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Gene’s Daily Scriptural Postings

Reflective Bible Study.


Choosing Light over Darkness: John 3:1-22

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Year in John – Episode 6: In a late-night conversation Jesus has with a Pharisee, discover some amazing truths about who Jesus is and what His mission to this earth was to accomplish. Also, discover how we can see God working in the world today, and how to avoid forfeiting our salvation.

Read the transcript:

As we continue moving through the events in John’s gospel, we come to the event surrounding one of the most famous Bible verses in the world. However, while this verse is incredible, the event and discussion that surrounds this verse is just as amazing. The conversation happens at night, and I wonder if some of the disciples had already fallen asleep.

Let’s read about what happened, and about what Jesus shared during this late-night conversation with a Pharisee. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 3, and we will read it from the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

22 Then Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people.

In this late night conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus shares some amazing things, while always seeming to be one step ahead of Nicodemus’ question. When reading this event, it is as if Nicodemus asks Jesus a question, and Jesus answers what would likely have been Nicodemus’ follow up question.

However, the three big answers Jesus gives us are amazing and profound. Tucked within these big answers is a powerful message that we might be tempted to miss, skip, or ignore. Allow me to share a set of verses or statements pulled from Jesus’ three answers to Nicodemus’ questions. “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God. … I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. … As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. … God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” (v. 3, 5, 14-15, 17-18)

In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, there are two clear topics, and both of these topics are initiated by Jesus. The first topic is about being born again. The powerful truth I see in Jesus’ response is that those who have not been born spiritually are unable to see the Kingdom of God. In other gospels, Jesus shares how the Kingdom of God is present among us, and one way to understand Jesus’ words is that the Kingdom of God is present wherever God is actively moving, working, or being present.

With this working definition, we can conclude an obvious but easily overlooked truth that people who are not connected with the Holy Spirit cannot discern how God is working in the world today. Someone connected with the Holy Spirit can look around and see God working everywhere, whereas someone disconnected and uninterested in the Holy Spirit sees random chance, a series of coincidences, or just good or bad fortune.

The second topic of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is about eternal life and judgment. It is within this second topic that we find our famous set of verses summarizing Jesus’ life and ministry. John, chapter 3, verses 16 and 17 tell us “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

However, the verses immediately before this and immediately after this are in many ways more powerful than these two famous ones. The two verses before verse 16 predict Jesus’ crucifixion and the results of His sacrifice: “as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” (v. 14-15)

The two verses after verse 17 tell us about the one criteria God’s judgment will be based on when Jesus returns: “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” (v. 18-19)

Jesus tells Nicodemus, and all of us, that God’s judgment is reserved for those who do not believe in God’s one and only Son, Jesus. The way people reject Jesus is by preferring darkness and evil actions over coming into the light and letting Jesus wash away their sins. In this framing of judgment, those who avoid God’s judgment are able to because they have placed their belief and trust in Jesus, and they have left their sinful lives in the past, while those who are judged are those who preferred sin and darkness over the offer of a Savior.

Jesus did not come into the world to fulfill the role of judge. Instead, Jesus came to this world to fulfill the role of God’s light, and Jesus’ presence separates those who want to seek God, His light, and His forgiveness, from those who reject God, prefer their sinful lives, and willingly choose to refuse the light God offers.

Whether we face judgment is 100% up to us. While it is unpopular to do in the world today, choosing Jesus in this life gives us a free pass to avoid the judgment when the world ends, and choosing Jesus in this life is done by leaving our sin-filled past in the past, and actively growing towards Jesus each and every day!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and choose to believe in the Light God sent into the world through Jesus. When we choose to follow and obey Jesus over our sin-filled desires, we are choosing life over judgment and death. We reject Jesus when we choose sin over our Savior. Always choose to obey Jesus when faced with a choice, because choosing Jesus in this life, regardless of the consequences, is never the wrong choice from eternity’s perspective.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to Jesus. Through personal prayer and study, grow a personal relationship with Jesus and lean on Him for the strength to face each day moving forward in this life.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

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