A little girl once asked her grandmother, “Granny, do all fairytales begin with ‘Once Upon a Time’?”
“No darling,” said the grandmother, “There’s a whole series of them that begin ‘If elected, I promise’.”
All of us know what it is like to over promise and under deliver. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for us to believe that God sent Jesus to give us eternal life. To look at Jesus-He promised so little, but He delivered so much.
In the passage we heard from John’s Gospel, Jesus states the reason why He came into the world. Jesus recalled God’s remedy during the plague of poisonous serpents in Moses’ day-healing those who looked on the bronze serpent-to foretell His death on the cross, where He would be lifted. Anyone who looks on Him in faith receives eternal life.
We are sinners. There is no human cure for the ills of the soul. As the people who were bitten looked on the image of the serpent and were healed in Numbers 21:4-9, so may sinners look to the Saviour and be cured of the sickness of our nature. Our destiny is not determined by our actions, thoughts or intentions, but by our nature. We start out as sinners, opposed to God. Jesus didn’t come for the good, but for those hopelessly lost without Him. Our most desperate need-salvation from our sins-can only be obtained by faith in Jesus as our substitute and Saviour according to God’s plan.
The power of the Christian is in the truth; the power of Satan is in the lie. To the Satanist, power is everything, but power is only effective in the darkness. The Christian is to pursue the truth because power and authority are already inherent in him.
God loves humankind as shown by these circumstances:
- The world was exposed to God’s wrath because of sin.
- Men were in a hopeless condition.
- God gave His Son as an undeserved gift.
- God gave Jesus up to extreme suffering.
- It was for the entire world.
Verse 16 tells more about God and His plan for this world than any other verse in the Bible. God gave the most extravagant thing He could to demonstrate His love for lost humankind, summoning and sending His Son to pay the debt for sin.
For Jesus to come that the world through Him might be saved is good news-except for those who do not believe. While God loves everyone, not everyone accepts that love. When a sinner believes in Jesus, he trusts Jesus as having died in his place. Since God accepted the offering which Christ made in our place, there is no further condemnation for the sinner.
The character of a sincere Christian loves truth. They love it, seek it and follow it. They come to the light. They don’t attempt to deceive themselves of this. They are willing to know themselves and the true state of their hearts before God.
In contrast, those who reject Jesus or who have not heard the Gospel are condemned. They love the darkness of sin and hate the light of Christ. They prefer sin, false doctrines and error to the truth. The light of the Gospel condemns their conduct, and their consciences would trouble them if they were enlightened.
Coming to Christ isn’t easy for us. We want to impress each other. Why would any of us want to open up and let other Christians see the dark secrets we keep hidden away? Like Nicodemus, there is a Pharisee deep inside every one of us. Jesus knows us inside and out. He knows our pride, our stubbornness and our judgmental heart. Jesus’ call to Nicodemus goes out to each of us.
When we are following God’s principles for living, when we seek purity and righteousness, when we act and speak with integrity, the world is going to resent us for it. We can’t expect a world in darkness to understand our desire to walk in the light. Regardless of the cynicism or ridicule we face, God calls us to His standard of obedience and righteousness. We don’t have to do this work alone. The Holy Spirit will guide us through the obstacles of worldly thinking. The Bible will show us the truth when we are confronted by lies.
Let’s not think that God only does the giving and that we do all the receiving. He now expects us to do the giving too. We have the wisdom to share what Jesus did for us. We have the wisdom to share our past mistakes, consequences, guilt, burdens and forgiveness in the hope that God is revealed to the people we talk to. We need to give mercy to others who are fallible and in need of forgiveness.
A light exposes what hides in the darkness. The most fundamental reason that people reject Jesus is not because they fail to understand the Gospel, but because they do not want to change. They love the darkness of sin instead of the Light of Christ. Jesus is the true Light that gives light to everyone. We can’t expect a world in darkness to understand our desire to walk in the light. Regardless of the persecution or ridicule we face, God calls us to His standard of obedience and righteousness.
When people put off deciding about Christ-or about moving forward to a deeper level or spiritual maturity-they have not remained neutral. The failure to say “Yes” to Christ is the same as saying “No.” Why? Because we are born into this world saying “No” to God because of our sinful human nature. We remain condemned by sin until the day we say “Yes” to Christ.
From this we learn:
- Jesus is the only way to salvation
- Salvation is full and free for everyone
- Salvation is easy.
Eternal life refers not only to eternal quantity but divine quality of life. This life for believers is experienced before believers reach heaven. It is nothing less than participation in the eternal life of the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
Love is central to the very nature of God. It reaches out to everyone who is ugly and sick. God comes to everyone in love. God’s invitation is as wide as God’s heart. It is open to everyone who believes. He won’t cheapen the terms, or He would not be true to Himself. We can only accept the invitation by trust, faith and submission. The issue was sharpened by His coming. Now we have a choice to make: accept Him and spend eternity in heaven or reject Him and spend eternity in hell.
The kind of love that God has for us is the kind of love that can change the world. It’s based on communications more than feelings. If love were based on feelings, it would not have the power that it does. Love has the power to change everything. That’s the kind of love that God wants us to show to the world around us.
God offers salvation on one simple and single condition-a wholehearted faith in Jesus Christ, trusting Him alone as Lord and Saviour, resting upon Him for complete salvation, renouncing all self-trust, admitting our sinfulness, confessing our need, and crying out to Jesus to save us from our sins.
The more time we spend in God’s Word, the more our hearts and minds align with His will. Choosing to do the right thing becomes easier when we begin to understand God’s ways. Standing for the truth becomes easier when we find encouragement and strength in Scripture. But apart from God, we will quickly become involved in the world’s ways of thinking.
To walk in the truth is to walk in the light, unashamed of how we live before both God and man. When we are walking in the truth, living out God’s Word in our everyday lives, there is no need to deceive. The truth needs to make no apologies or excuses for its deeds.
When we agree with God’s accurate view of our sinfulness, that is the repentance part of trusting Him. Believing in Him means we put our full weight down on His love for us. It’s choosing to believe with our whole hearts not just that God loves, but that He truly loves us as we are, with full knowledge of our shortcomings. Beyond an intellectual agreement, we have to embrace God’s love for us as our ultimate source of forgiveness, hope, direction for living and eternal life.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1445-1446)
- Barnes, Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Fredrikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 78-86)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Dr. Ray Pritchard, “Share the Gospel? What Gospel?” Retrieved from www.keepbelieving.org
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “The Obstacles of Worldly Thinking.” Retrieved from my email@example.com
- Paul Chappell, “According to the Plan.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor Ed Young, “Commit Your Feelings to Your Commitment.” Retrieved from www.edyoung.com
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Victory Over Guilt.” Retrieved from www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/in-touch
- Dr. David Jeremiah, “Ship ahoy.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Berni Dymet, “Once Upon a Time.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Anne Graham Lotz, “The Light of the World.” Retrieved from www.angelministries.org
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Let Truth be the Light.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- “The Heart (and Mind) of the Matter.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for John 3:14-21.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Rev. Wayne Palmer, “Darkness or Light?” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Dr. David Jeremiah, “The Same as Saying, ‘No’”. Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “The Obstacles of Worldly Thinking.” Retrieved from email@example.com