Month: March 2014

John 05:01-18, “Jesus: Who Does He Think He Is?”

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scripture: John 5:1-18

What do you think of Christ? That is the most important question that you and I could ever answer. What we think of Christ, and what we do with him determines the meaning of life now and in eternity.

On one occasion, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am? (Mark 8:27).

Another time, he asked the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42).

In John 5, we find the story of a lame man with some lame responses, and some religious leaders who get upset because the lame man is no longer lame, but carrying his mat on the Sabbath. But the real story is about Jesus, what he said, and who he claimed to be. It’s about who he thinks he is. In fact, it is in this story that we find out why the religious authorities wanted to kill Jesus.

Background

Every writer writes with intention or purpose, but not every writer is as clear as John is about his purpose. John shows from the opening of his Gospel to the closing of it that he is writing with intention. He has a clear goal in mind. He is wanting to accomplish something important. He is writing to convince you and me, his readers, of something that will change our life and our eternity.

John writes about seven miracles — signs, he calls them — things that Jesus did. John calls them “signs” because they signify something about who Jesus is. He includes some signs and leaves out others. In fact, he tells us that Jesus did so many miracles — signs — that it would be impossible to write them all down. So he chose certain signs to show us who Jesus is.

This is how he says it near the end of his Gospel:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31 ESV).

So John tells us what Jesus did, so that we would believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God. In fact, John tells us from the opening words of his Gospel what we are to think about Jesus. He writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A few verses later, he writes in 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And if that is not clear enough, in verse 18, John calls Jesus “the only God.” Here are his words: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John includes the story about the healing of the lame man in chapter 5, to show us who Jesus is.

Summary of chapters 1-4

We saw in chapter one that Jesus was called the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel, and the Son of Man.

In chapter 2, at the wedding in Cana, Jesus changed the water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed in him.  In chapter 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. In chapter 4, the Samaritan woman at first thinks that Jesus is simply a rather strange Jewish man, but then sees that he is a prophet, then understands that he is the Christ, and finally discovers with the other Samaritans that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Now in chapter 5, John makes it clear exactly who Jesus is, and why the Jewish religious authorities want to kill him.

Scene 1: Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 ¶ Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids– blind, lame, and paralyzed. 4  5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 ¶ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath (John 5:1-9 ESV).

Setting

This story takes place in Jerusalem. Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem because of a major Jewish feast. He goes to the pool of Bethesda (“house of mercy”) where there was a multitude of sick people: blind, lame, or paralyzed.

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” 7 “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me” (John 5:5-7 NLT).

John tells us that there was a multitude of sick people gathered at this pool. Apparently there was some kind of spring or artesian well and occasionally the waters would be stirred up. The people thought that there was some curative power in the water when it was stirred just as today, some people think that natural hot springs can improve one’s health.

Jesus sees that this man has been ill for a very long time. Thirty-eight years, to be exact. He has been lame so long, that he probably cannot imagine life any other way. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Not everyone wants to be healed. Being healed would be a major change in this man’s life. John does not say so, but it is likely that this man was a beggar. If he is healed, he might have to begin to work to earn a living. He might be comfortable just complaining about his existence. When Jesus asks him if he would like to get well, he does not say that he would. He only complains that he is unable to get to the pool. He has no one to help him, and others always get there ahead of him. Perhaps he hopes that Jesus will help him get into the water.

A Helpless Situation

Let’s face it. Thirty-eight years is a long time to be paralyzed. I can’t imagine what that would do to a ma, or how helpless it would make him feel. But the truth is, he was helpless. There is nothing that he could do to heal himself.

ILLUSTRATION

Christopher Reeve was the famous actor who played Superman in the popular film series. In 1995, Reeve was thrown from his horse “and sustained a cervical spinal injury that paralyzed him from the neck down.” But he “believed that the nervous system could be regenerated.”[1] He had all the money that he needed and the best of medical care, but tragically, he died nine years later in 2004 at the age of 52.

Christopher Reeve, perhaps better known to some as Superman, was absolutely helpless. The man in John 5 had been paralyzed for 38 and was also absolutely helpless to change his situation.

That unnamed man is you and me. We don’t like to hear this, because like Christopher Reeve, we believe that we have the power to regenerate ourselves. But the Bible says that you are I are worse than paralyzed; we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are totally incapable of regenerating ourselves. We need someone else to come and help us. The best that was can say is, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool. I have no one to help me get out of this miserable state of affairs. I am unable to change.”

Sometimes it is easier to complain about our lot than to change. But Jesus tells this man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! His muscles became strong. He stood up. He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!

After 38 years! This was a great miracle.

