51 The Truth of Love (4)

The Bridge Went Down by Shannon Blacklock

I didn’t believe I was a child of God in the beginning. Sure, I had read the bible stories book in the doctor’s offices growing up. I even had a few friends that didn’t swear. When I started going to a youth group at church, it was only because my friends went. One night our youth group went to a concert.  It started off as a music concert. They sang, we sang, I sang. But I didn’t believe anything I was singing. Then a man came on the stage. As he talked, I realised how wrong I was. He was talking and laughing and joking. And he told us a story.

This is the story in my words:

Once there was a man who had a son and no wife. He worked at a bridge. Everyday he would push a button to make the bridge go down so the train could come over it. He did this every afternoon. One day the boy’s school had a free day and the boy decided to come down to his dad’s work and kick a football around at the foot of the bridge. While he was playing his dad was looking down on him.

“That’s my boy” he was saying “I love that kid. He’s a part of me and I love him so much.” At 2:45 p.m. he started to prepare for the train to come. He looked down for his son. His son wasn’t at the foot of the tower. He looked around and couldn’t see him. He opened the window and called out “Son, where are you?” But his son didn’t answer him. The train was nearly there. He could hear it puffing in the distance. He looked out the window and saw his son, stuck under the bridge.

“Dad. Help me! I can’t get out!” The boy was screaming.

The man thought hard. He didn’t have enough time to come down from the tower and free the boy. He didn’t have time to do that and come back and let the bridge back. The train was nearly here. If the bridge stayed up all the people would fall into the river and drown. There were over 300 people on that train. He was biting his nails and his son was calling Dad! Help me! And the train was coming closer. The man got frantic. He pulled at his hair and scratched his chest and knew what he had to do. He pushed the button. The bridge went down and killed his son.

The man stood in the tower and screamed. He pounded his fist on the wall. He cried and sobbed because he had killed his son. The train rushed past. A few people waved. A few people looked worried because the man was crying. A few people came back later. But most just kept going. The man had killed his son, his own son who he cherished, to save some people he didn’t know, and most who didn’t care.

This is what God did for us. He sacrificed his son for us.  People who didn’t even know him. We must be the ones that helped the man get over his sorrow. We must go back to our God. Our God who saved us all. At the end of this story I was crying. I walked out to the front and screamed out: “GOD! ARE YOU LISTENING! I WANT TO COME FOR YOU! I LIVE ONLY FOR YOU! I LOVE YOU GOD! PLEASE ACCEPT ME! I BELIEVE I BELIEVE.”

Here I just broke down and started crying and then we all went off and the pastors gave us a free bible and told us about how we could help our Lord.

Since then my life has changed. For the better. I want to get into heaven and I know that want will never change my mind, even if people kill me for my beliefs. I believe in our Lord, Our God, our Saviour, Jesus Christ and I never want to look back.

If you want to live. If you want to see the ultimate light. Turn to God. And he will show you the way.

Your Initial Response

If you are the only person in this world, do you think Christ will still die for you? Are you touched by God’s love and goodness personally? How?

John 3:1–18

1Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 

2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 

3Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 

4“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 

5Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 

6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 

7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 

8The 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.” 

9“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 

10“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 

11Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.

12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 

13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 

14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 

15that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16For 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. 

17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:1–18 NIV) 

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Put a question next to a word or sentence that you do not understand.

3 Box the identity of Jesus Christ and number them in ascending order (John 3:2, 14, 16, 17, 18).

4 Underline the identity of Nicodemus and number them in ascending order (John 3:1).

5 Connect “born again,” “water,” “Spirit,” “the kingdom of God,” “believe,” “eternal life” and “is not condemned.” (John 3:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18).

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

What is meant by “born again”? Have you had the “born again” experience? Do you want to “born again”?

1 Why did Nicodemus come to see Jesus Christ at night (John 3:2)?

2 Why a person who is not born again cannot see and enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5)?

3 What is the event that Moses lifted up the snake in the desert (John 3:14)?

4 What is “eternal life” (John 3:16)?

5 What is meant by “the Son of Man,” “only Son” and God’s “Son” (John 3:14, 16, 17, 18)?

John 3:1

Pharisees was a religious sect active in Palestine during the New Testament times; the Pharisees were depicted as the rivals of Christ in the Gospels. Nicodemus was a Greek name, a common name used by the Jews. “A member of the Jewish ruling council” implied that Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin. Sanhedrin was the highest governing body of the Jewish people, which was similar to the Supreme Court. There were seventy members in the Sanhedrin; the High Priest was the president, most of them were Sadducees and some were Pharisees.

John 3:2

Why did Nicodemus come to see the Lord Jesus at night? The author of the Gospel of John did not clearly give details. According to the deduction of some expositors, they offer some of the most popular explanation as follows: First, nighttime implies evil in the Gospel of John; the nighttime here has a symbolic meaning, as means to reveal Nicodemus’ spiritual condition, indicating that his heart is full of unbelief or doubt. That is to say, a person in the darkness is encountering the true light now. Second, as a matter of pride, Nicodemus came to see Christ at night. Third, it was for his personal safety. Fourth, he did not want people to know. Fifth, as Nicodemus was a serious rabbi searching for the truth, he only had free time to look for Christ at night. Sixth, he was scared. Seventh, as he did not want others to interrupt his encounter with Christ, he came to learn from the teacher in the nighttime.

“Rabbi” is a name of respect that Jewish people address their doctors and teachers. Perhaps, Nicodemus had personally seen or heard the miracles of Jesus Christ, compelling him to search for His real identity as a result.

John 3:3

“Truly, truly” (NASB), namely “amen, amen;” which are words of certainty and solemnness. Only Jesus Christ used amen at the beginning of a sentence as a word of affirmation. The “amen” here can be interpreted as verily.

