John 3:16 Sermon

Preached at Bergen Missionary Church by William Knelsen on October 26, 2014

Below is a transcript of the sermon, which was produced automatically using transcription software. Please forgive grammatical errors.

Last Sunday, Rob preached on the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus. And Nicodemus is a Jewish leader, a unique Jewish leader. He’s also connected with Rome. And so he actually had a lot of power back in those days. And probably he had a lot of education. So, he knew, he should have known the scriptures really, really well. And so he’s in this conversation with Jesus. And he doesn’t quite understand why Jesus is saying, “You have to be born again.”

He’s, you know, he’s thinking in terms of human effort, and thinking, this is impossible. We can’t do this, we can’t be born again. And Jesus says, You’re not getting it. This is spiritual. This isn’t a physical rebirth. This is a spiritual thing. And, and so that’s kind of where we pick up today. And I’m overlapping a little bit, but not too much. I don’t think we are.

We’re picking up where Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

How many have this verse memorized? Don’t feel bad if you don’t, it’s not a big deal. Yeah, it is a very, very familiar verse. And so that is why that and, and, and just the nature, the content of this verse. Those are the reasons I’m so intimidated by this passage. And I was reading, one commentator, he said, he had never ever preached on this verse. Because no, no preacher, if he’s honest will, will think that he can actually cover everything in this verse in one sermon. And that’s true. And I won’t attempt to do that this morning. But let me read. Let me just get a little bit of the context here.

Let’s read starting at verse 13. So this is a conversation with Nicodemus. Nicodemus says, “How can this be I don’t get it, this is impossible. How can we be reborn?” And then Jesus starts talking, and he says, “No one has ascended into heaven, except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life, 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 did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world. But in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe, is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God. And this is a judgment, the light has come into the world. And people love the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things, hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out and God.”

Let’s pray. Father, we ask for your help now to teach us what you mean by these words. You promised your Holy Spirit, you promised that he would teach us and he would help us. And so we ask for that help now. And I pray that you would guide my words, in Jesus’ name, amen.

So like I said, this is likely the most famous verse in Scripture. And if you ask someone to recite a passage from Scripture, probably they’ll recite this or the Lord’s Prayer, they kind of those are like the two options. And so, because it’s so familiar, I wanted to actually dig a little bit deeper into this verse. So then what I would normally do, and actually, I actually wrote this sermon twice this week. And so the youth who were at Bible study on Tuesday, if I don’t know if anyone is in here that was there, but I told them, I would, I would use an analogy to explain what Jesus is talking about, but I’m not actually going to use that because I completely rewrote the sermon since then.

So, because I was led in a certain way and I felt like you know, maybe I actually need to do a little more explaining normally in a sermon. I like to give the big picture, the vision, you know, what is that? What is scripture saying here? In the grand scheme of things, and not that won’t come out this morning, but I want to get into the details.

What is it, what are these words Jesus is using. For example, For God so loved the world. One person that I read said a person could preach his entire life on those words for God’s love the world and never run out of anything to say. And so, because the whole scripture is about God’s love for the world, the whole thing, so all the stories you’ve read in the Bible are about that. And then you go on to the next thing, and I could, will go on. But the entire verse sums up all of Scripture, it sums up the entire gospel, what God has been doing.

And so I’m going to focus on kind of the four sections, so you can kind of see how it’s broken up, versus For God so loved the world. And then the second is that he gave his only son. And the third is that whoever believes in Him, and then the fourth is should not perish but have eternal life. And then the fourth one, there ties into the remain remaining verses to verse 21. So that’s what we’re going to do. And I’m going to use my iPad here. I do this at youth and it works. So it should work. Now. Let’s see. Yes.

Okay. Let me back up. A little bit of Greek. I’m gonna do some Greek lesson this morning. I, I promise, I won’t do this every time I preach. I know. It’s incredibly boring to most people. But this is pretty interesting. Okay, so God so loved the world, that God is the creator of the world, we all know that. He created everything. He’s perfect. He’s perfect and righteous. He’s infinite in his power. He’s completely committed to justice. And he overflows with grace and love.

That is God. There’s much more to say about him. But those are kind of the ideas that I get out of this verse. He’s completely righteous, he is completely powerful, committed to justice, and overflows with grace and love. And this statement that God so loved the world, it’s a concise statement about what God has been demonstrating for 1000s of years, we read the stories, of him in the Israelites and, and how he rescued them and how he taught them how to live and how he gave them a system that would keep their fellowship with Him. He was gracious enough to show them how they could actually enjoy fellowship with him. But the Israelites rebelled, over and over again.

