Sermon:  The Breath of God

Summary:  It is necessary to have faith in Jesus as the one who transforms us for new life 
in the kingdom through the Spirit, who enables us to live a life of faithful obedience so that 
God will grant eternal life in his son rather than wrath.

Know:  Transformation does not come solely through human effort, but through the power 
of the Spirit whom Jesus gives to us.

Feel:  A need to commune with God in prayer and the word.

Do:  Spend time with the word, which is the sword of the Spirit, spend time in communion 
with the Lord so that we can continue to be transformed.  

Text:  John 3:1-36

Scripture Reading:  Jn 2:23-25

1.  Try to turn on this flashlight.  Was working before.  Why not now?  
2.  John 3 Context
	a.  Jn 2:23-25 - Jesus knows hearts.  Like flashlight, can't depend on them
	b.  Why is this? Bible often refers to our "flesh" our "human nature"
	c.  It has been affected by sin
3.  What can be done?

I.  (3:1-8) - Total Transformation
	A.  Isn't this passage about baptism?
		1.  If you mean merely a ritual of getting wet, no
		2.  If you mean "conversion," yes
	B.  A closer look at what is going on here
		1.  3:3-4 - Nicodemus was in need
			a.  His need, to be born anwqen 
				- Two definitions:  "from above, beginning, anew"
				- Used again in v.31 - "from above"
				- Why?  Without it, he is dead in sin
			b.  v.3 If not, he is not able to perceive the Kingdom of God 
				- Because dead in sin, cannot even perceive kingdom
				- This is why Nicodemus cannot grasp this
				- He needs this new birth
			c.  Keep in mind, this is "the" teacher of Israel - v.10
				- Probably an older man
				- Spent life time teaching the scriptures
				- Head is filled with knowledge, but he needs more
			d.  What is this being born anew?
		2.  3:5 - Born of water and Spirit
			a.  Nicodemus could not have understood this completely yet
				- Couldn't be Christian Baptism (death, burial, and 
				   resurrection hasn't happened yet)
				- Might be John's Baptism
				- Definitely an allusion to baptism here
			b.  But it is more than a ritual, something much deeper
			c.  Water and Spirit already a biblical image - (Is 44:3-4)
				- Image of a dead, dry desert, then God's renewal
				- Water and Spirit brings blessing of new life
				- God will create an Oasis in the desert to come to
				- This is why Jesus calls it "living water" 
			d.  What God promised Spirit would do  (Ezek 36:25-27)
				- New life to dead, stone cold hearts
				- You cannot breath life into your own cold heart, only 
				  God can do that
		3.  3:7-8 - Jesus describes being born of the Spirit
			a.  Note that "wind" and "Spirit" are same word in both Greek 
			     and Hebrew
				- Genesis - "Spirit" hovering over the waters, his 
				   breath, waiting to give lush, abundant life
				- Spirit of God, is like the "breath" of God
			b.  What is the point Jesus is making about the wind/Spirit?
	C.  ILL:  Let me go outside, and bring in some wind
		1.  It is here in this jar/hand - Let me open it.  You feel it?  Of course
		2.  You cannot control it, can't capture in a jar, reduce to a formula, 
		      package it and hand it out
	D.  From what we have seen, transformation through the "breath" of God 
	      is ultimately God's doing
		1.  Our Lord gives the Spirit, we don't take the Spirit
		2.  1:32 - John say the Spirit descend on Jesus and remain
		3.  1:33 - This is the one who will immerse in the Holy Spirit
			a.  3:34 - He gives the Spirit without measure 
			b.  3:35 - Father has given "all things" into His hand
			c. Therefore Jesus is able to give the Spirit to whomever he 
			d. Not like the Old Testament, where Spirit is given 
			    temporarily for a job then leaves
		4.  20:22 - Jesus "breathes" new life into them with the Spirit
			a.  Jesus could have just said, "bam, you have the Spirit"
			b.  But he "breathes" on them - What a vivid, memorable, 
			     poetic way to renew and empower them!

