Sermon Discussion – John 3:9-21

Hey discussion leaders, I hope this provides some helpful questions as you revisit this last week’s sermon with your Life Group or family!
Teaching goal:

God’s display of love in John 3:16 magnifies the glory and worth of God above all else, and this is very good for us.

Application goal:

That people would have a greater sense of peace because they know their acceptance before God depends on his work and not on our own.


What is your favorite movie/story that is about love? What is it about that movie/story that you enjoy so much?


What is the greatest gesture you’ve ever made in order to show love (or appreciation) for someone else?

Read John 3:9-21


Intro Questions:

(Note: if you didn’t do the study last week, here would be a good place to recap John 2:23-3:8 and Jesus’ teaching on being born again)

John 3:16 is probably the most well known verse in the entire Bible. Why do you think that is?

Why do you think that people don’t really know John 3:19 as well as John 3:16, they’re only 3 verses apart?

(This is the main question we’ll answer throughout the study, but give it to people so they can start chewing on it): What do you think people will misunderstand if they read John 3:16 without reading John 3:17-21?


Looking at the Text:

The passage starts out with Nicodemus still confused about what it means to be born again. Is there anyone in your study who is still confused as well? It’s ok if they are, Nicodemus was a religious professional and he still didn’t quite grasp it. Why do you think he was still confused?

What is Jesus’ response to his confusion?

  • Answer: a rebuke. “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?”
  • And an Old Testament example (John 3:14-15)


Interpreting the Text:

Read Numbers 21:4-9

What is the problem the people in Numbers 21 are facing? (Fiery serpents and death). How are they saved from the serpents bite? (Looking to the bronze serpent). What is the result of looking to the bronze serpent? (Life)

Why do you think Jesus turns to this story while he’s talking to Nicodemus? How in the world does this help us understand what Jesus is going to do on the cross?

  • Depending on how much your group feels like talking, this may require some explanation. You gain life by looking at the bronze snake. You gain eternal life by believing in (looking to) Jesus. The serpent being lifted up was a sign of the people’s rebellion and their punishment. Likewise, when Jesus is lifted up on the cross (see John 12:32-33), it is a sign of our rebellion and punishment. On the cross, Jesus became sin for us (1 Corinthians 5:21), he became a curse and punishment for us (Galatians 3:13). In a sense, Jesus became a snake so that we could be welcomed back into the presence of God.
  • If you like preaching gospel to your group, let it rip.

Read John 3:16

This verse starts with the word “For,” meaning that it is explaining what came before it (the story of the serpents). How does understanding the story in Numbers 21 begin to help us understand the love of God in 3:16-21?

What kinds of qualities typically make someone or something lovely?

What are some of the qualities of the world in 3:16-21? What do we learn about the world from verse 19? What does the world love? What does it mean that they “love the darkness”?

Why do you think some of the best love stories ever written entail stories of sacrifice and loss? Do you recall the story from the sermon about the father, the son, and the bridge? What was your reaction to it?

What makes the love of God in these verses so unique compared to the way non-Christian culture talks about a loving god? When non-Christians say they believe in a god of love, what did it cost their god to love them? What did it cost our God to love us?

Who actually ends up looking lovely in all of this? (God). What is it about God’s grand gesture that makes it so lovely? According to John 3:16, who is God’s love offered to and why is that significant? (whoever believes)
Personal Questions:

What are some ways that knowing God loves you on account of his Son’s work for us change the way that we think about love? Does it make you more joyful or less? Why?

How could knowing that God loves you for his Son’s sake make you more joyful?

What is the greatest loss that you could possibly imagine happening in your life (loss of money, loved one, etc. be specific)? How does contemplating losing the thing you treasure most help you understand the heart of God in John 3:16-21? How does it differ?

Do you feel disappointed at the idea that God loves you for his own glory’s sake instead of loving you for being a great person? Why might someone feel disappointed because of this? How should it make us feel? How do you think the teaching on needing to be “born again” can help us see God’s glory as a good thing?

Closing remarks:

We learn three great things from this passage in John 3:1-21. First, we are dead and need to be made alive, and God the Spirit accomplishes that in our lives by breathing life into our spiritual lungs. Second, we are condemned and need to be forgiven, and God the Son accomplishes that by dying in order to pay the penalty for our sins. Third, this all comes from the love God, and knowing this will help us see his glory (John 1:14, 1:18)

Final question: how can knowing these truths help you walk through tough seasons in life (doubt, despair, frustration, sin, etc.)?

  • The answer I’m aiming at here is that you can find profound security and peace knowing that God has secured your salvation and this truth is a life raft in the storms of life.

For God – the greatest Lover
So loved – the greatest generosity
The world – the greatest tragedy
That he gave – the greatest sacrifice
His only Son – the greatest gift
That whoever – the greatest openness
Believes – the greatest simplicity
In him – the greatest attraction
Should not perish – the greatest rescue
But – the greatest difference
Have – the greatest treasure
Eternal life – the greatest experience.

Sermon Discussion - John 2:1-12

Hey discussion leaders! Here’s some follow up questions from Aaron’s sermon from this last weekend. Hope it’s helpful. It’s probably a little long, so feel free to pick and choose what you want to highlight.
Teaching Goal:

That the way Jesus reveals his glory in John 2:1-12 points us to the fact that Jesus himself is our ultimate joy and gives us analogies to understand what that means.

Application Goal:

That people would seek to cultivate a greater enjoyment of Christ in their personal and communal (church) lives.

Thought provoking question:

What is something you enjoy a lot? This is pretty broad, so it could be a hobby, a food, a season, etc. Essentially, what is something that brings you a lot of joy? And what is it about that thing that gives you so much joy?

Intro questions:

Read John 2:1-2

This wedding took place right after Jesus called his disciples. What can you learn about the way Jesus pursues discipleship based on this passage? How does this inform the way that we pursue discipleship? How are we doing as a community at utilizing normal, day-to-day life occurrences for the discipleship mission? How can we improve?

Looking at the text:  (these should all be obvious answers from the text)

Read John 2:3-12

What is the problem they encounter?

How does Mary try to resolve it?

What is Jesus’ response?

How does the problem get resolved?

Interpretive questions:

What are some reasons Jesus responded the way that he did to his mother’s request? What is the significance of his “hour”?

Corresponding texts to “the hour”

  • John 7:30: “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”
  • John 8:20: “No one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”
  • John 12:27: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”
  • John 12:23–24:“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

(The teaching point here is that Mary’s request at a wedding caused Jesus to look ahead to his own wedding, but he knew that his wedding would come at great expense to himself. Hence, “My hour has not yet come.” If you like sharing the gospel, this is a great place to insert it.)

What kind of vessels does Jesus have the servants fill up in 2:6-8? What do you think the significance of purification jars could be, rather than just having them fill normal drinking jars?

When the wine was served, it was incredibly abundant and it was delicious. What do you think Jesus is trying to communicate to us through that?

Near the end of the passage, it states “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed him.” Looking at the passage as a whole and what it symbolizes, how would you describe to a non-believing friend how this story “manifests” or “reveals” the glory of Christ?

Personal Questions:

We asked at the beginning about what you really enjoy in life and why you really enjoy it. Aaron’s sermon on this text was entitled “Jesus Is Joy.” Do you make time to enjoy Christ in your life? What are some ways that you cultivate enjoying Christ in your own life?

In the sermon, Aaron talked about how we can know a lot of facts about honey, that it’s sweet, sticky, good on peanut butter, etc. without actually ever experiencing the sweetness of honey for ourselves. Read Psalm 34:8. Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? In what ways have you experienced it?

Jesus intentionally revealed his glory through abundance of wine at a wedding. What are some things about wine that make it enjoyable? How does the analogy of enjoying wine help us understand what it means to enjoy Jesus? (It may not be obvious, but the answer I’m looking for here would be to be intoxicated with him, see Ephesians 5:18, Isaiah 25:6-8).

How does the analogy of a wedding help us understand how we enjoy Christ?

Are there other scriptural analogies that have helped you enjoy Christ?

How can we encourage each other to taste, see (2:11, 1:14), know, understand, and practice enjoying God more?

Spare time questions:

We have a story here about a husband who had failed big in his first act as a husband by not providing enough wine for the wedding. How can this story help husbands who feel like they’re failing at their role in the home?

Why do you think Jesus would choose this as his first miracle? (from the sermon, Aaron compared it to a politician announcing that he’s running for office. It doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty details of his policies, but is designed to show where things are going).

Have you ever had a circumstance where you felt like you screwed something up big time (like the husband)? If you want to share, what was it? How does seeing Jesus help this guy out encourage you?

Our Former Sins for His Glory

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:12-15

Confessing our sin is indispensible to the Christian life.

I have found it interesting, yet unsurprising, how often the apostle Paul mentions his life prior to his experience on the road to Damascus. In addition to that which I quoted above, you can also see him make mention of it to the church of Corinth in his first epistle to them (1 Corinthians 15:9), he uses it as part of his defense before his accusers at the temple (Acts 22:4), in another defense he laid out before King Agrippa (Acts 26:9-11), again in his letter to the Galatian churches (Galatians 1:13), and in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 3:6).