Thirty-eight years is a long time. And maybe it takes a long time for us to realize just how helpless we are. But after 38 years, Jesus came into this man’s life and everything was changed. He had had no hope, but that is because he did not have Jesus. How long have you been paralyzed by sin and destructive lifestyles? Do you want to be healed? Well, I have good news for you! Jesus is the Master of hopeless situations. Thirty-eight years or a lifetime is nothing to him. He is the Master of time.

Scene 2: The Authorities Confront the Man

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place (Joh 5:10-13 ESV).

Sabbath Controversy

It is only now that John tells us that Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath. This means trouble, at least for the man who was healed. The Jewish leaders see this man carrying his mat and tell him, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”

Really?

Actually, the law does not say anything at all about carrying your mat on the Sabbath. The Law of Moses forbade anyone from working on the Sabbath. But was this work? What is work? The rabbis had decided that they needed to define work. So they had constructed an elaborate system of thirty-nine things that you could not do on the Sabbath. They called it a “fence around the Law.” The fence was to keep people from getting to the Law. And, of course, if they couldn’t get to the Law because of the fence that they had put up around the Law, the wouldn’t be able to break the Law.

So, a man could not anoint his eyes, for example. That was considered work. We’ll see that again in John 9. You couldn’t knead dough to make bread because that was work. “A mother could pick up a child on the Sabbath but if the child was holding a stone, she had violated the Sabbath law. A woman was prohibited from looking in a mirror on the Sabbath—she might see a gray hair and pull it out, violating the Sabbath.”[2] A man carrying a sleeping mat on the Sabbath violated their Sabbath law. And healing a man on the Sabbath was a violation of their Sabbath law.

These violations were not found anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. These were regulations that the rabbis had added to the Law. And they reacted very negatively when they saw this man — a man who had been lying paralyzed for thirty-eight years — walking and carrying his bed. Instead of responding to the miracle of his healing with joy and praise to God, they said, “Why are you carrying your bed?”[3] “The Jews were so caught up in the rules they had added to the Law of God that they were more concerned with this man’s disobedience to their rabbinic tradition than with rejoicing and glorifying God for the man’s astonishing deliverance from suffering.”[4]

An Unwilling Witness

The healed lame man was a rather pathetic person. He should have been excited to be able to walk and run and jump after 38 years. Remember the Samaritan woman? She could hardly wait to run into town and tell everyone that she had just met the Messiah. But this man, although he is now healed, is still blaming everyone else for his problems.

But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” (John 5:11 ESV).

R. C. Sproul says that this man is an unwilling witness:

In essence, the man was saying: “It wasn’t my idea. Somebody came along and told me to pick up my bed and walk for the first time in thirty-eight years, so what was I supposed to do? I only did what He told me to do. If you have a problem with that, go talk to Him.”[5]

The Mystery Man

At this point in the story, Jesus seems to be the “mystery man.” We must not forget that John is writing this story for us, his readers. He is writing with intention. And while he is telling us what happened, he has chosen this event so that we would believe something crucial about Jesus.

So in these verses 11, 12, and 13, John raises the question as to the identity of Jesus. The question is, “Who is this man?” The Jewish authorities have told the man that it is not lawful for him to carry his mat.

But he answered them, “The man who healed me,

that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. (John 5:11-13 ESV).

This is what John is driving at. He wants us to begin thinking about who Jesus is, and we will soon find the answer to that question in the mouth of Jesus himself.

Scene 3: Jesus Finds the Man

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (Joh 5:14 ESV).

The lame man does not know who Jesus is. He doesn’t know his name. Apparently he had not yet heard much about him, and everyone is wondering at this point who it would be that had healed the lame man on the Sabbath and had told him to take up his mat and walk.

Although the lame man does not know Jesus, Jesus knows him and finds him in the temple. Perhaps this man had gone to the temple to offering thanksgiving to God. If that is so, it is one of the few redeeming factors in this man’s life.

How often are we blessed and fail to recognize the source of our blessing?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17 ESV).

The sunshine and rain, the air we breath and the food we eat, all are gifts from God.

Jesus found this man, just like he found Philip in chapter one. He found the Samaritan woman in chapter four. He will find the blind man in chapter nine. But here he finds the lame man who can’t even tell people who healed him.

“See, you are well!” Jesus says. Jesus reminds him that he had had no hope of getting into the pool, but it was not the pool that healed him, but the powerful word of Jesus: “Get up, take up your mat, and walk!”

Now Jesus has a word of warning for him: “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

There are two things that we cannot say regarding sin and sickness. First, we cannot say that all sickness is the result of the sick person’s sin. The Book of Job is about a man that the Bible described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). Furthermore, it says that he did not sin with his mouth. Yet, he lost everything and was afflicted with sore from head to toe. His comforters falsely accused him of sin.

