Welcome. We are going to continue looking at the book of John.
Lord, we thank You for the opportunity to come before You-we ask You that technology would work- that the livestreaming would work- that those listening from home would be able to hear clearly.
Thank You, Lord, that You love us- You paid our debt! We are so grateful for that. Thank You for Your love- and we ask that You give us eyes to see Your love. In Your name we pray. Amen.
John 3: 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.
What can be said about John 3:16? It is the most recognizable verse reference in the Bible– but as we looked at last week with being born again, when something becomes ‘too familiar’– it can lose its force in our lives.
I’d like to focus on a couple of words in this famous passage, and what they mean for us.
The first word is BELIEVE- it is in there twice.
In believing, one has eternal life.
In our context- Believe is a fuzzy word – each person defines what belief means.
Here are 3 statements of belief:
1) I believe in Aliens
2) I believe the Browns will win today
3) I believe in Jesus
Those 3 words for believe should have very different meanings- but most will believe that you can ‘believe’ all 3 of these at the same time. This does not give us a true grasp or what is being said in this verse. Now Christians, knowing that belief has been such an issue for such an amount of time- just the word and what it means to people, we’ve come up with some illustrations to demonstrate what it means to believe in Christ and the gospel
I’ll use the word- TRUST
One illustration- a man pushes a wheelbarrow on a tightrope with 150 pounds of potatoes across the wire. He comes down to the crowd and asks, how many of you believe I could do that with a person- and they all raise their hands- and then he points to a person in the front row- Okay, you get in the wheelbarrow. This is used to describe FAITH or TRUST or BELIEVE.
Another illustration is that of a train- the locomotive is Fact followed by Faith Feelings- and it is trying to show that it is not just this leap in the dark, but there are facts behind what we believe.
Some use a bridge- and you have to walk across this bridge to Christ- so there must be some action to walk across the bridge, others a door- letting Christ in- and all of these are helpful in describing faith. But the important thing is not what believing is, but in WHOM you believe. And that can get lost in the illustrations.
This verse- John 3:16- tells us to believe in HIM- that is the most important thing. Who is He in whom you are believing? It is Jesus. But who is Jesus? That is what the gospel is all about- telling us who Jesus is. Without an understanding of who Jesus is we don’t understand the gospel.
Jesus is the Messiah- the king of Israel, the Son of God, God the Son, the Savior. ‘Jesus’ is Greek. Jesus Himself was not Greek- the word is Greek. If you knew Him, you most likely would have called Him Joshua- Yahweh is Salvation is what that means.
That is a lot to believe. When you are sharing with someone, you don’t go through all that, because the gospel is not a doctrinal test.
The word Gospel means ‘good news’- or good story. News done well is told as a story. The gospel is the story of God throughout history and His work in His creation.
And it is so important for us who bear the gospel and give witness to the gospel to understand that story as it gives us an appreciation for God’s love that is spoken of here in John 3:16.
The first part of the story begins before the beginning- and that speaks of God’s eternal purpose.
God’s eternal purpose- Predestination- the Triune God- Father, Son, Holy Spirit, existed for all eternity in this love relationship. God is love. That is His very nature- the one most important thing in Scripture.
He is love. His love is to be given and shared. Each of the Trinity gives and shares love. There is this eternal relationship.
Therefore, the natural thing is to give and share that love with others, outside of the circle- to give and share love in the same way it is given and shared inside that circle, outside.
He creates all thing- and in creating all things- he is giving and sharing His love with all creation.
God cares for the birds of the air- because of the giving and sharing of His love.
But there is one creature that God loves in this special and unique way. Humans. Image bearers. These are the ones who are the subject of God’s eternal plan- predestined to be in this relationship with Him. More than that, not only are we to be in relationship with Him, we are asked to partner with Him in sharing and giving His love to all of creation- from the beginning of humanity.