Woman to Woman: "How can these things be?" PDF Print E-mail

By Terry Schlossberg, PPL Executive Director
Reprinted from Presbyterians Pro-Life NEWS, Spring 1999

"We waver in uncertainty that God really has the power to forgive and restore the adulterer, the teenager who is sexually active, the woman who has had an abortion, and the woman or man who has developed a slavish attachment to a homosexual lifestyle."

John Calvin treats the discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3 as a primer on the Christian life. Bound up in the passage are basic teachings of Christianity:

the corrupt nature of the human race, what is the right entrance into the school of Christ, by what beginnings we must be formed for making progress in heavenly doctrine.

And the simple conclusion that we must "be born again":

For the sum of Christ's discourse is that to be his true disciples we must become new men [new persons].

Doubting the "new birth"
Many of us learned the story of Jesus and Nicodemus in Sunday School and can quote verses from John 3 by heart. Even so, we may have missed the irony of how many of us, like Nicodemus, approaching Jesus in our own darkness (v. 2), and failing to comprehend this first principle of the kingdom of God, respond to the good news of the Gospel's transforming power with the same doubt Nicodemus expressed: "How can these things be?"

Jesus helps us, along with Nicodemus, by giving the example of wind: the life-sustaining air we breathe and the invisible power whose effects we witness without knowing its mysterious origin (v. 8). Jesus' point, says Calvin, is to help us see that if God is able to restore an ailing body, he can as powerfully restore the sick and corrupted soul.

The gospel transforms lives
Jesus demonstrated his transforming power repeatedly in the Gospel accounts when he healed the sick and fed the hungry even as he breathed faith into their spirits. "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your pallet and walk'?, Jesus asked the doubters, as he demonstrated his power by restoring the visible body and the invisible soul of the paralytic (Mark 2:9).

One of the serious challenges we face as a Church is to believe in the power of God to reclaim and restore those who have sinned. Most of us hear our pastors declare every week, following the confession of our sins: "Believe the good news of the Gospel: in Jesus Christ we are forgiven!" But when that good news is applied to the real sins of our lives and the lives around us, we are tempted to unbelief. We waver in uncertainty that God really has the power to forgive and restore the adulterer, the teenager who is sexually active, the woman who has had an abortion, and the woman or man who has developed a slavish attachment to a homosexual lifestyle.

The great challenges of faith in the Gospel today are right here in our own Church. We have no good news to proclaim, no disciples to make, no sound teaching to offer to the world outside if we are unable first to say to those in our own pews, Jesus died to forgive and restore you.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.... And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

John 3:16-21

 

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