In John 9, we will find a man who was born blind, and when his disciples asked who sinned to cause this great tragedy, Jesus told them that neither he nor his parents had sinned. But God would use the tragedy to manifest his glory.

But that does not mean that sickness is never the result of sin. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, Paul tells the church at Corinth that many of them have been sick and some have even died because of the way the treated other members of the Body of Christ.

In speaking with this man in John 5, Jesus clearly indicates that sin can bring upon us something far worse than being paralyzed for 38 years. “Sin no more,” Jesus says, “that nothing worse may happen to you.” The New Living Translation puts it like this:

“Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 NLT).

What could be worse than being paralyzed for 38 years? Eternal damnation in hell.

Scene 4: The Authorities Confront Jesus

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (Joh 5:15-18 ESV)

Now the question of who Jesus is comes into clear focus. The man had blamed Jesus for his violation of the rabbinic tradition: “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’”

“Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?’”

But the man did not know who it was.

Now he knows for Jesus has found him. You would think that out of gratitude to Jesus, he would say nothing to the Jewish authorities. But no, this little man finds the authorities and tells them that it was Jesus who had healed him and told him to take up his bed and walk.

We now have an important explanation from John the writer. We must always remember that John has us readers in mind. He wants to make sure that we are following him in his presentation of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. So he explains what is going on. In verse 16, John tells us,

And this was why the Jews were persecution Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

“Because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.” Not only was the healed lame man in trouble with the Jewish authorities for carrying his mat on the Sabbath, Jesus is now being persecuted for healing the man on the Sabbath.

What right does Jesus have to heal people on the Sabbath? That was the question. Jesus’ answer is short but packed with meaning:

“My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17).

Jesus did not say that he did not work on the Sabbath. In fact, he will call his miracles “works” in verse 20. He said that his Father was working and so was he.

Even the rabbis agreed that God held the universe together on the Sabbath. Jesus says that he is only doing what his Father is doing. He is claiming the right to do what God is doing. This is an astounding claim, but it is even more astounding when we consider his language.

Jesus does not simply say that God is working, so he is working. He does not simply state that since God works the Sabbath, Jesus also has the right to work on the Sabbath. He refers to God as his own Father.

This is the first of 21 times that Jesus refers to God, not as “our Father” but as “my Father.”

John tells us immediately what his means:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

“He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

This is John’s commentary on what is happening. He is telling us what Jesus mean and what the Jewish authorities understood. Jesus was making himself equal with God.

All along through this Gospel, John guides us as to what we are to understand about Jesus. For example, in chapter 2, when Jesus challenged the Jewish authorities to destroy “this temple,” and they thought that he was talking about the temple at Jerusalem, John tells us that Jesus was not talking about the literal temple, but about his own body.

Another example is found in chapter 21 when people thought that Jesus had said that John would live until Jesus returned, John tells us plainly that Jesus did not say that.

John will correct misunderstandings, but this is not a misunderstanding. This is John telling us what Jesus meant and why the Jewish authorities were plotting his death: by calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Why did the Jews kill Jesus? John tells us. Jesus claimed to be equal with God. The Jews were waiting for the Messiah, but they had failed to understand that he would be God himself.

Every time Jesus called God “my Father,” he was claiming equality with God. Every time he identified himself as the Son of God, he was claiming equity with the Father. Jesus’ statement strongly argues for His deity — and the unbelieving Jews understood it as such.”[6]

This is the purpose of John’s Gospel. He tells in the first verse who Jesus is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Time and time again in the Gospel, John shows us that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh.

That is what it means to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. “These things were written,” John says, “that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you might have life in his name” (20:31).

Conclusion

So where are you in all this? Are you like the healed lame man who didn’t really know who Jesus was?

Or are you like the Jewish authorities who were hostile to Jesus and who plotted to get rid of him?

Or are you like the true disciples of Jesus who came to understand that the signs that Jesus did and the words that he said, show us that he is equal with God and that he alone can save you from the paralysis of sin.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Reeve

[2]Paul Enns, Living the New Testament, Daily Readings from Matthew to Revelation.

[3]R. C. Sproul, John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary).

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Locations 1111-1113). Kindle Edition.

[5]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Locations 1115-1117). Kindle Edition.

[6]Paul Enns, Living the New Testament, Daily Readings from Matthew to Revelation.

See also “Gospel of John”:

Advertisements

John 04:19-24, “The Seeking God”

Guercino - Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at th...

Guercino – Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well – WGA10946 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scripture: John 4:19-24

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:19-24 ESV).

Our God is a seeking God. He is on a search. He is looking for something. In the beginning, God came down to the Garden of Eden every day. One day He came but couldn’t find what he was looking for. For the first time, God asked a question: “Where are you?”

God is looking for something. Sometimes He finds it. Sometimes He doesn’t.

