Born Again (Lesson 3)

jesusnicodemousPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church          This I Believe Series           Lesson 3: Born Again To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Incognito  John 3:1-2, Matthew 7:7-11, John 14:6-7
As we look into today’s study we see Nicodemus, a member of the prestigious Jewish ruling council (Sanhedrin) who sees Jesus at night. Nicodemus is only mentioned three times in the Bible, but his short story reveals the process of being “Born Again” —the very essence of salvation, which is what Jesus came for (“to seek and to save the lost” Luke 19:10).

1.) The first thing we learn about Nicodemus is he came to see Jesus at night by himself. We know that there was no one else because the recorded reveals it. Nicodemus likely told John the story later so that he could include it in his gospel. Nicodemus met with Jesus incognito (under cover) due to the immense peer pressure he faced from his fellow Pharisees.

A Pharisee was one of four major schools of thought in Judaism (Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots) in the first century. The word “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “separate.” They strictly followed the Torah (Laws of Moses), as well as their own oral traditions. These men were made up of scholars, layman and scribes, and were highly regarded by the Jewish community. They were often harshly criticized by Jesus for their hypocrisy. He confronted them on caring more about traditions than the Laws of God and following rules of religion while neglecting the most important things like love and mercy. The Pharisees hated Jesus so much that they spent much of their time plotting to kill Him. Eventually they would succeed.

Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council as well (The Sanhedrin). The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in Israel. The “Supreme Court” of the Sanhedrin’s was referred to as the Great Sanhedrin and was located in Jerusalem. Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but a member of the Great Sanhedrin.  This would be similar today to a prominent religious leader who also is a United States Senator.

Regardless of the pressure Nicodemus felt to be “politically and religiously correct” and hold onto his popularity, he made an appointment with Jesus “for no one could perform the signs” He was doing if God were not with Him. Although he was a coward among his peers, he went to Jesus for an answer. Herein lies the first step of a sinner to salvation: Let nothing or no one keep you from seeking Jesus: “Ask, seek, and knock” (Matthew 7:7-11) until you get His answer. He alone declares that He has it (John 14:6).

Born Again  John 3:3-21, Numbers 21:4-9, Isaiah 1:2,18-20
2.) The second thing we learn from Nicodemus’ is his honest encounter with the truth (Jesus). Nicodemus began by trying to flatter Jesus, but Jesus cut to the question that Nicodemus really came for: “Is there a Heaven and how do I get there?” Isn’t that honestly the question of every man and woman? Jesus simply said “you must be born again”. Nicodemus doesn’t try to impress Jesus ever again. He forgets his status and humbles himself right into asking childish questions (how can you be born when you are old?”). He wants so badly to understand that he asks again (“how can this be?”). So Jesus painted a picture that a Pharisee could understand (Jesus will always bring a truth seeker to the understanding of it): Jesus illustrated Himself from the Torah in Numbers 21:4-9. What Jesus essentially told Nicodemus by referencing that story was that A.) he and his people had sinned against God B.) the Lord rightly sent a curse (snakes) called death. C.) Those who repent are provided with a remedy D.) The remedy was (and will be) lifted up on a pole (a bronze snake/ Jesus Christ): and anyone who looks upon that remedy will live. Jesus illustrated Himself as that remedy- “everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him”. All are born of water (the amniotic sack) however; only Jesus can make one born again of the Spirit for He alone has gone into Heaven. God so loved the world that He wrapped Himself in human flesh and came to save it. Those who reject Him will be condemned. For they refuse to be “born again!” The Lord desires to meet with us and “reason together”, but if we resist and rebel we will be devoured (Isaiah 1:2, 18-20).

New   John 7:45-52, John 19:38-42, 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, 5:17-21
3.) The last thing we see in Nicodemus is his changing. It is progressive as it is in all believers. We see the beginning of that change in John 7:50-51 when he questions his peers regarding their hate for Jesus. “Are you from Galilee too?”, they chided, insinuating that Jesus, the Galilean, had converted him. Actually , He had! Although it is true that the scripture makes no mention of the messiah coming from Galilee, Jesus does fulfill over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament if they had bothered to look! Is anyone looking now?

We finally see Nicodemus boldly coming out as a follower of Christ , along with Joseph of Arimathea after Christ was raised up and crucified. Surely he recalled Jesus’ late-night talk with him about the snake on the pole. Nicodemus paid a high price for the 75lbs of burial spices, but a bigger price at the loss of his standing with his peers, but his “veil was taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18) and he was free in the Spirit-”Born Again!” He was a “New Creation” and although we never hear of Nicodemus in the Bible again we know his story. He like all of us who become “born again” become those who reconcile others to Christ —and then we go to be with Him…forevermore!