And the entire Scripture tells us of how he loved the Israelites. But this verse says not only the Israelites but the entire world. And so here’s where the Greek comes in, because this word, the top is Greek, the bottom is the transliteration. cosmos is how it’s pronounced. So it sounds familiar, right? Cause cosmos, like how are we say in English. So the cosmos is like all of the creation, all of the universe, but it’s actually used in different ways. And in Scripture. It’s used to describe the entire universe in the entire world and everything in it. But it’s also used to describe people, and not just like humanity as a whole. But the individuals that make up humanity. It’s everyone. And in particular, in this verse, John is writing and it is recording Jesus’s words. But Jesus is saying, God loved every person.

This isn’t just God loves, like the collective world. God loves every person. That’s what that word means. Here’s a couple of examples. So, john one, verse 10, he was in the world, so I’m going to use my little scenario. It’s not showing up. All right. That’s disappointing. He was in the world. It’ll show up all of a sudden I just underlined world, and the world was made through him. And yet the world did not know him. So there’s three worlds in there. So world he was in the world like the earth, the world creation was made through him, yet the world sinful people did not know him. It’s all the same word, but it’s it’s used differently. So my connection was just lost. I can continue without it. The next verses 823 john a 23. He said to them, You are from below. I am from above your of this world. You’re of this world. I am not of this world. So he’s talking about the sinful nature. You are of this sinful people, and I am not. I mean, Jesus is obviously he’s living in on Earth.

So he’s, you know of this world and in terms of where he is Physically, but he’s not of the sinful nature. That’s what he’s talking about. And so when it says, God so loved the world, don’t think of it as like, he loved his creation. He does. But he’s Jesus is saying he loved every individual sinner. Every one of us is a sinner, and God love every single one of us. This is an individual thing. And it’s, and it’s amazing.

So, God, the perfectly righteous and just and powerful creator, loved every single sinful person who ever lived. See, he could have wiped us all out at any moment. And he did with the flood. But he, he’s showed how he can express his grace and His mercy through the Israelites. And he did that again through Jesus. So if we were to reword john 316, we might say, For God so loved fallen and sinful people that he gave his only son. Next, that He gave His only Son. Now, this has this part of John 3:16 has a little bit of difficulty. How many memorize the King James version of this verse? So you might say that he gave his only begotten Son right? Now, I’m not gonna say that wrong. You can make the you can you can make the judgment for yourself. But I think when we when we focus on the beginning aspect, we’re missing what’s really being said here.

So the word that gets translated into only be gotten or one and only is this word monogamy. And, and this is really interesting. I was kind of blown away. And I explained this to Rob this week. And, and we both like we’re, whoa, this is crazy. But monogamy. It’s if you break it down, it says mano-one, geny-gene, right? It’s, he is unique. That’s what it means he’s unique. That’s what if you were to translate it exactly from Greek it would say, did I write it down here? Yeah. It would say For God so loved the world, that his son, the one of a kind. That’s what that’s what the translation is the one of a kind, that unique one. And yes, he did come from God, he’s, he’s out of the Trinity. Right. He’s, he’s a part of that he is God. But, but the point of this is that he’s unique. Yeah, he’s human. But he’s the only one like him. You see, he is the Son of God, He is God. But he’s also human, 100%, human 100% God, so there is no other like him. And this is really important that john recorded this, I’m using this word.

And I imagine Jesus used that word to describe himself, because it’s important for us to know that no one else is like him. Others tried to be like him. But no one in their nature can be like him. And to me, that is very important that God loved the world so much that he gave part of himself, it he gave himself. And that that self that he gave is different than all the rest of the humans that have ever lived.

Now, I went through those really quick because I want to spend more time on the next. The next part here that whoever believes in Him, so we have God loving the world, we have the unique son that has been given. And then here’s our part. So God has done home, like everything, he’s done everything. Here’s our part, as the only thing we need to do. And it is to believe.

So here’s the final Greek lesson for you. And then you’ll let your, your mind rests on that. So the Greek word for believe, is pesto. And then the Greek word for faith is pistis. So they’re related. But pesto is a verb. And so let’s look at that word. It’s it occurs about 100 times in John. And that’s 1/3 of the usage in the New Testament. As a lot. John likes this word. And in fact, while Jesus use it a lot most of the the usage, usage of pesto and in John is Jesus talking about people believing in him, he’s saying, believe in me. So let’s look at some of these examples.

