March 10

So, how does John 3 change everything about your life?

I grew up Baptist. The churches I grew up in tried to Christianize us. Of course salvation was preached, but I did not grow up with a strong understanding of the Holy Spirit’s place and work in my life. We were taught to memorize the 10 Commandments, the Fruit of the Spirit, and other key Scriptures of obedience. In other words, we were expected to generate the Fruit, and uphold the moral codes that the church required. Depending on the church:

  1. Guys’ hair was not to go over our ears or hit our collar.
  2. Women and girls were expected to wear skirts or dresses.
  3. We were told it’s a sin to work on Sunday.
  4. Movies were taboo.
  5. Most secular music was unacceptable, but especially Rock and Roll as it was the Devil’s music with a Satanic 2/4 backbeat.
  6. In one of my churches the King James was the only allowed Bible version.
  7. All alcohol and tobacco use were either strictly forbidden or strongly taught against.
  8. Tithing 10% was preached all the time to ensure we knew that if we didn’t tithe, we were faithless.
  9. Divorce for any reason was unbiblical (even though biblically it is allowed in the case of an adulterous spouse or an abandoning/unbelieving spouse). And if you were divorced, you better not get remarried (again, even though the Bible allows it in the two cases I just mentioned).

People that didn’t uphold these moral codes felt like failures, and either worked harder to meet these expectations, or left the church, often feeling despondent and questioning their salvation. In fact, we had a newer Christian at a church I attended in North Carolina. It was winter and as he customarily would do, he grew a beard and mustache. The church’s position was that facial hair was unacceptable because they deemed it as looking like the world (don’t ask me, I never understood their reasoning). One day, an older couple who were legally married first cousins (it was allowed in North Carolina back then) with biologically messed up children (I’m guessing because of their being first cousins), came and spoke with this newer Christian. The wife seriously and firmly declared openly to this bearded man that she would divorce her husband if he ever grew a beard! In other words, the church’s tradition on facial hair held more weight than the Bible’s commands against divorce (and despite the fact most everyone in the Bible had facial hair). He left the church.

It was after a few decades that I finally saw the truth of God’s sovereignty. I had been saved since I was 6, but when I saw that I cannot generate my new birth, and I cannot generate the Fruit of the Spirit, it was like a weight dropped off of me. The weight was from being raised to believe I had to manufacture my Christian growth and with it gone I discovered that I am actually loved by God, that He does the work in me to change and grow, and that if don’t see the marks of the cross in my life then I need to spend time with God in confession, prayer, Bible reading, and seeking His filling.

So, how does John 3 change everything? It does not remove responsibility from us, and does not change God’s righteous requirements, but it does remove the drive to manufacture our salvation and then to manufacture our progressive sanctification.

Christian, are you not seeing the blessings of God in your life? Seek God through His Word and in prayer.

Are you not seeing a changed life that matches what the Bible outlines a Christian is to be? Then seek God through His Word and in prayer.

Do you struggle with anger, a gossiping tongue, judgmental eyes, pride, bitterness, a lack of love for others, fear, little faith, selfishness, rudeness, lust, emotional instability, a critical spirit, don’t feel victorious, and so on? Then spend time with God in His Word and in prayer.

As you spend time with God, His Word will transform you and will change you. I can go back 10, 20, 30 years in my memory and while I see my life in 2020 for what it is and know I still come up short, I also see my past and know that the changes in how I live, how I talk, and my passion for Jesus have not come from my efforts to change them, but by my efforts to grow closer to God through His Word. He does the work from the inside out. We’re not talking behavior modification, but changed desires, changed perspectives, a changed heart.

  • Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

“Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day” Children’s Mission song set to the tune of “I Will Make You Fishers of Men”

Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day

Read your Bible, pray every day

Pray every day, pray every day;

Read your Bible, pray every day,

And you will grow, grow, grow.

You will grow, grow, grow,

You will grow, grow, grow.

Read your Bible, pray everyday,

And you will grow, grow, grow.

 

Don’t read your Bible and forget to pray

And forget to pray, and forget to pray;

Don’t read your Bible and forget to pray,

And you will shrink, shrink, shrink.

You will shrink, shrink, shrink,

You will shrink, shrink, shrink.

Don’t read your Bible and forget to pray,

And you will shrink, shrink, shrink.

  1. I think we all have a tendency to look for the silver bullet cure for things, or to make life more complicated than it needs to be. Yet, this simple children’s song neatly sums up what you and I are called to do.
    1. Have you read your Bible today? Are you working through the 30 chapters of Scripture each week? ___________________________________________________
      1. A common practice for some is to read a Proverb a day. There’s 31 proverbs and most months are around 30-31 days, so read one each day. Then ask God to give you wisdom (James 1:5) and you have an unbeatable combination for development of godly wisdom!
    2. Did you talk to God today? ___________________________________________________
    3. Ever hear of having a daily TAWG? (Time Alone With God) ___________________________________________________
  2. The Bible does give us evidences of our growth and Christian living that we are to compare our lives to. The Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is such a list.
    1. Do you see the Fruit in your life? _______________________________________________________
    2. Is it more evident today than last year? _______________________________________________________
    3. 5 years ago? ______________________________________________
    4. Remember, it is only produced by the Spirit working through you. You can try to fake it, but it won’t last since it was never real to begin with.
    5. Read your Bible and pray every day.
  • II. Peter 3:18a but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  1. The Gospel is about grace. The Christian’s life is about grace. As we make it the centerpiece of who we are we decrease as Jesus increases.
    1. Life can be hard, spiritual attacks will abound, and people and jobs will often fail you. But let me ask, when has Jesus ever let you down or failed you? _______________________________________________________
    2. We love to compare ourselves with other people, and often find our self-worth in those comparisons. But, when we don’t measure up to some false standards we have created or to how others appear to us, we feel like failures or losers. The grace of the Gospel is that God loves you, and since He has placed His love on you, He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will guide and discipline you towards holiness, but you are important in His eyes. Reflect on this fact and how the Gospel of grace changes your perception of God and your worth: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    3. Lastly, grace received must also translate into grace given. Are you forgiving, patient, and gracious with others, even if they make mistakes, are rude toward you, or don’t measure up to your standards? _________________________________________________________
      1. Commit now to be even more gracious, since we have been given much and much is required of us (Luke 12:48).
      2. Re-read John 3:1-21 and see how loving Jesus was to self-righteous Nicodemus. Look at the Gospel of grace that transforms us. Think of how this passage changes everything about your life: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________