John the Apostle used two characters in this week’s story to “sandwich” the message of John 3:16. It is the best-known verse in the whole Bible. It appears on posters at sporting events. It makes its way onto T-shirts and bumper stickers. Someone even wrote a book simply titled 3:16. Today, we’ll take a fresh look at this familiar message by looking at Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well. The gospel writer used these two characters to make his 3:16 point: Big Idea: “Jesus really is a Savior for all people.”
We ended our journey through the OT last weekend. What followed was 400 years of silence. No burning bushes, no splitting seas, no visions, no dreams, no prophets, no message from God. Just silence. Then God spoke again. He showed up in dreams to Mary and Joseph. He then started speaking, but it was through the cry of a baby.
What is the Christmas Story all about? As the “season” gets here earlier and earlier each year, we should celebrate the real reason we celebrate Christmas. It is not about the lights, the gifts, the vacations, the food, but about a baby. Not some ordinary baby, but an extraordinary baby. We are going to detail three parts of The Story: the conception, the delivery, and the baby. The fourth part, the boy, we may or may not get to…
Through this amazing birth story, we see that: “God’s Upper Story intersects with our Lower Story at the birth of Jesus Christ.”
We have come to the end of our journey through the OT. We have seen creation, the fall, the calling of a nation, the settling in the land, rulers like Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, the split of the nation of Israel, exile of both Israel and Judah, the return of a remnant from Babylon. Stories about Daniel, Esther, Ruth. Through it all, there are two constants: our disobedience, and God’s patience and love.
There were three waves of exiles returning to Jerusalem.
The first one of 50 thousand was under the leadership of Zerubabel. They spent time rebuilding the Temple.
The second wave was under Ezra. They focused on Worship. You can see the personal mission statement for Ezra in Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”
The third wave is under the leadership of Nehemiah. They work on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Is it always easy for you when living in God’s will? NO! Nehemiah was mocked, taunted, threatened. His answer: Cry out to God! He not only prayed hard, he worked hard. How do you respond when things don’t go as planned? How quickly do you give up when there are obstacles in your way? God wants to use you to accomplish His purposes, but the path ahead won’t always be easy.
The big lesson for today is:
“God’s Word helps us refocus, re-center, remember, and rebuild.”
Which is easier to repair, issues on the outside or issues on the inside? God’s people took care of the Temple and the walls, but their hearts were still in bad shape. When it comes to the internal issues of the heart, we must learn we are dependent on God’s help. Specifically, His Word. Is it easier to say “thank you” or develop an attitude of gratitude that is able to give thanks in all circumstances? Can you more easily develop a habit of driving the speed limit or have a mindset change that you are under authority? God works through His Word to change our heart. Through consistent time in the Word, God can change us from the inside out.
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