Blessed Trinity (Lesson 2)

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The Gathering             Pastor Barry/ Lesson 2  This I Believe Series               Blessed Trinity                       To hear this message go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

“Let Us”… Genesis 1:26-27, John 1:1-5
As we learned in our first lesson, “In the beginning” there was God. Today we learn that God is a trinity:
You and I live in a three-dimensional world. All physical objects have a certain height, width, and depth. One person can look like someone else, or behave like someone else, or even sound like someone else. But a person cannot actually be the same as another person. They are distinct individuals. God, however, lives without the limitations of a three-dimensional universe. He is spirit (John 4:24) and he is infinitely more complex than we are. That is why Jesus the Son can be different from the Father. And, yet the same.

The Bible clearly speaks of: God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. But emphasizes that there is only ONE God. If we were to use math, it would not be, 1+1+1=3. It would be 1x1x1=1. God is a triune God. The term: “Tri” meaning three, and “Unity” meaning one, Tri+Unity = Trinity, is a way of acknowledging what the Bible reveals to us about God, that God is three “Persons” who have the same essence of deity. Some imperfect illustrations for the Trinity, are H2O being water, ice and steam (all different forms, but all are H2O) and the sun giving light, heat and radiation. Three distinct aspects, but only one sun, but no illustration is going to be perfect.

Some will not accept the idea of the Trinity. Their philosophy is “I can not believe what I can not understand”, but there are many things that most of us can not understand or explain, but we still believe in ( e.g., electricity, atoms, the human mind, etc.). We are to practice faith in regards to God and believe the Bible over our own limited understanding: “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 All throughout the Bible we find references to God being a trinity: In Genesis 1:26-27 God says, “Let Us make man in Our image…in the image of God He created them.” We see here both plural and singular pronouns and in John 1:1-5 we see the explanation of this oddity. The “Word” (Jesus) was with God and was God in the beginning and He (the triune God) created everything. The Jehovah Witness Bible (New World Translation) incorrectly translate this passage and others like it in order to deny the Trinity.

“I Am”   John 8:53-59, Exodus 3:13-15, John 1:18, Hebrews 1:1-3
One time the Pharisees asked Jesus “Who do you think you are?” To that Jesus declared “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him (John 8:53–59). The violent response of the Jews to Jesus’ “I AM” statement showed that they clearly understood what He was declaring—that He was the eternal God incarnate. Jesus was equating Himself with the “I AM” title God gave Himself when Moses asked Him that same question in Exodus 3:14. Such a statement, if not true, was blasphemy and the punishment prescribed by the Mosaic Law was death. In Jesus’ case of course it was true. The Jews would kill Him (God) anyway!

The fact that “God is spirit” (John 4:24) means that God the Father does not have a human body. The Bible often speaks of God as if He has a body (Deuteronomy 33:27, Isaiah 59:1, Matthew 4:4) but these are anthropomorphisms—a way of describing God in anatomical or emotional terms so that humans can better understand Him. Even though God is spirit, He is also a living, personal being. As such, we can know Him personally.

It is clearly declared in the Bible that Jesus is God (John 14:11) who came to earth in flesh (John 1:18) to make Himself known to man. He is the “exact” representation of God as it says in Hebrews 1:3. But God did not come to the earth in flesh just to represent God to man, He came to pay the penalty of man’s sin, which is death. We will talk more about that in lesson three.

The Holy Spirit   John 14:15-29, Ephesians 1:13-14
Just before Jesus went to the cross to pay for man’s sin, He told His disciples that He would be sending The Advocate (champion, defender, protector) to those who love Him and keep His commands. This Advocate is the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). The third person of the Trinity.  Not a force like electricity as some incorrectly assume. The Holy Spirit is God as much as the Father and the Son. He reminds and teaches us of everything Jesus said. He is the “peace” that Jesus promised us who believe. Jesus was temporarily contained to the limitations of a body but the Father and Holy Spirit were not (for they are spirit). This is why Jesus said “the Father is greater than I (John 14:28)” when He was on the earth. Jesus makes it clear… only those who follow His teachings (doctrine) will have The Holy Spirit (God) within them: the believer’s “deposit “ guaranteeing our inheritance” until our redemption (the exchange our earthly bodies for spiritual). He is the one who guides us as we wait for that day.

Child of the One true God   Deuteronomy 6:4-7, John 1:11-13
The main reason the Jews reject Christ for salvation is that they believe that “the Lord is one.” They daily quote the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) but miss the total revelation of God because of their pride. God is one in three persons— the Blessed Trinity. One can see this all throughout the Torah (Old Testament) and the New Testament writings. He was, is and is to come (Revelation 4:8). The Trinity was present at the baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) of Jesus’ ministry. The sinless Jesus might have baptized Himself, but John was included. He symbolized the repentant believer—God’s mission to give the “right to become the children of God” to any who would believe. Is that you today?

