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Read for This Week’s Study: John 3:1-15; 2 Cor. 5:17; John 15:4-10; Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 9:23-24.
Jesus answered and said to him, (John
assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God
Nicodemus felt drawn to Christ but dared not visit Him openly. He greeted Jesus politely, acknowledging Him as a teacher from God. The Master knew that behind this courteous greeting was a seeker of truth; therefore, wasting no time, He told Nicodemus that he did not need theoretical knowledge as much as he did spiritual regeneration, a new birth.
This concept was hard for Nicodemus to grasp. Because of his descent from Abraham, he was sure he had a place in God’s kingdom; plus, as a strict Pharisee, he surely deserved the favor of God, right? So, why did he need such a radical change?
Patiently, Jesus explained that spiritual transformation is a supernatural work produced by the Holy Spirit. Though we cannot see or understand how it happens, we can perceive the results. We call it conversion, a new life in Christ.
Though we should always remember how the Lord called us and converted us, our challenge is to steadfastly abide in Him daily so that He can transform us more and more into His image.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 9.
Sunday August 3
A zealous Christian confronted a politician and asked her,
you been born again? Angry at what she deemed a personal
question, the politician replied,
It worked the first time,
Maybe it did, but considering our fallen nature, our first
birth isn’t enough, at least not for eternal life. For that, we must be
Read Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-15. How did Jesus explain what it meant to be born again?
No doubt Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel, knew the Old
Testament Scriptures, which speak about the need for a
heart and God’s willingness to create it in us (Ps.
36:26). Jesus explained to Nicodemus
this truth and how it can happen.
The dialogue recorded by John ends with Jesus’ words. No answer from Nicodemus. He probably went home immersed in profound reflections. Quietly, the Holy Spirit worked in him, and three years later he was ready to openly become Jesus’ disciple.
The fact that it is necessary to be born again shows without a doubt that our previous birth is insufficient from a spiritual standpoint. The new birth must be a double one: of water and of the Spirit. In light of John the Baptist’s ministry, Nicodemus easily understood that to be born of water referred to baptism with water. What he also needed to know was that to be born of the Spirit is the renewing of the heart by the Holy Spirit.
There are similarities between physical and spiritual births. Both mark the beginning of a new life. Also, we produce neither birth ourselves; it’s done for us. But there is also an important difference between them: we were unable to choose if we wanted to be born physically; we can, however, choose to be born spiritually. Only those who freely decide to allow the Holy Spirit to generate a new spiritual self within them are born again. God respects our freedom and, although eager to transform us, He does not change us by force.
Think about the way in which the Lord produced your conversion. It does not matter if it was through dramatic circumstances or through a long and imperceptible process of transformation. How have you experienced the new birth?
Monday August 4
Being born again is possible only through the work of the Holy
Spirit. Jesus made use of the fact that the Greek word pneuma
order to illustrate the process of conversion (John
3:8). The wind blows; none of us can
start it, direct it, nor stop it. Its great power is beyond human
control. We can only react to it, either resisting it or using its
potential for our benefit.
Likewise, the Holy Spirit is constantly working upon the heart of every human being, drawing him or her to Christ. No one has control over its great saving and transforming power. We can resist it or yield to it. When we surrender ourselves to His convicting influence, the Holy Spirit produces a new life in us.
Is there any way to know if we have experienced the new birth?
Yes. The Spirit works invisibly, but the results of
His activity are visible. Those around us will know that Jesus created
a new heart in us. The Spirit always produces an outward demonstration
of the inward transformation He makes in us. As Jesus said,
their fruits you will know them (Matt.
The new life in Christ is not a patched-up life with a few external reformations. It is not a modification or improvement of the old life but a complete transformation.
What do the following texts tell us about what the new birth will accomplish in us? Titus 3:5-7, 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15.
Through the Holy Spirit, Christ implants in us new thoughts, feelings, and motives. He awakens our conscience, changes our mind, subdues every unholy desire, and fills us with the sweet peace of heaven. Though the change doesn’t happen instantly, over time we do become a new creature in Christ. We have to, because the original version, the one that came out of the womb, isn’t right with God.
