Scripture Passage – John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8
Description – Third sermon in the series “Beliefs that give us faith, hope, and love.”
When I began writing today’s message I realized that I had written last week’s message using today’s topic! But when I stopped to think about it, I realized that it was ok because today I focus my thoughts on the motivation of God’s love for us within the context of our human condition.
And the question of “What Kind of A God Loves Us?” is our focus for today as we continue in the series “Beliefs that give us faith, hope, and love.”
Our main texts for us are two familiar texts: John 3:16-17 which says “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him,” and Romans 5:8 which says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
We all know that the world we live in today ain’t perfect at.all, right? And some people say it is because of greed – the right get richer and the poor get poorer. Others say it is due to the fact the educational level is low and that we need to make education more accessible so that people are better educated. And yet others say that it is due to poverty. Help people get out of poverty and life will get better.
Greed is a problem in our world and there are people and organizations that are unethical in how they do business. Education is very, very important. We need to have a good education.
And poverty? Poverty is a terrible thing not just around the world, but in our own country, and our own community as well. Getting people out of poverty is very difficult because poverty, I have learned, operates on several different levels and not just an economic one.
But what if we could banish greed? And I am not talking about the legitimate and essential pursuit of wealth to make life better for all. (I think that is possible to do.) I am talking about is a lust for money and personal wealth at all costs.
And what if everybody in the world had a good education? That would a great thing to have because a good education is very essential for us to adequately live.
And then what about eliminating poverty and helping people lead productive lives? I think that it is possible to cut deeply into poverty and thus provide people with a better way to live.
But would all of our problems disappear?
No, they would not!
The reason we would still have problems is rooted in what Jesus said about the human heart we find in Matthew 15:18-20 “…the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
To do something about greed, poverty, and education is very important. We need to stand up to greed in all its forms, work to help people out of poverty, and provide a good education to everyone as much as possible.
But we still have to face the truth about the human condition that Jesus points to – deeply flawed and deeply sinful.
And for the human condition to change does not require another government program. Our spiritual condition cannot be fixed by the government. It cannot be renovated by Wall Street. We cannot be made right only by a good education.
We are beyond all of that…
It is only by the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ alone that we can be truly changed for the better.
And our main texts for this morning reminds of this.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
Where would we be without John 3:16?
And where would we be without John 3:17?
Where would be without John 3?
Let’s spend a few moments with this chapter…
Nicodemus is a very smart and insightful person and, I think, becomes a closet follower of Christ. (Look at John 7:50 and John 19:39 to see more about this possibility) And this encounter is probably the start of his journey to faith in Christ.
But when he first comes to Jesus, he is not at all in tune with Jesus.
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
To be born again is a much deeper and profound thing. It is a spiritual thing that we cannot program nor control. We cannot manufacture a ‘born again’ experience. It happens when, the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, shows up to convict us and show us, as only He truly can, that we are in need of a deep and profound change and we choose, of our own free will to respond to Him.
And Jesus makes this clear when He says, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
True human transformation begins on the inside, deep within us. There are outward implications and changes that come with this inner change but I think that the seriousness and deepness of this change is not often fully considered.
Nicodemus does not understand this. He thinks in literal and concrete terms.
“How can this be?”
Then Jesus makes another statement that we need to take a moment with this morning: “Verily, verily I tell you, we speak of what we know, and what we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”
Jesus makes clear in this statement that what He is speaking of regarding being born-again is an experience that Nicodemus, and “those people” (notice Jesus says “you people”) need, is beyond words. For Nicodemus it is about knowledge and understanding. For Jesus it is about belief and experiencing something that cannot readily, and even adequately, be put into words.
This is what Jesus is getting at when He says “we speak of what we know, and what we testify to what we have seen” for until we have an inner awakening, a spiritual awakening, in which we truly see our personal human condition and our need of God, we have trouble understanding what has happened to someone who has had this spiritual awakening and radical (and wonderful) change of heart. We see they are changed, they are different but we are not sure why they are that way.
I think this is part of the reason the Christian faith is misunderstood in the press and always has been. To have a full understanding of the Christian faith requires us to have a truly deep and personal spiritual experience with God through Christ. Those who have not had one cannot understand what it means.
It is like the difference between being on a baseball field playing a game and sitting in the stands watching a baseball game. Probably one of the biggest memories I will have for many years to come was watching a group of boys play an unforgettable little league championship game this past summer. One team gained what seemed an insurmountable lead. But in the late innings of the ballgame saw that lead dissipate into a loss.
Some of us parents were exuberant beyond measure not to mention emotionally exhausted. But the players? They had a different experience altogether. We parents could talk “about” the game. But the players “played” the game and they knew, really knew, what it was like to win.
Jesus is trying to get the point across that to truly be ‘born again’ is a qualitatively different experience that just being born. It involves the heart and the soul, the spirit of humankind. It is something that has to be experienced to be understood. And Nicodemus still could not understand what Jesus was saying because he had yet to experience what Jesus was talking about.
But Jesus does not stop talking because He utters some words that have become central to both our understanding and our experience of Christianity today by painting a word picture that has illuminated a key belief of the Christian faith: “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
So what does this have to do with the question before us this morning? What Kind of A God Loves Us?
Very simply the kind of a God who loves us is a God for whom love is a central motivation for us to be saved from our deeply fallen ways and nature.
The kind of a God who loves us is a God for whom nothing is held back in His pursuit of our redemption from condemnation.
The kind of a God who loves us is a God that calls us, as Kyle Idleman so easily says, from being a fan to be a follower of God.
For this kind of God who loves us calls us to do two things that is at once easy to understand and yet hard to do.
Believe in and then follow Him.
Do you believe in this God who loves us?
Do you believe in what John 3:16-17 says…and means?
Are you following Jesus to the best of your ability, in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit?
If so, keep it up! Don’t give up! Keep following Christ!
It is not easy. It is costly to do so.
But it is right to do.
If you have yet to believe in, and follow, Jesus Christ, I invite you to do so today.
Let us be obedient to what God would have us do and be this day. Amen.
- Being Born Again (ssimplyme.wordpress.com)
- Are You Worshipping Jesus or Your Celebrity Pastor? (setwatchman.com)