The Six Glories of John 3:16

In 1917 pastor and hymn writer Frederick Lehman wrote the following words, “The love of God is greater far, than tongue or pen can ever tell, it goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell; the guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win, His erring child He reconciled and pardoned from his sin…Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.”[1]

These words describe the beauty and wonder of the boundless and wonderful love of God. This love is revealed to us all over the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation we see a holy God in love choosing, pursuing, rescuing, changing, and keeping sinful men and women for the glory of His name. There are literally 1,000 places we could go to in Scripture to see this love revealed to us in manifold splendor, but there is one place which rises above all others. John 3:16 is the most famous, the most well known, as well as the most prized verse in the whole Bible. This verse is literally everywhere: from Tim Tebow’s eye black to the lips of every evangelist, from countless posters at sporting events to innumerable bumper stickers, from the pulpits of churches around the world the millions of Christians in those churches, John 3:16 is without a doubt a massive source of comfort and security. But while this is without a doubt the most well known verse of all the Bible, I also think it is also without a doubt one of the most misunderstood and distorted verses in all of the Bible. I believe this to be true because one can know John 3:16 without really knowing what it teaches. Everyone loves it’s big, grand, and universal scope, but no one gives a thought to how particular the verse is. 

See here the six glories of John 3:16

1) “For…”

This first word of the verse isn’t a throwaway word for it connects John 3:16 to the larger context of John 3. So in order to know what John 3:16 means we must see it in the context it comes to us. In John 3:1-15 we witness the evening meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus where Jesus unfolds the details of what He calls the new birth and what it means to be born again. It was difficult for Nicodemus to hear and embrace these things, he was confused and a bit appalled at what Jesus had to say, even after Jesus used earthly imagery to explain what He meant Nicodemus still doesn’t get it. Jesus then in v14-15 draws a parallel between His own Person and Work with the bronze serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness in Numbers 21. Then seemingly in order to drive that point home, we then have John 3:16 being the very next verse and the ‘for’ means that v16 is a continuation and implication of v14-15. But pause and ask, who said v16? Most red letter Bibles use red in John 3:3, v5-8, and v10-21, leading us to believe the famous words of John 3:16 were given to us from the lips of Jesus Himself. But, I differ in opinion here, and think that the evening meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus ended at v15, which would mean John 3:16 is where the apostle John’s reflection on this meeting begins.[2] And the first thing John has to say about this meeting has become the most famous verse in the entire Bible. This opening word, “For…” answers a question we have. What does this evening meeting’s dialogue ultimately mean? “For…” is the indication to us that the apostle John is about to tell us.

2) “For God…”

So John 3:16 is not only meant to be read and understood in the context of v1-15, but that the very next word is ‘God’ tells us that John 3:16 is first and foremost about God. Before this verse is ever about you or me this verse is about God. It tells us who He is, what He is like, and what He has done. “For God…” reminds us that there is a God who exists, that this world and we ourselves are not a cosmic accident or a result of chance, and that this God is not a distant God, but a God who is near to the creation and the creatures He has made. Many deny God’s existence saying He is a figment of our imagination similar to the tooth fairy, and just as we all grew up and out of our childish belief in the tooth fairy we must also grow up and out of our childish belief about God. I tell you today that God is not a mere symbol that mankind created and attaches meaning to. God is not a divine fairy tale character. God is not a figment of our imagination. What does John 3:16 say? The reality of John 3:16 is that before any of us existed, and before this world existed God was! The wonder of John 3:16 is that this God, who was and is fully sufficient, independent, lacking nothing, out of sheer grace created this world and every human on it so that we would glorify Him by enjoying Him forever. John 3:16 is rightly and surely a verse loaded with good news, but the first piece of good news John 3:16 gives us is this: “God is, and He has not remained silent.”[3] What then did God do toward this world He made?

3) “For God so loved the world…”

Just like a full size crunch bar gets better and better with each bite, so too, the glory and beauty of John 3:16 gets better and better with each phrase. We have seen that there is a God – holy, just, independent, gracious, and fully sufficient. We have seen that this God isn’t aloof from the world He made. We now see here that this God who made the world has a certain disposition toward this world, toward us, He loves. “For God so loved the world…” Two things are important to see here:

a) How we interpret the word ‘so’ is incredibly important to how we interpret this verse. For example most of us, being native English speakers, interpret the word ‘so’ to carry a meaning of intensity as when a husband says to his wife ‘I love you sooo much.’ This is a legitimate use of the word ‘so’ in English but this notion of intensity is not in view in the original Greek word here. Rather than intensity, the Greek meaning of the word ‘so’ is one of ‘manner’ which makes John 3:16 say something like, “For God loved the world in this manner…” or “For God loved the world like this…”

b) How we interpret the word ‘world’ is also incredibly important. John’s use of the Greek word ‘cosmos’ which means ‘world’ is an all-encompassing word that includes the entire created order. It’s not so much referring to individual people, but referring to all God has made. God, therefore has a loving disposition toward all He has made. Knowing this should then lead to us being surprised because this world is a fallen world. We believe that when our first parents Adam and Eve bit the fruit they plunged mankind into death, and the entire created order fell from its original position. Thus, ever since Genesis 3 this world has been a fallen world, filled with a humanity that is hostile to God, unwilling to submit to God, and rebellious to God. Yet, in spite of this continual rebellion and hostility God what? He loved this world? John 3:16 says so. That God would love a world like this, filled with sinful people like us, does not communicate our own value or worth – no – it communicates the greatness of His love that is characteristic of who He is.

