born again
This week’s lessons are scheduled to be studied February 11-17, 2019. Even though the focus for this week is being born again, the lessons also seek to help us understand God’s love and physical nature. We will also address the concept of living water.

Day 1

John 2:1-11 – The power of Jesus Christ can change me.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

The title of today’s reading is a little premature, as it encompasses lessons learned from other parts of this week’s assignment. It will help if you read the whole three chapters for the week before studying this part of the week’s material. By seeing what else is coming up you will be able to get a more unified vision of what the manual is driving at.

Firkin

Let’s get the detailed item out of the way first. John 2:6 mentions six stone waterpots used in purification. The law of Moses said that waterpots used in the purification process could be made out of dung, earth, or stone. (Don’t even get me started on the dung option.) As one of the commentaries I read stated, the Jews were obsessed with washing. They routinely washed their hands, feet, faces, utensils and dishes, and even furniture. These waterpots were used specifically for the purpose of cleansing, so nothing but water was ever put in them.

At the marriage feast these pots were probably in a courtyard, as they would often place one pot outside each guest’s room. But the pots were large and heavy, so they may have had them in the communal courtyard to all the guests’ quarters. Each pot held 2-3 firkins of water. This is the only place in the scriptures the word firkin is used. It is difficult to accurately determine the exact measurement of what they were referring to when they chose the word firkin, but appears that the combined capacity of all six pots would hold anywhere between 100-162 of our gallons of water. That is a lot of wine for one party.

Why so much?

The wedding parties usually lasted seven days, and the family often would extend the celebration even longer. It is estimated that this much wine would easily supply up to 175 people for that length of time. But that is not the intent or real purpose of telling us about this miracle.

The Savior demonstrates in his first recorded miracle the ability to change something from what it was into something more. Without getting into a debate on whether water or wine is better, let’s look at how this miracle demonstrates his ability to transform what is into something we didn’t realize it could be.

The physical miracle takes water and adds the needed changes to make it wine. And it wasn’t just any kind of wine, but the best of wines. The governor of the feast admitted that it was the custom to serve the best wine at the beginning of the feast, but then when everyone has imbibed a significant quantity, to substitute inferior wine for the rest of the feast. He expressed his surprise that they had saved their best wine for later, instead of at the beginning of the feast. So this wine was even better than the “best” wine the bridegroom had provided for the celebration.

The spiritual lesson this miracle demonstrates for us is that the Lord is, by nature, generous to a fault (It’s just an expression; I don’t mean that literally). We plant a grain of wheat and get 100 grains in return. We don’t get a meager few drops of water to barely sustain life, but he sends down plentiful showers to soak the ground and fill the wells with enough water to provide for us year round. When the Lord blesses us he is always generous beyond our expectations.

The same lesson is true when he promises to change us to become like him. To become like God we don’t need to just change a few habits. We need a new heart. This is something we cannot accomplish on our own, it must be done by him. In exchange for our obedience and daily efforts to minister to his other children, he has promised that he will give us a new heart, a change in disposition and attitudes. This, unlike the water to wine miracle, takes place over time. It requires that we learn to live as Christ lived, and feel like Christ feels. This takes effort on our part, but the Lord magnifies our efforts and makes the changes needed to become more godly in our ways.

We have no explanation as to how Jesus was able to change water into the best wine. Neither do we have any way to explain how he is able to take our carnal dispositions and change them into more holy ones. Both of these things are miracles.

If you have read the rest of the week’s verses, can you see a connection between the miracle of the water to wine and the lessons taught by the Savior to the woman at the well?

How does the ability of Jesus to affect change in things fit with his instructions to Nicodemus that we must be born again?

Day 2

John 3:1-21 – I must be born again to enter the kingdom of God.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

The significance of baptism

Have you ever wondered why the Lord requires us to be submerged in water as our first ordinance and as the gateway ordinance to the celestial kingdom? I have. It always seemed so random to me. None of the other ordinances require such a physical response from the supplicant, so why the extreme display of submission for the very first ordinance? The following explanation is what I have come up with for an answer to my own question.

We are taught that Jesus is our exemplar, the example we are to follow in all things. So how is baptism part of his example? Baptism is a representation of Christ’s burial and resurrection (the atoning sacrifice for all of God’s children). He suffered the will of the Father in all things, died and was buried then rose from the grave in a newness of life in the resurrection. This is our example.