So whoever believes in the sun has eternal life. Whoever does not obey the sun. It’s funny how believe and obey or use the same Kind of synonymous Later, we’ll get to that. Whoever does not obey the sun shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, to say more there. Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me, shall never thirst. JOHN 738, whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water, john 1125, to 26, I’m the resurrection in the life, whoever believes in me, though he died, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Do you believe this is talking to think that’s the Samaritan woman. Nevertheless, many, even even of the authorities believed in him, but fear, but for fear of the Pharisees, they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue, for the love the glory that comes from man, more than the glory that comes from God. JOHN 14, verse one, let know your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me, he puts himself at the same level as God has God. If you believe in God, believe also in Me, because we’re the same person, he’s saying. And then, truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the work that I do, and greater works than these really do, because I am going to the Father. And finally, this is kind of the summary statement of the entire gospel of john.

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. So this is the purpose. This is the purpose of this book. Believe and that’s why it’s so important to spend some time on that. john was written, so that we would believe. So this is the only requirement that Jesus gave us. He did teach, he taught, you know, a lot of things on how to live. But the only requirement for salvation is this, it’s, it’s to pisto, it’s to believe in him. And after we believe that everything changes our entire lives change. So that is the only condition. And so if we were to reword john 316, including this definition.

So let me give you the definition here, to believe so to believe in someone or some thing is to completely trust and rely. And you’ve all heard the chair analogy, if you if you trust the chair, you’ll sit on it. You know, if you don’t trust it, you may say, Well, I think that chair is fine, but I’m not going to sit on it well, you’re not really showing that you trust it very much, because you’re not sitting on it. So that’s that’s kind of what it means is you completely trust and you rely and when is a person, it’s it’s to, to rely is to believe that they are saying they actually are who they say they are, that they can do the things that they say they can do. When you completely trust someone, you’ll believe them when they say things about themselves.

So in the case of Jesus, he’s claiming to be the Son of God, and the source of eternal life. And so if we reward this here, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever puts their complete trust and reliance on him for salvation should not perish but have eternal life. And that changes things a little bit, right? Like if you word it that way. Wow. All sudden, I have to actually do something. It’s not just agree that something’s true. Because we can do that and not actually be changed. I talked about that.

Does anyone remember that corn syrup analogy. I get a lot of flack for that, by the way. I was eating some nibs the other day. And Steven barnsdale shows up and he says, Hey, can I get some of that corn syrup from you? So anyway, if you want to, I don’t think we have that recorded. So if you want to go back you never heard that one you can. But this is this is the difference between actually agreeing that something is true and believing and putting their trust in the thing that has been said. There’s a there’s an action there. pesto is a verb, it’s not a it’s it’s an action word. It’s it requires us to actually do something. Okay.

So for some of you, this might be really helpful in your end sermon could end now and you’d have enough. But for others, probably the younger, the younger folks in the crowd might need a little bit more. Because because we have a hard time just believing, or research or changing our lifestyle, just based on something that someone had has said is true.

So if I say to you, there is a bag of gold outside the door there, you need to run and get it. Like my generation will be like, really? that easy? I don’t think so. There’s no, it’s probably a trap out there something because we just we don’t just accept when someone says it’s true, which is kind of good. But our response is, well, is it going to be good for me? You know, you say it’s true, but is it good for me? Is it? Is it helpful for me? Is it going to benefit me, that’s our response. And I think this is because of mainly advertising. We are bombarded. Like, you watch a YouTube video, you get an ad, you watch TV, you get advertisements, you go drive down the road advertisement after advertisement after advertisement.

And every single person is trying to convince you that what they say is true. They’re trying to try to convince us that that we need to buy into what they’re saying. And so we need a little more help. So like, well, for example, the effective advertisers will, they’ll actually they won’t just tell you something’s true, but they will actually say, your life sucks, you have a problem, and we have the solution, we can make your life better. And Apple does this better than anyone. See, they just they came up with some new products recently. And every time they release a product, they say, this is the best product we’ve ever designed. This is you know, this is going to solve so many problems for you. The latest thing is this health system, anyone see that? And the watch. So you’re so the watch can keep track of your your pulse and, and it measures where you’re you’re going and exercising and whatnot. without you even have to having to do anything. It just does it. Pretty cool.

But it’s, I mean, we buy into these things because we see them as beneficial to our lives. And they are good at doing that. They say that if you have our products, we’re gonna solve your boredom problem. So they put like songs in your pocket, they put the internet on your phone in a way that no one else could do before. And they did these things because, well, we didn’t know that famous quote from Steve Jobs is we want to create products to solve problems that that our customers don’t even know they have.