But this poses a new question: how did God love the world?

4) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

How did God love the world? He loved the world that He gave to it. So God isn’t merely a God of who is characterized by love, but this love moved Him to give. What did He give? He gave that which was most dear to Himself, His one, unique, and only Son.[4] Now comes the larger question: why did He give His Son? Think of it like this. If you don’t like me, you could probably hide around the church until everyone left, pop out as I’m locking up and punch me in the face. There probably wouldn’t be very serious consequences to doing that, you probably could just leave like normal, go home and have lunch while I’m lying on the floor knocked out. Now contrast punching me in the face with trying to punch President Trump in the face. It is highly likely the moment you tried to get close enough to do so that a secret service member will take his gun out and shoot you. Why? He’s the President, there are very serious consequences and penalties to trying to harm him. But why is there a difference in punishment between harming President Trump and harming me? Because the nature of punishment is measured by who the crime is committed against.

Now come back to John 3:16. Remember, we have sinned against the highest One there is, God. And because we sinned against God who is the cosmic King of all, even the smallest of sins against Him is cosmic treason. Why then did God in love give His Son? To to live the perfect life we never could have lived and die the death we deserved to die. So Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, was given by God live for us, die for us, and wonder of wonders…the very thing we’re celebrating today…rise for us.

5) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him…”

Wrongly, many assume John 3:16 says something like “For God so loved the world that God sent His only Son to save everyone.” The word ‘whoever’ truly is universal in its scope, but do you see how the verse places a condition on how to gain the benefits of Christ’s work? ‘Whoever…believes.’ The great and loving work of God through Christ is not doled out to everyone in general. No, it only applies to those who believe, those who trust, those who come to Christ clinging to Him as we would cling to a parachute while skydiving. This is none other than the ‘way of salvation.’ God doesn’t say He gave His Son to whoever obeys His commandments, or that He gave His Son to whoever does not sin, or that He gave His Son to whoever does not struggle with doubt or despair. No, He gave His Son to whoever believes. Charles Spurgeon once said it like this, “Faith, however slender, saves the soul.”[5]

I wonder, what are you believing in today? What are you trusting in? What are you clinging to? Perhaps some of you know the facts of the gospel, you may even believe that those facts are true, but you’re not believing in them one bit to save your soul. No, the life you’re now living is a life of unstable hopes and you’re looking to many other things in this world to give you stability and rescue from the evils you feel within your own fallen and sinful heart. If that’s you be challenged, hoping in the world or in other people will leave you distressed, only hoping in Christ will bring you rest. Or perhaps you’re discouraged and feel that you’re too weak or despairing to grab ahold of Christ by faith, that the pit you’ve fallen into is far too deep to get out of, so deep that the sun itself doesn’t even shine where you exist day by day. Be encouraged, for the smallest faith receives the same strong Christ as the strongest faith in the world.[6] Whether you’re barely entering your teens, in the middle of life, or gaining more and more of a grey head – ‘whoever believes’ is a call from God that has no limit!

6) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

See here a contrast God intends us to see. The end of unbelief is the beginning of eternal suffering in hell, while the end of belief is the beginning of pleasure forevermore in heaven. This is not just a matter for the future. For all hard-hearted sinners who reject the Son of God will be hardened even more in this life, while all hard-hearted sinners who embrace the Son of God are softened and experience the spiritual blessings and benefits of the New Covenant Christ came to begin even now.

Citations:

[1] R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe, Preaching the Word Commentary, page 89.

[2] R.C. Sproul, John, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 44. See also Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT, page 228.

[3] See Francis Shaeffer, He is There and He Is Not Silent, Tyndale House, 1972.

[4] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT, page 230.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, Immeasurable Love, sermon delivered on 1850 in the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

[6] Jared Wilson, There is No Faith So Little That it is Not Saving, For the Church Blog, accessed 4/13/17.

Confidence From Comfort With John’s Prologue

Having the right tool for the job is fundamental for getting the job not only done, but done correctly. I learned this firsthand in my days as a quick lube mechanic. I remember walking into the shop on my first day, sitting down with the shop manager to learn the ins and outs of how the shop ran. After a lengthy introduction he extended his hand and gave me a small flathead screwdriver. I was puzzled at first, and couldn’t see how such a small tool could ever be of use in this line of work. But he looked me in the eye and said, “I give every new guy this small flathead, because it’s fundamental to the work we do here.” As I thanked him, walked out, and began working I couldn’t for the life of me understand how this little tool would be something I use so often. But as I progressed in my knowledge and skill, I grew more comfortable with the small wrench, and found that I was using it to do all sorts of things I never dreamed of. In fact, the more comfortable I became with it, the more confident I grew in my ability to work on any car that happened to come in the shop.

