April 9, 2017

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

God’s Saving Love in Christ
John 3:1-16

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In 1525, Menno Simons began a 12-year journey of seeking God’s truth in the Bible, a book he had not read even though he was a Catholic priest. He began to understand that certain practices of the church were not aligned with the teachings of the New Testament. He was amazed by the witness of Christians who chose to reject their infant baptisms and engaged in a second baptism as believers, even though this was punishable by death. On January 30, 1536, he publicly announced his choice to live by the authority of the Scriptures rather than that of the church. Menno was rebaptized shortly thereafter to affirm his faith and rebirth in Jesus. A year later, he reluctantly accepted the call as “an elder in the Anabaptist movement” because he knew the need for leadership was great.[1]

Menno had some things in common with Nicodemus (John 3). Nicodemus was initially attracted to Jesus because of the great miracles Jesus performed. But Nicodemus also sensed that Jesus was doing something different from the religious status quo Nicodemus had been taught and the very strict rules and regulations he practiced. Perhaps he came to Jesus in the night because he wanted a quiet and uninterrupted time for a good conversation. Nicodemus was a man of integrity; he likely was filled with a deep religious hunger. Yet his conversation with Jesus revealed a spiritual blindness or that something was missing in his understanding.

Family connections to church life, a godly heritage, church membership, and participation in religious ceremonies are very good things to have and do, but Jesus is emphasizing a new birth experience. In our physical birth, we are born of the flesh through our parents; in our second birth, we are born of the Spirit. The second birth makes us all new from the inside out. This leads to eternal life.

To some extent, we can understand the human physiology, anatomy, and growth process of human cells in physical birth. But we will never completely understand the miracle of life. Life in the Spirit is the same way; it surprises us and goes beyond our understanding.

Nicodemus’s story in John 3 reminds us to look for Jesus in ordinary and surprising places in our lives. Where might we go to have a pleasant and peaceful talk with Jesus? Or to share Jesus across the table with a friend? Might we also encounter Jesus and be filled with the Spirit from above as we share with our neighbors, friends, family, and even enemies in the community, around our tables, and also in our backyards (Matthew 28:18-20)? God will provide good opportunities to meet and share Jesus Christ with people in our lives.

Today, persons “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9) are seeking truth about God and God’s kingdom. This is evidenced by the growth of the church worldwide and in our own Mennonite World Conference. Some are religious leaders, like Nicodemus and Menno Simons, who are spurred by their curiosity to really know Jesus. Others witness an unplanned encounter with Jesus—through a miracle, a testimony, a sermon, a prayer, a movement of the Holy Spirit, or reading the Bible—that compels them to embrace a new birth through the Holy Spirit. Still others make their commitment of a reborn, authentic faith in Jesus that was first demonstrated for them in family and congregational relationships. The Messiah gives eternal life to anyone who trusts and believes in him. He has salvation for the whole world.

  • Have you experienced the wind of God’s Spirit in your life, like Nicodemus or Menno Simons, or in another way?
  • How can you share your experiences with your neighbors in the backyard or around the table?
  • How will you watch for these opportunities in the coming days and weeks?

—Paulus Thalathoti, paulus.thalathoti@gmail.com

© 2017

1. Machiel van Zanten, “Menno’s Life,” Menno Simons.net.

Paulus Thalathoti is an ordained minister and the founding president of Peace Proclamation Ministries, an evangelistic and church planting ministry with those living in the interior rural areas of India. Dr. Thalathoti also serves as chairperson for Penn Bible Fellowship in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Sumatha, are mission associates with Mennonite Mission Network and members of Plains Mennonite Church, Hatfield, Pennsylvania.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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