  • He found Abram in Ur and promised that one of his descendants would be the Savior. He found Jacob at Peniel and wrestled with him there.
  • He found Joseph in prison in Egypt and made him to be Prime Minister.
  • He found Moses in the desert and had him lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.
  • God found Joshua as he was spying out the Promised Land and had him lead the Israelites in conquest.
  • He found Gideon beating out the wheat and used him and 300 men to defeat the Midianites.
  • God found David caring for the sheep and made him a giant killer and the shepherd of Israel.
  • He found Isaiah, gave him a vision of God’s glory, purified his lips, and sent to …
  • He found Jeremiah and consecrated him and appointed him “a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5 ESV).
  • He found Rahab and Ruth. He found Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Obadiah. He even found Jonah in the belly of a great fish. Or maybe that’s where Jonah found God.

But God is always looking.

2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

God is always looking, but He does not always find what He is looking for:

Ezekiel 22:30 ESV And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

May it never be said of your church or your family that God came looking for someone to do do a certain job, but couldn’t find anyone. May it never be said of the men of this church that God came looking to find someone who was willing to prepare himself to go and answer as Isaiah did, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!” – but that He found none.

God is looking. He is searching. He is seeking.

So we come to John 4.

John 4:3-4 ESV he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.And he had to pass through Samaria.

“He had to pass through Samaria.” Why did Jesus have to pass through Samaria? Many Jews would not go through Samaria. They would take the longer route around Samaria, but the text says that Jesus had to pass through Samaria, and in the original language the word speaks of divine necessity. It means that something must be done.

John 3:7 ESV You must be born again.

John 3:14 ESV so must the Son of Man be lifted up.

John 9:4 ESV We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day

John 10:16 ESV And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.

Why did Jesus have to pass through Samaria? It was a divine “must” that Jesus pass through Samaria because God was looking for something. Notice verse 27:

John 4:27 ESV Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

The disciples knew that Jesus was seeking something. He wanted something. He was looking for something.

Back up to verse 23:

John 4:23 ESV But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

What is God looking for? He is looking for true worshipers.

So what is true worship? What must we do to be true worshipers of God? What does true worship depend on?

1. True worship does not depend on worshiping in the right place (4:19-21).

John 4:19-21 ESV The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

There had been centuries of conflict between the Samaritans and the Jews over worship. This Samaritan woman brings this out in this passage: “Our (Samaritan) fathers… but you (Jews) say…

The conflict ran deep. It goes back to the division of the kingdom between the north and the south, 931 years before Christ. The kingdom was split between King Rehoboam in the south, and King Jeroboam in the north. The temple was in Jerusalem in the south; there was no temple in the north. Jeroboam was afraid of losing his control of the people, so he set up two golden calves for the people to worship.

The northern kingdom fell deeper and deeper into sin, so after 200 years, God sent the Assyrians who took many of the people of the northern kingdom into exile, and replaced them with people from other nations. These foreigners intermarried with the Israelites that were left. The mixed race became the Samaritans: half Jew, half foreigner. They had no temple, so they built one on Mount Gerizim.

There was only one true God, so for the Jews of the southern kingdom, there could only be one temple—one place to worship Him, so they desecrated the Samaritan temple with human bones. The Samaritans did the same thing to the temple in Jerusalem.

This conflict is very clear in John 4. Jesus asks the woman for a drink. She responds,

John 4:9 ESV “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

John explains: (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

Jesus answers her, “If you knew what I have to offer, and who I am, you would have asked me for something to drink and I would have given you living water” (from v. 10).

The woman responds (v. 11-12):

  • You have nothing to draw water with.
  • The well is very deep (31 meters today).
  • Where do you get that living water?
  • Are you greater than Jacob who gave us this well? (Who do you think you are?)
  • Jacob drank from it. His sons drank from it. All his livestock drank from it. This is the best well in Samaria. What could you possibly offer me that I don’t already have?

Jesus says to her (v. 13-14),

  • The water in this well is not really all that great: Everyone who drinks from it will be thirsty again. Isn’t that why you are here?
  • Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.
  • The water that I will give him will become inside him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
  • So, yes, I really am greater than Jacob!

She responds (v.15),

  • Yeah, right! So give me this water so I won’t be thirsty or have to come here to draw water anymore!

While there may have been sarcasm in her voice, this woman was thirsty for something that ordinary water could not quench.

SONG: Rebecca St. James – River of Life

Jesus (v. 16):

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her (John 4:16 NLT).

Woman (v. 17):

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied… (John 4:17a NLT).

Jesus (v. 17-18):

“You’re right! You don’t have a husband– 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” (John 4:17b-18 NLT).

Woman:

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet (John 4:19 NLT).

