We have seen from previous studies that whether we are Jew or Gentile we can enter and live in the ‘new covenant’ relationship with Yahweh and Messiah Jesus right now. This is a believing, trusting, loving relationship in which we are indwelt by Yahweh’s spirit presence – born again, born of the spirit. We are changed on the inside and are being transformed to be ‘one’ with the Father and Jesus (John 14:20, John 10:30).
Nicodemus asked ‘How can this be?’ – we might ask the same thing, as well as: what does it look like?, how will we recognise it? how can it be true for us now? Let’s see what the scriptures tell us.
What did Jesus tell those Jews who were following him and listening to him?
John 8:31-32 NRSV
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Notice ‘if you continue in my word’ – this is a believing, accepting, doing, ‘living it’ thing. The result of allowing this and co-operating with it is that ‘we will know the truth’, and ‘the truth’ will set us free! As we will see, we will be transformed.
But what truth is that? And what will it set us free from?
The Jews said ‘We’re Abraham’s children, never been in bondage!’, not quite true, had they forgotten about Egypt?
John 8:33 NRSV
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free’?”
Jesus explained that you can be ‘enslaved to sin’:
John 8:34 NRSV
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
He also told them ‘the truth he is speaking about’ is from his Father, but said ‘what you do is…’:
John 8:38 RSV
I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
They argued historically Abraham is their father, and ultimately their only father is God:
John 8:39-41 NRSV
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did,
40 but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
41 You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.”
To which Jesus responded:
John 8:42-44 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.
44 You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Why wouldn’t they believe him?
John 8:45-47 NRSV
But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?
47 Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”
So we see that the truth is about ‘Who God (Yahweh/Father) really is’, ‘ What He has done/will do/is doing for us (setting us free from the bondage of lies and sin of a false father), and ‘Who we really are (His dear children)’. As Paul says ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’:
Romans 8:21 NRSV
that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
In this series of studies we will look at this wonderful truth that Jesus brought and how it sets us free.
We have already seen that Satan is the father of lies (he was the one who brought lies into being!), and he works to deceive mankind with ‘lying suggestions’ (Can this be so? Is that really true? Is that what God really promises? You are not really…..!), whilst our true Father, Yahweh God, works in the opposite way – by revelation of His truth. You can only reveal truth, true reality – lies and falsehood are dispelled when truth is revealed. The parable of the sower shows us that Satan will do everything he can to prevent us receiving, understanding and accepting the truth:
Matthew 13:18-19 NRSV
“Hear then the parable of the sower.
19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.
Satan wants people to trust in their own understanding (which he is influencing), as in the case of unconverted Gentiles:
Ephesians 4:17-24 NRSV
Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds.
18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart.
19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
20 That is not the way you learned Christ!
21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus.
22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts,
23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Paul here describes ‘the putting off of the old nature’ and ‘putting on the new nature’, isn’t this what Jesus explained to Nicodemus?
John 3:1-3 NRSV
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.
2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
John 3:5-6 NRSV
Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.
6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
John 3:20-21 NRSV
For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.
21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Jesus said that he was in the Father and the Father was in him (John 14:10), and that in like fashion we would be in him and he in us (John 14:20). He said also that the Father and he would make their home (live in) with us. Paul used the expression ‘in Christ Jesus’ numerous times to refer to this new covenant, born anew, new nature life we now have as believers, and how He has brought it about by and through Jesus for us:
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NRSV
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,
29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Notice that our Father has actually made Jesus to be our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption! How can this be? Well Paul carries on to say:
1 Corinthians 2:7 NRSV
But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
But ‘the rulers of this age don’t understand’:
1 Corinthians 2:8 NRSV
None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But we do because our Father has revealed it to us through His indwelling spirit presence:
1 Corinthians 2:10-13 NRSV
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
And we can now have the mind of Christ! We can think like Jesus!
1 Corinthians 2:16 NRSV
“For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
When our minds have been opened we are able to understand what has been done to make it possible to ‘live in Christ’, what we have become because we live in him, and how we are to live this life in him, in harmony with him, in complete agreement and co-operation with him. As we continue through the following parts of this study we will start to see just exactly what our Father reveals to us about this in His word.