(Inspiration for this message came from Scott Bayles, Blooming Grove Christian Church – Palmyra, IL and Max Lucado)
Max Lucado released a book several years ago titled simply 3:16. The entire book focuses in on just one single verse from the Bible–John 3:16.
“A 26 word parade of hope; beginning with God, ending with life, and urging us to do the same. Brief enough to write on a napkin or memorize in a moment, yet solid enough to weather two thousand years of storms and questions.” ~Max Lucado~
Let’s set the stage for this great verse. Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews. He was a rich man and feared that there would be repercussions if he openly sought Jesus. Furtively, under the cover of darkness, he found his way to the place Jesus was staying.
“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you” (John 3:2 NLT).
Without hesitation, Jesus replies, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
We don’t know what Nicodemus was thinking, but Jesus’ thoughts are clear. He begins to expound on the idea of new birth – salvation and builds in intensity until the 16th verse.
John 3: 16 (NIV) “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.”
This one verse, encapsulates the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it relates to us. These words are considered by many to be the most beautiful and hope-filled words ever spoken by Jesus, especially the first two words…
I. HE LOVES:
“For God so loved the world…” We see it in every sunrise… every blade of grass… every fountain of water… every birth… every child’s face. God so loved the world!
There’s been an interesting cartoon series that came out a number of years ago–Veggie Tales. At the end of every episode Bob the Tomato says, “Remember kids, God made you special, and he loves you very much!” Isn’t that the message of John 3:16? God made you special and he loves very much.
II. HE GIVES:
Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Just to say, “I love you,” doesn’t really mean a whole lot. Love–agape love–is a verb. It has to be tangibly demonstrated. It has to be proven. God’s love included. The Bible says, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8 HCSB).
And although God loves and Jesus sacrifice was sufficient for the whole world, it is only efficient and effective if…
III. WE BELIEVE:
Jesus said that God, “gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish…” It sounds too simple to be true. We expect a more complicated cure, a more sophisticated salvation.
No other religion offers what Jesus promises. Judaism stresses a Judgment Day based on morality. Buddhism illuminates your life according to the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Muslims earn their way to Allah by performing the duties of the Five Pillars of Faith.
But not Christianity. Jesus calls us to do one thing: believe! Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12 NIV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)
Max Lucado, has said, “God rewards those who seek him. Not those who seek doctrine or religion or systems or creeds. Many settle for these lesser passions, but the reward goes to those who settle for nothing less than Jesus himself.”
The reward is that when we believe…
IV. WE LIVE:
“Whoever believes in him,” Jesus said, “shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Jesus said the main thing is finding eternal life – but also a life under God’s rule which is abundant and true that helps up to make the most of this life so we can be a blessing to others.
We must choose this life by believing. The other three Gospels talk little about this and emphasize repentance and taking up our cross and following Jesus. If we put this together I think we can see that believing/faith is not merely about believing certain doctrines. It is about trusting in Jesus, following Jesus. We need to change and trust Jesus, follow him, live life his way. The emphasis here is not on “you’ll perish if you don’t listen” but on God’s love and the life that is available through him. So choose life, trust and follow Jesus and you’ll find it.
He loves. He gives. We believe. We live.
It really is that simple. God loves this world, more than we’ll ever know. He gave his one and only Son so that we could live forever with him. Apart from him we die. With him we live. Choose life. Choose Jesus!
If you aren’t sure you’ve done that, you haven’t. You can do that right now, today. It only takes a few seconds to change the future of your life.