I want to be able to unpack a passage that has been used so many times and one that we may have become all too blasé about over the years we’ve been Christians. And if you are reading this and don’t feel you can say you have a relationship with the living God, you may need to pay special attention. This message has the capacity to radically change your life.
The verse in question is this:
“For God so loved the World, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
I wonder what emotions this verse stirs in you when you hear it? Does it grab your attention? Does it make you feel so humble to know that God cares this much? Well, hopefully this morning we can draw nearer to the Almighty and understand a little bit more of the love He has for us.
I don’t know about you but I’ve seen this verse on Church billboards all over the place. I’ve seen people holding up boards at sporting events emblazoned with John 3 v 16 across them. I sometimes think about whether the person holding up the board or the church literally advertising God, really think about what power is behind this short but unbelievable statement.
Well to be honest I haven’t ever really considered it until recently when God revealed to me the fact that it wasn’t just our sins that were nailed to the cross with Jesus, but it was every single person before that time and everyone who will ever live and choose to put their trust in Him. That, my friends, is merely scratching the surface of what this verse is really revealing here.
The implications of this one sentence are simply staggering!
Let’s look at it in more detail. I challenge you this morning, as I dissect this verse, don’t allow yourselves to be passive or to think that you’ve heard it all before. That’s what I used to be like and sometimes we really need a new fresh revelation about what God we are really serving.
John’s starts this verse with; “For God.”
There is no wasting time here in his language, is there? He gets straight onto it. John, I believe, is grabbing our attention to the fact that this act of amazing Grace is really about only one person here. It’s not about anything else. He’s not saying, ‘a recent survey was taken by a group of people who may or may not quite believe someone may actually do this but they think Jesus died for you.’ John is addressing the first being mentioned in the Bible. He is pointing to the fact that God is real, and therefore you need to listen up, and that this selfless act was orchestrated by the One who created all things.
And then John carries on. “So loved the World”.
Now, I don’t think we will ever begin to understand this part of the sentence. When you think of God’s love, what comes into your head?
God’s love is indescribable, incomprehensible, unfathomable. It knows no limits. It says in the scriptures that it’s beyond all measure. When we start to talk about God’s love for us, we are speaking about the kind of love that could make the Earth shake. It’s that strong.
I think that before we get into how much God loves us, though, it’s very important to see God from another angle. God is a God of love but He is also a God of anger. He cannot stand sin. He cannot stand the proud. He made us and wants us to be in a relationship with Him but in our ignorance to Him we all choose to do our own thing.
If we go back to Genesis we see that after a while, God grew so angry about what He’d created that He got His trusted servant Noah to build a massive boat to carry two of every living creature so that God to get rid of all he created. It says this in Genesis 6 v 6; “The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’
He then brought so much rain that it wiped out every living thing, except Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark. Man, that thing must have stank!
To then demonstrate His love immediately after this somewhat shocking display of anger, God creates a rainbow. He then says this: “When the rainbow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the Earth.”
God is basically saying He’s made a deal with us that He will never destroy mankind again. It’s because He loves us so much.
Then again, His love for us could be described in the same way a mother loves her children. In my opinion there is no greater love on this earth than what a mother has for her children. I believe it’s to do with the fact that she may have carried them for nine months. It maybe the fact that women are the one’s who see their child grow up at home and know his or her’s every need.
Whatever it is, this type of love is limitless. A great image of this was in the film, Passion of The Christ. It show’s exactly how I think a mother feels about her children and in the same way, how God feels about His children, us. Mary sees Jesus fall to the ground, carrying His cross, and as she runs to help Him the film goes back in time to when Jesus was young and falls over and hurts Himself. Mary runs to Him and drops everything in the process to help her Son. God did that for us!
I believe that God wants you to know this kind of love. He will catch you every time you fall. And the perfect safety net is Jesus.
This brings us onto the next part of the verse; “That He gave His only Son.”
I want you to take note of the word Gave here. Jesus has always been with God. As Jim so excellently taught us last year about the Trinity, Jesus had never been separated from His Father’s love, or that of The Holy Spirit. Jesus is God’s Son and Jesus knew what God what asking Him to do. He knew that the only way we would ever have our sins forgiven once and for all, was for Him to be offered as a ransom for us.
Jesus would also have known about crucifixion. Even the sound of the word would make most people in those times wince. In fact, the word excruciating means ‘out of crucifying’. After having His shoulders torn apart by flagellation Jesus then had to carry the cross to the place of execution. I looked up how much a typical cross would weigh and it turns out that they weighed about 21 stone. Then if that wasn’t enough, nails would then be put through His hands and then if the Roman soldiers felt He hadn’t died, they would have tried to break His legs with an iron club. Make no mistake, Jesus knew exactly what was coming to Him.
So God didn’t just lend us Jesus to help us a little and generally make us feel nice, He gave Him over to men who would seek to destroy Him by crucifying Him. This gift of Grace which none of us deserve, in other words Jesus, was given. It cost Jesus everything, God couldn’t look at Him. People still mocked Him, even as He hung on the cross. This was all for us. Totally free.
