“…Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God … unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:3,5; Read John 3:1-8

When Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night, Jesus told him that, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). And so also today, unless one is born again, he isn’t able to see or understand what the kingdom of God really is.

When Nicodemus questioned Jesus about how a grown man could be born again, Jesus told him, “Most assuredly, 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” (John 3:5,6).

It wasn’t enough to be a descendant of Abraham or to be a part of a strict religious sect of the Jews; a spiritual rebirth was needed. Nor is it enough today to be born into a religious family or to be a member of a church denomination or organization; one must be born of God!

In John 1:10-13, we read of Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

As the Greek text of John 3:5 makes clear, this rebirth of which Jesus speaks is “of water and the Spirit” (EX UDATOS KAI PNEUMATOS); it is “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5) and “the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). It is the gracious working of God’s Spirit through God’s Word and the waters of baptism to offer and guarantee to the penitent sinner who looks in faith to Christ Jesus and His cross the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation which Jesus purchased with His blood, shed upon the cross (cf. Acts 2:37-39; 22:16).

The Pharisees had rejected the counsel of God and did not repent and receive the baptism of John the Baptist for the remission of their sins (cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 7:30). Nicodemus, a Pharisee, needed to acknowledge his own utter sinfulness before God and be baptized into the name of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, and God’s Spirit would work in him a new spiritual life and make him a part of God’s eternal kingdom through faith in Christ.

And, of course, nothing has changed today. Jesus’ Word is still true. Unless you acknowledge your utter sinfulness before God and turn to Him and receive the forgiveness of sins that Christ won for you on the cross and which God offers and gives through the word of the Gospel and Christian Baptism, you, too, cannot enter into God’s eternal kingdom.

It is as Peter testified on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-39): “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” It is as the Apostle Paul was told by Ananias (Acts 22:16): “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Only through faith in Jesus can one receive the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting! Repent and be baptized in His name!

Dearest Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and have not lived according to your holy and perfect will for me. I have broken your commandments and deserve everlasting punishment in hell for my sins. Graciously forgive me and wash away my sins for the sake of your holy and precious blood, shed on the cross for me. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” John 2:23-25

Many, at the Passover feast in Jerusalem, believed that Jesus was the Messiah when they saw the signs and miracles which He worked among them. But though they had come to believe that He was the Messiah, Jesus did not entrust Himself to them because He knew what was in their hearts.

These few verses contain an important truth for us to consider. It is not enough to just know and believe the facts about Jesus. We, too, have heard and read of His mighty miracles. We have heard and read of His sufferings and death and of His resurrection on the third day. And we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah and Savior. But do we know Him and trust in Him as our own Savior? Have we entrusted our very hearts and souls to His keeping?

Jesus searches and knows our hearts! This can be a frightening thought since, as the Scriptures testify, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Yes, the Lord Jesus Himself searches our hearts and tests our minds. He knows our every thought and desire. And, certainly, not a single one of us deserves that the Lord Jesus should commit and entrust Himself to us.

Yet, through His Word and the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus does reveal and entrust Himself to those who look to Him in faith. He first reveals our utter sinfulness and unworthiness before God, bringing us to confess and agree with God’s judgment that we are sinners deserving of His eternal wrath and punishment. But then, Jesus, through His Word, also reveals to us His great love and mercy. He so loved us that He went to the cross to suffer and die in our stead and take our punishment. He rose from the dead in victory, and He gives to us His mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance when we trust in Him for life and salvation.

Many people in Jesus’ day believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah because of His mighty works, but they did not know Jesus as their Savior and trust in Him for pardon, forgiveness, and life eternal! And so also today, many believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah, but they do not know and have not partaken of Jesus and His love and mercy for them through faith. Instead, their hearts remain closed, and they continue on in their old evil ways, not seeing their lost and sinful condition or knowing and receiving in faith the mercy and forgiveness God offers and extends to them in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Though Jesus’ many mighty works and signs confirm His identity and authority, He has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind through His Word. Thus, those seeking only signs and wonders and spectacular works are likely never to know Him. But to the ones who sit humbly at His feet, hearing, reading, and studying His Word, Jesus reveals Himself as their merciful and loving Savior!

Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, open my heart to hear Your life-giving Word, to acknowledge and confess my utter sinfulness, and to trust in You and Your cross for my salvation. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (Read v. 19-24)

Psalm 95 directs us to worship the LORD: “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2). But how are we to worship? What kind of worship does God desire? Should it be with liturgy and organ or with contemporary song and guitar? Should it be in a beautiful church or cathedral or in a steel building or barn?

These questions are really not much different than the question posed by the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria when she perceived Jesus was a prophet because of His knowledge of her life and relationships: “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20).