But the woman does not want to talk about her personal life, so she brings up the centuries-long conflict over the place of worship:

So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” (John 4:20 NLT).

Where are we supposed to worship? Where can we find the presence of God?

  • Samaritans:     Mount Gerizim
  • Jews:                Jerusalem
  • Muslims:          Mecca
  • Buddhists:        Nepal
  • Catholics:        Lourdes

Where?

  • Under a certain tree?
  • On a certain Pacific island?
  • On top of a volcano?
  • In the belly of a great fish?

JESUS TELLS THE WOMAN THAT TRUE WORSHIP DOES NOT DEPEND ON A CERTAIN PLACE.

John 4:21 ESV Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

You don’t have to go to a certain place or mountain or temple or cave or sacred stone. Why? Because God is everywhere.

Psalm 24:1-6 ESV The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

When King Solomon dedicated the temple at Jerusalem, he prayed,

2 Chronicles 6:18 ESV “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!

King David prayed,

Psalm 139:7-10 ESV Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Jesus declared,

Matthew 18:20 ESV For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

And again,

Matthew 28:20 ESV teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

You don’t have to go to Israel to find God. God is looking for you.

So the place is not important because God is everywhere. What about the time? What about timing?

2. True worship does not depend on worshiping at a certain time.

  • Do you have to wait for a full moon?
  • Do you have to wait until the planets Jupiter and Saturn or Venus are lined up?
  • Should you consult the horrorscope or the Chinese calendar to find out when to worship God?
  • What day of the week should we worship God on?
  • Muslims: Friday
  • Jews: Saturday
  • SDAs: Saturday
  • Christians: Sunday

What is the right time to worship God?

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem (John 4:21 NLT).

But the time is coming– indeed it’s here now– when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way (John 4:23 NLT).

The time is now, says Jesus. True worship does not depend on the clock. True worship does not depend on the calendar. True worship is not a matter of the day of the week.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,”(Heb 3:13 ESV)

So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today (Heb 4:7 NLT)

“The hour is coming and is now here…”

Colossians 2:8 NLT Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17 NLT So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

Colossians 2:20-23 NLT You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.

True worship does not depend on the place or the time.

Then what does true worship depend on?

3. True worship depends on the nature of God (v. 23-24).

John 4:23-24 ESV But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

SPIRIT AND TRUTH WORSHIP

3.1.God is spirit, so our worship must be spiritual.

John 4:24 ESV God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Worship is a response of the spiritual life in us to the God who has given us living water:

John 4:10 ESV Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Worship is the spring of water in us giving praise to its source:

John 4:14 ESV but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

True worship flows from the heart back to God, the source of spiritual life.

Matthew 15:8-9 ESV “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;in vain do they worship me…”

Mark 12:30 ESV And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

Worship is not about us. And we must be terribly careful that it not be about us. It is not about how well we preach or how well we sing. The church is not made up of performers and their audience. There is an audience of One, and that One is God. We are not here to draw attention to ourselves or to be recognized. We are here to point men to God.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Colossians 1:28 ESV Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

So worship must be spiritual, flowing from our spirit, from our heart, expressing our love and adoration and thanksgiving to our immeasurably great God.

But worship must also be truthful.

3.2.Worship has to do with the truth about God (v. 22).

John 4:22 ESV You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

3.2.1.     Worship is based on our knowledge of God.

Some evenings as the sun is setting, we begin to notice a certain color. Outside our house it begins to look red or orange or pink. We run outside and look at the brilliant sky painted in pink and orange and blue: “Wow! Look at that sky!”

Coming to church on Sunday morning, we drive along the lagoon and the water is a turquoise blue: “Wow! Look at that water! Isn’t that beautiful!”

But what if we were blind? We could never experience the overwhelming beauty of the sunset. We could never be amazed by the wonderful colors of the ocean waters. If we were deaf, we could never appreciate the beautiful music of an orchestra or a beautiful voice.

You cannot worship what you do not know. You cannot be amazed by the glories of god’s perfections, his holiness, his grace, his wisdom, his mercy, his power, his intelligence and everything else that is revealed in his word if you don’t know him, if we are not interested in learning what he has revealed about himself in his word.

Christianity is not about believing in a God somewhere in heaven. The devils believe in God (James 2:19), but Christ came to make the Father known (John 1:18).

2 Tim. 1:12 ESV I know whom I have believed.

John 17:3 ESV And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

You love your wife because you know her. I don’t know how you could come to love your wife if you had never met her, never known her, never heard her voice, never seen her face, and knew nothing about her.

True worship comes from knowing God.

3.2.2.     Jesus says, “We worship what we know for salvation is from the Jews.”

The Samaritans did not know what they worshiped because salvation is from the Jews.

