Born of God, Part 4: God so loved the world

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Please open your bibles to John 3. We are continuing our study of Jesus interaction with Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He held a high regard for the word of God, in particular the law and the prophets of the Old Testament which were all the scriptures they had at that time.
Nicodemus studied and taught the law, so that people would know what is right, and how to be right with God.
Yet, for all his study and teaching, he still had a burning question himself. It likely stemmed from reading passages like Psalm 15, or Psalm 53:3.
Psalm 53:3 NIV
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
If there is no one that is truly good, truly righteous, how can one hope to enter God’s righteous kingdom.
Jesus knew the hearts of all men, John 2:25
John 2:25 NIV
He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
So, when Nicodemus came to him, Jesus answered the question that was in his heart.
John 3:3 NIV
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
This led to Nicodemus wondering how one could be born again, or why the need? He was born a Jew, a true descendant of Abraham. Wasn’t that what was needed?
John 3:5–6 NIV
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, 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.
Jesus expected Nicodemus to get this because it was all in the scriptures. However, Nicodemus did not.
So Jesus used a real life example to explain what he meant about needing the Spirit to work in him to give him a new life, a new heart.
John 3:14–15 NIV
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
Jesus went back to Numbers 21, when the Israelites were grumbling against the God who had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, the God who showed his power and authority, the God who made the Israelites plunder the Egyptians without raising a finger. The God who protected them from the Egyptian army with the cloud and fire. The God who parted the sea so they could walk through in safety, and brought it crashing down on their enemies. The God who provided water, and food in the wilderness. The God who appeared to them at the mountain. The God who promised to be with them, and cared for them in spite of their constant rebellion. Still they grumbled. So, the Lord sent serpents to teach them a lesson.
When the people confessed, God provided salvation. It didn’t make sense, yet simply looking at a serpent on a pole, was all it took. Believing God, and looking resulted in God healing those sinful, grumbling people.
Jesus said that in the same way, He was going to be lifted up so that anyone who believed in him would have eternal life in him.
And that brings us to where we are today. John 3:16-17.
John 3:16–17 NIV
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.

For God so loved...

What does this mean, “God so loved the world?” Is is like you would say on Valentines Day, “I love you so much!”
Interestingly, This is actually not a quantitative word. That is, it is not a word that indicates the degree to which God loved. Rather, it is a comparison word.
If I were to translate it I would likely say,

In this same way,

Why the difference? Well, so can be used a comparison. Just look back at how this same word is used here in the context. Look at John 3:8, and John 3:14.
John 3:8 NIV
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.”
John 3:14 NIV
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
‘So’ can be, and is often used to mean, ‘in this same way’, or ‘similarly’. And in the old English when the William Tyndale first translated into English, and then when the King James writers used this expression, I am sure everyone knew what they meant. However, English usage has changed, so we need to pay attention to what is really be communicated here.
Jesus was still drawing the comparison for Nicodemus. He had explained how God provided for the Israelites to live by believing his promise that all who looked at the snake would live. He had told Nicodemus that in the same way (‘even so’) the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life.
But Jesus went even a step further. A step that would have been a shock for Nicodemus.
You see, in the Serpent situation, what people were being saved? Israel.
Well, in the same way that God loved Israel, even rebellious Israel, and provided salvation for them, God loved the world!

God loved the world

What! This would have been a shock. The Pharisees looked down on the world, and looked forward to God destroying the sinners! God would love the sinners? God would love the world? This was not just for the Jews? This was not just for ‘His people’?
Some even today are like the Pharisees, and want to say that God only loves his people. They would claim that the word, ‘world’, refers only to those chosen by God. Is that the case?
Well, look up how the word is used in John. He uses it a lot. But just as a quick reference, turn to John 1:10. Or, look at John 3:19 in this passage,
John 3:19 NIV
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
The people of the world did not come to the light! Their deeds were evil.
John 9:39 NIV
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
The world includes both those who will see, and those who will become blind.
Later, in John 13 and 14, Jesus refers to the world, and his disciples, who were in the world, but no longer a part of it.
He says in John 15,
John 15:18–19 NIV
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
The world hates Jesus, and will hate believers because we do not belong to it.
The way the word world is used is for the evil, sinful world of which all people are a part. Some will see Jesus and be saved. Others will refuse to come to him to be saved. But we all start out the same. We are worldly. We are sinful.
That is what Jesus was communicating with Nicodemus.

In this same way, God loved the world!

No, God loved the world. God loved the sinful, stinking, grumbling, rebellious, idolatrous, perverted, depraved world.
And God did not just say He loved the world. This past week was Valentines. It is the custom to tell people you love them. But what if you only ever said it? What if you never actually did anything to show love? Would that be love?
God did not just say he loved us. He demonstrated it!

Therefore, God Gave

God not only said, “I love you.” He demonstrated his love.
Remember Romans 5:8?
Romans 5:8 NIV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Or as John records in another of his letters,
1 John 4:9 NIV
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
God gave to man, God acted for man, gave as sacrifice, no other religion has God sacrificing for man.
Most religions are about what one does for the god. Most religions are about what you are going to do in order to live in eternity.
Even many Christians think of their Christianity in terms of what they do for God, or how they love God.
Christianity is different! It is the only one where God is the one sacrificing! God gives the sacrifice. God provides the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!
God is the one who gives! God is the one who makes is possible for us to live.
God not only says He loves us! He demonstrates it by giving for us!
AND, it is not about how we love God. No, Christianity is… well how did John put it?
1 John 4:10 NIV
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Christianity is not about how I love God. It is about how God loves me!! It is about me remembering how he loves me and demonstrated that for me!

