THE BIG IDEA:
For us to enter into a relationship with God there are things that only God can do, but there is also something we must do. We must respond with faith. Faith is threefold, involving our mind, our heart and our will.
Often we confuse knowledge about God, having positive feelings about God, or doing things for God – such as going to church or saying a prayer – with having a relationship with Him. Yet none of these things can save us.
Our part in entering a relationship with God is to respond to his Word in faith. Our mind is involved as we understand people have a need for Christ and how God has provided for forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross. Our heart is involved when we move from understanding the facts to personally desiring to turn from our sin to Christ. Our will is involved when we make the choice to personally depend on Jesus to save us.
Who would be foolish enough to jump out of an airplane? Only someone who completely trusts the parachute, and their skydiving instructor. In the same way, giving your life to Christ is giving up a lot – your whole life. We can do that when we chose to completely trust Christ and his word.
- What I want the group to know and understand: That becoming a Christian is not just saying a prayer, growing up in church, or having warm feelings toward God. We receive salvation when we respond to the message with faith. To know that faith is a simple trust in Christ involving our whole person. To realize that for a person to come to Christ there is a work of God by the Holy Spirit that is necessary.
- What I want the group to experience: A renewed sense of wonder about the Gospel. Freedom from a feeling of performance in sharing the Gospel because they understand that it’s not all up to us to convince a person to believe.
- How I want the group to respond: By trusting not in our experiences or works for salvation, but instead depending on Christ’s finished work on the cross.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TOPIC:
The best way to understand what the Bible means by faith, or believing, is to think about placing our trust in something. If we truly place our faith in Christ, we will be willing to take bold steps of faith because we trust Him.
The highest skydiving jump record was made by Alan Eustace on October 24, 2014 over Roswell New Mexico. He jumped from a height of 135,890 feet. (That’s over 25 miles above the earth!) What would it take for you to take the leap?
Allow the group to discuss. Some things to consider: You would want to know the parachute was packed correctly and is in good repair, and what safety precautions will be taken. You would need to trust the experience of the instructor. You would have to have a desire to experience it. In the end you would have to make the choice to step off and trust that your chute will work.
1. Read John 3:1-3 What is happening in this story?
Have them tell the story in their own words.
2. What do you learn about Nicodemus? What kind of knowledge of God and scripture would you say he has?
He is a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. He is a teacher of the Jewish Law. Think about the most religious person you know, the kind of person who wants to do everything right, the one who knows more facts about God and the Bible than anyone else. That’s what the Pharisees were like in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day.
3. What does Nicodemus say he knows about Jesus?
He calls him Rabbi, which is a title of respect for a Jewish teacher or scholar. He says he knows Jesus is a teacher and comes from God because of the signs Jesus has done.
4. What would you say is the difference between knowing about something and believing in something? Would you describe Nicodemus as believing in in Jesus? Why or why not?
Allow the group to discuss. Generally knowing about something is just knowing facts, having head knowledge. Believing in something involves a decision to trust. At this point Nicodemus has only head knowledge of Jesus.
5. According to Jesus, what does it take to enter the kingdom of God?
A person must be born again. (the next question will help give insight into what that means)
6. John also talks about this idea of being born in John 1:12-13. According to this passage what is our part and what is God’s part in our becoming a child of God?
Our part is to receive Jesus, to believe in his name. The phrase “believing in his name” means believing all that is true about him. God’s part is to make us born of God, to give us new life.
7. Read John 3:4-18. Where do you see our part and God’s part mentioned throughout the passage?
God’s part: v. 5, 6, 7 – being born of the Spirit; v. 16, 17 – God sent Jesus so we could be saved; Our part: v. 15, 16, 18 – we must believe in the Son.
There are a couple of things in the passage that might raise questions for students. As a leader you probably don’t want to bring them up in the study, but in case questions/discussion arises, here are a couple helps.
- For understanding the reference to the serpent in the wilderness, see Numbers 21:4-9.
- If the question “what does it mean to be born of the water and the Spirit?” comes up, Jesus is probably talking about spiritual cleansing from sin which Ezekiel prophesied when he said “I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean… And I will give you a new heart… And I will put my Spirit within you.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27) This was a well known prophecy from Ezekiel and Jesus assumes that Nicodemus should have understood this truth.(v.10) Some people might have heard that this refers to physical birth or baptism, but in the context, neither of these are likely interpretations.
8. Nicodemus had seen the signs that Jesus had done and decides to seek him out to learn more. What have you seen or heard about Jesus that makes you want to know more? What are you doing to seek him out
Allow the group to discuss.
9. How would you compare the experience of skydiving to someone placing their faith in Christ for salvation?
Just like with the decision to skydive, the decision to trust involves our mind (having information), our heart (having a desire), and our will (making the choice to trust). Our mind is involved as we understand that people have a need for Christ and how God has provided for forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross. Our heart is involved when we move from understanding the facts to personally desiring to turn from our sin to Christ. Our will is involved when we make the choice to personally depend on Jesus to save us.
10. How does it take the pressure off when you are sharing the gospel with someone to know that there is both a God part and a personal response part in a person coming to salvation?
We want to give a person enough understanding so that they can place their trust in Christ, but only God’s work by the Holy Spirit will give them the new life. This is a great place to review the definition of successful witnessing: “Taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.”
11. What is one thing that has been most helpful for you from this study today? How can you apply it?
Allow the group to discuss and share personal responses.
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.