Section One: The Spiritual Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic One: Being A Believer.
Our reading for today: John 3: 13-21 (MsgB)
No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to Him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in Him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust Him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to Him. This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.
Over the last 50 years, John 3: 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. (NIV)
…has become the mantra for the great majority of evangelism done in the name of Jesus across North America. This one little scripture, the most recognized biblical text worldwide, has appeared on massive banners held up by fans at Super Bowl football games, appeared on large hand-held signs waved at cameras by right-wing conservatives at national political conventions, and even has been printed on countless numbers of pencils, pens, and water bottles distributed generously by church youth groups from sea to shining sea.
When read in context (as it appears above), this one little verse can be one of the Bible’s most hopeful passages ever written for the edification of the human race. But sadly, the way many Americanized-Christians now present it in evangelistic discussions with non-churched people, it might as well read like this…
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…but woe to those dirty, rotten sinners who deny our Christ, for they are the scum of the earth and will be thrown in the lake of fire while we Christians are standing there saying, “I told you so, sucker!”
Fortunately, for the sake of Christ, most banners, signs, pencils, pens and water bottles simply don’t have enough room for the entirety of this expanded message, saving many true Christ-followers from even further embarrassment caused by some of our well-meaning, but highly-critical brethren!
So, if you are one of those “us vs. them” Christians who actually like my expanded version of John 3:16, I’ve probably offended you by now and you’ve left my blog believing I’m just another one of those “love-everybody” heretics who actually believes that love can win a heart over to Christ.
And yes, based on the full context of John 3: 16, that is what I believe!
You see, it’s so vitally important for you, my dear reader, to understand something about me very early on in this journey we’re taking in Christian discipleship. I believe with my whole heart that in the economy of God, love always wins. I agree with Eugene Peterson when he translates John 3: 17 in The Message Bible this way…
God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
So as we close this first week of study, might I suggest to both those who have given their heart to Christ and those who are still not certain about such a big decision, that either way, we know we have a God who will always be there to point the way back home to love. God is love. And when we come to Jesus, His only begotten Son, I’m convinced that God’s message remains the same.
Come home. Be loved.
Be loved. Come home.
My prayer: Jesus, over 50 years ago, I gave my heart to you, and since then, I’ve never looked back, nor have I ever regretted making the decision that I made. It’s Your love that convinced me to make that big decision and it’s Your love that has kept me strong in remaining faithful to that decision. All in all, it’s Your love that has set me free and it’s Your love that will bring me home. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I approached John 3: 16 in my life? Has it been a blessing to me or has it become a problem to be solved? How might I re-visit John 3: 16, putting it once again in full context with the rest of the story and use it to be both a blessing in my life and a blessing to others?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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