Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
Humble Hero (Desire of Ages)
Chapter 17 - Nicodemus Comes to Jesus at Night
Often people feel as if they’re not converted because they haven’t had a “Damascus road” experience. But the story of Nicodemus reminds us that conversion can be a lifelong journey.
Every generation is shaped in some way by events, leaders, music, and stories. One of the big differences for the current generation that was not an influencer on previous generations is the Internet and social media. People have always been social, but the world wide web takes communication to the speed of light and breaks down nearly every obstacle to connecting everyone in the world. But, what has social media created in the hearts and minds of its users? Are we a more real version of ourselves or are we hiding behind the screen? When Nicodemus visited Jesus, he was doing some soul searching. Using the perspective of our online platforms, it is our turn to do some soul searching.
SOCIAL MEDIA SHOWDOWN
Supplies Needed: Paper, pencils
Using paper and pencils, make a list of all the social media platforms you have ever used. Discuss what features each one offers. Make note of their capabilities such as chatting, video, sharing files, posting links, commenting, or using filters. Discuss which ones are your favorites and why. Talk about how much you use each platform. Have everyone in your group vote for their favorite social media platform. Discuss the winning platform, and why it is so fun and useful. Use the following questions to do some soul searching about your use of social media.
The Bible records the way people lived before Jesus came to Earth, while He was here, and after He returned to heaven. The lesson Jesus taught Nicodemus reveals the need for authenticity and genuine change of heart as we live the Christian life that ultimately leads us to that day when we will be taken up to heaven with Jesus. Like Nicodemus, we are on this Earth for a short time, and understanding how a person is saved for eternity is a big deal. We sometimes send conflicting messages through our online pictures, videos, and texts, but we should never be confused about how we can be saved.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Read each Bible passage, then discuss the questions. If you are still worshiping from home, consider discussing one or more of the questions on social media, in a Zoom meeting, or in a group chat with friends.
Faith or Logic
Read Hebrews 11:6 (NIV).
16And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
Read 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV).
8Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Questions are Okay with God
Read Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV).
3Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Read Acts 16:31 (NIV).
31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household”.
Read John 14:15 (NIV).
15 If you love Me, keep My commands.
Read John 14:21 (NIV).
21 Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them.”
Read John 14:23-24 (NIV).
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love Me will not obey My teaching. These words you hear are not My own; they belong to the Father who sent Me.
Read Hebrews 10:23 (NIV).
23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Read James 1:12 (NIV).
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Every human has the ability to think and feel, and we go through life using our mind and heart to learn, grow, and express ourselves. When we look at the heart and the mind, the differences in perspective and functionality make me think of our lives on-screen compared to off-screen. Authenticity is sometimes lacking in our social media interactions, or maybe that is the platform where we find our true self. Either way, God calls His followers to be genuine in our faith and actions. Life will always bring something new, and for now that is social media. Give your online life to God and He will guide you to keep it real and keep it positive.
Consider applying what you learned in this week’s lesson.
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
We have engaged through all parts of this exceptional quarter, learning and growing from Jesus’ experiences. At this point, we have seen Jesus grow up as a blessed boy, endure temptations from the devil himself, publicly declare His commitment to His Heavenly Father, handpick His disciples, perform a miracle, and call out corrupt practices in the temple. He has become a respected leader and teacher to many, and many Jews and Gentiles alike have recognized Him as the true Messiah. However, He faced strong opposition from temple leaders, more notably recognized as Pharisees and Sadducees. They hated Jesus and His work, and thought that He was speaking blasphemies and misleading the people they had brainwashed into believing lies. In reality, they were simply threatened that Jesus would come and uncover the lies that they had gotten away with telling for such a long period of time.
Enter Nicodemus. As well respected, high ranking member of the Pharisees, being seen with Jesus was never an option. Jesus could practically be considered “the enemy,” and no one wants to be caught consorting with the enemy! However, Nicodemus was different from the others. He didn’t just accept what he’d been told to be true, and he had a yearning for knowledge. When he heard Jesus speak, he heard a voice urging him to learn more about this so-called Messiah. Since he couldn’t bear to be seen speaking to Jesus in plain daylight, he chose the middle of the night to learn more. This one midnight rendezvous soon became a full-fledged midnight Bible study, that led to Nicodemus accepting the truth. As we explore Nicodemus’ interactions with the Messiah, what can we learn about searching for the truth? Let us pray that God help us feel that spark for searching out the truth.
What is one question you would love to ask Jesus?
Read John 3:1-17.
1Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
1.What is the significance of Nicodemus calling Jesus Rabbi?
a. It means teacher in Hebrew.
b. It shows that Nicodemus recognized Jesus as a knowledgeable figure with authority.
c. It was a name Nicodemus was used to being called.
d. It was a degrading name for Jesus; a slur, so to speak.
e. It meant Nicodemus submitted to Jesus’ authority as the son of God.
f. It was said in a sarcastic or mocking manner.
g. It was a sign of respect toward Jesus.
h. It did not necessarily mean he was fully convinced by Jesus’ authority.
