About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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John 3:16 Revisited

 

Much of the western world lives in a culture that is pre-occupied with self gratification.  This self-centeredness drives our economy, politics, and society.  It also drives a large segment of what is called church these days.  It motivates the Prosperity Movement, the Seeker Movement, church commerce, and our gatherings that gratify us instead of the Lord.  It encourages us to think in terms of what we can get from the Lord instead of what can we give to Him.     

 

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life".  I wonder if our predisposition to self causes us to miss all aspects of John 3;16.  Some Evangelicals use this verse in the promotion of what I call a "gospel of getting" get saved, get forgiven, get healed, get, get, get.  Is this what John 3:16 is all about?       

 

John 3:16 verse does say that God "gave" His Son, which clearly means we "get" His Son.  There's no argument there.  As important as receiving Jesus is, there's more to John 3:16 that needs to be addressed.       

 

Right off the bat, the words "God's Son" tells us that Jesus' genetic makeup is divine, something that was socially, politically and religiously incorrect back then and still is today.  The followers of Jesus suffered greatly for this.  Today we're considered a bit wacky for thinking God has a Son.  The degree to which we begin to understand the divine nature of Jesus will be the degree to which we will begin to appreciate His love as seen in John 3:16.     

 

The text says, "for God so loved the world".  What is often overlooked is that God's love has boundaries.  He demonstrates His love within the framework of truth and justice.  John, who wrote John 3:16, also wrote 1 John 3:18.  There he states that real love is demonstrated by our actions and in the framework of truth.  In a worldly sense, truth varies from person to person, but in a Biblical sense, truth is a fixed constant decided upon by God, and His truth forms the basis of Biblical justice.  In sending His Son, God the Father put feet to His words of love, but His feet did not overstep the boundaries of His perception of truth and justice.              

 

Truth and justice is seen in John 3:19 when Jesus says, "this is the verdict "  The word "verdict" is a legal word, associated with truth and justice.  God the Father has pronounced His verdict on humanity which is seen in John 3:18 and 21.  His verdict states that we are all "condemned" because our "deeds are evil".  Our deeds are evil because at the core of who we are is evil. (Jeremiah 30:7)  This truth is what God basis His verdict on.  The degree to which we understand this is the degree to which we will begin to appreciate the love of God as seen in John 3:16.

 

God's verdict demands justice.  Justice demands a penalty, and in this case the penalty is eternal death.  I see eternal death in the Lake of Fire as a tormented place where one is always in the process of dying without actually being able to die, although desperately wanting to die.  What a horrific state of misery.  To the degree that we can begin to understand God's verdict of death that is due us is the degree to which we can begin to appreciate the love of God as seen in John 3:16. 

 

The love of God is demonstrated in the framework of truth and justice.  Any attempt to show love outside this framework is not Biblical love.  That's why our modern day concept of tolerance isn't Biblical.  God is not capable of loving outside the boundaries of His perception of truth and justice.  For this reason, God's love and justice met at the cross of Christ.  Jesus stood in our place in the heavenly courtroom as the verdict was read.  The condemnation and sentence of death legally due us was Jesus' fate.  The degree to which we can begin to understand this will be the degree to which we can begin to appreciate the love of God as seen in John 3:16.  

 

The idea that both justice and love met together on the cross of Christ is fundamental.  God showed His love to the world in terms of justice, not tolerance.  Justice demanded our execution.  His love was demonstrated in the fact that Jesus was executed in our place.  In one eternally significant action, justice was upheld, and love was demonstrated.  The degree to which we can begin to understand this will be the degree to which we will begin to appreciate the love of God as seen in John 3:16.    

 

On the surface, we may think John 3:16 is all about love and receiving eternal life, but there's obviously more to the verse than that.  The words "whosoever believes" proves this to be so.  Biblical "believing" is not giving mental ascent to the existence of Jesus.  Biblical believing is handing our lives over to Jesus.  At that point, and only at that point, do we receive "eternal life".  So, what we get from Jesus is determined by what we give to Him, and that's not salvation by good works.  When we give anything to Jesus, we trust Him to care for what we give Him.  That trust is faith, not works.  The degree to which we understand this will be the degree to which we can begin to appreciate the love of God as seen in John 3:16.

 

In light of all this, do we really appreciate the love of God?  I think many Evangelicals have become soft on God's love being demonstrated in the framework of truth and justice.  We've gotten soft on preaching that we are all miserable sinners in desperate need of a Saviour.  We've gone soft on repenting of our sins.  We've gone soft on the reality of the Lake of Fire .  We've gone soft on what true Biblical faith is.  This is why I say, "the degree to which we begin to understand all the implications of John 3:16 will be the degree to which we will begin to appreciate the love of God as seen in John 3:16. 

 

 

 

 

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