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Bible Study: You must be born again

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the Bible Studies For Life curriculum.

Bible Passages: John 3:1-8, 14-17

Discussion Question: When have you made big plans only to have them unexpectedly change?

Food for Thought by Paul Kelly

An older man was talking with a graduating high school senior. He inquired, “So what will you do now?” The young man said he planned to attend college and major in business. The older man asked, “And then what?” The young man said he wanted to start his own business, marry and have a family.

The older man repeated, “And then what?” The young man said he hoped to travel, put his kids through college and continue to have success in business. “All great goals,” said the older man. “And then what?” The young man supposed he would grow old and retire. The older man asked again, “And then what?” The young man said, “I suppose I will die.” “And then what?” The young man said simply, “I don’t know.”

Most of us get so caught up in our plans for our lives that we fail to realize how quickly this life ends. We live for today with little thought for eternity. Jesus spoke about the work of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for us to spend an eternity with God in heaven.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, part of a group whose name literally means “the separated ones.” By the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Pharisees were the most influential sect of Jewish leaders. They prided themselves on being experts in the Jewish law. They were also staunch opponents of Jesus. So it seems surprising that a Pharisee would come talk to Jesus.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, but he seemed to be an exception. John described him as a “ruler of the Jews,” which indicates he was a member of the Sanhedrin. Despite the disdain in which most Pharisees held Jesus, Nicodemus seemed to be attracted to the teachings of Jesus. It doesn’t appear that he came to Jesus to challenge Him; he was there to learn more about Him and His teachings.

Perhaps Nicodemus planned to ask Jesus a question, but it appears that he didn’t have a chance to ask it. Jesus certainly knew his heart and perhaps He went straight to the answer before Nicodemus even voiced the question. Jesus’ answer was this: “Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). Jesus’ answer gets at the most important question any person can ask: What must I do to get to heaven?

Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus was astounding: you must be “born again.” Being born is not something I can do for myself. It is not about my efforts or my good works. New birth means that I have to become someone completely different. Receiving new birth is something only God can do for me; it is not something I can do for myself.

There are lots of decisions to be made in life, but none more important than the question of where we will spend eternity. Like Nicodemus, we need the new birth. We know that something is broken and that we aren’t who we are supposed to be. The Holy Spirit brings us into a new life as we place our trust in Jesus.

— Paul Kelly is chair and professor educational leadership at Gateway Seminary.

Bible Studies for Life

Bible Studies for Life connects the Bible to life for adults, students and kids. Bible Studies for Life helps individuals and groups know God’s Word through trustworthy content, creates biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies, and helps people engage the culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues. More information can be found on the internet at biblestudiesforlife.com.

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  • Staff/Lifeway Christian Resources