It’s been reduced to a cardboard sign held up at the edge of the wrestling ring or a mantra for frenzied NFL fans.
We assume everyone already knows it.
It’s a verse so well worn that it seems to have lost some of its luster.
But we still need John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Did you skim it over? If so, go back and read it again. Let it marinate. Here are four messages from this verse we still need to hear and are especially appropriate as we take time to remember and celebrate Christ’s birth tomorrow.
- God loves the world.
You know the crazy world outside your front door? The one where wars are raging, diseases are spreading, and sometimes it seems like the whole ship is sinking? God loves that world. He loves Americans and Saudi Arabians. Those in the heartland and those in the Middle East. His love is big and global. It may not always seem like it, but He’s got the whole world in His hands, and He likes it that way. The wool is not now, nor has it ever been, pulled over God’s eyes. He sees the state things are in. He loves people who are lost and do not know him in the world. He loves the sick, the broken, and the sinful.
He loved us when we were in that very state. Lost and broken. In glad rebellion against Him. His love for us didn’t begin when we surrendered our hearts to him and started to “clean up our act.” He loved when we were of the world.
When we are tempted to shake our heads in disgust, wave our fist in defiance, or bury our heads in the sand over the condition of the world around us, we need to revisit John 3:16. God loves the world. Do we?
- God gave His only son.
The original sin was rooted in the lie that God didn’t really love Adam and Eve. If He had, Satan hinted, He would not withhold good things. Satan knew that lie would cut Eve to the quick. Soon enough, she was nibbling on forbidden fruit in an attempt to ease her insecurity about God’s love.
I understand why Eve took the bait. I am very prone to questioning God’s love for me. If things don’t seem to be going right, I assume I’ve made God mad. I have a tendency to live in perpetual fear of disappointing Him. That’s why several years ago, I adopted a mantra I force myself to say often . . .
I will measure God’s love by the cross and His power by the resurrection.
Does God love me? Well, He sent His only Son to die for me. I think that screams a pretty big “yes!” Maybe your heart is like mine and needs frequent reminders of the price God paid to demonstrate His love.
- Whoever believes
John 3:16 uses a word that I often do not . . . “whoever.” It may seem like a benign word, but in the context of the gospel, I assure you, it is not.
Salvation is available to “whoever believes in Him.” It is a free gift available to everyone. It’s not just for people who look like me, think like me, and Tweet the same blog posts I do. The gospel is so much bigger than that. I need John 3:16 because I need God to give me a bigger vision of His Church and a passion for lost people who don’t fit into the paradigms I create. Do you?
- We will not perish, but have eternal life.
When we surrender our lives to Christ, we are snatched from the fire. We will not burn up. We will not be destroyed. We will spend our eternity in heaven with Him.
But sometimes heaven feels so far away.
When my life is topsy turvy . . . when the future looks bleak or boring . . . when bad news comes . . . I can grab on to the promises of God and hold on for dear life. There is hope beyond my current suffering. There is hope beyond our ruined world. There is hope beyond the sin which so easily entangles (Heb. 12:1).
We will not perish! We will have eternal life. That’s a promise I need daily.
- We need John 3:17, too.
While we are on a roll, let’s keep reading.
“For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
This passage is an antidote to our wrong thinking about God. He isn’t sitting up in heaven, waiting to zap us with a lightning bolt when we fail. Condemnation is not His specialty. Love is. He wants us to be saved from our sin. His heartfelt desire is for us to be reconciled to Him.
In a world that often sees God as either overly permissive and unconcerned by our sin or overly judgmental and harsh, we all need to hear that He did not send Jesus to condemn us but rather to save us from the sin that separates us from Him. Your neighbors need to hear that message. Your friends need to hear that message. Your co-workers need to hear that message. Will you be the one to tell them?
How have these reminders about the gospel stirred your heart to worship your God and proclaim His greatness?