Posts Tagged John 3: 16

Sacrificial Love

John 3: 16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

What does this passage mean to you? Here is what it means to me, that Yahweh loved you and me so much that He gave that which was most precious to Him so that you and I would not die, to save us from eternal destruction. He traded His perfect son for us. Not much a bargain you might say. It shows what 1 John 4: 8 says, “God is love.”

Most Christians can quote this scripture, but I would argue that few know what it says. They quote the scripture and then say the most outlandish things. We should understand from this one little verse that everything God has ever done was out of love. He is not interested in sending people to hell. Hello! He sacrificed His son so that not one person would have to perish. Think about that for a moment in the context of life. It’s not just a cute saying. It is Yahweh’s essence, His being. Everything He ever does or says is because He so loves.

Here is one of the craziest things I have ever heard. People say, “God gave me cancer.” Are you kidding me with this? People will say He gave them cancer to make them stronger or improve their lives. I don’t want to harsh you or anyone, because God is love and I must be also, BUT, that statement can only be made by someone who doesn’t know God and who does not understand John 3: 16. See how much sense this makes – God so loved you that He sacrificed His son, gave that which was most precious to Him, so that you would live and not die. Then, having saved your life, gave you cancer. Is there any rationality in that at all? I know we are well meaning but really, sometimes we just don’t think through things very well. God didn’t have to give anyone cancer. We were all dying and on the fast track to hell. His response to tragedy is compassion, not trials. He is love. Love can’t behave in a way that is inconsistent with compassion and kindness. Love doesn’t give cancer.

Think about it this way. Imagine sacrificing your child for someone. It’s really unfathomable, isn’t it but let’s just pretend for a moment. Imagine that you love someone so much that you put your only child on a cross for them. Having done so, are you then going to turn around and give that person cancer? It just doesn’t make sense.

Your Father loves you with an unquenchable, profound love. He never wants any harm for you. He even sent you guardian angels to protect you from harm. Everything He does is to help you, not hurt you. You may find meaning and purpose in trial but the Father’s intention is that you find it through love. It is because He is loving you through those tough times that you find strength. It is the love, not the trial which makes you strong and remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength. That is where Yahweh’s path leads, not unto destruction.

Let’s get our heads tuned in and our hearts turned on. When we do, we will easily make confetti out of these silly ideas. No one will be able to deceive us again. Life and love are in the Father, Son and Spirit. Don’t allow anyone to convince you otherwise!

Salvation is for Today

Luke 4: 18 – 19

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Stop for a moment today and consider this passage. This is from the book of Isaiah and it is what Jesus read in the synagogue.  His speaking of this passage marked the beginning of his public ministry. If God sent Jesus only to die on a cross bearing the sin of the world, then why this scripture? If eternal life was the only thing on God’s mind, why did Yahweh anoint Jesus to do all these other things? My point is that we have narrowed our focus as to Jesus’ purpose and in so doing have missed the greater blessing.

John 3: 16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I suppose there is no other scripture in the whole of the Bible that is more well known than this one. We make our children memorize it in Bible School, put it on bumper stickers and even billboards. It is a wonderful passage, but it is not the whole story. Jesus didn’t stand up in the synagogue and say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me so that none shall perish but instead have eternal life.” Why? Because that was not his singular purpose nor his anointing. It explains God’s love but not Jesus’ purpose. If you want to know the reason God sent Jesus you must read 1 John 3: 8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” This scripture discloses Jesus’ purpose. Let us go further, though, to see what Jesus, himself, says about his purpose in the earth. John 10: 10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life, free from the works of the devil, is the gift Jesus came to give us. Yes, eternal life is part of that package but that is the end game, not the whole thing. God made the earth for us to live in and enjoy. He gave us this planet to be our home, not heaven. He didn’t create earth as a testing ground but rather as a home. The point is, the time we spend here is not simply a waystation. Life here isn’t just passing time until we get to heaven. We are supposed to have abundant life here and now. Look again at today’s passage. Clearly that has nothing to do with heaven. Those conditions do not exist in heaven. Adam’s job was to make earth look like heaven so that we would have a heavenly home right here. Jesus prayed, “Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” (Matthew 6: 10). Earth is to reflect heaven.

