Posts Tagged John 3: 16

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Matthew 5: 44 – 45            NET

But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

You’ve heard that you are to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and that is a good focus of this passage, but I particularly like verse 45 for two reasons. First, it tells us the reason for the mandate to pray and love, which is that we might be like our Father. Secondly, it teaches us the difference between love and judgment, loudly revealing our Father as one who loves.

After we get saved and Jesus begins to clean us up, it is easy for us to want to separate ourselves from the unrighteousness people and actions we see in the world. Unfortunately, we begin to judge those people and we separate the world in to we and they. This, our Father does not do. He loves the whole world, so much, in fact, that he gave His only begotten son so that NONE should perish (John 3: 16). Speaking of John 3: 16, do you know what the very next verse says? “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” By the way, those were words spoken by Jesus. God sacrificed His only son so that through his sacrifice, the world might be saved, not condemned.

God sent His blessing into this world and it will work for whomever will work according to the way Yahweh engineered it. Sometimes, the unsaved are better believers than we are and thus, succeed to a greater extent than we. This ought not be, but it is. We are too busy fussing at each other and judging other Christians and the unsaved that we fill our churches, and our own souls with doubt and unbelief.

God put spiritual and physical laws into the earth. Gravity is a great example of one of these laws. Gravity works the same on the wicked as on the righteous, doesn’t it? God sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He is constantly pouring out His best to anyone who will accept Him. He has also created laws which exist in the spirit realm. They too work for whoever applies them. He told us that whatever we believe, we can have (Mark 11: 23 – 24). He has told us to use our words to create our dreams and even that the power of life is in our tongues (Proverb 18: 21). Yet I find we are still running around spewing all kinds of garbage and unbelief from our mouths. Meanwhile, others are using God’s success system to great effect and they never give Him the credit. We are too worried about criticizing anyone who succeeds and making sure our pastors never have too nice a car to ever live in God’s overflow. We are afraid of being criticized ourselves. That is one of the reasons why so many Christians are so carnal. They look at the church and don’t want any part of it. They want Christ but they find the lifestyle of the heathen more attractive and they find more love outside the church than in it.

I don’t like it and I bet you don’t either. We’ve got to begin to take this gospel seriously. We need to buckle down and become students of the Word and believers. Then we need to do what the Word tells us. We need to commune with God and listen to His voice. We need to let the Holy Spirit guide us without getting all weird about it. Just quiet yourself down and listen to him.

None of us wants to be a part of this mealy mouth Christianity. None of us wants to see the unsaved surpassing God’s people using God’s own system. We are supposed to succeed and then give God the glory. And, we’ve got to stop judging one another and “those other guys.” Jesus said he didn’t come to judge the world so what makes us think we should. God sends the rain on both our crops, so He isn’t judging. He isn’t withholding His blessing. Our judgments are killing us while those we criticize are experiencing faith healing, financial prosperity and loving relationships. It is time we got over ourselves and seriously begin imitating our Father and learning His ways. Love is our mandate. Turn in your judge’s robe for a coat of compassion. Let love and acceptance color the way you think of all people, yes ALL, even those unsaved because God has not separated us into we and them. He is sending His truth to everyone who will listen. He is sending the nourishing rain to whomever will receive. Be blessed in the name and power of Jesus and live this gospel to the full. Receive God’s blessing and share that blessing with others. Let it overflow onto others, the good and the bad.

Salvation Cometh

Psalm 34: 22

None of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Psalm 34 is one of the truly great psalms of David and in running a search, I find I have written on it several times, especially verse 10. I have never, however, written on verse 22 before. As I read Psalm 34, I found so many great messages and fabulous verses but what of this lonely verse here at the end of this great psalm? Does it have anything to say to you today? Here is what I heard as I read.

Our God is all about rescue and salvation. You have only to read the rest of the psalm to realize that. We talk a lot about John 3: 16 but I don’t think we understand it. I don’t think it has ever penetrated the fibrous matter of our hearts to lodge itself in the tender nucleus where love resides. God so loves every single person on this planet that He allowed His son, His dear and precious child, to be mutilated, beaten and ultimately killed so that not one of us should perish. He sacrificed His beautiful, perfect child so that all the wretched people of this planet could escape that which was due each of us, eternal torment in hell. This is no small thing. It is a lynchpin of Christianity. Ultimately, though, the act of giving the sacrificial, unblemished lamb is not the most important aspect of Christianity. It is merely an obvious outcome when we finally come to understand 1 John 4: 8, “God is love.” You see, when you understand 1 John 4: 8 then John 3: 16 becomes a necessary consequence of who God is. It had to be this way. It’s not a decision. Because God is love, He really had very little choice. He is compelled to rescue those whom He loves. All that is required is that we call upon Him. He cannot, and will not, violate free will. He gave away the power of choice but when you realize that He is moved by compassion you further understand that everything He does is driven by love and love requires Him to rescue you, even from yourself.

This verse from today’s psalm or 1 John 4: 8 is the ultimate salvation scripture. To my way of thinking it is better than John 3: 16. It is because God is love that He sent His beloved. It is God’s driving passion that everyone should enter heaven and live out eternity with Him. He has plans upon plans for getting people into eternal blessing. Jeremiah 29: 11 tells us that God has good plans for us, plans for our well-being, not our destruction, plans for a future and for hope. He has a plan in place to save us from calamity. That is our Father.