So the first thing they do is trying to convince us so we have a problem. And then they say and here’s a solution to the problem, we would have been probably better off without them. But you know, I think they learned this from Jesus. Because Jesus says, you have a problem. He says you have a sin problem, all of you. And I am the solution to that problem. And And the thing is, most of us don’t even realize we have a problem. until Jesus shows us. That’s why I think these marketing agencies learnt this from Jesus, he he just mastered this way of of saying, you need to come to me I am the solution. And it’s true.

The difference with Jesus is he offers a real solution to a real problem. Unlike the iPhone just bought. It was the last generation so it’s Yeah, it’s 20 bucks. Just trying to justify my purchase here. So Jesus offers a real solution to a real problem. And that is a difference. He He’s the only one that can actually say, truthfully, you have a real problem. And I have a real solution. And so the problem is we have sin, and the solution is that he died for us. And he rose from the dead. And he ascended and he is now reigning over us as King. And all we need to do is believe that that’s true, and act like it. Just trust them. That’s it. But we have a problem with that, don’t we? Just like I said, you know, there’s a pot of gold out there. Well, that’s a little too simple. I can get rich, quick scheme. You know, we’ve all heard these. It’s a little too simple. We’re hesitant, you know, we’re skeptical.

And and so when Jesus says all you need to do is believe we’re we kind of well, is that really all and then we create a system we create kind of a program to guarantee our acceptance. And that’s that’s why I think we have such a resistance. When when Jesus says just believe we say It’s too simple. What’s the catch? Or like Nick edemas? How does this work? I don’t get it. See, Jesus is solution to our problem implies that we are helpless. We’re helpless to save ourselves. And we don’t like that. So like, how many of you when you’re looking in the grocery store for an item? Well, we’ll go and seek out someone who works there to find out where the product is. I don’t I hate doing that. I hate asking people for help. I did that the other day, I was looking for canned Chipotle a Chili’s. And like, where do you even have those in the grocery store?

So I’m walking along and I’m looking, you know, 10 minutes goes by still can’t find it. There’s someone right there working in the store. I could have just said, Hey, you know where these are. But I don’t like doing that I don’t like to get to help. It’s a problem I have. And we all have that problem. And one way is the pride. It’s the, you know, it’s, I can do it myself. We don’t want to wave the white flag. We don’t want to give up. But we need to, we need to waive that white flag. Even if we’ve done it before, we’ve already surrendered. We’ve already asked for help. We run into a problem. And we think, oh, man, this again, I run into this problem again, get the white flag again, ask Jesus for help. But the thing is, he’s not here just to help us we because helping implies we’re doing most of it. And then and then he kind of comes along.

It’s like on Friday, we’re doing this youth dinner and and I was doing the main course. And Ken Underwood came in and said, I’m here to help. And I said, Yeah, right, you’re here to rescue me. And he did. And he just was such a great help. But we are we’re not being helped by Jesus, we’re being saved by him. We’re being rescued by him. We there’s nothing we can do to earn anything. Now, in Matthew 28, just to make sure that we understand that obedience is actually part of it, believing is a verb.

And so Matthew 28, Jesus says that we should teach others to observe all the things that he commanded. So the assumption is he did command things. He did teach things that we should observe. It’s important to obey Him. Because without obedience, we don’t understand what he’s done for us. Right? We don’t understand that, that he has actually changed us. There’s this rebirth, you know, going back to the Nick, Nick edemas question like, how does this happen? Well, it’s a spiritual kind of awakening, it’s a it’s a rebirth, you’re completely changed. And that will reflect be reflected in how we live. See, I talked about this last month, when john the baptist says I’m unworthy to untie the sandals of Jesus. And then throughout the rest of the New Testament, we read all about living living life worthy of the gospel.

Well, when we live a life worthy of the gospel, when we obey Jesus, it’s because we want to show the glory of Christ, we want to show the glory of God. We want to show how precious The gospel is to us. That’s why we obey. We don’t obey because we want to earn something we obey, because we love Jesus. And if we’re not obeying, it’s probably because we love something else more than Jesus. We’re obeying another thing other than him. At least that’s what I find in my life. Whenever I’m being disobedient, I look back and I think I love that other thing more than Jesus. And if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and and actually treasure him, then we will obey. So, Jesus says, believe in me, trust me. Our responsibility is simply to just get to know Him and OBEY Him. That’s what that’s what we do. Let’s move on.

Number four, the final one here. So the last, I don’t have it up there. The last sentence is should not perish but have eternal life. Now, I wanted to spend way more time on this because I want to talk about eternal life. A little more, but I think, you know, my, I’ve never heard a good Hellfire and brimstone sermon, have you? So here it is. Alright Parrish, we’re going to run to do this.