  • He is not the god of the Americans or the god of the Australians.
  • He is not the god of the French or the god of the Fijians.
  • He is not the god of the ni-Vanuatu or the god of the Vietnamese.

He is the God who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. He is the God who walked in the garden with Adam. He is the God who spared Noah and his family. He is the God who called Abraham and promised that through his distant offspring, all the families of the earth would be blessed. He is the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Samaritans had only the first five books of the Bible. They knew something of the beginnings of God’s plan for salvation, but they did not know how God had watched over His people. They did not know the miracles of the conquest of the Promised Land. They did not know how God had blessed and how God had judged. They did not know the men and woman that God had raised up to do His will.

They did not have the Psalms, that marvelous collection of praise and worship to God. Psalm 23 alone is a great treasure. The Psalms help us to understand the heart and spirit of the true worshiper.

The Samaritans did not have the book of Proverbs, that treasure chest of wisdom.

They did not have the books of the prophets, those writings which deal with the heart, showing us the ways of God and what He requires of us.

The Samaritans knew a little bit about God, but they did not know God. They had rejected too much of His revelation.

What about us? Do we know our God? Do who know the one we worship? Do we take the time to read the revelation of Himself that He has given us? When we come to worship God, it is not good enough to have confused ideas about who He is. Worship is too important.

It is easy to go through the motions: to sing our songs, to raise our hands, to pay our tithes, to listen to the sermon, without thinking about what we are doing or without thinking about the God that we are supposed to be worshiping. We must know the God that we are worshiping and our worship must flow from our relationship with Him.

What He has revealed about Himself in the Word: His grace, compassion, love, light, but also that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 11:29).

Psalm 22:23 ESV You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

Worshiping God in truth means that we glory in the truth that God has revealed about Himself.

3.3.Worship also has to do with facing the truth about ourselves (v. 22).

This Samaritan woman did not want to face the truth about herself.

Jesus told her to get her husband. “I don’t have a husband.”

“Right. You’ve had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband. So it is true what you say. You don’t have a husband.”

Woman: “I see you are a prophet. But I’m not really interested in talking about my personal life. Let’s change the subject. Let’s talk about worship.”

Jesus: “If you want to talk about worship, you’re not really changing the subject because worship must be according to the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. Until you take care of the sin in your own life, you cannot worship God. It’s not a question of place or of time because God is spirit. He is looking for true worshipers. People who are true.”

Pro 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

Isa 1:15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Pro 28:9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

Ps. 66:18 NIV If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;

1 Timothy 2:8 ESV I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

CONCLUSION

This woman was thirsty. Her life was a wreck. She had gone through five husbands. Still thirsty, she tries again. But after meeting the One who gives living water, she leaves her bucket behind and tells the men of Samaria, “Come and see this man who told me everything I’ve done. Is he not the Messiah?”

She was the reason that Jesus had to pass through Samaria. God was looking for her. And God is looking for you. He is looking for true worshipers, those who will face the truth about themselves, and recognize like the Samaritans that Christ Jesus is truly the Savior of the world.

  1. This woman did not at first know who Jesus was: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for something to drink?”
  2. Then we hear her saying, “I perceive that you are a prophet.”
  3. Next she tells the men of her town, “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Is not this the Christ?”
  4. Finally they declare that Jesus is the Savior of the world. He came to save not only Jews, but Samaritans, and Americans, and ni-Vans. He came to save you.

Are you not thirsty? Looking in all the wrong places? Never satisfied with what you’ve found? Got your life all messed up? Jesus is the Savior of the world. He has come looking for you, to save you, and to satisfy your thirsty soul. He is looking for true worshipers who will worship God in spirit and truth.

Come To The River                 4:07     Ronnie Freeman

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 03:01-15 “The Purpose of the New Birth”

Last week we considered Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and the necessity of the new birth. Three times in the passage Jesus tells us that we must be born again. Why must we be born again? Jesus tells us that without the new birth, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. No one will ever enter God’s kingdom without having been born again. All those who have not been born again will be excluded and as Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:30, they will be cast into “the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”(Mat 25:30 ESV).

So Jesus clearly tells us that we must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. But we must ask a more fundamental question: Why must we be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God? Why does God require the new birth? Why must you and I be born again to enter God’s kingdom? What is fundamentally wrong with us as we are that would prevent us from entering into the very presence of God? Why can’t God just let us in without the new birth?

Today we want to consider the purpose of the new birth.

Jesus and Nicodemus, Crijn Hendricksz, 1616–1645.

Jesus and Nicodemus, Crijn Hendricksz, 1616–1645. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you travel from one country to another, you have to carry certain travel documents. You need an airplane ticket to be able to board the plane. But you also need a passport that identifies who you are and your country of origin. Frequently you need a visa to be able to enter the other country. When you are checking in for your flight, an airline agent verifies that your documents are in order. If they are in order, you are permitted to travel. If your documents are not in order, you are not granted permission to board the airplane.