People have a very skewed sense of salvation and condemnation. What’s worse, the church even, or especially, has confused Him as the God of condemnation, the God of damnation. That couldn’t be anymore wrong. How hard is it to understand that He is love? When He poured Himself out into the earth, love entered in and love acts a certain way. It saves and nurtures. It is neither vindictive nor critical. God knew what He was getting when He chose us. He isn’t crazy or stupid. He has always had a plan for our ultimate happiness.

So, if you are worried about someone who died without you knowing whether they made a declaration for Christ or not, worry no longer. God has plans to get us into heaven. I am not saying there aren’t wicked people who will choose hell rather than redemption. Unfortunately, there will be some who burn but when doubting those Thomas’ and miscreants see Jesus face to face, they will fall in love with him just like you did. What happened to Thomas once he saw Jesus? He believed, didn’t he? So, fear not. Trust love to find a way. Trust love to rescue us out of the most dire circumstance, even our own doubt and unbelief. Trust God who is your true parent, the lover of your soul.

No More Pain

Psalm 30: 1, 5               God’s Word

Verses 7 – 8, 10 – 11    Passion Translation

I will honor you highly, O Lord, because you have pulled me out of the pit. Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. I was panic-stricken and became depressed. Still I cried out to you, Lord God. I shouted out for mercy. So hear me now, Lord; show me your famous mercy. O God, be my Savior and rescue me! Then he broke through and transformed all my wailing into a whirling dance of ecstatic praise! He has torn the veil and lifted from me the sad heaviness of mourning. He wrapped me in the glory garments of gladness.

This psalm is full of praise, but it also reveals the intense mourning and emotional torment that David endured. One side of the coin may be praise but often the other side is tumultuous challenge and seemingly insurmountable problems. Reading it immediately made me think of all the hurting people in the world, people who are depressed and even suicidal and my heart, like yours, grieves for these people. I want to say, “Fear not, joy comes in the morning.” The NASB version of verse 5 says that a shout of joy comes in the morning. That’s big. Though the night may be spent in tears, there is hope, there is salvation and the situation will improve.

We sometimes limit Jesus’ scope of salvation to deliverance from sin and hell. Salvation means so much more to Jesus than simply eternal life with him. He is our savior in every single situation in this life. When you comprehend the richness of salvation and eternal life you understand that you are living your eternal life now. It isn’t that we will die and be reborn to eternal life. You are there now, we all are. So, this salvation of which David writes is the deliverance from grief, the release from mourning. It is the hope of a new day, a day which is full of promise and even resurrection. Each day is so new that it truly is a beginning and one thing we know about life, things constantly change. Life is not static. Therefore, though there are huge problems now, ultimately things will alter. For every problem, there is a solution. For every grief there is joy. That seems impossible when one is overwhelmed by grief, but it really is true. David could tell you it’s true and many other people as well.

Why did Jesus tell us to go and share the good news of the gospel? I believe the core of that answer is so that he could save people from the hopelessness of their present situations. We know that God gave his only son so that none should perish but rather that all should pertain to eternal life in paradise with Him (John 3: 16). God took care of eternal life. He has already done what needed doing in order to save us all from eternal damnation. God did that. It was His job. Now, we have a job to do. Jesus told us to go into all the world and share the good news of the gospel. To me that means sharing a lot more than one verse. Sure, tell all people about John 3: 16 and how the Father sacrificed His son and sent him to hell so that we would be spared. Just don’t stop there. Jesus said of himself that he came into the earth to give us life and that more abundantly (John 10: 10). He came to give us a full life, to save us from the train wreck that many of us have made of our lives here on earth. What I am trying to get you to see is that salvation and the good news of the gospel is so much bigger than a singular event, extraordinary though it is.

Jesus wants to save us in our frustrations, from our anger, he wants to heal the emotional scars we carry around, save us from our deepest depression and restore us to joy. Jesus is the joy of the earth. You cannot be in him and with him and depressed. He is glory itself. He is the lifter of our heads. That is good news. He is the lover of our souls. He lifts us even when it feels like the sun won’t rise in the morning. There is no problem which he cannot overcome.

I think our job is to go out and tell people the good news about God and Jesus and how much they love us so that they will not face hopelessness and so they will know they are never alone. Everyone needs to be loved by a love that is so sublime that it is breath to our lungs and health to all our bodies. Jesus is life, there is no life without him (John 14: 6). He has given a piece of himself to every human being so that they might have love, life, and hope. If we will go into the world and simply tell them the good news about a benevolent being who loves them and is powerful enough to save them from whatever torment they encounter, then I pray and believe there will be no suicide in the earth. We have the antidote for depression. God loves us, each and every one. He gave His only son as a sacrificial lamb. That has to stand for something. He didn’t do that because He is ambivalent towards us. Furthermore, He did that for a people who did not know Him, who did not love Him.

Please, send this to anyone you know who needs to hear the good news about being devoutly loved. Share the love and joy of the Holy One, not just so you can get them into heaven, but so they can have some relief right here and right now. There is no reason people have to suffer. Jesus is their saving grace for today, for tonight, for the dark times and the dark places. He is the light, the light of hope. And, say a prayer for everyone who is hurting. Ask the Lord of grace to shine his light more brightly through each one of us so that all, and I do mean all, may know there is a God and that He loves them immensely.

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.