Jan 17 2021 - John 3 - The Story of the Bible
17th January 2021
Welcome. We are going to continue looking at the book of John.
Lord, we thank You for the opportunity to come before You – we ask You that technology would work – that the livestreaming would work – that those listening from home would be able to hear clearly.
Thank You, Lord, that You love us – You paid our debt! We are so grateful for that. Thank You for Your love – and we ask that You give us eyes to see Your love. In Your name we pray. Amen.
John 3: 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him." 16 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.
What can be said about John 3:16? It is the most recognizable verse reference in the Bible – but as we looked at last week with being born again, when something becomes ‘too familiar’ – it can lose its force in our lives.
I’d like to focus on a couple of words in this famous passage, and what they mean for us.
The first word is BELIEVE – it is in there twice.
In believing, one has eternal life.
In our context – Believe is a fuzzy word - each person defines what belief means.
Here are 3 statements of belief:
1) I believe in Aliens
2) I believe the Browns will win today
3) I believe in Jesus
Those 3 words for believe should have very different meanings – but most will believe that you can ‘believe’ all 3 of these at the same time. This does not give us a true grasp or what is being said in this verse. Now Christians, knowing that belief has been such an issue for such an amount of time – just the word and what it means to people, we’ve come up with some illustrations to demonstrate what it means to believe in Christ and the gospel
I’ll use the word – TRUST
One illustration – a man pushes a wheelbarrow on a tightrope with 150 pounds of potatoes across the wire. He comes down to the crowd and asks, how many of you believe I could do that with a person – and they all raise their hands – and then he points to a person in the front row – Okay, you get in the wheelbarrow. This is used to describe FAITH or TRUST or BELIEVE.
Another illustration is that of a train – the locomotive is Fact followed by Faith Feelings – and it is trying to show that it is not just this leap in the dark, but there are facts behind what we believe.
Some use a bridge – and you have to walk across this bridge to Christ – so there must be some action to walk across the bridge, others a door – letting Christ in – and all of these are helpful in describing faith. But the important thing is not what believing is, but in WHOM you believe. And that can get lost in the illustrations.
This verse – John 3:16 – tells us to believe in HIM – that is the most important thing. Who is He in whom you are believing? It is Jesus. But who is Jesus? That is what the gospel is all about – telling us who Jesus is. Without an understanding of who Jesus is we don’t understand the gospel.
Jesus is the Messiah – the king of Israel, the Son of God, God the Son, the Savior. ‘Jesus’ is Greek. Jesus Himself was not Greek – the word is Greek. If you knew Him, you most likely would have called Him Joshua – Yahweh is Salvation is what that means.
That is a lot to believe. When you are sharing with someone, you don’t go through all that, because the gospel is not a doctrinal test.
The word Gospel means ‘good news’ – or good story. News done well is told as a story. The gospel is the story of God throughout history and His work in His creation.
And it is so important for us who bear the gospel and give witness to the gospel to understand that story as it gives us an appreciation for God’s love that is spoken of here in John 3:16.
The first part of the story begins before the beginning – and that speaks of God’s eternal purpose.
God’s eternal purpose – Predestination – the Triune God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit, existed for all eternity in this love relationship. God is love. That is His very nature – the one most important thing in Scripture.
He is love. His love is to be given and shared. Each of the Trinity gives and shares love. There is this eternal relationship.
Therefore, the natural thing is to give and share that love with others, outside of the circle – to give and share love in the same way it is given and shared inside that circle, outside.
He creates all thing – and in creating all things – he is giving and sharing His love with all creation.
God cares for the birds of the air – because of the giving and sharing of His love.
But there is one creature that God loves in this special and unique way. Humans. Image bearers. These are the ones who are the subject of God’s eternal plan – predestined to be in this relationship with Him. More than that, not only are we to be in relationship with Him, we are asked to partner with Him in sharing and giving His love to all of creation – from the beginning of humanity.
There was another creation that took place – it is found in the Bible, but not much was said about it – it happens before Genesis 1 and 2 – not a physical creation, but one of heavenly beings. At some point, and there is no good idea of the timeline from the Bible – I do believe it was before Genesis 1 – but there were these heavenly beings created – and there was a problem. There was a group that tried to usurp God and their coup failed – as a result, they are cast out and cast down.