Jesus came to restore our original purpose to us and to return the earth to us as our heavenly home, a home made in the image of heaven. Then God will come here and live with us. We’ve got to stop waiting to get to heaven to start fulfilling our purpose. We’ve got to stop waiting until heaven to start living, especially living in the fullness of God’s intent for us.

Redemption? Yes, it’s a big deal, but it is not the end of the story. It is the means by which God put us back on track. We could not have the abundant life Jesus came to give us until we were cleansed of the sin which stained us and our existence. Furthermore, I do not think eternal life is the evangelical message; it is not the salvation message. The word salvation means, rescue or safety, deliver, health, victory, prosperity, help, and welfare, (Strong’s 3444 & 4991). It does not only mean deliverance from sin. The savior came to give deliverance, health, victory, prosperity, help and welfare. In other words, he came to give us an abundant life right here, right now. This is why I think evangelism is important, but it also points out why our evangelistic message is presently off target. We are trying to get people into heaven while Jesus is trying to save them from their current peril and give them a great life now and forever.

Eternity is now. It began a long time ago. God has plans to get us into heaven but the good news that Jesus shared is that our freedom and victory begins now. This is not the good news we have been carrying to the world, however. God wants people to know they can be free now. Jesus came to set the captives free. Amen? The good news of the gospel is that God wants to bless you now, in this life. He wants to free people from torment and hurt. He wants to mend their hurts and restore them to good life. People need God now, not just in heaven. The message of the gospel is that God loves you now. Salvation emphatically is not, buy your ticket to heaven and then suffer until you die. That is not God. If you know God at all, you know that is not His heart.

To be clear, the evangelical message, the message that all the world needs to hear is that God wants to be your savior today. He wants to move into our lives and improve them. He longs to give us perfect peace and joy in this world, right now. Yahweh is a now God. Jesus came to give us abundant life. Abundant life is that life which in intertwined with our beloved, our Father, Yahweh. He who loves us has sent His son to restore us back to health, welfare, liberty, prosperity and joy. This is the good news of the gospel. Tell that to someone. Heaven is here and now for all who live in Christ. Now is the salvation of the gospel. Now is life and love in the Son. Jesus is here now to give you a good life. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29: 11). Tell someone the good news. Jesus has come, and he has life and healing in his hands. This is his salvation, and ours. Amen.

Billy Graham

John 3: 16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

As a fellow North Carolinian, I am blessed today to honor the Reverend Billy Graham who passed over into glory yesterday. The word “reverend” has, at its base, “revere” which describes people’s feelings about Graham and his ministry. He shared God’s love to millions of people, the list of people in heaven because of his compassion and message is quite long. I, too, made a declaration for Christ at a Billy Graham function.

He was an evangelist amongst evangelists. He preached John 3: 16 in over 400 crusades in 185 countries. He literally took the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. He was a friend and confident to presidents and people of influence around the globe. He, more than any other minister, was considered the pastor of the United States. He was personal friends with Martin Luther King and long before it was popular, conducted integrated services, having personally removed the ropes that segregated blacks from whites at his meeting. He was, and is, a man of renown.

He is also a man of humility. He never forsook his rural North Carolina roots nor was he embarrassed by his humble beginnings. He also never seemed impressed by his popularity or fame. He was impressed by the life of Jesus, his savior and it was that story he told convincingly throughout his life and ministry.

When I decided to write about Reverend Graham the verse John 3: 16 leapt to my mind but what set Reverend Graham apart in my mind is John 3: 17, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” He certainly was challenged in this stance, especially as his friend Richard Nixon admitted to misdealings in the Watergate scandal. However, he unleashed the power of John 3: 17 when speaking about Bill Clinton’s white house troubles, Graham revealed that we are not given the job to judge but rather to love.

What will be Graham’s legacy? Time will tell. However, the answer lies, at least in part, in the hearts of you and me. Can we answer the call to love without judgement? Will we live our lives to God? Can we preach John 3: 16 to people not because of what we believe they are doing wrong but because of what Jesus did right?

Each generation must be a flag bearer. The mantle has certainly passed but to whom? I believe in my heart that it has passed to you. From the one, to the many we carry forward the message of Jesus, the one who loves us enough to die for us, and of the Father, He who loves us enough to sacrifice His only begotten child, and of the Spirit who has vacated paradise to live with us. If it is true that the Reverend Billy Graham’s legacy is left to you, what would you have that legacy be?

