Untold Tenets: A Quick Look – John 3:1-21

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15 NIV).

Untold Tenets is a series of devotions that captures its lessons from lesser-known and sometimes overlooked scriptures embedded within or immediately following a well-known bible story or biblical text.

John 3:1-21 records the well-known story of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council. This story contains what are probably two of the most recognizable and often quoted verses in the New Testament: John 3:7 – “You must be born again” and John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….”

Although the illustrious verses 3:7 and 3:16 usually draw most of the expository attention in the Nicodemus story, the more obscure verses 14 and 15 are actually the focus of this discussion. In these verses Jesus refers to an event in Numbers 21 in the Old Testament and uses it as a lead-in to His dramatic pronouncement in John 3:16.

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Getting Connected – Galatians 6:15-16

get_connected“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15-16, ESV).

The Apostle Paul says the cross that crucified Christ has also crucified the world to him as a result of his faith in Christ.

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It Just Makes Sense to Follow Jesus – Matthew 16:24-25

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it”  (Matthew 16:24-25, NLT).

At first glance, Jesus’s invitation in these verses may seem like a peculiar way of trying to attract a following.

Who wants to be Jesus’s follower if it requires you to give up your own life, to turn from your selfish ways and take up your cross?

It doesn’t really sound very interesting. In fact, it doesn’t sound like much fun at all!

But when you consider the membership requirements to be in His club that Jesus expressed in these verses within the context of the complete passage (vs. 24-28), His invitation to spend your life following Him instead of following after your own self-interests doesn’t seem so unusual.

In fact, it makes a lot of sense! It becomes a most compelling challenge!

Peter had just identified Jesus as the Messiah: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (vs. 16). As Messiah He will return to Earth at the end of time to judge all people according to their deeds (vs. 27).

So, there is clearly no eternal advantage to rejecting Jesus, to being selfish or self-absorbed. Instead, you have everything to gain by living for God and making His will the main the priority of your life.

Because in the end, Jesus is going to judge you according to how you lived your life and not on what possessions or power you accumulated for yourself during your lifetime: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (vs. 26).

From the perspective of eternity, it just makes sense to follow Jesus!

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”
(Galatians 2:20, NLT).

The Historical Reach of the Cross – Hebrews 11:39-40

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” The examples of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 all anticipated a greater future hope, but saw only preliminary glimpses of what God promised. Specifically, their faith anticipated the new covenant realities of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Son of God, with his superior priesthood and the consequent eternal perfection of the faithful. The perfection of the faithful (believers) is the goal that was accomplished through the work of the perfect Son of God on the cross. The believers of the new covenant along with the faithful saints of the Old Testament partake together of the same end-times perfection: redeemed people in resurrection bodies. So the cross of Jesus that has power to reach forward two thousand years into the future to save you and me also has the power to reach thousands of years into the past to save those who believed the promises of God.