August 18, 2020
John 3:16-21 (NIV)
16 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.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
So what’s the problem with John 3:16? It’s only the most succinct power packed verse in all of the Bible. The problem is not with the verse. The problem is how the verse has been presented over the past hundred years or so.
The church has tended to present John 3:16 as the finish line instead of the starting line. Believe the truth about Jesus and go to Heaven when you die. The gospel has been flattened into a series of propositional statements we are asked to agree with like a software agreement. All is bad. I’m a sinner. Jesus is the Savior. Believe in him. All is good.
The gospel is not first a truth to be accepted. The gospel is an invitation to a meet the one true and living God in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the Way who shows us the way. He is the Truth who reveals the truth to us. He is the Life who gives us life.
16 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.
If this is the starting line, how might we speak of the finish line? Thanks for asking. Serendipitously, it can be found in 1 John 3:16.
“This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us; therefore, we must lay down our lives for one another.”
The primary and most compelling way the world can know the love of God is to experience it through those who claim to love him.
If John 3:16 captures the first half of the Gospel. 1 John 3:16 shows us the agenda of the second half of the Gospel.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, therefore we must lay down our lives for others. (1 John 3:16)
Being loved and becoming love. This is the Gospel. But be clear– love is not soft, squishy, sentimentality. Love is hard, but love is the only true power and love can do impossible things.
Abba Father, thank you for your son, Jesus, through whom you revealed your love for us and in whom you show us what love is. Come Holy Spirit and empower this kind of love in us who follow him, for the sake of the world you love. In Jesus name, Amen.
1. Do you know John 3:16 by heart? are you ready to learn 1 John 3:16 by heart?
2. We readily receive the first half of the gospel. What keeps us from going the second half?
3. What do you think about this tendency to reduce the gospel to a series of propositional truths? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach?
For the Awakening,
P.S. If you’re a pastor, we have a bit of a roadmap for the months ahead that we want to share with you. Perhaps it will help with some planning in this unpredictable COVID season. Let us know here.