I find it interesting because this, for Paul, seems to be the one sin he mentions more than anything else. Undoubtedly there was still a sense of shame and an acknowledgment of his former waywardness that found its way into to his thinking on a regular basis. Or at least on a basis regular enough to cause him to write it to several churches and bring it up in several public addresses.

I say unsurprising, though, because we see this everywhere. Undoubtedly, the reason we know so much about Peter’s three-fold denial of the Lord was because he told people about it (Mark 14:66-72). Assuredly Thomas is known as the doubter today because he was known as the doubter among the apostles in his day (John 20:25). And we know that John and James themselves were arrogant (Mark 10:35-37) and violent men (Luke 9:52-55), and how could we find out unless they had shared these things?

In addition to that, though, my lack of surprise stems from the fact that we as Christians do the same thing today. There is not a true living saint who would not be able to disclose to you in some detail what his or her life was like before Jesus was first revealed to them in the beauty of the gospel. Even if that person attained a saving faith at a young age, the understanding of sin and its repercussions for a person’s life is indispensible to what the gospel is all about. It has been said that the only thing that we as Christians bring into our own salvation is the sin from which we need to be forgiven. It’s a striking way in which God makes for himself humble followers.

I get this sentiment from many places within the bible, but to keep it brief, just look how our opening passage ends, “The saying is trustworthy…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.” There are a handful of these “sayings” throughout the pastoral epistles, but suffice it to say, they are oftentimes proverbs, verses from hymns, and brief doctrinal statements. What we have here is likely a fantastic truth wrapped within a colloquialism of the early church. We can assume that most of the members of the early church (like most members of the current church) were not great orators, yet since they had been so radically changed by the gospel they needed and even desired some way to articulate the gospel to an unbelieving world. I can imagine this saying falling from the lips of an early saint when approached by a family member, or friend, or neighbor, or hostile questioner when asked, “What’s so great about this Jesus?” to which our Christian brother or sister would be able to reply “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.”

I bring these topics up because I have recently encountered a number of situations that have forced me to come face to face with a good deal of my own shameful and largely regrettable past.

These occasions have forced me to consider the way in which I lived before and even in the midst of a very messy conversion experience. I’ve often found myself becoming nervous before visiting friends and former relations in these situations not because I was ashamed of the gospel, but because these were people who knew my sin and knew it well. And because my own conversion occurred over a protracted period of time, they were also there to see the way in which I misused the gospel and oftentimes denied it in my actions.

Unlike Paul, I might end up writing pages upon pages about the various sins that marked life prior to my coming to faith. For Paul it was sufficient to remark that he was a persecutor and a blasphemer, and my aim is not to diminish that. However, do we not at times feel the utter sinfulness of our sin, both past and present? Do we not sometimes lament over the way in which we denied the Lord? And do we not feel grief over doing those things that are so offensive to a holy, heavenly, perfectly loving Father?

In a way, I hope we do. I trust that these oftentimes rough feelings are evidence of the new heart that we receive as new covenant believers (Jeremiah 31:33, cf. Ezekiel 11:19-20).

On the other hand, we need not be ashamed of these things any longer. It was Christ who came to die for sinners. It’s the Son of God who bore the wrath of God for our sins. He took upon himself all of those things that separated us from our heavenly Father and now he grants us access to him (Romans 5:1-2). And on top of all that, God even redeems our former waywardness and shows that he can be exalted not only in spite of it, but even through it, as was Paul’s case. As was mine. As I hope is yours.

Consider, for a moment, the grace that caused personal change in the restoration of Peter, the revelation to Thomas, the Lord’s adulation of John, the execution of James, and the obligation that was given to Paul (John 21:15-19, John 20:26-29, John 13:23, Acts 12:2, Acts 9:16). Yet it is God who restores and redeems the former brokenness and brings good out the evil (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28).

As for me, God has been so gracious time and time again to use the mess that I made of things in coming to faith to allow me to witness to his surpassing grace and kindness. I have shared my story so many times and been told by unbeliever and believer alike that they were deeply moved by the story of what God had done in my life, and so often what he did it in spite of myself. God uses our former sins and gains glory through them.

I trust this is one reason Paul talks about his former sins repeatedly, and so perhaps we ought to also. We need not glory in our sin. We talk about these things not to shine any light on ourselves, but if we have truly been struck by the power of the gospel, we do it to show the surpassing mercy and grace that are found in God our Savior. And when we have received it, we desire all others to see it as well, regardless of what they knew about us beforehand. So I pray you come, and behold the Lamb of God, who takes away and works redemption through the sins of the world.