2. What confused Nicodemus about Jesus’ first statement to him (verse 3)?
a. The literal versus symbolic meaning of rebirth.
b. He knew the right answer but did not want to say it.
c. Nicodemus was playing with Jesus.
d. He was too proud to see the obvious symbolic meaning.
e. Nicodemus was being sarcastic.
f. He was too proud to accept that he needed to be reborn.
g. He was confused about the concept of baptism.
h. Nicodemus genuinely had no clue about what Jesus was talking about.
3. In Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ query, what was he referring to? What Is the true meaning of rebirth?
b. A public declaration of your love for God.
c. The willful submission to God’s commands.
d. The difference between human birth and spiritual birth.
e. An allusion to wind.
f. The requirements to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
g. It is impossible to explain.
h. An explanation of who “The Spirit” is.
4. What was significant about Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus’ doubt (verses 10-15)?
a. He questioned the knowledge of the Jewish priests.
b. It was a way to help Nicodemus rid himself of his pride.
c. It was a way to assert his intellectual authority over Nicodemus.
d. He was making fun of Nicodemus.
e. It was a way to help Nicodemus reflect on his true reasons for doubting.
f. It was a way to give Nicodemus hope.
g. He was encouraging Nicodemus to have faith.
h. It was a way to let Nicodemus know that He was the Messiah.
5. Verses 16-17 are very well known, but what is the importance of these verses?
a. It is a promise from God specifically for Nicodemus.
b. It is a promise from God for all of us.
c. It is a sign of how much God loves us.
d. It is meant to instill fear in us.
e. It was a way to teach Nicodemus of God’s love.
f. It is hope for the future.
g. It is an explanation of God’s intentions for His people.
h. It is a way to force us to submit to God’s plan.
6. The last part of Jesus’ monologue tells us (and Nicodemus):
a. That we should not be judging others.
b. That only God is entitled to sit in judgement on people.
c. The points on which Jesus executes judgement.
d. What exactly people who are reborn experience by following Christ.
e. That we are entitled to judge those around us if we think we are holy.
f. That what the Pharisees were doing was wrong.
g. That Nicodemus needed to change his prideful ways to truly be a light to others.
h. The differences between being in light and being in darkness.
7. Nicodemus was proud of his knowledge; a trait that Pharisees all possessed. Do you find yourself acting prideful? What can you do about it?
8. What do you take away from Jesus’ words to Nicodemus? How do they apply to your personal walk with Christ?
Nicodemus’ midnight encounter with Jesus proved to be quite beneficial in answering some of his pressing questions and quelling his curiosity. However, as commendable as it was that Nicodemus took this proactive approach, it did not mean he was a perfect person. Nicodemus’ greatest flaw was his pride, and it was going to take much more than one session with the Teacher to do away with it. However, in Jesus’ response, we see the patience and care that Jesus used while teaching. He took time to reproach Nicodemus gently, while simultaneously assuring him of God’s love. That night, Nicodemus learned some valuable lessons regarding what being a Godly person actually entails. These lessons still apply to us today. As we face daily trials and wars with self, let’s remember the selfless love that God has for each and every one of us.
Nicodemus learned important lessons from his midnight talk with Christ. If you are looking for answers as well, Jesus is still willing to guide you and respond to your queries. Below you will find three application ideas that can help you set up your Bible study with the Teacher.
GROUP BIBLE STUDY
If you want to explore the Bible more deeply, invite others to study with you!
Gather a group of your friends, pick a section of the Bible that you find interesting, divide, and conquer!
While you study, make sure to ask God to enlighten you as you analyze these passages together.
There are many passages in which God declares His love for His people.
Go on a hunt through the Bible for verses in which you feel that God is declaring His love for you.
Why did you pick these?
Nicodemus’ pride prevented Him from fully understanding everything that God said. Analyze yourself; what may be preventing you from fully accepting God?
This might be a little awkward at first, but it is necessary.
Once you’ve created a list, ask God to help you put these flaws aside so that you can be reborn.
By Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin
The alarming reality of many churches today is that they have bare spots created by the youth and young adults missing from their congregation. Results from a Religious Landscape Study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2007 and 2014 show a marked decline in church attendance and those who self-identified as Christians.
Few religious leaders have taken the time or done the research to discover what churches are doing right. However, Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, Brad Griffin and the research team at Fuller Youth Institute have put together a masterful, accessible work that documents how churches of all sizes, backgrounds, and denominations are effectively connecting with the next generation and have become bright spots.
In Growing Young the authors present their findings in ways that make it easy for church leaders to act. By identifying six fundamental commitments, strategic questions and ideas for action, this book provides a guide to help churches prevent common pitfalls and will result in a congregation that will Grow Young.
Love reading? Use your reading and acting skills to bring joy to children and seniors. Create a funding page, select a few books, go live on Instagram, Facebook, or broadcast on YouTube.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Express your appreciation and encourage people on the front lines. Use your imagination to create encouraging cards for essential workers.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help feed the hungry. Give your canned food drive a twist. Build and display structures with the cans to encourage people to give.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help children transition to a new home with dignity. Purchase and decorate duffle bags for children who are placed into foster care. Place items such as towels and personal hygiene items in the bags.
Cost: $25.00 – partner with a business to defray costs
5. Appreciation Gift Bags for Essential Workers & Teachers / Hero Candy Bars Say thanks in a fun way. Make appreciation bags with food or care items for teachers, essential workers, hospital staff, first responders, etc.
Cost: Less than $5.00