“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18
These are some, if not, the best known and loved words in the entire Bible. In these three short verses we are told a great deal about God, His love, and His mercy. Also in these three verses we learn a great deal about God by what is not said.
For instance, the verses do not say that only some people get to believe and be saved but the rest of us have to work hard to prove our allegiance to God before we receive salvation. We are all saved by God’s grace through belief in the sacrifice of the Son. In fact, even our faith doesn’t save us because it is only the sensible response to God’s saving grace.
The texts don’t say that God has a special group of people that He loves more than anyone else and only they are the recipients of His love. Instead we are told that God loved “the world” and died for each and every one of us who make up this thing called humanity.
Also John goes out of his way to make sure that God is not portrayed as a tyrant raining down judgment and destruction on everyone who He doesn’t like or care for. God has not come to us through Jesus in order to condemn us, but instead to redeem us.
Notice in verse eight John tells us how we become lost and lose our relationship with God. It is simply by deciding, and it is deciding, to not allow God into our lives. If you decide you don’t want to believe in God then that is your business, but it is not God’s will for you. Since you have made a conscious decision not to have Jesus in your life then you don’t have a relationship with Him and without that relationship there is no salvation. Why is that? It is because YOU are saying, “I don’t want the gift of redemption”, it is not God saying He doesn’t want you to have it.
We all would do well to stop and contemplate John 3:16-18 two or three times a week. It would keep us on focus and remind us that God bought our redemption at a staggering price. It also reminds us that when we accept God’s love for us and manifested through the cross event we are saved people. Equally important is the knowledge that we are the recipients of the gift and don’t have to strive, work hard, believe harder, or prove our worth in order to receive salvation.
This gift was meant for all of us and the fact that countless millions of people throughout the ages have rejected the gift is a sad testimony to the indifference many have towards God.
Brennan Manning in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, asks a few simple questions about how we relate to the gospel. How we answer says a great deal about our relationship with God.
“Do you live each day in the blessed assurance that you have been saved by the unique grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? After falling flat on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of reality is not works but grace? Are you moody and melancholy because you are still striving for the perfection that comes from your own efforts and not from faith in Jesus Christ? Are you shocked and horrified when you fail? Are you really aware that you don’t have to change, grow, or be good to be loved?
Are you are as certain of the triumph of good over evil as the fermentation of dough by yeast? Though on a given day you may be more depressed than anything else, is the general orientation of your life towards peace and joy? Are you diminished by other people’s perception of you or your own definition of yourself? Do you possess that touch of folly to transcend doubt, fear, and self-hatred and accept that you are accepted?
If not, you probably belong to the brotherhood of the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out. You may feel like a charred log in a fireplace, drained of energy, and unable to light a fire in yourself. Your personal inner resources seem to be exhausted.” p. 204-05
What Manning is saying is that God loves us in spite of how we feel about God when we feel at our lowest. The love of God never depends upon our performance or abilities. We simply need to “accept that we are accepted.”
For those of us who have moved away from joy depleting and legalistic churches, these are amazingly wonderful insights into what it really means to be loved by God. Jesus died for us, “while we were yet sinners” and since we still are sinners (but forgiven sinners) His love is not based upon our capacity and ability to give love back.
You and I are loved because we are loved.
* Many people around the globe are experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death. They need our support and continuous prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet but you have to search for it