But this wasn’t all about crucifixion either. The worst part of all this is that in the act of giving us Jesus as a ransom, God would then have to allow all of our vile sin that we have or will have committed, to be heaped on Jesus, thus making Him sin for us. God’s gift to us meant that He would not even be able to look at His own Son, either. Jesus was separated from His Father for the first time.
Even David when he was writing the Psalms wrote a passage which describes this moment. In Psalm 22 David writes; “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.” And in verse 16 of the same Psalm, he says; For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
This word Gave is a big, big deal. But the verse doesn’t stop there. It ends with the best news we could ever know. The greatest love story ever told ends with the ending of all endings. Jesus rose from the grave on the third day because death couldn’t hold Him. That means through the resurrection power of Jesus we who believe in Him have also been raised into a new life. There is nothing that compares to knowing Jesus. Nothing.
Then John ends this verse by telling us of the consequence of now believing in Jesus and putting our trust in Him. He says; “That whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
I love this word Whoever! It makes me feel mightily relieved. Believe me, I used to be a nightmare. I made teacher’s lives very difficult at school, I’ve had addictions to lust and nearly a reliance on alcohol. I am not a saint guys. Far from it. But in this word ‘whoever’, I am included, hallelujah! And that means all of you. Your future generations. Past generations. We are all included in this.
And then there’s the word ‘believe’. I think this is the part most people outside of knowing God fully, struggle with the most. Looking at this whole Gospel thing from a non-Christian perspective, it’s actually really difficult to believe in something you cannot see.
God is very mysterious to people and to put your trust in something invisible is actually a huge step of faith. I can actually understand also that the concept of someone forgiving you for everything you’ve ever done maybe quite hard to take because when you feel guilty about something, you think no-one could ever understand or give you that level of grace.
A close friend of mine struggled with this part of the Gospel the most when he did the Alpha Course, which we run here. His argument was why on earth would God want to forgive me? If I am for one thing believing in God who I can’t see, it’s another thing to know that I’m then forgiven in a moment when I’ve lived my whole life on the run from the one who made me.
But this is the thing. Jesus did walk the Earth. It is historically documented. It was prophesied thousands of years before. Jesus is still making the same impact on people He did 2000 years ago. Guys, make no mistake Jesus is fully aware that we are weak and when you put your belief in Him, He makes you strong. When you say you believe in Him, you instantly become aware of His presence. He is amazing.
And if you believe in Him, another amazing transformation takes place. Instead of your life heading towards certain destruction, it then takes a completely different journey towards eternity with Him. Praise God. Remember, God GAVE us Jesus.
What do you think of when you think of the word perish? I’ve heard people use this word to describe how cold they feel; they say, ‘I’m perished’. No your not. Sometimes this word is used to describe people who have suffered terribly in human disasters, such as famine or flooding. This is probably a more accurate description.
But what I believe this word means is a life completely separated from God. Actually I don’t think anyone of us have ever experienced that, whether we believe or not. God is in every detail on this earth. He is in the very fabric of creation, He gives people wisdom on how to discover medical breakthroughs, in the Scriptures it says the stars are kept in the sky by His very word.
If we were completely separated from God for eternity, I can’t even begin to understand what that would be like. In my opinion this would describe the word ‘perish’.
So we will no longer perish but live for eternity with Him, Amen! Here, again, is a concept that is far beyond our recognition. I have spent many times trying to think what it would be like to live forever and I almost go into meltdown because the thought of it is too mind boggling.
I’ve heard people say this next phrase so many times; ‘When I die, that’s it. Just blackness and nothing else.’ Well today I want to say that this type of thinking is totally foolish. If you say you don’t believe in God then why would you still want to gamble your whole life by passing off a statement like that? It sounds to me like the people who say this are saying it in hope. They hope they are right, but what if they’re not?
If I and millions of other Christians across this and many other nations are totally wrong about God and all this turns out to be nothing and we die and there’s just blackness, then we haven’t really lost much. But if it is all real and you’ve chosen not to believe then what a loss. What kind of a gamble was that?
The message here is truly amazing. We are being invited into God’s family free of charge, and the rewards of that are eternity with Him and a life made brand new. No longer a slave to sin but total deliverance from its shackles.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that living a life with God is the easiest thing in the world. God’s requirement for us is to love Him and put Him first in everything we do. I am still learning that, even though I’ve been a Christian since I was five. But when you are living in the will of God, it’s the most amazing thing.
You feel safe. Secure. You have someone to lean on when everyone else around you fails. You can have complete peace about dying. You can know a love that you will never be separated from. Jesus is worth putting your trust in, even if you can’t see Him. With His Holy Spirit present, you can certainly feel Him.
So to close let’s read this verse again and this time really consider what it means. “For God So loved the World, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life!’” What a verse, what a Gospel and what a mighty God we serve!