His one and only Son

What God gave was not something cheap. He gave what was priceless. God the Son. The Unique one. That is what this word means. The only King James, “Only begotten” confuses some people today into thinking that God the Son somehow was made by the Father. No, as John stated in the opening of this account, in the beginning was the word, the word was with God (in the beginnning), and the word was God.
What this word means is unique. It is the same word used of Isaac in Hebrews 11:17. Abraham had another son, Ishmael. But Isaac was his one and only, that is, unique son. Isaac was unique because he was the result of God’s promise.
In the same way, Jesus is the unique one. He came as a result of God’s promise. He is the priceless one that was given for us! 1 Peter 1:18-19.

In order that ALL the believing ones

Many today claim that Christianity is exclusive. No. Other religions are exclusive depending on your social status or other factors. Christianity is the only truly, all-inclusive package. It is for ALL who will believe. God wants everyone to be saved from the wrath coming because of sin.
There are not many ways to be saved. The only way is to believe in Jesus, that He is God, He died for our sins according to the scriptures, He was buried, and rose again according to the scriptures offering forgiveness and new life to all who will believe!
There is only one way to be saved, but it is equally open for all!!

Would not perish

Perish here does not mean annihilation. To Perish is to be separated from God. Separated from experiencing him in his goodness and benefits for all eternity.
Those who will perish will experience God for eternity as,
Revelation 14:10–11 NIV
they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”
This is a horrendous prospect. It is not God’s desire. God is clear in the Bible. He does not desire that any should perish.
Ezekiel 18:32 NIV
For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
Wait, is death here different than perish? Does death mean they will just come to an end?
Revelation 20:14–15 NIV
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
The lake of fire is the place where they will be tormented for their rebellion against God for eternity.
That is not what God wants! So, instead of leaving us to ourselves; instead of seeing if we could sacrifice enough to pay for our own sin, instead of waiting to see if we could be good enough to earn a place by His side (which we could never do), God gave!! God gave His Son to die in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous. He died so that everyone who believes would not perish…

But have eternal life.

Too often Christians are thinking eternal life is what happens after we die and go to be with God for all eternity. This is a lie!
Eternal life is from NOW through eternity.
Jesus defined eternal life. What is Eternal life? John 17:3
John 17:3 NIV
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Knowing God is eternal life! That is to start now for the believer. That is what our life is going to be for all eternity. But it doesn’t start when we get to heaven! It starts now.
Unfortunately, many Christians think, “I’m saved. I don’t need to worry. I don’t need to do anything. I can just get through this life and spend eternity with God.”
That is not eternal life! Eternal life is knowing God. That starts now!
If you do not want to know God now, If you do not want to take the time to read your Bible and take time talking with God in prayer each and every day now, heaven is not for you! If you don’t like getting to know Him now, why do you lie to yourself thinking you will like eternity with God?
I think we want the streets of gold and the mansion on a hilltop, but we have no desire to know God.
That is not new. God saw it, and called out those that called themselves believers in a church called Laodicea.
Revelation 3:15–18 NIV
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
God sent Jesus to pay for our sins and gain eternal life for All who are believing. That is the literal translation of ‘all who believe’. It is literally all who are believing. That is a present tense.
If we are believing in Jesus, if we are believing that He loved us so much that he suffered a horrendous, tortuous death on our behalf, if we believe He rose to give us new life to know Him and be with Him everyday, then we should spend time each day with the one who loved us, getting to know Him as we will for all eternity. That is eternal life.

What about me?

How will we apply this this week?
For God So loved the world. Look at how this word ‘so’ is used elsewhere. Read John 3:8, 14, 16; John 4:5; 5:21, 26; 7:46 (NIV: ‘the way’); 11:48 (NV: ‘like this’); 14:31 (NIV: ‘exactly what’); John 18:22 (NIV: ‘Is this the way’); John 21:1 (NIV: ‘this way’). The ‘so’ here is not quantitative, that is, how much God loved. It is a comparison. What is the comparison? In this same way that God loved… God loved also loved… (Fill in the blanks). What is the comparison? After considering the comparison, think application. Do you and I loved as God loves? How can we love as God loves?
Read John 3:16. Read Romans 5:8. Reflect on who you were before you knew Christ. Reflect on your own sin. Remember that God demonstrated his love for you by sending Jesus to die. Is love truly love if there is not a demonstration? If you only say, “I love you,” and do not act it out, is it love? Again, consider, how can we love the world as God loves?
Read John 3:16 again. Then read John 15:13; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 3:16; 4:10. Take time to thank God today for giving the sacrifice for your sin. God is the only one who acts this way. Every other religion is about men sacrificing to God. Christianity is about God’s sacrifice for us! Wow! Praise Him!
Read John 3:16. What does it mean when it says perish? What will happen to those who will not receive Jesus? What verses can you find about this? If you need help, call/email Pastor Mike. Really consider the ramifications. Ask God to give you boldness to share the hope of the good news that God sacrificed for all the world! 1 John 2:2. let us cry out, “Receive Jesus!”
Read John 3:16. What is eternal life? Read the definition Jesus gave in John 17:3. When does this start? What should we be doing now if we have eternal life?
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