We cannot do exactly what Jesus did, but we approximate it in our baptism. First we believe on his name, we repent of our sins (i.e. we suffer for our sins in the act of repentance), we are buried in the water as Christ was buried in the tomb, and we rise from the water to become a new creature in Christ, as Christ was resurrected so he could be gloried by the Father. Finally, we are confirmed as members of God’s kingdom on earth and are baptized by the Spirit, the baptism of fire. This sets us on the path of obedience in our goal to obtain the celestial kingdom. This is the first of the covenants we make with God. So baptism is a personal reenactment of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

Jesus taught that as we are born of water (the amniotic fluid the baby lives in during gestation), blood (yes, birth is a bloody process), and spirit (birth is the process of a new spirit entering mortality), so too is baptism by water (baptism), blood (the blood Christ shed for us as he paid for our sins), and Spirit (the baptism of fire that begins the change of our hearts into more holy ways).

Can you see that baptism is steeped in symbolism? Look at John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The word “again” in this sentence has a footnote. The footnote tells us that the Greek word used to translate this passage also means “from above” and “anew.” Reread the sentence with one of these different possibilities.

Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Can you see a difference in the implications of this sentence with a different word choice? Jesus was not talking to Nicodemus about actually being reborn as an infant in the mortal world, but as an infant in the spiritual sense. When we are baptized we are just setting our foot upon the path to exaltation. It will be a long time before we arrive at our destination. So baptism is a new beginning, the beginning of the change from a carnal mind to a holy mind, a life filled with carnal desires to a life filled with holiness and purity. It is only the first step. As we are taught in the Book of Mormon, baptism isn’t the end of the process, but the beginning (2 Nephi 31:16-20). What we did to arrive at the point we could get baptized, we need to continue to do and endure to the end so that our final goal of eternal life can be reached. As the manual states in a quote from Joseph Smith, “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances.”

Is it possible to be truly born again without the ordinance of baptism? Why or why not?

If someone is baptized without any priesthood authority, can they truly embark on the path to exaltation?

What difference does it make in the end possibilities for a person that they be baptized by one holding the authority of God to baptize them into His kingdom?

Day 3

John 3:16-17 – Heavenly Father shows His love for me through Jesus Christ.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Today’s study contains only two verses, so I have included them here. As you probably have learned by now, a fewer number of verses doesn’t mean there is less to learn.

16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

God in verse 16 refers to God the Father. These two verses are all about our Father’s intentions. To understand the full implications of these two verses we need to recognize that the role of Jesus has changed as the various stages of his role of Redeemer unfold. In the premortal life he was the Creator of all things. In the Old Testament is he was Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, after his resurrection he was glorified and became, in the full sense the Christ, the Messiah, the Redeemer of the world, and after the millennial reign he will become our eternal judge in the final judgement. But what about during his time in mortality? His role while on earth was completely different.

While in mortality the Savior’s role was not as judge. He came to demonstrate for us God the Father’s love for us. He told us time and time again that he did only what he saw his Father do. Some have a difficult time understanding why he let off so many sinners without consequences and condemnation, knowing that he will be our judge at the last day. In mortality judgment was not his role. His role was to display to us that the great law giver of heaven, the Father, also has great love, tenderness, and mercy for His children. The responsibility of Jesus during his ministry was to show us in every way possible that our Father doesn’t condemn us, but wants to show us mercy and kindness.

Jesus showed that he understood temptation, weakness, and the failures of mankind to live up to a celestial standard. During his time on earth he openly performed miracles and acts of love and generosity to show us just how much our Father in Heaven cares for us. This demonstration culminated in his final act in mortality, the atoning sacrifice wherein Jesus paid the eternal price and penalty for all our sins and misdeeds. And why this elaborate demonstration of mercy? It was to show us that His (the Father’s) one heart’s desire was, and is, to give us all eternal life. Everything in the ministry of Jesus points to this lesson.

We are amiss in our thinking if we believe that Jesus loves us and God condemns us. Their love and mercy are one and the same. Yes, the day will come when judgment has to be passed on our performance in mortality. But until that day they both extend the arms of mercy to each and every child of God with the invitation to come unto Christ and repent and be forgiven. This is not a sentiment that is Christ’s feelings alone. He learned to be this way from his Father. Jesus’s whole life became one giant demonstration of God the Father’s love for us.