In The Beginning (Lesson1)

biblePastor Barry/Gathering Church  This I Believe Series  Lesson 1: In The Beginning    To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

In The Beginning…   Genesis 1:1-3, Joshua 24:15
To establish what we believe as Christians, we begin at the beginning of the book. That book is the Bible. It is not any other scriptures of any other religion because no other religion has the supernatural record of the Bible. It is 66 books penned by 40 different human writers over a period of 1,500 years and says to be the inspired word of God. No book in the history of the world has been so attacked and yet survived. It is indestructible (Isaiah 40:8)! No other book has prophesied about future events with such perfect accuracy (over 300 fulfilled prophecies of the life and work of Jesus alone). No other book in history has been copied with such care which is clear from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. No other book has embraced so many archeological discoveries or scientific facts. The Bible was even the first book in the world to be printed and distributed through the movable-type printing press invented by Johann Gutenberg in 1456. No other book in the world has been translated into so many languages. For these reasons alone the Bible should be first to be read by anyone seriously seeking the truth. So we begin at the beginning of that book…The Bible!

In the beginning of the Bible we read: “In the beginning God…” The book begins with God. God does not argue for His existence. He simply expects us to accept the fact that He exists, and why not? Even the atheistic scientist expects man to accept that the first molecule of the Big Bang Theory was just there. So rather one is a creationist or an evolutionist he must begin with faith. As Joshua said so clearly “you choose who you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Isn’t it ironic how “educated” unbelievers try and belittle Christians and their study of the Bible? They say we are ignorant for accepting the doctrine of one book while they have behind them the many scientific books and study of the greatest minds of science. Remember, The Bible is not one book. It is 66 books written by 40 different writers over a period of 1,500 years. How many “educated” unbelievers can say that they have studied so many writers over a period of so many years on their subject of argument? Defined “science” is the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Note how the supernatural is left out of that definition? The Bible begins with the supernatural and does not argue for its existence. We are simply expected to accept the fact that the supernatural exists, and why not? God, after all, is supernatural and the experiments (if you will) and experiences of those that wrote and witnessed such things in the Bible are proof of it (the words experiment and experience have the same Latin root: they both come from the word experior, which means to gain knowledge through repeated trials). No wonder the Apostle Paul said:

Without faith (belief in the supernatural) it is impossible to please God, because anyone who approaches Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Theology   2 Timothy 2:14-15, 3:16-17,4:1-3, James 1:22, Isaiah 55:8-11
We begin faith with belief in God and the supernatural. We discover more about Him through our study of the Bible. As Christians we believe that the Bible is the only “word of God” for it alone claims to be (2 Timothy 3:16-17)inspired (Greek: theopneustos [theh-op’-nyoo-stos]= “God breathed”) by Him and it alone contains the verifiable track record of prophetic fulfillment as evidence of its claims. The study of God is actually a science called Theology (Greek: theos = “God” and logos = “word” or “doctrine”. As Christian believers we are told in the Bible to 1.) study it: 2 Timothy 2:14-15, 2.) do what it says: James 1:22, 3.) and to teach it: 2 Timothy 4:1-3. We are also told that the study of God’s word 4.) will accomplish what He desires in us: Isaiah 55:8-11. We can also assume that if we do not study the Bible what God desires will not be accomplished in us. So “Christian” study your Bible… be Theologians!

God   Romans 1:20-22, Psalm 53:1, Psalm 139, Genesis 1:27-28a, John 15:5
The Bible tells us that God has revealed Himself to man through the creation of the world and all that is in it (Romans 1:20). Man therefore has no excuse to deny His existence and yet many do. These are the “fools” according to the Bible (Psalm 53:1). As Christians we believe that God is Creator (Father) of all things and therefore Governor (Master) of all things.

The Bible clearly teaches that God is Transcendent (above His creation): Isaiah 55:9, yet desires to be Immanent (operating within) with His creation: Ephesians 4:6. God is Eternal (with no beginning or end): Psalm 90:2 and infinite (with no limitation in time or space), He is Immutable (unchanging): Malachi 3:6, Omniscient (all-knowing): Psalm 139:1-4, Omnipresent (everywhere present): Psalm 139: 7-10, and Omnipotent (all-powerful): and calls Himself “God Almighty!” Genesis 17:1. God’s moral attributes (characteristics) are clearly seen through His interaction with man. He is Holy (set apart from sin), Just, Righteous, Loving, Merciful, Gracious, Good and True and desires a blessed relationship with me and you! We were made to be fruitful (successful) but we can only do so when in relationship with Him.