II.  (3:9-21) Believe
	A.  Jesus drives home the importance of faith
	B.  It begins not with what we do, but with what Christ does
		1.  He will be lifted up
			a.  He was lifted up on the cross
			b.  He was lifted up from the grave
			c.  He was lifted up from the ascension
		2.  When Jesus was lifted up, he gave the Spirit
			a.  In the upper room (chap 14), he talks about this
			b.  Calls the Spirit the "encourager" or "helper"
			c.  He would give it when he goes away
		3.  Why?  Because God loves the world - 3:16-17
			a.  Might have sounded strange to a Jew
			b.  Didn't just say, "God so loved Israel"
			c.  Didn't just say, "God so love the church"
			d.  God so loved the WORLD
	C.  Jesus compares him being lifted up to the serpent Moses lifted up
		1.  Num 21 - People had complained over and over
			a.  In Exodus when they complained, God was 
			b.  God delivered them from their struggles
			c.  Now in Numbers, God is getting angry
				- Their complaint is, "Why did you bring us out of 
				   Egypt to die here."
				- "Things were better in Egypt"
				- "We hate the Manna"
			d.  God was patient, very patient, but they kept complaining
		2.  God sent fiery serpents, the people asked Moses to pray
		3.   Lord told Moses to make a fiery serpent, set it on a pole, and 
		      when someone was bit, they could come look at it and will live
		4.  God didn't just take them away, they actually had to go in faith to 
		      look at this serpent
			a.  What a reminder of their sin!
			b.  When we consider the cross, should also be a reminder
	D.  Jesus illustrates that belief is not merely passive
		1.  You actually have to come to Christ
		2.  Keep in mind that in Greek, "belief" and "faith" - the same word
			a.  There is no verb form for "faith" in English
			b.  So we say "to believe"
			c.  I prefer, "to have faith" - it suggests more than mental 

III.  (3:22-36) Grow Smaller
	A.  It is not about me
	B.  Look at John's attitude
		1.  Cannot receive ANYTHING unless given from Heaven
			a.  Whether it is disciples, a ministry, or anything
			b.  John attained nothing, it was given by God
		2.  He must increase, I must decrease
			a.  Christ must permeate my life through and through
			b.  People need to say, "Isn't Christ wonderful"
			     NOT - "Isn't John wonderful?"
		3.  Why?  Because it is God that does the transforming
			a.  v.34 - It is HE that give the Spirit without measure
			b.  v.35 - God has given all things into HIS hand
	C.  ILL:  We don't do the transforming, we submit to it -- BIG difference
		1.  Flashlight - Try again to turn it on - try harder
			a.  Still not turning on, maybe I just need to try harder
			b.  Battery is dead, futile to try harder
		2.  Isn't this just like human nature?  Try harder and harder
			a.  Think you got it all under control
			b.  Maybe it is judgmental attitudes, anger, sexual sin, lust, 
			     pride, apathy, selfishness, not doing what we need to…
			c.  May say, "argh" I did it again, need to try harder
			d.  Maybe you even feel justified, but deep inside you know it 
			      is wrong
		3.  But sooner or later, your inner self always seems to surface
			a.  Try to keep a lid on it
			b.  What happens if you agitate a carbonated drink long 
			     enough?  Comes out, even if sits for awhile, still pressure
			c.  What do we do?  We may try even harder, or may justify 
			      behavior, or beat self up, or hide it 
				- Destructive cycle
				- Destroys families, marriages, jobs, relationships, 
		4.  What is needed is not trying harder, but a new inner nature
			a.  Put new batteries in
			b.  God transform your heart of stone to a heart of flesh
			c.  Only God can "breathe" new life into you
				- (Rom 8:13) - If by Spirit, put to death deeds of flesh, 
				  then you will live
				- 1 Cor 12:11 - Spirit distributes gifts so you can serve
				- Note: Having Spirit does not automatically mean you 
				  have miraculous abilities
	D.  Ever felt frustrated, or even defensive.  So what do I do?
		1.  Be honest to God about it
			a.  Say "God, I cannot do this!  I a mess!  I have no pride"
			b.  "Lord, I don't have the answer, don't know what to do, or 
			      know what to say"
			c.  "Lord, take control, I relinquish control to you"
				- Many not brave enough to truly do this
				- May mean changes not willing to make
				- If that is true, then be honest to God about it
		2.  Be aware of the Spirit's tools, and use them
			a.  Sword of the Spirit, the word - Eph 6:17
				- Word of God is "living and active" - Heb 4:12
				- More than words on a page
				- In fact, word became flesh
				- Learn to "read" it spiritually and not just academically
			b.  Pray in the Spirit - Jud 1:20
				- Prayer needs to be a lifestyle, pray without ceasing
				- Commune with God constantly, he will change you
				- To often, we pray as a ritual, and not believe God 
				   does anything
			c.  Also:  Fasting, Silence, Solitude, Meditation, Simplicity
		3.  These create the conditions that God typically works through
			a.  Like trying to capture the wind, can't do it
			b.  Have to go to where the wind is, disciplines put you there
			c.  Apostles understood this - importance in their ministry 
			     was what?  First prayer, then ministry of the word.
		4.  Keep in mind this is not a formula
			a.  Two people can do the exact same thing, and get 
			      different results at different speeds
			b.  Main thing - It is not me, but God