As you partake of the sacrament next Sunday, think about the relationship between the Father and the Son. How does the sacrifices of the Son demonstrate our Father’s love for you, personally?

Does this lifelong demonstration of God’s love for his children help you better understand the level of unity found in the Godhead?

Read the words to the hymn, “I Stand All Amazed.” How does perspective help you understand this hymn better?

Day 4

John 4:24 – Is God a spirit?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Today’s reading is shorter than most, because it has only one real point to make. The mistranslation of verse 24 has caused many millions to stumble in their understanding of God’s true nature, and has contributed to false doctrines that use this verse to back up such doctrines. The mistranslation is in the original Greek version, not the Greek to English translation. This tells us that the mistake was made early on. So here is the verse as translated by Joseph Smith in the Joseph Smith Translation found in the back of your scriptures, right before the maps.

For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.

As you can plainly see, the verse is not supposed to say that God is a spirit. When Jesus was speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria, he told her,

23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

That verse was followed by,

24 For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.

What do you think it means to worship God in spirit and in truth?

How does the Joseph Smith Translation teach us that God is looking for people who worship Him in spirit and in truth?

What is the promised reward for those who learn how to properly worship God?

Day 5

John 4:7-26 – Christ offers me His living water.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

The properties of water are probably as close to a celestial element as you can get in a telestial world. Water has properties that bestow life. We may be able to live for three or more weeks without food, but we cannot last more than 4-7 days without water. As a result of how precious water is to our survival, it has come to represent life itself. Here is John 4:14.

14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

I confess that I have always puzzled about this verse and what it meant. I believe I was overthinking the wording, and missing the point. It wasn’t until this time that I began to see the meaning of this verse in a new light. Feel free to let me know what you think of my interpretation in the comments below.

Every day the residents of the town would have to go to the well to refresh their supply of water. Without their water they would, of course, become very thirsty, and begin to suffer the ill effects of the lack of water. Water lubricates our joints and nourishes every cell of our bodies. It is absolutely essential for living. If we go for very long without water our body actually begins to shut down one organ after another until our whole body stops functioning, and we die.

Jesus was promising the woman at the well that the water he had to offer her would be “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” I used to think of this in terms of one sip and you are good forever. I now see that I was foolish in such an assumption. Christ’s role as the Redeemer is to deliver to us the gospel of salvation. The gospel includes all the doctrines, authority, and ordinances needed to return us safely back to the presence of our Father in Heaven. This is the water he offers, the gospel (good news) of Christ.

When we accept the gospel it becomes like our own personal well, always there, always full of spiritual sustenance, and able to exalt us. This is the living waters offered to us by Christ. The gospel refreshes our souls and heals our wounds. It brings us energy and spiritual vitality. It is the only way to gain eternal life. So when the woman was told that if she had known who she was speaking with she would have asked of him for his living water, Jesus was saying, if you knew who I was, you would have asked me to teach you the gospel, for in the gospel are the words of life.

I think I am finally one step closer to really understanding this verse.

How do the words of life, the gospel of Christ ensure we will never again thirst?

What thirst is Jesus referring to?

Are we able to offer this same living water to others? If so, how is that done?

How do we worship in spirit and in truth?

How is this true form of worship demonstrated or practiced?

Scripture Study and Family Home Evening

John 2-4

One of the blessings we can give to our children or those we love is the ability to see gospel-related principles in the world around us. In this way we teach them that all things do, indeed, testify of Christ. Can you think of examples of everyday things around us that hold eternal truths or principles? Look for attributes of an object or patterns in the world around us and try to think of how these are reflected in gospel ideas. Jesus used things like a mustard seed (its size as a seed vs. its size as a fully grown plant), a lost gold coin, lilies in the field, sparrows, harvest, the timing of the leafing of a fig tree, etc. All these things were well known objects and situations among the people of his time.

Can you each think of at least one thing, not found in the scriptures, that you can use to teach a gospel principle?

John 2:18-22

These verses refer to the temple of our bodies. Specifically it was referring to Christ’s body. He had just cleansed his Father’s house, the temple. He wanted them to treat the temple as a sacred space. The lesson for us is to first define what qualifies as or makes something sacred. We should learn to treat our home/apartment as a sacred space, and treat our relationships as sacred.

What personal behaviors in our home/apartment would make it a more sacred space?

What habits would make our home/apartment more sacred?

What practices or behaviors with our friends and loved ones would make our relationships more sacred?

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testatment 07