I’ve had a few different Scriptures hit me like a ton or bricks over the past few days. The one I’d like to talk about today, everyone seems to know the first part: “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.”. But did you know that there is much more to that whole statement?
“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. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, That the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hate the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. Bu the who practices the truth come to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” –John 3:16-21, NASB
The quoting of John 3:16 is a good practice, but I feel that it’s changing the point of the entire passage. When I read that one verse, I get the message “Yay! God loves me”. Now this is a great message and is completely true, but in light of the following verses I’m not convinced it’s the entire message Jesus is conveying. We see that, as humans, our natural tendencies are towards evil actions (thanks a lot sin nature). Because of this, God has no reason to love me. He should despise me because of what we have done to His Creation. Have you ever spent a ton of time and energy into making something, let’s say a cake? You’re really happy with what you have done, but then the dog sees it and runs towards it. Before you can stop him, he’s destroyed the cake. How upset would you be? I’m sure God’s feelings are similar, saying that the people He created to care for Creation were the one’s ultimately to blame for it’s humiliation.
But God doesn’t hold it against us. He loves you and me in spite of ourselves. We deserve His wrath, but rather we get His grace! We simply have to believe in His son, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was saying in this section from John that we are only judged by whether we believe in Him, or not. Seems pretty simple. It was also a radical idea at the time, and it seems that it’s still pretty counter-cultural today. There is no series of steps to get grace, there is not rituals or prayers you have to say. All you have to do is believe. Believe in the one Son of God. Believe that He has come to save us from ourselves, and to take the punishment of our sin. Believe that God has made all things right between us and Him. All we have to do is believe!
As we go into the new year, I encourage you to take a look at your beliefs. Do you believe in all those things that God has done for you? If not, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and reading Scripture. Did you know that there is a prayer in the Bible written for unbelief. In Mark 9, a man asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus’ replay is that all things are possible if you believe. The man then prayed, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NLT). Jesus then healed the man’s son. This shows me that even if we don’t believe, God hears our prayers. But we have to be earnestly seeking Him and wanting to overcome our unbelieving hearts, if we expect God to do anything. The lesson here? Prayer works friends, even if you have problems believing it does.