Meditate on your life during the last twenty-four hours. To what degree did those who relate with you perceive Christ in your words, attitudes, and actions? Pray about those traits of character that still need to be modeled by the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday August 5
A flourishing spiritual life is possible only by constantly
depending on Christ. Jesus used the illustration of the vine to teach
us how to accomplish this.
I am the vine, you are the
branches, said Jesus (John
15:5, NKJV). In the Old Testament,
Israel was depicted as a vine that the Lord had planted (Isa.
2:21), but Jesus presents Himself as
true vine (John
15:1) and urges His followers to be
united with Him just as the branches abide in the vine.
What do these texts teach us about abiding continually in Christ? See John 15:4-10.
A branch recently separated from the vine may appear alive for a while, but it will surely wither and die because it has been cut off from the source of life. By the same token, we can receive life only through our connection with Christ. But in order to be effective, this union must be maintained. Devotional time in the morning is essential, but our communion with the Lord has to continue throughout the day. Abiding in Christ means seeking Him constantly, asking for His guidance, praying for His strength to obey His will, and begging for His love to fill us.
One of the most deceitful traps is to try to live the
Christian life independently from the Lord.
Without Me you
can do nothing (John
15:5, NKJV). Without Him we cannot
resist even one temptation, overcome one sin, or develop a character in
His likeness. The new spiritual life can grow only by means of an
uninterrupted communion with Christ.
By reading the Word and meditating on it, we are nourished and
The words that I speak to you are spirit, and
they are life, said Jesus (John
6:63, NKJV). Treasured in our hearts
and minds, these words will inspire our prayers in order to keep us in
contact with the Lord. Though it’s easy to be distracted by
cares of this world (Mark
4:19, NKJV), we must make a
concentrated effort to abide in Jesus.
What are the greatest obstacles that prevent you from abiding constantly in Christ? What steps can you take in order to remove or overcome them?
Wednesday August 6
Along with studying the Bible, prayer is indispensable in order for us to abide in Christ and grow spiritually. Even Jesus Himself needed prayer to be united with the Father. He left us an example of a life of prayer. Prayer marked the crucial moments of His life. He prayed when He was baptized. He often prayed in solitary places before daylight or on the mountain after sunset. Sometimes He spent the whole night praying, such as when He chose the Twelve Apostles. He prayed to resurrect Lazarus. Not even the Cross deterred Him from praying.
Father knows the things you have need of
before you ask Him (Matt.
6:8, NKJV), why do we need to present
Him our needs in prayer? Because through prayer, we learn to empty
ourselves of ourselves and become more dependent upon Him.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will
find; knock, and it will be opened to you is Jesus’ promise (Matt.
7:7, NKJV). Although we do not need to
impress Him by endless prayers of vain repetitions (Matt.
6:5-9), we need to persevere in
prayer, clinging to His promises (John
15:7, 16:24) no matter what.
How can the different parts of the Lord’s Prayer help us to grow in Christ? See Matt. 6:9-13.
Jesus is our Mediator in Heaven. Therefore, He instructed us
to address our prayers to the Father in His name.
assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will
give you (John
16:23, NKJV). Christ taught that there
are certain conditions in order for this wonderful promise to be
fulfilled. We need to believe that God can answer us (Matt.
21:22). An attitude of forgiveness
toward our neighbor is required (Mark
11:25). Most important, our will
should always be subordinated to the Father’s will (Matt.
22:42). And any
in the answer should not discourage us; on the contrary, we need to
always pray and not give up (Luke
Lord, teach us to pray
11:1) is always a relevant request, no
matter how long ago we accepted Christ as our Savior. In what aspect of
your prayer life do you still need to grow by the grace of God?
Thursday August 7
Paradoxically, it is only by dying that we may truly live. When baptized, we (ideally) died to our old nature and rose again to a new life. It would have been wonderful if the old man of sin had permanently died when we were buried under baptismal waters. Sooner or later, however, all of us have discovered that our past habits and tendencies are still alive and do strive to regain control of our lives. After our baptism, our old nature has to be put to death again and again. That is why Jesus associated the Christian life with a cross.
