Nick… at Night

19 Dec

There’s one question I always ask when I read about someone’s encounter with Jesus in the gospels…

“What’s the spiritual condition of the person talking to Jesus.”

I mean… are they a believer… a seeker… or someone not at all interested in the spiritual side of life?

Most people assume that Jesus spent the majority of His time “evangelizing unbelievers”… so they naturally conclude that we should do the same. Our generation has focused much of its efforts on evangelism… because we believe “that’s WJD”.

Moon over Jerusalem

In this post… we’ll look at an interaction Jesus had with Nicodemus. Most understand this guy to be a “seeker” who is coming to Jesus with questions, but is it possible that he is a believer coming to Jesus to understand more about his Messiah?

Let’s see if we can pull Nicodemus… “out of the shadows”.

What’s Going on Behind the Translation?

There is a lot happening “behind the curtain” of the English translations of John 3:1-21. While I won’t be able to take space to unpack all of it here, I would like to give you some things for further study.

First… John, the author, used one word over and over again in verses 3-5. The Greek word “pneuma“, which can mean a “breathe”, a “blast of air”, or “wind” is normally interpreted as “spirit”. In scripture, this often refers to the Holy Spirit. In John 3:5-8… everywhere the English translation says “wind” and/or “Spirit”… it’s the same word (pneuma) in the Greek language. (For a more complete discussion… please read Zane Hodges’ article).

Second… the Greek phrase that’s often translated, “born again” can also mean “born from above” (meaning Heaven). Jesus was using this linguistic ambiguity to teach a spiritual truth. Nicodemus originally thought Jesus meant “born again” (physical birth) when Jesus really meant “born from above” (spiritual birth). Jesus liked to play with words like that.

Third… there are a bunch of “you” statements in the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus. The Greek language uses two different words to distinguish whether a “you” is singular (directed to one person) or plural (like we would say in the South “you all”). English is not so clear. The English language only has one  “you” that functions as both a singular “you” and a plural “you all”. I believe the English language brings a lack of clarity to Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus.

With that said… let’s take a look at the interaction Jesus had with Nicodemus. Continue reading

The Blood Frees… The Body Sustains

6 Nov

I’ve been contemplating some words Jesus said right before he died.

Before I get to those thoughts… I need to give a little background information. I grew up in a good Bible-believing evangelical church… and I took communion on a regular basis. The symbolism of “taking communion” was always a really hard thing to understand. (I come from a tradition that views communion as a symbolic act. I acknowledge that other traditions within the church apply different understandings.)

Regarding communion, Jesus said that we are supposed to “do this in remembrance” of Him (1 Corinthians 11:23 and following). So, in my adolescence, I would sit, in the pew, with the small plastic cup in my hand (trying not to spill)… and hold the even smaller square of mass-produced “bread” between my two fingers (trying not to drop)… and I would try my hand at “remembrance“.

It went something like this…

“Jesus died… Thank you, Jesus…. His body was broken… His blood was spilled… He died… Jesus died… remember that Jesus died… Thank you… Died.”

Then when everyone else had received their same small cup and bead of bread… the pastor would allow us to eat and drink. I’d lick out the bottom of the cup with my tongue… and put it in the round rubber cup holder in front of me.

I did a lot of “remembering”… but never got much past that. Every time communion was served… I remembered… but it seemed really repetitive. I mean… I never really forgot about Jesus’ death between times.

It was all a little confusing. This confusion followed me into adulthood. Over the past few years… I’ve come to understand more about the body and blood of Christ.

Continue reading

Who Called the First Disciples?

4 Oct

The term “saved” is used many ways in the Bible. It’s easy to understand terms as one-dimensional. When we read that someone “believed” in Jesus… it is easiest to think of an “initial faith experience”, but that’s not always the case.

For many of the people in the gospels… their “faith” in Jesus was not when they began “believing” in God.

In the first chapter of John there is a quick succession of “first encounters” with Jesus. It begins in John 1:35 and continues through verse 51. Let’s take a quick look at these people and see if the text gives us any clue as to whether any of these people could have been justified “believers in God” prior to meeting Jesus.

The setting is “the wilderness”… the desert. John the Baptist is dressing very oddly, eating weird stuff, and saying some very strange things… all in a very remote and desolate place. John was either crazy… or he was a prophet sent from God. Many would conclude the former. No matter what people thought of him, the Baptist was saying things that piqued the interest of everyone in Israel.

John 1:35 (NASB95)

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples…

The first two people we will look at are these two disciples of John the Baptist. First, let’s acknowledge something; these two were not just on a day trip to check out the freak show that John had become. The text says they were “disciples” of John the Baptist. What does that mean?

Continue reading

How to Lose Your Salvation…

22 Sep

Some Christians need to lose their salvation… or at least their “definition of salvation”.

Our 21st-century church culture usually uses the term “salvation” to describe someone who walks down the isle on a Sunday morning, says a prayer at an altar. We say, “Did you hear about (insert name here)? He got saved last Sunday!”

Whether it happens in a church building… or at a Starbucks… that’s pretty much the width of meaning most Christians give the term. When people use “saved” in that way, they are talking about the “point in time” event that happens when someone comes to initial faith in Christ as their Savior. That’s certainly an appropriate way to use the term, but is that the only way we should understand “salvation”?

Continue reading

The Baptist is Coming… and Jesus’ 8th day.

16 Aug

Following up on my last post… I’d like to take a look at some more examples of justified, Old Testament saints, being used by God to welcome The Messiah to the earth. In Luke 1 we are introduced to the parents of John the Baptist. Again… it is important to pay attention to the way people are described in the text. I believe it gives a clue to the content of their souls.

Luke 1:5–7 (NASB95)

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

When God chose a couple to bring John the Baptist into the world… he chose two people who were “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” These two people were people of faith… true believers in God… prior to their call to be the parents of John the Baptist.

I know this might be obvious… but I’m not sure people always pay attention to this context. Continue reading

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