For God So Loved the World
John 3:16 is often one of the first verses a child memorizes. One year it was one of the most Google-searched items because football player, Tim Tebow, wore it on his eye-black, and many years before that a football fan could often be seen in the stands with a sign bearing the reference. So John 3:16 is often known beyond those in the church pews. There’s a good reason that Tebow and this fan referenced this verse, because it is often called the Gospel in a nutshell. It contains all the essentials of why Jesus came to earth, and what it takes to have eternal life. But, as with most things with which we become overly familiar, it can lose its impact if we don’t remain intentional in taking it in.
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Who is the most precious person in your life? A parent, a spouse, a child? Would you be willing to intentionally sacrifice that cherished person for the benefit of someone else? What about sacrificing your beloved one for your enemy? For that is who scripture says we were when Jesus died for us.
But despite the fact that we were enemies, the verse says that God loves us so much that He gave us His most beloved Son for our salvation. Do those words, that reality, still penetrate, still pierce your heart and mind? If not, pray God will renew the awe in our hearts, for this is the most stunning truth that heaven and earth have ever known!
Whoever believes in Him should not perish. Perish means much more than death. Perish is eternal separation form all that is good and love and true. Imagine living in that state for all eternity. Dante says perish means “abandon hope all ye who enter here,” or, as Paul says of our state apart from grace, “without hope and without God.” Perish means existing eternally in a state of hopelessness and misery. That is what we were destined for had Jesus not died to save us, and had we not believed in Christ’s effective work for us.
Sometimes those of us who are saved need to take a good hard look at what we were saved from in order to be, once again, amazed by God’s precious gift of salvation. We need to pray to be reawakened to the truth that our God is a consuming fire. We need to ask to be stirred to renewed gratitude in order to worship Him acceptably with fear and trembling (see Hebrews 12:28-29). It is far too easy to begin to take our salvation for granted. This leads to a tendency to forget what a Holy God we serve, and how awful the eternal destiny of hell is—so dreadful that God felt it was necessary to pay such a phenomenal and personal price to rescue us from it.
But God did not merely save us from hell, He saved us for eternal life. Eternal life is not merely a ticket out of hell and escape from eternal damnation, it is so much more! While this verse does not give us the entire story on the subject, a complete reading of the scripture shows us that we were saved for Him, to be His Bride and His treasure. He saved us for the purpose of being made holy. He saved us for being faithful and fruitful in this life, and for the role of being His light in the world.
Our anthem goes on to say, God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Jesus had every right to condemn us. We are all rebels to the core. It doesn’t take much time before that “innocent” little baby becomes a full blown mass of self-will and rebelliousness. No one has to teach that quality, we are born with it. Unless someone instructs us how to bridle it, it will become quite obvious on the outside that rebellion lurks on the inside. But, instead of the condemnation we so fully deserve, God holds out salvation through His mercy and grace–A salvation found in Jesus alone.
AW Tozer says, “Why did the Holy Ghost bring this proclamation and word from God that ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world’ (John 3:17)? Men and women are condemned in their own hearts because they know that if the Righteous One is coming then we ought to be sentenced. But had a greater and far more gracious purpose—He came that sinful men might be saved. The loving mission of our Lord Jesus Christ was not to condemn but to forgive and reclaim.”
This is something to celebrate, rejoice in, feel and express gratitude, and proclaim with excitement to both those who have been as blessed as we are, and those who so desperately need to know there is hope. Let our proclamation of this truth be part testimony, and part invitation.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries