that Jesus' death on the Cross will save us from our sins.
• If Jesus did not die on the cross, we would have no way of being saved from eternal death and destruction.
*We always see signs that say "Jesus saves". But what does he save us from? This is what he saves us from! Not from poverty or from bad relationships. He saves us from eternal condemnation.

[Why did God send his Son into the world to die for us? (v16)
because he loved the world (v16)

What does this say about God's character?
• He is holy and just and righteous: so he doesn't take away the punishment for sin.
• He is loving, merciful and compassionate.
*God's character is trustworthy and consistent through the ages!]

19. Look back at ice-breaker questions. What is the most major thing that is wrong with the world?
Sin - eternal destruction.

20. What determines if people go to heaven or hell? Why is belief in Jesus necessary and important to people?
• Because rejecting God's solution would mean that we have rejected the only way that we can be made right with God (v16-18)
• Because if we do not trust in what Jesus has done for us, God's condemnation and wrath (John 3:18, 36) is already on us and remains on us

21. What do you think the Bible means by "believe" or "faith"?
• Trusting in a SPECIFIC and OBJECTIVE act of rescue by God which really happened in history
• It is NOT some inner feeling but a Real Trust in the Real Work of a Real Person which has Real Consequences

22. Since God has given a way out and for free, it seems silly for people to reject God's salvation. According to v19-21, why do people still reject Jesus?
• Because we are naturally evil, our instinct is to run from God and not let our deeds be exposed.
• We are rebellious and we want to remain rebellious even to our own detriment. So we reject God's solution.

23.What do you find difficult to accept about what we've learnt today? Why do you find it difficult to accept it?
• When we still do not accept Jesus, it just shows that we love evil more than good and do not want God to be in charge of our lives

"Just Looking" Studies
Just Looking Study 1 (John 20:30-31, John 1:1-18)
Just Looking Study 2 (John 3:1-21)
Just Looking Study 3 (John 4:1-30) - from-a-Christian-family version
Just Looking Study 4 (John 5:1-29)
Just Looking Study 5 (John 11:1-57)
Just Looking Study 6 (John 18:28-19:16a)
Just Looking Study 7 (John 19:16b-42)
Just Looking Study 8 (John 20)



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