Aromatic Imitation

Ephesians 5: 1

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ love us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We have been told that the Christian life is one of imitating Christ. The Apostle Paul told us to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11: 1). Did you ever consider being an imitator of God? Can you even wrap your head around that idea. In truth, though, to imitate Christ is to imitate God but somehow it seems easier to think about since he was a man and walked the earth. Imitating Paul puts it one step closer to us but then he tells us to imitate God, doing the things He does, thinking the way He thinks.

Children naturally mimic their parents and that is what Paul is getting at here. The first leg of the stool is that we are children of God. Paul takes that very seriously and very literally. The rest of his thoughts lean upon this premise. If we are truly the children of God, then we have His DNA and we have His heart. We are in every way tied to Him and are of Him so that we can replicate His actions and thoughts. That is a pretty huge concept.

The leading expression of being a child of God is to walk in love for God is love. Jesus, God’s first child, demonstrated the DNA of God in his love for us. He gave. John 3: 16 tells us that because God so loved the world, He gave. So, when Jesus gave all, he was imitating his father. Neither was selfish. Jesus did as he saw his father do. He put all of us before his comfort, needs or desires. Our need trumped his. That is what love does. It puts others first.

Do you see also that Jesus’ offering was fragrant? How often have you thought of the passion of Christ as fragrant? God, however, sees, smells and tastes the beautiful aroma of love. Wherever love is expressed, the scent wafts up to heaven as a fragrant aroma. When you praise God and worship Him, He not only hears your words but He tastes the delicate flavor of your love. Our praise rises to His throne room to flood His senses with joy and pleasure.

In this you see that it really isn’t that difficult to bless the Lord or to minister to Him. The expression of love fills His throne room with pleasant aromas and tickles His palate with divine flavors. As we love others the way Yahweh and Jesus love us, we color the environment with beauty and luscious aroma. It was love that created the earth and love that saved us from hell. As we imitate the Father in love, we create beauty too and when you get to heaven you will be able to fully appreciate your creation.

Custom Requires

Acts 15: 1

And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

What do you say about this teaching? Is this teaching true, accurate? How would you respond to the teachers?

This was a major point of contention in the early church and yet I believe that not one of you would buy into this ideology. Salvation is in Jesus and his sacrifice and nothing else will do. It seems to be human nature for us to try to earn the gift of salvation through some act of our own. We may even raise the standard as we apply it to others. There is something about us that requires a sacrifice or some outward demonstration of what Jesus has accomplished inside us. Notice, though, that their requirement was a requirement of custom. Our customs can kill us.

We call salvation a gift because it is free. There is nothing, emphasis on nothing, any of us can do to earn even an iota of the grace which flows to us from the cross. I have never been worthy and I never will do anything that makes me even a little bit worthy of all Jesus and the Father have done for me, EXCEPT believing in Christ. Putting our lives in his hands and in his blood is the only thing that will ever make any of us worthy of any of the blessings of our Lord.

I, for one, am happy that I never have to worry about earning anything or being worthy in any sense. It was my unworthiness that brought Jesus to the earth. I couldn’t even earn 25 seconds of blessing on my own and since that is the case, I can release all striving and anxiety and just be grateful for the unblemished lamb that God, my Father, sacrificed for me. Jesus knew we could never earn even the slightest bit of the grace our Father longed to bestow upon us so he willingly shed his blood for us. Isn’t that completely amazing? Why would he give his life for creatures that could never attain even a nanosecond’s measure of worthiness? It was because of love. God so loved that He sent His only begotten (John 3: 16) and Jesus so loved that he gave himself for us.

Still, just like the teachers from today’s verse, man’s nature is to try to put conditions and requirements on the gift from God. First, who is man that he should proclaim a condition for something God has done? Second, it is an insult to the grace of God to suggest there is anything we need to do to obtain salvation. If God and Jesus were unable to accomplish salvation, what can a human do? How can we add anything to the blessing of salvation? And if it is a gift, why should we have to do anything? If I give you a present and then make you perform for it, it wasn’t free and it wasn’t a gift.