The timetable is hard to figure out – cast down to earth – but as you read Job, you can see that their leader was able to go back and forth – and most likely, the leader of these, interacts with the image bearers – and THEY rebel and are cast out, not from heaven, but the garden.
The Garden was not just an idyllic place to live – but it was the place where heaven and earth came together – where the divine and physical realms came together. So God cast the image bearers out of the garden and can no longer be in this place where heaven and earth meet. The Garden is similar to the Temple – where God and people could walk and live together.
Due to the rebellion – the image bearers became enemies of the serpent – but some partner with him – Cain and Abel – and eventually, we all basically become enslaved by the forces of darkness. We became more and more violent as we partnered with the spiritual dark forces. This partnership creates tremendous trouble – The Nephilim – Genesis 6 – and eventually – that partnership destroys all of creation. God is forced to act because they have destroyed creation – and God decides to start over again.
Going back to Genesis 1 – there was another evil created – not a moral evil, but a threat – the earth was formless and void – darkness covered the waters.
The waters present a great threat to creation.
In Revelation, we hear of a great dragon with 7 heads that lives in the waters! And God creates a barrier that prevents the waters from covering the land. But in Genesis 6, that barrier is removed, and the waters destroy everything. And one builds a boat, and we have a new creation.
But it doesn’t last long – not long at all – and before we know it – humanity is at it again – and there is another rebellion – the build a tower. Why is building a tower a rebellion? This tower was a tower to heaven. Go back to the garden, where heaven and earth came together – and they were building a tower to get back to that. SO the image bearers are scattered across the land – and it seems like all has failed. SO God takes Abraham – and they become a people, a nation, a kingdom – they are the enemy of the rest of the image bearers – and this nation – like all the image bearers, do well occasionally – but mostly – they don’t do so well – they have rebellion after rebellion – and it was still a disaster. None of this took God by surprise – it all fit into His plan.
There was a secret part of this plan – the Bible calls it a mystery – so in John 3:16 – Nicodemus is talking to Jesus – He was called the teacher of Israel – he knew the Bible backwards and forwards and never saw this coming.
All this rebellion and failure – opened up this opportunity for God to send a new image bearer – the ultimate and perfect image bearer – the one and only Son. Jesus comes as this image bearer who possesses both spaces – the spiritual, divine, heavenly space -and the physical, earthly space. He is born of Mary.
For the first time since the Garden, there is a place where heaven and earth again meet.
For 30 years – there is little said about Him.
Around the age of 30, He makes a pilgrimage to His cousin, John the Baptist. Jesus needs no baptism, but there is where His identity is revealed, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”
The Spirit came down in Jesus’ baptism – like the spirit hovered over the waters in Genesis 1 – and His identity is proclaimed, and He is commissioned to fulfill the plan of God.
The first thing He does is go to the desert to meet the dark forces -and there He begins to dismantle and destroy – and to rescue the image bearers. He goes by His hometown – the Kingdom of God has come, the restoration has begun, and He calls people to join Him in this kingdom – and in order to partner here – they must leave every other partnership.
Their partnership with Caesar/The dark forces, their religion, the world, their nation. And in coming to join Him, they partner with One only – their loyalty is to one.
And we are only in John 3:14
The broken image bearers are fully restored and enter into this relationship with God.
This is a large story – and not one you will tell in an elevator – but it tells us, as Christians, that what we believe is extraordinary. No illustration can capture this story. It is a story – when we understand it – should transform our entire way of looking at the world.
I believe we have gotten so concerned about where our world is going that we have completely forgotten the story! That our world can go wherever our world goes – but we are part of an entirely different world, and our job is simply to go and share what we have in that world – our heavenly world – and in Vs. 16 – we HAVE eternal life – PRESENT tense – He is not saying you WILL have eternal life – when you join in partnership in loyalty in faith – we enter into a whole new existence – and we take that love and give and share it with the world. That is so desperately needed today.
Lord, I ask that John 3:16 – for God so loved the world…
The simplicity of those words in that verse would never lose the weight of the reality that they contain in our hearts. That You would open our eyes to understand the love of God. In Your Name we pray.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.