So Jesus says that everyone is perishing. Everyone except for those who believe in Jesus, man, this is not like you don’t win any friends by talking like this. See parent to perish is to suffer death. That’s what it means. I don’t have any Greek word for you and that one, sorry. to perish is to suffer death. So the way Jesus worded this statement is the assumption is that everyone is perishing everyone, so unless if you believe in me, you won’t perish. In other words, if you don’t believe in me, you will perish.

And let’s look at the following verses to clarify what he what he’s saying. He says, Here, I got it up here. Because I want to underline some things here. Note verse, I was gonna read the whole thing. But let’s just go to verse 19. Here, and this is the judgment. The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because it works were evil. See, that is the judgment. That is the verdict. Jesus came, and I mean, we were disobedient before Jesus came. But he came, he’s the light. Remember, we’re familiar with this, because john has been using this language since verse four of chapter one. And Jesus is the light, he’s referring to himself the light, I’ll use the yellow because that’s kind of a light color. The light has come into the world. Jesus has come into the world. And people loved the darkness, rather than the light.

That is our main problem. That’s why we’re perishing. And I don’t know, I can’t make any judgment for any person except for myself. I can’t tell you that you need to be more obedient to Jesus. I know for myself, I struggle with being obedient to Him, and recognizing that I actually need to trust him. Because I tend to trust myself, way more than I should. I trust that I am able to do the things that only Jesus can do. And that is why I am perishing. I am perishing, and my eternal destiny is hell. Unless I trust Jesus. Now, I believe that when you say, when you recognize that you are sinful when you say, I am unworthy of Jesus, and I need him to save me if you pray, Jesus, I’m unworthy of you. And you are perfect and I am sinful. You are Holy, and I’m unholy. And I need to change my life. And you need to save me. I believe when that happens, you are saved. That’s done. But have we really done that? That’s the question. We can say those words. But have we really done that? Do we believe that that’s true?

In the book of Revelation. This is also recorded by john, same author as the gospel, john, Jesus revealed himself to john. And he gave some evaluations of the churches, seven churches. And the first church listed his emphasis in Revelation two verses one to seven. Jesus says that he commends them for their works. He says they’ve done well. they’ve endured hardships, and they’ve worked diligently. But they had one problem. They lost their first love. And he condemned them for it. He said, You need to change, you need to repent. And that’s the message this morning. And I know it is not fun. It is not a fun message. And it wasn’t fun thinking about it either. But we need to repent, I need to repent daily. I am completely confident that Jesus has saved me that I’m going to heaven, that I’ll spend eternity with Him. But it’s not enough to just believe that and agree that it’s true. Jesus says obey, he says, respond by trusting me.

So Jesus teaches us in the passage in john three, that our main problem, the reason we’re perishing is because we love other things. We love the darkness, rather than the light. That’s our main problem. And when we trust in Jesus, and start to love him more than everything else, we’ve we not only have this, this understanding that we’re saved, but we actually you can feel it. Has anyone ever felt like they’re saved like just this joy? You just can’t believe that Jesus has saved you. We talk about being in awe. We talk about I wrote it down here. We’re filled with wonder, you know, these songs are filled with wonder were filled with awe. And I asked myself, am I ever filled with awe? Or filled with wonder at Jesus? Except when I’m singing that song? Is there do I actually like wake up in the morning and think to myself, I just listen Hear in our view Jesus, I don’t, you know, that’s, I want to, and sometimes those moments common and it’s it’s really quite amazing but we want to pursue that not the feeling but just the the, the trust, the utter trust in Him and the the wonder that he actually saved us.

But we, when the light shines it says, We run says For everyone who does wicked things hates the light does not come to the light. When we do wicked things we’re ashamed. Think about the habitual sin keeps coming up over and over again. You sin, you feel ashamed. You can’t pray you can’t approach God. You can’t even approach other people, you know you did something wrong. It’s because we’re fleeing from the light. So this morning, let us embrace the light. Let us trust Jesus.

There’s way more in john 316 in this but I hope that that is what will give us life this morning. Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we know that we are perishing, except for your work on the cross, we are perishing. And so we asked for your spirit’s help to change us to transform our lives. So that we will seek you so that when the light shines in our lives, that we will embrace it, rather than run from it. And so I pray for each one here that that we will all know that we matter to you. You loved us so much each individual person you gave your son, the unique one, the one and only the only one who could save us and He died for us. And he has in invited us to believe in Him to trust him. And so I pray that each one here would do that. And that our lives would be changed because of it. We pray this these things in his name. Amen.

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