Every Drop of Jesus - John 3: Grace In Place of Grace
I’m a dad five times over. God, my Father, has blessed me with five children whom I love dearly and they are such a blessing to me. Through them, he has taught me so much about grace. I consider what my children actually deserve from me. I even consider what part they have in their own existence. They didn’t tap Ruth and I on the shoulder and ask to be born. When they were ready to be born, they didn’t tap Ruth on the belly and ask to come out. Again this was something thoroughly outside of their powers and control. They were totally at our mercy. Ruth and I didn’t have much power in this either. We prayed for children and we prayed for a healthy delivery, but at the end of the day we weren’t in control of children actually being conceived or when they would be born.
Once they came out of the womb, they were still totally reliant on our kindness and mercy. Still it was grace. They didn’t work for the clothes they wore or for the bed they sleep in. Time magazine published a report in 2017 by the Department of Agriculture that estimated it costs around $233,610 for a middle class family to raise a child through the age of 17. What they do to earn that care!?! They didn’t earn the gifts we give them on their birthday, at Christmas, or other random times. They didn’t deserve it at all, not in the least.
I love my children, dearly. But it’s not because they chose to be in my family or deserved the kindnesses that I love to show them.
Birth into God’s Family: Grace
From the very first chapter of this book, John has been highlighting God’s grace to us that we are children of God. He started out in chapter 1 by saying: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12-13). We had no play in our becoming God’s children. John piles up the ways that we might become God’s children. Family tree? NO. A husband’s chose or desire? NO. Human decision? Again, a mighty, “NO!”
We are children of God simply and only by the power of God the Spirit. That’s the grace that Jesus makes clear to Nicodemus (and us!) here in chapter 3. We were born once of parents (of flesh) who gave us birth. That flesh will only give birth to flesh and death. That’s why it is absolutely that the Holy Spirit must give birth to us through water and the word. The Spirit gives birth to children of God and thus also to life. It’s all grace!
Marvel, dear child of God, that you are not a child of flesh, but a child of God. Marvel, dear child of God, that the Spirit, who blows here and there like a wind, has blown with his power into your heart and has claimed you for God. You are chosen by God! You are loved by God! You are dear to him. You are his dear child!
Understanding of heavenly things: Grace
Nicodemus came to Jesus that night looking for clarity and understanding. He asked about Jesus’ power and miracles. But Jesus spoke to him about baptism, about being born again into God’s kingdom. Still he was confused. We’re left wondering in this account, what happened to Nicodemus? We’re left with Jesus teaching him about God’s love in sending his Son into this world. (Spoiler Alert! Keep reading to the end of Jesus’ story in the Gospels and you’ll see what happened with Nicodemus! He was born again and, with Joseph of Arimathea, was one of those who buried Jesus.)
With our birth into God’s family, God gives us more grace! We can understand these things of God. By his grace, we can read John 3 and understand what Jesus is talking about. Sure, there are things we want to understand better. Sure, there are things we still have questions about. But we get it! We understand what Jesus is talking about.
We understand that this is a section teaching us about baptism. Water and the Holy Spirit give birth to children of God. We understand that. We understand that Jesus wants us to know how great God’s love is. And more than understanding, we have faith! We believe this and so have eternal life. What grace is this!?! That we believe and by faith we already have life assured to us.
Spiritual Attitudes: Still more Grace!
I want to be a child of God like John the Baptist. He started his ministry and things seemed to be going pretty well. The crowds came out to him in the wilderness from all over. He seems to have had a healthy crowd of disciples around him whom he was discipling and teaching. But then Jesus came and that all changed. His disciples packed up their things and started following Jesus. Then, the crowds who used to flock to him now began to flock to Jesus. His ministry was blowing up in his face and John says, “Awesome!” Such grace was given to John that his greatest joy was that Jesus would be glorified. John’s greatest joy was that people would follow Jesus and be saved. “He must be greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). That was grace to him!
I want to have an attitude like that. I want to have a heart like that. But deep down in following after Jesus, I’m chasing greatness. You too? We want people to notice us. We want people to appreciate us. We want people to pat us on the back. We want to become greater in the eyes of the world. And it’s not just that. We want to be greater in the eyes of God. We want God to look at us as his followers and say, “Wow! I sure am glad that they’re on my team!” We want God’s approval and applause.
God calls us to repent of that attitude. God would have us be more like John, that we would want to be less, that we would become a servant of all. Just like Jesus who came to be servant and to save all people. Yes, God calls me and you to repent and say with John, “I must become less!”
God in grace, says, “You are truly great!” You already have God’s approval and applause. His Son Jesus won it for you. When God sees you, he sees his Son’s glory and righteousness. And then, with more grace still, God pours out more grace by his Spirit, to change our attitudes about greatness making us humble like his Son. God pours out more grace to transform us into the likeness of his Son. From beginning to end, from our spiritual birth to our spiritual attitudes, God pours out grace in place of grace already given (cf. John 1:16).
What grace our Father has lavished on us!