I find it personally offensive for someone to suggest that there is anything we could or should do to affect salvation in our lives other than to receive it with gladness. Paul and Barnabas were equally incensed. They understood that freedom is free to us though it cost Yahweh and Jesus a great deal. As long as we have to perform for salvation, then we will always have a hand in saving ourselves. The effect is that to some degree, even if it is a small amount, we retain lordship of our lives. That is one of the reasons God is the complete author of salvation, so that we will be free from having to be lords of our lives. We can only be free when we completely release those responsibilities to Him. So rejoice! Your Father did all that needed doing for you to receive salvation. There is no more striving, no more earning. Just relax and accept the gift of the Lord.

Saved from Wrath

1 Thessalonians 5: 9

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It surprises me that there is still confusion over God’s feelings towards us. Even people who have John 3: 16 memorized still talk about God’s wrath and about how He is going to pour out His wrath upon us. Well, this verse would seem to lay aside that perspective in favor of a God who loves us and intended to save us, even to save us from Wrath.

God is love (1 John 4: 8) and everything He does is from the vantage of love. Our crimes demanded punishment but because He wanted to spare us from our just due, He sent Jesus to take all of the punishment, all of the wrath upon himself. We have been pardoned. The jail cell doors are thrown open wide. We are free. We are excused from the prison cell and invited into the throne room. God saved us from the sentence levied against us by condemning Jesus. Therefore, we are no longer destined to or for wrath but rather our destinies are salvation, love, hope and peace through the grace of our Father and the triumph of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Love is in the house. Love demands kindness, not wrath. Love demands gentleness. Let’s get a revelation of our Father. He is gentle and kind, not angry. Any anger He had, He poured out on Jesus. Sometimes I think we do “Him” a disfavor by attributing the male pronoun to Him because the Bible reveals that He is male and female. Were we able to comprehend Him in His fullness, I think it would be easier for us to attribute His nurturing nature to His every thought and gesture. He is the strong warrior who protects us from the storm but He is every bit the tender soul who cuddles us in warmth and affection. He is the most emotionally expressive person you will ever meet. In fact, He is so effusive with His declarations of love that He will embarrass you.

You were not destined to endure anger or wrath. You were and are destined for greatness in Christ Jesus through the love and salvation bought for you at the cross and in truth, at the dawn of time. You are destined to sit on your heavenly parent’s knee and receive comfort and the outpouring of incomprehensible love. Receive love and abandon fear of wrath. Receive the fullness of Salvation.

Good God!

Isaiah 63: 7

I shall make mention of the lovingkindness of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the multitude of His lovingkindness.

I am involved with a group of believers who are exploring God’s goodness through the revelations of Bill Johnson as shared in his book, God is Good. This prompted a conversation with a minister friend. Together we agree that if our ministries can lead people to the understanding that God is good, then we will have been successful. As you attempt to communicate God’s goodness, you find that words fail. Just look at Isaiah’s paragraph above. How many ways and how many times does he have to say God is good for us to get it? It seems like Isaiah just can’t say it well enough or big enough to suit himself. He uses the words: lovingkindness, great goodness, compassion and the multitude of His lovingkindness. Can you see how he struggles to convey the great kindness and love of God? Why is this so difficult to convey and to receive?

I remember as a small child we used to say a very simple prayer and believe it, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food.” God is great! God is good! You know, some adult had to teach us that prayer. Do you think the adult believed the words? Why do so few adults, particularly Christian adults believe these words now? Weren’t we taught that God is good? How is there even space in the Christian world for Bill Johnson to write a book on God’s goodness? Shouldn’t we all be so steeped in this very basic principle as to make his book unnecessary? I wish! By the way, it is a good book and I am enjoying it. I just don’t like that there is any revelation here for any of us.

How is this hard? God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son . . . (John 3: 16). We sure can quote this verse and make signs and placards bearing its words but miss its message. If your personal theology has no other linchpin that this one, let it be that God loves you. Grasp with your heart, mind and soul that He is all good all of the time. He only has good plans in mind for you. Well, now I sound like Isaiah. There are not words enough to satisfy the communication of His great goodness. Maybe it’s best if I defer to the Apostle John who said it best, “God is love” (1 John 4: 8)

Page 1 of 3123