Now I want to say that flying from one country to another is quite different from the new birth. You may carry your travel documents with you without any fundamental change in your character. You may even carry your passport, visa, and airline ticket in your shirt pocket, close to your heart, but those documents do not indicate that there has been any change of heart. The airplane ticket is utterly incapable of changing your character.

We want to see that the new birth is not simply some airplane ticket, or passport, or visa that we carry in our pockets that will allow us to enter into the kingdom of God. The new birth brings with it a fundamental change in our identity – who we are – and a fundamental change in our character.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13 ESV).

The new birth is absolutely necessary because without it, we are not fit for the kingdom of God. Our character is fundamentally different from God himself. Without the new birth, there can be no real transformation of our character. The new birth begins a process that changes our identity, our nature, and our character.

So let us read again this most important conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.

Scripture: John 3:1-15

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 2:23-15 ESV).

Why do we need to be born again?

SONG: Save Me from Myself, Michael W. Smith

John 3 contains some of the best-known passages in the Bible. It is here in John 3:16 that we read of God’s great love for the world:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 ESV).

And yet, we rip this verse out of context without understanding the danger that we are in and the warnings that are given in this chapter and throughout the Bible.

Jesus tells us three times that we cannot enter His Father’s kingdom without being born again:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV).

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7 ESV).

Jesus tells Nicodemus, in effect, that he is on the road to destruction. The only way to avoid that is the new birth.

John 3:16 speaks not only of the Father’s love, but also of the necessity of believing on his only Son so that we should not perish. The next two verses show us the terrible consequences of not receiving Christ:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:17-18 ESV).

How is it that we are on the road to destruction? Why do we need a Savior? The next verses tell us why:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3:19-20 ESV).

We like to think of ourselves as basically good. We are good people.

1. Just How Good Are We?

A ruler came to Jesus and asked him,

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Luke 18:18-19 ESV).

Jesus was not saying that he was not good; he was asking the ruler if he recognized that Jesus was God. But the point I want to make is that Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” We think of ourselves as good. Ask anyone how they are, and as likely as not, their response will be, “I’m good!” Not “I’m fine.” Or “I’m doing well.” But “I’m good.” I will grant you that they are probably not trying to make a statement about their character, but when you ask someone if he thinks he is a good person, he will most likely say that he is. What about you? Are you a good person? If you died right now, do you think that you would go to heaven?

Most of us think that we are good enough to go to heaven! But what does God’s Word say?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV).

Consider the Ten Commandments. Do you know them? How many of them can you say? Let’s just consider a few of them to evaluate just how good we are. Evangelist Ray Comfort often asks these questions of people.

Have you ever taken the Lord’s name in vain? Have you used his name without talking about him or talking to him? The exclamation, “Oh my God!” reduces the most holy name of God to the common and trivial. “Mon Dieu !” does the same thing in French. Ever said it? You broke the third commandment. That’s blasphemy. What does that make you? It makes you a blasphemer.

Have you ever lied? You broke the ninth commandment. What does that make you? It makes you a liar.

Ever stolen anything? Music or software off the Internet? You broke the eight commandment. What does that make you? It makes you a thief.

Ever looked on a woman to lust after her? Jesus says that you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. You broke the seventh commandment. What does that make you? It makes you an adulterer.

Ever hated anyone? Jesus said that if you hate anyone, you have already committed murder in your heart. You broke the sixth commandment. What does that make you? It makes you a murderer.

Are we really good enough to go to heaven?

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:18 ESV).

Do you think that God is going to let blasphemers and liars and thieves and adulterers and murderers into heaven?

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 ESV).

This is why we must be born again:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36 ESV).

As Pastor John Piper says,

Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He was speaking to all of us when he said that. Nicodemus was not a special case. You and I must be born again, or we will not see the kingdom of God. That means we will not be saved; we will not be part of God’s family, and we will not go to heaven. Instead, we will go to hell if we are not born again. That’s what Jesus says later in this chapter about the person who does not believe on Christ: “The wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). This is no joking matter. Jesus uses hard words for hard realities. That is what love does. The opposite is called pandering.

The Christian is not someone who thinks himself better than others. He has come to know just how sinful he is. Paul said it like this,

I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Romans 7:18 ESV).

Created in the image of God, we are capable of doing good things, but because of Adam’s sin, we have a fallen nature so that even the good that we do is tainted by our sinful nature.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags… (Isaiah 64:6 NLT).

