Devotions on John 3:1-21–For God So Loved the World
January 22-28, 2018
Monday, January 22, 2018–For God So Loved the World
“No one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God” (John 3:2).
Many criticisms have been leveled at Nicodemus. He approached Jesus in a cowardly manner, in the middle of the night. Nicodemus doesn’t appear to be theologically astute, in this story. He doesn’t understand what Jesus is telling him. When he leaves Jesus, it is not certain that he has come to faith in Jesus. One thing that is commendable about Nicodemus, however, is that he had an open mind. He realized that he didn’t know it all and he wanted to learn from Jesus.
After walking with Jesus a short time, it is tempting to fool ourselves into believing that Jesus has taught us everything we need to know. We surround ourselves with like minded people. Discussions and conversations with differently held opinions turn into arguments. We become closed minded—and unfortunately opened mouthed.
Nicodemus, a leader and a teacher of the people, realized that he did not know it all. In fact, he had much to learn. He came to Jesus with an open mind and perhaps an open heart, too. He might not have understood Jesus that night, but he pondered what Jesus said and eventually became a follower of Jesus. Nicodemus is a good example for us to follow.
Lord, create within us a constant love of learning. Amen.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018–For God So Loved the World
“No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (John 3:3).
This verse has been used to exclude rather than to include for centuries. The question, “Are you born again,” is the litmus test for many Christians. A person is “in” if he or she believes that he or she has accepted Jesus and been born again. If not, that person is “out.”
In truth, Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus to point out to him that life with God is more than theological knowledge and religious ritual. A relationship with God is transformational. It is like we have been born again.
Life is a gift, though. Our birth, in a sense, was a gift from our parents. We didn’t have much to do with it. Being born from above is one of God’s gifts to us—and it is available to all. We have been born from above through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is not something only a select group of people do, but rather a gift everyone receives.
Lord, may you move in the lives of your children so that we all live in the new life that you give to us. Amen.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018–For God So Loved the World
“No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5).
“The scales of life are easily tipped.” Translation: “It’s hard to live a balanced life.” Jesus’ words underscore this truth. Humankind needs to be both physically born (born of water) and spiritually born (born of the Spirit). Most of the time, we get too caught up in the physical side of things. We can’t see the God beyond the nebula, super novas and cosmic rays of creation and science. The pressures of career and providing for our family, combined with our quest for the finer things in life, blind us to God’s presence, protection and provision.
On the other hand, some of us place too much emphasis on the spiritual side of life. We become so involved in congregational activities, or in “doing good,” that we forfeit our families and ourselves. A few of us work so hard at being perfect and polishing up our self-righteousness that we become judgmental of others, or disdain the idea of getting our hands dirty with the mundane affairs of life.
As followers of Jesus, we have been born of both water and the Spirit. We are children of God who, with the eyes of faith, see God in every nook and cranny of life. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we are involved in the physical side of things so that we can share God’s love and grace and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are also human beings who work hard to provide for our families, enjoy vacations, while at the same time cherishing our quiet times of scripture reading, prayer and meditation. God’s kingdom is not an either/or. It is a both/and.
Draw us close to you, Lord, and then empower us to go to the ends of the earth to serve you. Amen.
Thursday, January 25, 2018–For God So Loved the World
“No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13).
Dave and Susan had recently returned from a ten day trip to the Holy Land. As amateur photographers, they had taken hundreds of pictures. They selected the very best and created a PowerPoint presentation for their congregational friends. Dave and Susan’s travelogue was informative and, for the people who had never been to the Holy Land, provided insights and a greater understanding of both the archeological sites and also the current political situation.
No one had ascended to heaven. Thus no one knew what heaven—God’s kingdom was like. That is until Jesus descended from heaven and as God incarnate provided us an intimate picture of God’s kingdom. From Jesus’ revelation, we understand that God’s kingdom is one of inclusion, as opposed to exclusion; it is a kingdom of justice, peace, love and service. It is also a present reality, which was brought to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today, we live in God’s kingdom and share its “culture” with everyone we meet.
Thank you, Lord, that you have made us members of your kingdom. Empower us to live so that others desire to live in your kingdom, too. Amen.
Friday, January 26, 2018–For God So Loved the World
“For God so love the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).
Juan and Maria had been dating for some time. They discovered that they had many things in common and enjoyed each other’s company. Over the weeks and months, they had developed feelings for each other. They were hesitant, though, to share the depth of their feelings and say the word, “love.” After enjoying a casual evening together, though, Juan decided to take a big step in his relationship with Maria. Before kissing her good night, he spoke the words, “I love you.” Maria responded in kind and their relationship was forever changed.
Many of us learned this verse early in our Sunday school experience. It has stayed with us all these years—a verse that we have recalled and repeated many times. Its power in our lives comes from its declaration of love. God loves us! God loves the whole world! This truth makes everything different. No matter where we are or what our situations in life may be, we are loved and nothing can change that.
Lord, thank you for your love. It makes all the difference in the world for us. Amen.
Saturday, January 27, 2018–For God So Loved the World
“The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19).
Lamar was depressed. He hadn’t received the promotion that he had expected. During his annual physical, his doctor had strongly suggested that Lamar drop several pounds and lay off the saturated fats and sugars. To top it off, Lamar saw the first strands of grey hair. Lamar convinced himself that his world was falling apart and he was angry and depressed. His wife Judy, tried to cheer him up, reminding him of all the good things in his life. Lamar refused, though, to see his life from another perspective. He decided to pout and stay miserable.
At first it is difficult to believe that anyone would choose to live in the darkness rather than the light. Yet, it happens all the time. We decide to hold onto the darkness of grudges rather than live in the light of forgiveness. Since time is so precious to us (we never waste any of it) we choose to lose our patience and live in the darkness of impatience. Instead of being thankful, we complain. Rather than live in the light of service to others, we cling to the darkness of selfishness.
The darkness will always be ours to choose. God never takes away the light, though. It is always shining brightly and the invitation to, “Come and follow the light,” is always extended to us.
Lord, grant us the ability to choose to live in the light rather than continue to exist in the darkness. Amen.
Sunday, January 28, 2018–For God So Loved the World
“But those who do what is true come to the light so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:22).
There is a lot of darkness in the world. This past week, scores of women lined up in a courtroom to tell a sexual predator the affect he had had on their lives. The Dreamers still live day to day in uncertainty, wondering if the day will soon come when they are deported to a country that is not theirs. Winter storms have wreaked havoc on the East Coast, causing death and the destruction of property. On the West Coast, communities are recovering from the effects of mudslides. This is darkness in one country, but it is an example of the darkness throughout the world.
In the midst of the darkness, there are acts that bring light into the world. Women declare that they will no longer be victim of sexual abuse, but rather survivors. School children collect one million dollars to help one of their classmates to receive the medical treatment she needs. Utility companies send crews to help restore electricity to Puerto Rico. Neighbors come together and help each other rebuild after winter storms and mudslides.
The darkness is persistent, but light prevails. Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. While we may grieve the darkness, our calling is to act in love and let the light shine.
Lord, keep us from being discourage by the darkness. Empower us to shine brightly through our words and deeds for you. Amen.