1.  You must be born of water and Spirit
	a.  You can see that baptism is much more than a ritual
	b.  This is when God begins to renew you (invitation)
2.  If you have placed your faith, and been born of water and spirit, born anew
	a.  God has breathed new life into you
	b.  You are surrounded by people that have hearts of stone
		- People suffocating in sin, alienation, hopelessness
		- So many searching for a fresh breath
	c.  Where do you find the breath of God?  It is in us?  It is in the Kingdom
		- When truly forgive someone who wronged you - breath of God
		- When you demonstrate honesty, integrity, character-breath of God
		- When you show love, kindness, compassion - breath of God
		- When you share your lunch, are a freind - breath of God
	d.  When we decide not to "go to church" but to "be the church" every day, 
	     that is the breath of God
		- Will not be afraid of the darkness
		- Will not go to Jesus in the cover of night like Nicodemus
		- Will not feel the need to be a "secret" Christian
3.  Make prayer and the word a priority, then you can go on in the power of the Spirit

Small Group Notes:  The Breath of God

Summary:  It is necessary to have faith in Jesus as the one who transforms us for new life in the 
kingdom through the Spirit, who enables us to live a life of faithful obedience so that God will 
grant eternal life in his son rather than wrath.

- What typically re-energize you?  What do you enjoy the most?

Explore (John 3):

1.  As a backdrop to this passage, how do the prophecies of Is 44:3-4 and Ezek 36:25-27 inform 
what Jesus is teaching here about being born?

2.  What does Jesus' analogy of the wind and Spirit say about the nature of the Spirit and a 
Christian's relationship with the Spirit?

3.  What does this suggest about human nature?  Is it truly possible for one to pull themselves up 
by their own bootstraps?  Are there problems or pitfalls in trying harder to do the Christian life?  
What are possible results of trying harder?

4.  How does this instruct us as to the nature of the faith and obedience that Jesus speaks of in 
this chapter?  What is the relationship between the Spirit's role and our role?

5.  How do praying in the Spirit, ministry of the word, which is the sword of the Spirit (as well as 
fasting, meditation, and other disciplines) play a part in this?  


6.  What is most challenging to you in the Christian life?  What in this lesson might help you with 

7.  Is there anything in your understanding about God or yourself that has changed or needs to 
change?  If so, what are they?

8.  What are some spiritual practices you have tried that have been a good tool for the Spirit to 
work in you and in what way?  If you do not have any, what might be a couple of tools you might 
start using?