And she raised a valid question because the Samaritans, who accepted only the first five books of Moses and had altered parts of them, claimed they were to worship on Mt. Gerizim and had worshiped there for centuries and continued to worship there even after the Jewish ruler Hyrcanus destroyed their temple around 125 B.C. The Jews, on the other hand, said that Jerusalem was the only place where people should worship (Deut. 12:5ff.; 16:5-6; 1 Kings 8:12ff.; 12:25ff.). And Jesus’ answer to this woman’s question certainly has application to our own time.

Jesus pointed out to this woman the time was coming when God’s people would neither worship in Mt. Gerizim nor at Jerusalem. As He said elsewhere, the temple would soon be destroyed (cf. Matt. 24:1-2, Luke 19:41-44; 21:5-6) and God’s people would be scattered all over the world, preaching the Gospel and joining together for worship with fellow believers in various places (cf. Mark 16:15-16).

But sadly, though the Samaritans sought to worship, they did not know the true God because of their admixture of error and false teaching (2 Kings 17:24ff., especially v. 32-35). They rejected most of the Old Testament Scriptures, including the many promises of a Messiah and Savior who would bear the sins of the people and redeem them from sin and eternal death (cf. Isaiah 53; Psalm 130). The Jews, on the other hand, had the Scriptures and the promises of the Messiah and Savior.

But, Jesus went on to say (John 4:23-24): “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

He pointed out to this woman that true worshipers would worship “in spirit and in truth,” meaning that true worship is not constituted by certain places or outward forms and observances but comes from the regenerated (or born again) spirit of man and truly glorifies and praises God, not being mere lip service.

And so, what constitutes worshiping in spirit and in truth? First and foremost, true worship flows from faith in Jesus Christ as God the Son and the Messiah and Savior of the world. Jesus, Himself, said that He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that no one can come to Father apart from Him (John 14:6). He also said that we can do nothing pleasing to God in regard to good works and service toward God apart from faith in Him (John 15:4-5).

Jesus said “that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23; cf. 1 John 2:23). And, indeed, it is only through the atoning sacrifice of the Son that we can approach the throne of God with our prayers, praises and petitions (cf. Heb. 10:19-25; 1 John 5:11-15).

True worship, then, can only come from a heart that has been regenerated by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. And, it is as Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (cf. John 15:1ff.; 3:3,5-6).

True worship, of course, must not be idolatry (cf. Ex. 20:1ff.; Deut. 6:13-15). It brings no glory to God if we do not worship the Triune God who has revealed Himself in the Bible. (Cf. Deut. 6:4ff.; Matt. 28:19; 1 Pet. 1:1-5.) “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).

Instead of compromising the truth for the sake of outward unity or for the sake of being contemporary, true worship holds fast to the Scriptural doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:12-17; John 8:31-32; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:42). God abhors false doctrine and adulterating His Word. Therefore, worship which contradicts the teaching of Scripture is not true and pleasing worship (cf. Isaiah 8:20; Deut. 4:2; 13:1ff.; Matt. 7:21ff.; Jer. 23:28).

And, finally, true worship is exactly that: true worship. It is not merely going through the outward motions or using certain forms. It is not vain repetitions of which Jesus speaks in His Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 6:7). It is worship that comes from the heart and is genuine and sincere. It gives glory to God and thanks and praises Him for His goodness and mercy toward us in Christ Jesus.

Again, true worship is not bound to places, musical instruments, or to liturgical forms. It is sincere praise and thanksgiving and works which come from the regenerated heart and soul of one who trusts in Christ Jesus as his Savior.

It is as David writes in Psalm 103:1: “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

O Lord, grant that we worship You in spirit and in truth – that we, from our hearts, glorify Your holy name for the gift of the Son and His atoning sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the world. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. John 2:13-22

All the males in Israel were required to appear before the LORD God at the temple in Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover. In addition to other sacrifices, an unblemished lamb was to be sacrificed and eaten and temple taxes were to be paid. As a result, the outer courts of the temple became a place where merchants, for a profit, sold animals for sacrifice and exchanged money for the coins needed for the temple tax.

Jesus, when He saw it, made a whip of cords and drove them out of the temple, saying, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

When asked for a sign to prove His Messianic claims and his authority to do this, Jesus told the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus wasn’t referring to the temple building in Jerusalem but to His own body. The sign He gave to verify that He is the Messiah and has the authority to drive out those who abuse His Father’s house is His own resurrection from the dead; for as He said would happen, the Jews destroyed the temple of His body, but He raised it up again on the third day.

The Jews misunderstood His words, thinking of the new Jewish temple, which had been under construction already for 46 years and was not yet finished. But Jesus’ disciples came to understand His words after He had risen from the dead.

What would Jesus do should He walk into our church buildings today? Would He be pleased with our activities and programs, or would He drive them out? Each church should be “a house of prayer,” not “a den of thieves” (cf. Matthew 21:12ff. where Jesus again cleansed the temple in the week of His crucifixion).

Would Jesus be pleased with those who use the churches to sell their goods or advance their careers? Would He say it is okay for groups to sell insurance and retirement plans in connection with the church? Would it be alright to hold all manner of sales and raffles to raise money? What about the many fundraisers and campaigns to support the work of the church? These are tough questions that churches must prayerfully consider and answer with the guidance of God’s Word.

