“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:5-8 ESV)
This week while watching the news coverage on Hurricane Delta, John 3:8 jumped off the page. We don’t know when, where or how powerfully the hurricane will hit. We are thankful for all the modern technology that allows us to track storms and make predictions, but moment by moment those predictions change. Ultimately, we don’t know … we can’t know … the future of a storm.
Likewise, we don’t know how the Spirit will move. We don’t know who He might call, or when.
When Simon Peter and his brother Andrew headed out to fish one morning, little did they know that would be the day they would be called by the Messiah to become fishers of men. (Matthew 4:18-19)
When an unidentified man suffering from leprosy left his house one morning, he couldn’t possibly have known that would be the day of his cleansing. (Matthew 8:2-3)
When Matthew was sitting in his tax booth one morning, he never could have known that was the day Jesus would invite him to follow him. (Matthew 9:9)
Just as I don’t know if today might be the last time I talk to my son or my daughter, my husband, my parent or my best friend, likewise I don’t know if today will be the day of salvation for a loved one I’ve prayed for faithfully for years.
For as much as we don’t know what exactly the future holds, there are some things we DO know.
“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10 ESV
“Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” – Psalm 100:3 ESV
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 ESV
I remember when I was about 14 or 15 years old and I was at a summer camp. One day, I had a few minutes by myself and I was sitting out on this big, grassy field looking up at the sunny, blue sky with the trees were waving gently in the breeze and in my heart, I thought,
You might think that’s a strange thing for a teenager to ask, but unfortunately, I didn’t think that God was real, and I was quite certain that my plea would go unheard.
When I didn’t hear a voice speak from heaven or see a lightning bolt strike the ground in front of me, I left that field that day still believing that God didn’t exist.
And yet, my friends, God WAS showing Himself to me. In fact, I believe that God was who caused me to make such a request in the first place. Like Paul wrote in Romans chapter 1, God was showing Himself to me (and to all mankind) in the things that He had made – the sun, the blue sky, the wind and even the trees.
Again and again for millennia God has sent prophets and witnesses to speak His Words, including John the Baptist as we read about in John 1, telling people that Jesus was the Son of God, the King of Israel, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.
Again and again, God has faithfully manifested (made visible, shown) His glory so that mankind will be without excuse if they don’t believe in Him.
One way that God demonstrates His glory is through miraculous signs.
Right from the beginning of the Bible in Genesis, God has shown Himself through miraculous signs. God has often given man signs in the sky to prove His glory and power! When God created the sun, moon and stars in Genesis 1:14, we read, “God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and nights.”
And again, in Genesis 9, after the worldwide flood, God put a rainbow in the sky to be a sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood.
The Hebrew word for “sign” is “owth.” It can mean a signal, a distinguishing mark, a banner, a remembrance, a miraculous sign, an omen or a warning.
When God sent Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, God gave Moses the ability to perform miraculous signs to prove that God had sent him, SO THAT the Jewish people would believe Moses when he spoke to them. These signs included God causing Moses’s staff to turn into a snake and then back into a staff, as well as God causing his hand to be leprous and then healed, and even turning water into blood. (Exodus 4:6-9)
In today’s lesson, we read about the first of Jesus’s signs while He walked on the earth. This first sign was when Jesus turned water into wine. As John 2:11 says, this sign “manifested – MADE VISIBLE – His glory and His disciples believed in Him.” Again we see that signs are given to us by God that we would BELIEVE in Him, TRUST in Him, have FAITH that what He has promised is real – like Hebrews 11:1, that we would have assurance that the things we hope for, the things that we cannot see, are indeed REAL.
Later in John 2, verse 18, after Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and drove all the people and animals out of the temple, the Jews asked Jesus for another sign – a sign to prove His authority to do such a thing.
As you would expect, this answer confused the Jews at the time, but that’s because this sign wouldn’t come about until three years later when Jesus’s physical body had been killed and laid in a tomb to be resurrected three days later as we will read about in John chapters 19 and 20.
In the three years that Jesus conducted his ministry between this first sign at the wedding in Cana and His resurrection, Jesus did so many signs – feedings thousands of men, women and children with only a few fish and loaves of bread, healing blind men and deaf men and lame men and leprous men, walking on water and calming storms – and every one of those signs pointed to the fact that Jesus had all authority in heaven and on earth, that He was the only Begotten Son of God, that mankind should BELIEVE in Him as the Messiah and King – just as John the Baptist had said.
After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to many of His disciples in person. These disciples told Thomas (another of Jesus’s disciples) that they had seen Jesus in person. Like John the Baptist, they bore witness to what they had seen and heard.
Yet, Thomas refused to believe their eyewitness testimony. Thomas said to them, in John 20:25 “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then (Jesus) said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28)
Because Thomas saw these physical signs of the resurrected Jesus, now He believed! Praise God for His faith. But let’s keep reading to see how Jesus answered him, in John 20:29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
God wants us still today to be His faithful witnesses with eyes and ears and hearts and mouths wide open, wide open to His Word and His ongoing works in the modern world, telling other people the good news that they, too, can receive eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
God has given us His precious written Word, a record of the countless signs that Jesus did on earth. As John continued in the next two verses,
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
And again, in the final words of the book of John, John 21:25, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
I’m praying that each one of you would place your faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.
For two and a half years I’ve followed the ‘I do, We do, You do” principle when teaching English as a Second Language classes online.
In teaching my daughter to drive, I am also following this same principle. First, she watches me drive. Then, she drives while I sit alongside her, giving lots of instruction. Next, she drives while I sit quietly, only offering suggestions when it is absolutely necessary. Finally, after months behind the wheel, she’s ready to drive on her own.
A good master craftsman ought to follow this very same principle with their apprentice. My aunt and uncle are expert potters. When I spent the summer at their home many years ago, they encouraged me to watch carefully while they told me what to do. Then, they gave me some clay to work with while instructing me every step of the way. And, at last, I was free to create my own work of art.
In our modern American society, I see so many ways we’re forgetting this wonderful principle, both as parents and as disciple-makers. As parents, we often turn the reins over to our children way too early. We let them pick what they wear, what they eat, and what they do as soon as they can squawk out their wishes. We fail to train and model for them properly. On the other hand, we might spend all our time lecturing our kids, without working alongside them, modeling for them how to make good decisions or accomplish household tasks. Rather than spending time doing household chores with our kids, we’re busy working in the kitchen or the yard, while they’re busy doing homework, playing sports or hanging with their friends.
As disciple-makers, we need to be careful to begin by modeling how we pray, how we study the Bible, and even how we share the gospel. Then, we pray together and study together and share the gospel together. Initially, we share lots of instruction and do most of the talking, gradually decreasing our input and encouraging them to increase their output. This is the best way to train our children to train their children. And, this is the best way to train new believers in how to walk the walk of faith.
Jesus washed His disciples’ feet Himself first, then urged them to do likewise. Paul poured faithfully into Timothy and Titus and many others, modeling for them and training them, and then sent them out to do likewise.
We, too, can go and make disciples! We, too, have been called to be integral leaders in the multiplication of the kingdom – whether at home or in our world.
“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
John 13:13-17 ESV
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Matthew 28:19-20a ESV
“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”
1 Corinthians 4:14-17 ESV
“Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Titus 2:3-5 ESV
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Timothy 1:15-17 ESV
For more study, search the words: imitate (imitat**) and example. Read through Paul’s letters in the New Testament paying special attention to how Paul encouraged and admonished those who were following him to follow Jesus and to set an example for others. (such as 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, Philippians 3:12-17, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)