It’s probably not an invalid assumption to say that John 3:16 is one of the most widely known Bible verses by everyone, believer and non-believer alike.
The temptation, of course, is always to focus only on this verse which reveals His incredible love and sacrifice for us. Truly there is no greater love, nor will there ever be. One Death, One Atonement. Millions upon millions saved.
I, however, before I even press into these passages today want to open my heart, mind, and spirit to the accompanying verses around John 3:16 to see if there is a lesser-known story that holds equal significance and relevance.
So Father, come. May you be the inspiration that peels away the veil over our eyes. Draw us into Your Word as only You can.
John 3:16-21 (ESV)
For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. 18 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. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
- For God
- So loved
- the world
- he gave
- his only
- in him
- God did not send his son… to condemn
- whoever believes
- light has come… people loved darkness rather than light. Everyone who does wicked hates the light, lest he is exposed
- whoever comes to the light reveals his works have been carried out in God
- For God – This is His doing and His Story. It’s not about us (yet). How easily do I get stuck thinking our relationship is about what I want or bring to the table?
- So Loved – This is still solely His Heart and His posture towards us. And He didn’t just love, He SO LOVED. When I love, do I love with that kind of intensity?
- the world – There we are, His love reaches out to all of creation; everyone throughout all time and space. He chose whom He loves, and He chose the world. If God is our model for our own behavior, do I love everyone? Or am I more selective who I call “my neighbor”. Mark 12:31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself)
- He gave – Again, this is His choosing His actions for His desires and pleasure. He didn’t take, He gave. How do I give of myself; my time, my treasures, my talent? How often do I give?
- His only – the supreme sacrifice is to give away all that you have. To give even one is to leave yourself with none. Do I come even close to giving my last, my only? Or am I more likely to give from my excess and convenience?
- Whoever – this is an open invitation. He so loved the world that He gave His only to… Am I a “whoever” who has chosen to receive this gift? Or am I still questioning, holding back, trying to decide if God is real or trustworthy?
- Believes – once I consider myself to be a part of the “whoever club”, my call is to believe. Beliefs are ground zero for every thought, emotion and behavior we have in life. Do I truly believe?
- Believe what? Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, God Himself, and the Second Person of the Trinity. Do I believe Jesus died and rose for my salvation?
- God did not – this is important. We mostly hear what God did do, but this was so important that He wanted to make sure we didn’t misinterpret his intent. Jesus did not come to judge but to save. When I think about my standing with God, do I feel condemned for my sin-nature, failures, and weaknesses… or do I feel saved through the atoning work of His Son on the cross?
- Again, whoever believes – this is the second time God has made it very clear that it doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, or what we have done… the offer is extended to WHOEVER BELIEVES. Am I a true believer? Or maybe just a critic, fan, or curiosity seeker?
- People loved darkness rather than light. Where do I fall in this category? Do I have people in my life who know all of my darkest hearted thoughts and/or behaviors? Can I look at God in the face when being exposed to my own sin? Does shame keep me hiding, or does the Goodness of God draw me into the light of honesty and confession no matter what I say or do that I’m not proud of?
- Again, whoever does… who? Whoever… does what… comes to the light… Have I and do I regularly make the commitment to live in the light? Am I honest with myself and others?
Lord, there is no greater sacrifice than to give up “our only”. I can’t even imagine in the light of day what would drive a parent to let his son be mocked, tortured and savagely murdered for the comparatively few people who truly are receptive and grateful for the price Jesus paid. The gospel creates so much tension in the heart, to confess not hide, to surrender not fight, to love not hate, to give not take, to sacrifice not horde. Our one choice to receive salvation then frees us to then give up everything else. It seems like such a high price for us to pay when in fact it still pales in comparison to all that You have given. I’m so grateful for the places I have said yes and am equally aware of the things, the pleasures, the safety, the idols that I still cling too. Father God, thank You for Your Mercy that each day offers me the opportunity to surrender more of me to glorify more of You. May we all be continually willing to reach deeper into our own wellspring for others in response to the bottomless Wellspring You have given us.
Well, so much for not overly focusing on 3:16. Each word carries so much relevance. There is likely no greater love story than the one God has written to us. May we all be filled with gratitude and inspiration in our shared journey of redemption.
Blessings in Christ,
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.