What does Luke 9:23-24 mean?
Many think the cross they have to bear is a serious sickness, unfavorable circumstances in life, or a permanent disability. While any of these surely is heavy, the meaning of Jesus’ words goes further. To take up our cross means to deny ourselves daily. Not just once in a while but every day; not just a part of us but our entire being.
The Christian life is a cruciform life.
I have been
crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in
2:20, NKJV). In the ancient world, the
victims of crucifixion did not die immediately. Usually, they agonized
for many hours, sometimes several days, while hanging on the cross. Our
old nature, although crucified, fights to survive and get down from the
It is not easy to deny ourselves. Our old nature lingers on;
our old man doesn’t want to die. Moreover, we cannot nail ourselves to
No man can empty himself of self. We can only
consent for Christ to accomplish the work. Then the language of the
soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy
property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite
of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me
into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can
flow through my soul.
It is not only at the beginning of the Christian
life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance
step heavenward it is to be renewed. . . . Only by constant
renunciation of self and dependence on Christ can we walk safely.
— Ellen G. White, Christ’s
Object Lessons, pp. 159,
160. There must be a daily surrendering to the Lord.
When was the last time you died to self? What does your answer say to you, especially in light of today’s texts?
Friday August 8Further Study: Ellen G. White,
Consecration,pp. 43-48, in Steps to Christ;
Nicodemus,pp. 167-177, in The Desire of Ages.
The warfare against self is the greatest battle that
was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of
God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can
be renewed in holiness. — Ellen G. White, Steps to
Christ, p. 43.
We cannot retain our own self and be filled with the
fullness of God. We must be emptied of self. If heaven is gained by us
at last, it will be only through the renunciation of self and in
receiving the mind, the spirit, and the will of Christ Jesus.
— Ellen G. White, In
Heavenly Places, p. 155.
When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart,
it transforms the life. Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds are
renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and
strife. Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects
the light of heaven. . . . The blessing comes when by faith the soul
surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye can see
creates a new being in the image of God. — Ellen G. White, The
Desire of Ages, p. 173.
Renalto and his parents live in a town on the beach in northern Peru. When he was 8 years old, his mother lost her job. The family faced difficult financial times. Renalto’s younger brother was sick, and Mother had to stay home with him. So Renalto walked the few blocks to church alone. He prayed that God would help his family be able to attend church together again.
Then an Adventist couple moved into a home on the beach near
Renalto’s home. They learned that Renalto’s mother was a cook and
invited her to open a restaurant on the porch of their home.
can even rent part of our house, the couple said.
way you’ll be close to your work and your children.
The family moved into the couple’s home, and his mother’s restaurant has become well known among tourists visiting the beach. Father completed his studies and found a better job. At last Renalto and his family could attend worship together in the little Adventist church in town.
The Adventist couple invited Renalto to study the Bible with
them, and he accepted. Renalto invited some of his classmates to study
the Bible with him. But when Renalto asked his Adventist friends to
study with his classmates, they urged him to have his own small group.
help you, they encouraged.
Renalto began studying with his friends. More children came, and the group grew. When the studies ended, Renalto and Sandra, one of his classmates, were baptized together. Sandra invited Renalto to start a small group in her house. Soon another small group had formed.
Sandra’s father was not a Christian, but he had seen the changes in Sandra’s life. He listened to the children’s small-group discussions, and in time he accepted Jesus as his Savior. Sandra’s parents began worshipping in the little Adventist church too. Her parents invited some of their friends to the children’s small group, and soon it had more adults than children. A woman in the church offered to lead the adults in their own group. Today 15 to 18 people attend the adult small group every week.
Renalto and Sandra’s small group has moved to the church,
where 25 or more children, many from the neighborhood, attend every
week. Renalto helps lead the group, though he is one of the youngest
there. He tells them,
Remember when I invited you to the
small group? Now it’s your turn to invite your friends to come.
And in this way the group has grown.
In 2012 part of a Thirteenth Sabbath Offering helped provide teaching materials for children who lead small groups in Peru. Thank you for making it possible to share God’s love with others through this successful program in Peru and throughout South America.
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