2. Our Condition Apart from the New Birth

“Do we really need to be changed? Can’t we just be forgiven and justified? Wouldn’t that get us to heaven?”[1]

2.1.Apart from the new birth, we are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Ephesians.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked,

We need the new birth because without it, we are the walking dead, walking around dead in our trespasses and sins. We are spiritual zombies, “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:8). Paul tells us that we were under the control of three forces.

2.1.1.     We were following the course of this world.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world… (Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV).

We were following the course of this world. We were going the same way that everyone else was going. We were going with the flow. We were walking the same path as everyone else. This is the way the world wants us to go. It is our culture and our customs telling us that it is okay to take drugs, and get drunk, and sleep around, and cheat on our wives, and serve ourselves. It’s okay to abort our babies, to divorce and remarry, or to marry someone of the same sex. It’s the new wave. It’s the way the world is going.

Our rivers flow to the ocean. It is easy to go with the flow. It is easy to float downstream with everyone else. Dead fish flow downstream, but fish that are alive swim against the current. If you are following the course of this world, you are still dead in your trespasses and sins. You must be born again if you ever hope to enter heaven.

2.1.2.     We were following the prince of the power of the air.

…following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– (Ephesians 2:2 ESV).

This is why Jesus says to the Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires… (John 8:44 ESV). We were dead in our trespasses and sins, just doing the will of the devil.

2.1.3.     We were following the passions of our flesh.

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:3 ESV).

We offered little or no resistance to society around us or to the devil because of the passions of our flesh and the desires of the body and the mind. We were dead. Once again in verse 5, Paul says that “we were dead in our trespasses.”

2.2.       Apart from the new birth, we are by nature children of wrath.

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:3 ESV).

By nature we are the children of wrath. It is not that we were good and then did some bad things that made us bad.

For I was born a sinner– yes, from the moment my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5 NLT).

I am selfish and self-centered and demanding by nature. I am sinful and I justify my sin. I take my sin and say that this is natural for me. I resist change and repentance and sorrow over my sin and accuse God of making me this way.

As long as I cling to my sin, it is only right that I should be an object of the wrath of God. Again, John 3 speaks not only of the God who loved us so much that he gave his only Son that we might not perish, it also speaks of his wrath toward those who do not obey him.

2.3.Apart from the new birth, we love darkness and hate the light.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3:19-20 ESV).

We are not by nature lovers of light. We resist the light because the light exposes our evil deeds. We resist the Word of God because is reveals our sinfulness. We resist the Holy Spirit because he convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8-10). All around us in the world today, we see that people and nations are fleeing from the light and are embracing darkness.

We need the new birth to change our inclinations.

2.4.Apart from the new birth, our hearts are hard like stone.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV).

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart (Ephesians 4:18 ESV).

Paul says that we are strangers from the life of God because of ignorance. But is it not an innocent ignorant. It is an ignorance “do to their hardness of heart.” Romans 1 says that we suppress or hold down the truth by our wickedness. We don’t want to know the truth, so we traded it for a lie.

One of the biggest lies around the world today is the lie of evolution. We are all the result of a cosmic accident. There was nothing that magically became this vast universe of incredible order and complexity and balance and beauty, but it just happened all by itself. So your life has not meaning. You are just an accident. There is no God. So live however you want to.

People like believing that lie! If this is all an accident and there is no God, then there is no Judge. There is no one to answer to. I can do whatever I want. I can feed my sinful nature until the monster is so big that it destroys me.

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Willful ignorance covered up by a hard heart. That’s why we need the new birth.

2.5.       Apart from the new birth, we are unable to submit to God or please God.

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8 ESV).

The New Living Translation says it like this:

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

That’s why we must be born again. Our old sinful nature is hostile to God! Do you imagine that people who are hostile to God and his laws will ever be allowed into the kingdom of heaven? Paul continues, drawing a powerful contrast between those who are not born again and those who are:

9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) (Romans 8:7-9 NLT).

2.6.Apart from the new birth, we are unable to accept the gospel.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV).

This does not mean that the unbeliever cannot understand the things of God, but rather that “they are folly to him.” He thinks the things of God are foolishness.

Paul cries in Romans 7:24,

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

Paul answers his own question:

25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord… (Romans 7:24-25 NLT).

As Laura Story sings in this song, Our God is mighty to save! Forever author of salvation, Jesus rose and conquered the grave (3:50).

3. The new birth is the beginning of new life. It is the infusion of God’s life into us.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4 ESV).

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:14-16 ESV).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

As we saw in Romans 7:24, Paul cries out,

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

He immediately answers,

25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord… (Romans 7:25 NLT).

Paul picks up this theme in the next chapter, one of the glorious chapters in the Bible, Romans 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:1-11 ESV).

SONG: Matt Maher – I Am Alive Again

This is the promise of the new birth. Life now, and life eternal.

[1]John Piper, Finally Alive, 48.

See also “Gospel of John”: