The Word of God is so deep that theologians can dig their entire life and never reach the bottom of its wisdom, yet shallow enough that a beginner can completely grasp its truths. When religious leaders asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, His words were simple yet to the point:
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 22:37-40
Love God and love your neighbor.
This simple message has been studied, discussed, and explained by every Pastor since it were proclaimed by Jesus. Yet, the two commands identified by Jesus are very easy to grasp.
John 3:16, is another example of as simple text, with incredibly rich meaning. Ask the person on the street if they can quote anything in the Bible, and this verse will be quoted more than any other. The message is clear, but the wisdom of those words are far reaching.
In the study 3:16 by Max Lucado, groups are given the chance to explore John 3:16. Pastor Lucado writes a wonderful introduction to this study from the text of his book 3:16. ~ Fred Bittner, FaithGateway Bible Study
* * *
It’s the Hope Diamond of the Bible.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
A twenty-six-word parade of hope: beginning with God, ending with life, and urging us to do the same. Brief enough to write on a napkin or memorize in a moment, yet solid enough to weather two thousand years of storms and questions. If you know nothing of the Bible, start here.
If you know everything about the Bible, return here. We all need the reminder. The heart of the human problem is the heart of the human. And God’s treatment is prescribed in John 3:16.
The Most Famous Conversation In The Bible
To discover that real life can only be found in a faith relationship with Jesus Christ and to commit to living within that relationship.
Watch the 3:16 Video, Lesson 1 of the Study
Nicodemus had to visit Jesus in secret. After all, he was a prominent Jewish leader, a member of the Pharisees. This was the group that had investigated John the Baptist and was now building a case against Jesus. Nicodemus, however, abandoned his role as a prosecutor in order to seek personal answers. Nicodemus knew enough to make him wonder if Jesus really was the fulfillment of the prophecy that was central to the Jewish faith. His colleagues weren’t convinced, but Nicodemus was intrigued.
Even though he was curious, Nicodemus reserved judgment. He misunderstood Jesus’ words about the new birth. He couldn’t seem to grasp the idea that life change is a God-thing; he believed that God could be found in keeping the law and doing the right things. Heaven — for Nicodemus, the Pharisees, and traditionalists — was something to be earned. Jesus offered what Nicodemus was seeking; Nicodemus just wasn’t so sure about Jesus’ plan.
Your doubts about a faith-based relationship might not be the same as those Nicodemus had. Maybe you wonder if God really cares for you as much as the Bible says He does. Maybe you question God’s willingness and desire to intervene in the problems you are facing. For you, salvation might be nothing more than insurance against spending an eternity in hell; it has no present value. Nicodemus tried religion and found it empty. You might be in the same situation.
What, other than faith, have you tried in order to make sense out of life?
____ the pursuit of prosperity
Describe how you discovered your solution(s) wasn’t working.
Complete Nicodemus’s statement from your own perspective. “Jesus, I’ve heard about Your works and…
Nicodemus had religious credentials that he thought were enough. He worked for a religious organization, spoke the religious language, and participated in religious activities. He might not have been the best person in the world, but he certainly wasn’t the worst. He was in good standing with God… or was he?
Jesus told Nicodemus that being good wasn’t good enough. Even being religious wouldn’t make it possible for Nicodemus to understand what Jesus was talking about. Even though Nicodemus thought he had the spiritual life under control, he was missing the main ingredient — he had never been born again.
Describe the time when you were “born again.” Where were you? Who was there? What was the experience like?
What does it mean if you don’t remember being born again? It means you might be suffering from Nicodemusitis — the misconception that a person can earn eternal life. You don’t earn it. You can’t purchase it. You don’t get into heaven as part of the family plan. This way of thinking might be new to you; it was new to Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a professional questioner. He took everything literally. When Jesus said that a person must be born again, Nicodemus was quick to jump on the literal impossibility of such an idea. The Pharisees were good at that.
Some of us would make good Pharisees because we tend to overlook the spiritual significance of biblical instructions, choosing instead to nitpick the minutia. Like defense attorneys, we badger the prosecution’s witness, hoping to poke holes in the testimony. If we can just find one loophole, then that instruction won’t apply to us.
What do you think pops into the minds of non-spiritual people when they hear the words born again?
____ physical rebirth
____ spiritual rebirth
____ religious nonsense
____ total confusion
If someone asked you to explain what it means to be “born again” in everyday words, what would you say?
When Jesus suggested that Nicodemus needed to be born again, he implied something specific — Nicodemus needed to be born from above. Nicodemus was powerless; he had to allow God to do something in his life.
Why is it so hard for some people to allow God to work in their lives?
What has prevented you from allowing God to work in your life?
This conversation with Nicodemus leads to what many believe is the most important verse in the entire Bible. People who have hardly read a word of Scripture even know the words in this verse.
Fill in the blanks: For __________ so loved the _____________ that He gave His one and only _________, that whoever believes in Him shall not ___________ but have _______________ life.
It is interesting to look at two contrasts in this verse: God — world; eternal — perish. This is the contrast that resonates throughout Scripture. The world’s ways cause us to perish; God’s ways lead us to eternal life. There is no other way to obtain eternal life. This single verse of Scripture offers several unbelievable truths — truths that we often find hard to grasp.
What does each phrase mean to your spiritual life?
- God so loved
- that He gave His one and only Son
- shall not perish but have eternal life
Maybe this is the first time you’ve thought about it in this way. Many of us read through that verse without thinking much about its meaning to our lives. Yet this verse sums up the very core of our faith. Without a thorough understanding of the truths in this verse, our faith will be built on a weak foundation.
Read John 19:38-42. Nicodemus was a changed man. He initially encountered Jesus secretly, but he later took a bold stand for Jesus in a society that was hostile toward Jesus and His followers. The disciples were in hiding when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus claimed Jesus’ body and prepared it for burial.
How has your faith changed you? In what ways are you taking a stand for Jesus?
How do you think God feels when those who claim to love Him hide their faith?
____ He is thrilled.
____ He understands.
____ He is heartbroken.
____ People of faith never hide their faith.
Later, Nicodemus would be able to explain what it means to be born again. Not because he studied it, but because he experienced it. When it comes to your faith, are you studying it or are you experiencing it?
Leave your comments below. We would love to hear your responses to Max’s thought-provoking questions!