But what about the temples of our bodies? The Scriptures tell all who believe: “You are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16); and, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

Jesus is zealous for God’s house, as the Scriptures say, “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up” (Psalm 69:9). Not only is Jesus concerned for the earthly temples built with our hands; He is concerned with the temples of our bodies which He has created and redeemed. What would He cast out and cleanse away in your body or in your life?

Are our bodies a “house of prayer” devoted to the LORD God and seeking His glory? Does “the Word of Christ dwell in (us) richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in (our) hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16)? Or, are our bodies and lives filled with our own selfishness and greed? Are we living for ourselves rather than for Christ Jesus, who both created us and then also redeemed us with His own precious blood?

Is Jesus even welcome in the temples of our bodies, or do we question His authority to come into our lives and cast out what is offensive to Him?

Though we, by our sins, destroyed the temple of Jesus’ body — He was crucified and suffered on the cross for our sins and the sins of the whole world, being condemned of God and dying in our stead — Jesus rose again from the dead in victory on the third day! He is God’s Son and our Messiah and Savior! He has redeemed us and made full atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world! His resurrection is proof! It is the sign!

Jesus has the authority to cast out what is evil from our lives. He has the right to cleanse us, and He is zealous for us and our holiness. He comes to us as believers and dwells in us by His Holy Spirit, and He desires that we be wholly devoted to the will and service of God our Father.

God grant that we not challenge His authority to purify and cleanse but welcome His coming and rejoice in the mercy and forgiveness He gives to us for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death and His victorious resurrection! Jesus has paid in full the punishment for our sins, and He forgives and accepts us when we look to Him in faith. At the same time, He also works in us to cleanse us so that we might live our lives for Him!

O dearest Jesus, come into my heart and cast out whatever offends. Forgive me for the sake of Your precious blood shed for my sins, and cleanse my heart and soul that I might live for You. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.]



Genesis 3:1-13

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The paradise which God created in the first two chapters of Genesis did not last long, for chapter three tells of the temptation of the devil, a fallen angel, who came to Eve in the form of the serpent.

“Did God really say that that you should not eat from any tree of the garden?” he asked, creating a question in the woman’s mind. And when Eve said the prohibition and warning that disobedience would bring about death — alienation and separation from God — was only in regard to the tree in the middle of the garden, the devil distorted the truth by saying, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Thus, he caused her to think that perhaps God was somehow holding out on her and keeping from her and her husband something good and desirable.

Of course, this still happens every day. The devil comes to us through friends and coworkers, through the media and entertainment industries, and in our own thoughts and minds and says, “Does God really expect you to keep all those commandments in the Bible?”

And he works hard to convince us that God is trying to keep us from having fun and enjoying life, or that He is placing an impossible burden upon us, that He really doesn’t expect us to keep all of His commandments, or that breaking just a few of the commandments now and then won’t really alienate and separate us from God — after all, everybody does it.

And, like Eve, when we look at the thing we are being tempted to do, it looks good and desirable to us. We think it will be fun or pleasurable, it will work out for our good, it won’t hurt anything, no one will know.

And so, we rationalize and give in to the temptation and to our own sinful desires, and the result is death! We recognize our nakedness and guilt before God. We may attempt to cover it up or even learn to cope with it, but the guilt remains. We are afraid to stand in His presence. We would rather not hear God’s Word or walk into His house of prayer.

Why? Because our sin, though it may have appeared to be good at the time, brought about spiritual death and separation from God. When confronted with the presence of God and His truth, we hide. When questioned about our disobedience, we make excuses and blame others.

As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, we are all born into this world sinners — our very thoughts and desires are turned away from God and His holy commandments. What David wrote is true of each of us as a result of that first sin: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).

Instead of loving God, trusting Him and desiring to honor and glorify His name, we think only of ourselves, question and doubt God’s Word and seek our own honor and glory. We are born in spiritual death and are alienated from God.

That is why we so desperately need God’s pardon and forgiveness. We need Him to find us, forgive us, cover our shame and nakedness, and give us life again! And God has come to us and reached out to us in love and forgiveness. He desires to free us from our guilt and shame and give us life everlasting with Him!

He did this by sending His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to overcome temptation and sin for us and then go to the cross to be condemned, forsaken of God, and to die in our stead that we might have God’s pardon and forgiveness through faith in His name and not be afraid of God or troubled by our guilt and shame any longer.

In Christ Jesus and His cross, atonement has been made for the sins of the world. And in Christ Jesus, when we trust in Him and His atoning sacrifice in our stead, your sins and my sins are pardoned and forgiven, and we are made acceptable in God’s sight.

O dearest Jesus, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on me, find me, and wash away the guilt of my sin in Your shed blood. And, dear Lord Jesus, grant me a place in Your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.]