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Lesson 6: Growing in Christ *

Introduction: Recently, I was in a Bible study where the teacher kept stressing that Christians are saved "from their sins" and not "in their sins." What, exactly, does that mean? If it means that we are not saved if we have sin in our life, then the statement is false. If it means that someone who is saved by grace partners with the Holy Spirit to live a life in accord with God's will, then the statement is true. Our lesson this week is about becoming more like Jesus - who lived a sinless life. Let's explore the Biblical view of being saved from our sins!

  1. Night Interview

    1. Read John 3:1. What do we learn about Nicodemus? (That he was a religious and political leader. I've read that some ancient manuscripts indicate that the House of Nicodemus was one of the wealthiest families.)

    2. Read John 3:2. Put yourself in Jesus' place. Would you be insulted by what is being said and done? (Nicodemus comes at night, thus suggesting that he does not want to be seen with Jesus. He calls Jesus a "teacher," but does not acknowledge Him as the Messiah.)

      1. Put yourself in Nicodemus' place. What logic is there to your actions? (You want to know more about this new teacher, but you do not want to appear to endorse His claims - or harm your reputation. You carefully built your reputation and you continue to be cautious.)

    3. Read John 3:3. We just reviewed the "relationship" aspect of this interview. What does Jesus' reply suggest about His relationship concerns? (Jesus does not seem to care about the relationship aspect of the discussion at all. He gets straight to business.)

      1. How should Nicodemus understand what Jesus just said? What is Jesus saying about Nicodemus? (Jesus tells Nicodemus that Jesus knows more about having a right relationship with God. He suggests that Nicodemus does not have a proper understanding of how to have the right relationship with God.)

      2. What warning does this suggest to us? (We might know a lot about the Bible, but can still misunderstand salvation.)

    4. Read John 3:4. How is Nicodemus taking Jesus' words? (I think he is at least mildly insulted. His response is certainly insulting - "everyone knows, Jesus, that what you are saying is physically impossible.")

  2. How We Grow

    1. Read John 3:5-6. Jesus explains that being "born again" is essential to salvation. Being born again is being "born of water and the Spirit." How do you understand this? (Being born of water is baptism. Being born of the Spirit is having the Holy Spirit live in us.)

      1. Jesus says something that seems very odd, "Spirit gives birth to spirit." What does this mean? (It means that the Holy Spirit is giving birth to something spiritual in our life. God is reproducing Himself in us.)

      2. Read Romans 6:4. When Jesus says that we must be born of water, He is talking about grace. Through baptism we participate in Jesus' sacrificial death on our behalf. When we rise from the waters of baptism, we rise to a new life. How does this fit with the idea of being born of the Spirit? (Part of our new life is the Holy Spirit imparting God's nature in us. Helping us to live a life of love, just as Jesus did.)

      3. In the introduction I mentioned the Bible teacher who kept saying that we are "saved from our sins, not in our sins." The potential problem is thinking that our salvation depends on our works, and therefore whether we are saved changes hour by hour and day by day depending on what we do. Look again at John 3:5. Jesus tells us that we must be born of both water and the Spirit to be saved. Does this indicate that becoming more like Jesus is required for our salvation?

        1. Read Romans 6:4-7. What does this teach us about good works? (Our works do not save us, but the point of Jesus' death on our behalf was "so that the body of sin might be done away with." God does not want us to be slaves to sin. He has freed us from the penalty of sin (which is death) and we need to live a life free from the harm that sin does to us.)

    2. Let's get back to the discussion with Nicodemus. Read John 3:7. Is this a mild rebuke? (Yes. Jesus is not trying to flatter Nicodemus. He is not trying to talk sweetly to someone who could be a big financial supporter.)

    3. Read John 3:8. Does this mean that after we are born of the Spirit, we don't know where we are going or where we have been? (No. But, it tells us that the working of the Holy Spirit in our life is mysterious. We know the Holy Spirit exists and is present, just like we know the wind is present, but explaining it is more difficult.)

      1. I want the Holy Spirit to act in powerful ways in my life. What does this verse teach me about that? (The extent of the power of the Holy Spirit is up to God. There is an unpredictable aspect to the Holy Spirit.)

    4. Read John 3:9-11. Do you think that Nicodemus does not really understand Jesus, or is Nicodemus saying this because he does not want to understand? ("You people do not accept our testimony" sounds like Nicodemus does not want to understand.)

    5. Read John 3:12-15. Jesus has challenged and insulted Nicodemus. Is Jesus just making debater's points or does He seek to convert Nicodemus? (Jesus clearly states that He is from heaven. He clearly states that He is the key to eternal life. The fact that Jesus tells Nicodemus how He will die shows that Jesus wants to convert Nicodemus.)

    6. Read John 3:16-18. Do you think that Nicodemus is a good man? (I think so.)

      1. If I'm right, why does Jesus make this statement? (Good works do not save us. Rather, "whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." As verse 18 teaches us, good people, like Nicodemus, will stand condemned if they do not accept Jesus.)

    7. Read John 3:19-21. Is Jesus making a statement about their night meeting? (Perhaps!)

      1. Who is the "Light [which] has come into the world?" (Jesus is the light. But, note the close connection between coming into the light of Jesus and our deeds. We cannot love light and want to live in darkness.)

  3. Our Daily Cross

    1. Read Luke 9:22-23. The disciples did not know when Jesus spoke these words that Jesus would be killed on the cross. Does this mean that we must suffer every day? (Read Galatians 5:22. Suffering every day is inconsistent with living a life of joy and peace.)

    2. Read Luke 9:24-25. What does this suggest Jesus means about us taking up our cross daily? Jesus is still talking about life and death.(Jesus is talking about a mental attitude. Either we put our life first or we put the Kingdom of God first. Either we live to benefit ourselves, or we live to benefit others.)

      1. What does this teach us about works? (Works are a natural result of grace. Jesus gave Himself up so that we might have eternal life. That example governs how we should live.)

      2. Is this an easy choice to make? (Re-read Luke 9:24-25. Jesus says that even if we choose to live for self it does no good. Even the most selfish will die. Even if we become the richest person in the world, how does that compare to eternal life?)

    3. When Jesus says a person "must deny himself," is Jesus talking about money? (Notice Jesus compares it with saving our life and gaining the whole world. This covers much more than money.)

      1. What do you think Jesus means if He is talking about much more than money?

      2. Think about your favorite sin. If you turn away from it are you denying yourself?

    4. Friend, we are not saved by our works, but a person saved by grace experiences a new life in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit living in us changes us so that we want to live in the light, we want to deny self to bless others. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in living a righteous life?

  4. Next week: The Son.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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