Read an Excerpt
Chapter One The Most Famous Conversation in the Bible
The Most Famous Conversation in the Bible
To discover that real life can only be found in a faith relationship with Jesus Christ and to commit to living within that relationship.
so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish
but have eternal life"
Nicodemus had to visit Jesus in secret. After all, he was a prominent
Jewish leader, a member of the Pharisees. This was the group that had investigated John the Baptist and was now building a case against Jesus. Nicodemus, however, abandoned his role as a prosecutor in order to seek personal answers.
Nicodemus knew enough to make him wonder if Jesus really was the fulfillment of the prophecy that was central to the Jewish faith. His colleagues weren't convinced, but Nicodemus was intrigued.
Even though he was curious, Nicodemus reserved judgment.
He misunderstood Jesus's words about the new birth. He couldn't seem to grasp the idea that life change is a God-thing; he believed that God could be found in keeping the law and doing the right things. Heaven--for Nicodemus, the Pharisees, and traditionalists--
was something to be earned. Jesus offered what Nicodemus was seeking; Nicodemus just wasn't so sure about Jesus's plan.
Your doubts about a faith-based relationship might not be the same as those Nicodemus had. Maybe you wonder if God really cares for you as much as the Bible says he does. Maybe you question
God's willingness and desire to intervene in the problems you are facing. For you, salvation might be nothing more than insurance against spending an eternity in hell; it has no present value. Nicodemus tried religion and found it empty. You might be in the same situation.
What, other than faith, have you tried in order to make sense out of life? (Check all that apply.)
____ the pursuit of prosperity
Describe how you discovered your solution(s) wasn't working.
Complete Nicodemus's statement from your own perspective. "Jesus, I've heard about your works and
Nicodemus had religious credentials that he thought were enough. He worked for a religious organization, spoke the religious language, and participated in religious activities. He might not have been the best person in the world, but he certainly wasn't the worst. He was in good standing with God . . . or was he?
Jesus told Nicodemus that being good wasn't good enough.
Even being religious wouldn't make it possible for Nicodemus to understand what Jesus was talking about. Even though Nicodemus thought he had the spiritual life under control, he was missing the main ingredient--he had never been born again.
Describe the time when you were "born again." Where were you? Who was there? What was the experience like?
What does it mean if you don't remember being born again?
It means you might be suffering from Nicodemusitis--the misconception that a person can earn eternal life. You don't earn it.
You can't purchase it. You don't get into heaven as part of the family plan. This way of thinking might be new to you; it was new to Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a professional questioner. He took everything literally. When Jesus said that a person must be born again,
Nicodemus was quick to jump on the literal impossibility of such an idea. The Pharisees were good at that.
Some of us would make good Pharisees because we tend to overlook the spiritual significance of biblical instructions, choosing instead to nitpick the minutia. Like defense attorneys, we badger the prosecution's witness, hoping to poke holes in the testimony.
If we can just find one loophole, then that instruction won't apply to us.
What do you think pops into the minds of non-spiritual people when they hear the words "born again"?
____ physical rebirth
____ spiritual rebirth
____ religious nonsense
____ total confusion
If someone asked you to explain what it means to be "born again" in everyday words, what would you say?
When Jesus suggested that Nicodemus needed to be born again,
he implied something specific--Nicodemus needed to be born from above. Nicodemus was powerless; he had to allow God to do something in his life.
Why is it so hard for some people to allow God to work in their lives?
What has prevented you from allowing God to work in your life?
This conversation with Nicodemus leads to what many believe is the most important verse in the entire Bible. People who have hardly read a word of Scripture even know the words in this verse.
Fill in the blanks:
For __________ so loved the _____________that he gave his one and only _________, that whoever believes in him shall not ___________ but have _______________ life.
It is interesting to look at two contrasts in this verse: God--
world; eternal--perish. This is the contrast that resonates throughout Scripture. The world's ways cause us to perish; God's ways lead us to eternal life. There is no other way to obtain eternal life. This single verse of Scripture offers several unbelievable truths--truths that we often find hard to grasp.
In the space beside each phrase, write what that phrase means to your spiritual life.
1. God so loved -
2. that He gave His one and only Son -
3. shall not perish but have eternal life -
Maybe this is the first time you've thought about it in this way.
Many of us read through that verse without thinking much about its meaning to our lives. Yet this verse sums up the very core of our faith. Without a thorough understanding of the truths in this verse, our faith will be built on a weak foundation.
Read John 19:38-42. Nicodemus was a changed man. He initially encountered Jesus secretly, but he later took a bold stand for
Jesus in a society that was hostile toward Jesus and his followers.
The disciples were in hiding when Joseph of Arimathea and
Nicodemus claimed Jesus's body and prepared it for burial.
How has your faith changed you? In what ways are you taking a stand for Jesus?
What are some of the situations in which you, like the disciples, hide your relationship with God?
How do you think God feels when those who claim to love him hide their faith? (Mark all that apply.)
____ He is thrilled.
____ He understands.
____ He is heart-broken.
____ People of faith never hide their faith.
Later, Nicodemus would be able to explain what it means to be born again. Not because he studied it, but because he experienced it. When it comes to your faith, are you studying it or are you experiencing it?