A man named Nicodemus... came to Jesus at night. — John 3:1-2
If you could go back in time, what would you change? If you got a do-over, what would you redo? Hindsight—it’s 20/20. Regret—it’s plentiful. With some areas, seasons, years, people, and events in our lives, we just wish we could do them again.
But in our finite bodies on this finite planet and in our finite timelines, we know going back to the past just isn’t possible. So we can’t blame Nicodemus for his confusion when Jesus said, “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). Be born again? “How can someone be born when they are old?” he asked (verse 4).
In a world of no second chances, one shot, and better-get-it-right-the-first-time, it’s hard to conceive of what it means to be born again. All we know is “missing the boat,” “better luck next time,” and “if at first you don’t succeed…” honestly, you probably won’t.
Nicodemus may not have understood it in the moment, but what he received from Jesus that night was hope. A hope to start over, be new, be clean. A chance to actually be born, again. As John explained,
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
It’s simple, really. But we tend to complicate it. We replace “whoever believes in Him” with “whoever is good enough, smart enough, compassionate enough… is worthy of God’s love.” We take ourselves out of the equation. “My past is too questionable. No re-dos. No do-overs.”
John 3:16 assures us otherwise. It brings us hope for our future and hope for today. We can be born again in this life and be born again into eternity with the God who loves us. What can be better than that? What’s more, our rebirth is not up to us. If it were, there’s no guarantee we would do it right the second time. It is made possible only by the power of God and through the saving grace of Jesus. When He is in charge of the do-over, the do-over is always done right.
As you take this deep dive into one of the richest verses in Scripture, may you remain open to this God whose love is so big it covers the whole world—whose love is so big it covers you.
If you or any of your group members are just getting to know one another, take a few minutes to introduce yourselves. Then, to get things started, discuss one of the following questions:
• What do you associate with John 3:16? A person, a period in your life, something you’ve read? Why does this verse conjure that association?
• What immediately comes to mind when you think of John 3:16? What especially stands out to you about the verse?
Invite someone to read aloud the following passage. Listen for fresh insights as you hear the verses being read and then discuss the questions that follow.
5 “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
— John 3:5-8
What was one key insight that stood out to you from the Scripture?
What role does the Spirit play in our being born again?
Play the video segment for session one. As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.
- Nicodemus came to Jesus “at night.” Most of the events in the Bible—especially the important ones—happened during the day. That was the time to see and be seen, to teach and to learn, and to ask and answer. But not this discussion.
- Nicodemus took a risk in conducting this conversation with Christ. It’s a risk that all of us today should be glad he was willing to take. For out of this short discussion comes one of the most famous verses in all of the Bible.
- Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3). With this proclamation, Jesus carves out the Continental Divide of Scripture. The international date line of faith.
- The Greek word that Jesus uses for again is anothen. It depicts a repeated action, but it requires the original source to repeat it. Jesus is saying the original Creator re-creates His creation. The potter reforms the clay.
- Jesus describes the source of His testimony—that He is a witness to heavenly things and heavenly truths. He reveals that He alone has the authority to speak of heaven because He alone has come down from heaven.
- The heart of the human problem is the heart of the human—and God’s prescription is found in John 3:16. He loves. He gave. We believe. We live.
Take some time with your group to discuss what you just watched and answer the following questions.
1. Before starting this study, how would you have described John 3:16 and its role in the Christian faith?
2. What were Nicodemus’ credentials in the Jewish religion and culture? Why is this important to know in the context of his conversation with Jesus?
3. What is the difference between the Greek words palin and anothen? Which one did Jesus use in John 3:3? What is the significance of this?
4. According to John 3:3, what does it mean to be “born again”? Does this differ from how you’ve understood this phrase in the past? If so, how?
5. Read John 3:13-16. What claims are made in this passage? Which ones are easy for you to believe? Which ones are difficult for you to believe?
Briefly review the outline for the video teaching and any notes you took. In the space below, write down the most significant point you took away from this session.
One of the most important things you can do together in community is to pray for each other. This is not simply a closing prayer to end your group time but a portion of time to share prayer requests, review how God has answered past prayers, and actually pray for one another. As you close your time together this week, ask God to open your hearts to receive His truth over the next several weeks. Ask Him to strengthen your faith and understanding as you learn more about these life-saving words in John 3:16. Pray that the message will ring as true for you today as it did that night with Nicodemus so many years ago. Praise God that no matter what you have done in your past, we can have eternal life through the saving power of Jesus. Finally, write down any specific prayer requests or praises for the coming week.
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Come share your thoughts on session one of 3:16.