Wise Men Still Seek Him

threekingsPastor Barry/ The Gathering    Epiphany (Three Kings Day)     Wise Men Still Seek Him   To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

New Year Resolutions…Again?

A new year often equals a new list of what we intend to accomplish in it and rarely do.  This year I suggest following the lead of some very wise men that made no such list but actually did four things that changed their lives forever. 

Epiphany  Matthew 2:1-15, Philippians 3:7-14

Epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day) is the celebrated call of Christ to the Magi.  It is  traditionally celebrated on January 6, after Christmas because the Magi did not come and see Jesus on the night of his birth as often depicted, but “at the house” (Matthew 2:11) before he and his family fled to Egypt (Matthew 2:13).  The word Epiphany means the moment of striking      personal realization or insight.  For the Magi it was the Bethlehem star that made them realize that they must go and travel to where it was shining to find the greatest treasure of life— the promised “king of the Jews.” They likely knew of this promise through the legendary Jewish prophet Daniel who was taken captive hundreds of years earlier in the Babylonian captivity.

Who Were The Magi?

The Magi were magicians.  They were mystic priests who studied astrology.  Their occult     practices are forbidden in God’s law (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6), and yet God called them to Himself and even used a sign (Star) that they would acknowledge in their occult beliefs!  Why did God call such people to Himself?  They were priests of other gods, practitioners and proclaimers of damnable doctrines. Apparently, they were also seeking for truth through the writings of the prophet Daniel.  Jesus said:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find. Matthew 7:7a  The Magi remind us that no one is excluded from God’s promise to reveal Himself to anyone who honestly searches for truth. In fact, this is how those once lost in occultism are now      referred to as “wise men”.  They searched and followed after their searching. 

  1. They Searched for truth and followed after it.

What must you do to find the “greatest treasure of life?” Achieve your goal weight, create that ideal body, attain that certain degree, land that perfect job, find that perfect mate, purchase that dream car or house, get that desired applause?  The apostle Paul concluded that all was “garbage” in comparison to knowing Christ.  In other words the Magi got it right…they searched for truth and then left everything they owned, knew and achieved to find the one who was promised to bring everlasting life and salvation. Forgetting what was behind and straining toward what was ahead they pressed on in their journey to win the prize for which God had called them heavenward in Christ Jesus. The light went on and they followed!  How about you? Are you following God’s call to you for a relationship? 

Knocking on the Door Matthew 7:7-8, Matthew 6:19-21, 33

The Magi were not content to just know about the truth and study it.  They were not content to look from afar…they followed the star and knocked persistently on the door of the house until they personally saw the “truth”.  We can assume that the Magi’s trip to Bethlehem was at least 400 miles long. This would have taken them about two to three weeks on camels over some rough terrain. If they only traveled by night in order to be guided by the star, then their journey would have taken even longer.  The Magi persistently searched and knocked!  God will put the desire in our hearts to search Him out and He will even guide us in that search, but He insists that we come to Him on His terms (John 14:6, Matthew 6:33) and are persistent in our faith.   

  1. They were persistent in their quest

What are you willing to do to get the “greatest treasure of life?” Is your heart in the quest to personally know and experience God or are you content with knowing about Him from afar? 

Four Gifts

The Magi brought their gifts to Jesus. Only three are mentioned but God was only impressed with the fourth one — their individual worship of God. This is the only gift that we can offer God. The gifts that God inspired the Magi to bring were fulfillments of the prophecies regarding Christ’s titles: 1. Gold: Christ is King of kings, 2. Frankincense (a resin burned in worship): Christ is the Prophet  who fulfills God’s Word to save 3. Myrrh (a burial perfume): Symbolic of Christ’s Priesthood  to man and the only sacrifice for our sin. All of these items were most likely sold by Mary and Joseph to pay for their flight to Egypt and Jesus’ earthly needs, but the worship of the Magi was priceless and so is yours. 

  1. They gave their worship to Christ

We all ask God to do things for us.  In fact we are often angry with Him when we don’t get what we want. What will you give to Christ?  

Another Route 1 John 1:5-9, Matthew 5:14-16  

“They returned to their country by another route.”  Matthew 2:12   The Magi had been changed by their encounter with Christ.  They were no longer influenced by royal protocol (i.e. Herod’s order), but by the Lord’s direction.  We too must repent of sin and move in the new direction that God’s word gives us.

  1. They went another way

Are you going another way or moving in the same direction as those without Christ?  

Many would say, “Hey, I would go to Christ too if I had a giant star miraculously lighting my way”, but there is a greater light now in God’s children.  If you are a born-again Christian then you are the Eastern Stars of today!  You are God’s light to the world, guiding the lost to Christ so that they can be reconciled to their heavenly Father.  If you do not know Christ then follow His people, if you do then light the way.  Wise men still seek Him!