“Born again” can be interpreted as born from above or born again.

“The kingdom of God” is the dominion of God’s authority and blessing. The Lord Jesus solemnly declared that if people were not born again, they could not experience God’s kingdom and did not have a part in it. In simple words, those who did not have born again experience would not experience God’s ruling or God as their ruler.

John 3:4

When Nicodemus heard the words of Christ, he was very puzzled. For Nicodemus was advanced in years, he thought he could never born again.

John 3:5

The Lord Jesus solemnly declared again that people who were not born again could never enter God’s kingdom. The Lord related born again with water and Holy Spirit here. So what is the significance of “water and the Spirit”? The following are six different interpretations:

1 Water is the natural birth and the Spirit is the spiritual birth, as means to bring out a sharp contrast.

2 Water and the Spirit are symbols of life; namely, without the life from God, people can never born again.

3 Water is God’s Word (cf. Ephesians 5:26).

4 Water is the baptism of believers. This view indicates that people can be saved by works, refuting the biblical truth of justification by faith.

5 Water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 7:37-39).

6 Water is an indication of the baptism of John the Baptist. Water has the usage of cleansing in the Old Testament era. As everyone knows, the baptism of John is the baptism of repentance in the times of the Lord Jesus. If people wanted to born again, they must admit their sins and repent, and accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Therefore, the above view offers the most reasonable explanation, for it could match the custom and historical background of that time. As to Nicodemus, he could hardly understand the first five explanations without annotations. 

John 3:6

The Lord Jesus spoke of two principles here; both govern a person’s natural birth and a believer’s spiritual birth respectively. All human beings are from their mothers’ wombs, and this is a physical principle. However, all Christians are born again with the Holy Spirit, and this is a supernatural principle.

John 3:7-8

Maybe Nicodemus could not immediately understand the truth about born again, but only those who were born again could receive the qualification to enter the kingdom of God. By means of the natural phenomenon, the Lord Jesus explained the phenomenon of the second birth to Nicodemus. No one could visualise the path of the wind, but could hear the noise of the wind. Similarly, no one could fully understand the works of the Holy Spirit, but could witness the changes produced by the Spirit in human hearts.

John 3:9

Probably Nicodemus only set his eyesight on physical matters, thus he could not understand the explanation about the second birth by the Lord Jesus.

John 3:10

As a religious leader of the Jews, Nicodemus could not understand spiritual principles and their related explanations, and the Lord Jesus was greatly amazed as a result.

John 3:11

Why did all of a sudden the witnesses of Christ turned to plural (“we”)? Here are some speculations: First, it is called “plurals of majesty” in the Greek grammar. That is to say, it is only an indication of the witness of Christ. Second, the author of the Gospel of John included all Christians when he wrote this Gospel. Three, “we” is comprised of Christ and John the Baptist. Fourth, Christ and all the prophets. Fifth, the triune God. Sixth, the Lord Jesus and His disciples. The author of the Gospel of John does not clearly show the implication of “we”; as it is the grammar of the original language, the first one is the most logical view. Although Christ revealed the heavenly truth to humankind, they were not willing to accept.

John 3:12

Nicodemus could not understand the earthly analogy (“earthly things”) that the Lord Jesus used to explain the truth of the second birth, so to him, understanding the subsequent mentioned truth was even harder.

John 3:13

Jesus Christ always called Himself the Son of Man, as means to show His heavenly origin, earthly mission and glorious future coming. In John 1:51, Jesus Christ presented Himself as the ladder that connected heaven and earth, and He was the Messiah who freely went between two places back and forth.

John 3:14

The Lord Jesus referred to the Old Testament history, the Israelites rebelled against God at that time, receiving divine punishment consequently. God sent venomous snakes among His people and many of them were bitten to death. When those who sinned against God and were willing to ask Moses for help, all these bitten people looked up the bronze snake at the pole and would be healed as a result (Numbers 21:4-9). The sinners in the Old Testament times were saved by faith, and the people in the New Testament age were saved likewise. Christ clearly indicates that sinners are redeemed by receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour.

John 3:15

All those believe Jesus Christ will attain “eternal life.” “Eternal life” awaits the believers after their physical resurrection, and they will enjoy life of bliss and glory in the kingdom of God.

John 3:16

Jesus Christ is the “one and only Son” of the Heavenly Father, presenting Him as the unique one. God’s “Son” is a messianic title that proclaims His deity. The Son of God is the second person of the triune God; in simple terms, He is God Himself. On account of God’s love, He was willing to give His only Son to humankind. His Son accomplished the salvation by dying on the cross and all those received this gift would attain everlasting life. “Perish” means eternal death, which is equivalent to having no part in God’s kingdom and staying away from God’s presence eternally. Those who trust in Christ will not only escape eternal death, but will also attain eternal life.

John 3:17

God sent Jesus Christ to the world, His intention was not to condemn sinners and punish them. God wanted to save humankind from eternal death, so that they would have eternal life, indicating that His kind and good intention for human beings.

John 3:18

The belief or disbelief of human beings would have entirely different consequences. Those who believe Christ as their Saviour, their actions of faith have gained for them eternal life. On the contrary, the choice of disbelief is the contributing factor of being condemned.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Even though people claimed themselves as believers and zealous for their faith, if they were not born again, they still have no part in the kingdom of God.

2 Memorise John 3:16-17. 

16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

3 God loves humankind unconditionally; therefore, children of God should learn to unconditionally love those around us.

4 God is the Lord of kindness and goodness, thus we should learn to speak words of kindness to one another.

5 As God loves humankind unconditionally, Christians should learn to care for others more but expect nothing in return.

6 Receive the unconditional salvation of God and enjoy the eternal life that He gives (John 3:16).

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.