I begin with this today because as soon as we enter the gospel of John we find something similar. The first section of John 1 is fundamental to Christian belief. So fundamental in fact, that without them we lose much of the Christianity we know. As with this little tool, the more comfortable you are with these verses the more confident you’ll become about your Christian belief. And confidence, or a firm certainty about our convictions is exactly why John wrote this gospel account. In 20:30-31 he says, “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.” John didn’t write his gospel to give an indifferent observation, no, he wrote this account to persuade us that these things are true and life-giving.

John 1:1-18 forms what has come to be known as ‘The Prologue.’ Only John gives us an introduction like this. Matthew and Luke begin with birth narratives while Mark begins with Jesus’ baptism. John begins with an 18 verse introduction intended to answer basic questions about Jesus. Questions like: Who is He? Why did He come? Where is He from? As John answers these questions we cannot help but find ourselves simply astounded. Concerning this prologue the notes in the Gospel Transformation study Bible say this, “The prologue of John’s gospel is like the opening movement of a grand symphony. It is meant to grab our attention and draw us into the story – the story of all stories.” R.C. Sproul in his commentary on John likewise states, “No portion of the New Testament captured the imagination and the attention of the Christian intellectual community for the first three centuries more than this brief section.”

Three things to see in the first eleven verses of this prologue.

A Distinct Deity (v1-5)

“In the beginning…” These first three words are words we should all be familiar with. John isn’t the only one to begin his writing with them, Moses begins Genesis with them as well. That John uses the same words here is intended to teach us that just as God did His work of creation then, God is now doing His work of new creation here. How does God intend to carry out His work of new creation? v1-3 continues, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Think back to Genesis again. In Genesis we see God creating all things by speaking them into existence saying “Let there be…” and there was. Now in this work of new creation it’s clear that God’s bringing it about by something John calls “the Word.” This Word is not only present in beginning of all things, John says the Word is God and the Word is with God. That the Word is God shows that the Word is Deity or identified with God, but also when John says the Word is with God he shows that the Word is distinct or distinguished from God. Both full-blown Deity and divine distinction are present in the Word.

To further add to this did you notice there’s an addition in v3 that’s not in v1-2? v3 refers to the Word as “Him.” This prohibits us from speaking of the Word as an impersonal force or some kind of vague power. That John refers to the Word as ‘Him’ means the Word is a Person, indeed one of the three Persons in the Trinity. To further add again, when taking into account the Greek translation of Word, which is ‘logos’, leads us to even more. The logos was a Greek philosophical concept used to convey an abstract force that brought harmony, order, and reason into the universe. So in order for the Greeks to be wise or on the right path to wisdom they had to be in touch with the logos. Well John uses this loaded Greek term here in the beginning of his gospel to teach us the true meaning of ‘logos.’ It’s not an impersonal force that brings harmony, order, and reason into the universe, no, the logos is none other than God’s divine self-expression. Hebrews 1:1-3 confirms this saying, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days God has SPOKEN to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom He also created the world. He (the Son) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” This Word of John 1:1-3 is none other than the Word God spoke to create the world in Genesis 1. But it’s more than just language, the Word is God wrapped in skin, or to say it another way God’s very Son.

When we come to v4-5 we see John bring up themes that are all found in abundance within Genesis: life, light, and darkness. Not surprisingly these are some of the major themes of John’s gospel. Specifically in v4-5 we see that while God spoke the world into being and shattered the dark void during creation, so too God sent His Word into the world and the Word’s life and light shatter the dark void of this sinful world during new creation. The Word of v1-3 in v4-5 is the source of life and this life is the source of all light in the world and in men. No wonder why John include the time when Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (8:12) It is true, light and darkness are opposites. It’s also true that some speak of the Christian life as a battle between these opposites. Though this is true to a degree, do not believe the lie that they are opposites of equal power. The light of the Word, the light of Christ overcomes all darkness. This is why John would later write this in 1 John 2:8, “…the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” So through the Word life and light come into the darkness, and even though some may mock at the song or phrase, when one comes to faith in Christ one truly has ‘seen the light.’

A Humdrum Humility (v6-8)

About that light, in v6-8, John moves to what seems to be an intrusion into a text full of timeless truths. John probably brings up John the Baptist for two reasons: first, to remind us that these timeless truths mentioned in v1-5 are actually attached to real history. And second, because of the fame of John the Baptist, it seems that (even though he repeatedly told people otherwise) some thought he was the “light” that had come into the world. One example of this is found in Acts 18:25 where Luke mentions that the famed orator Apollos only ‘knew of the baptism of John.’ So to remove all doubt the apostle John makes it explicit that the John the Baptist wasn’t the light, but rather had come to bear witness about the light.

In v6-8 we see such a stark difference with what came before. In the introduction of the Word in v1-3 we see an eternal existence, One who is God, One who is with God, and One whom the world was made through, and in v6 we see something different. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” That’s it. The contrast is blinding when you think of majestic words given to Jesus and the mundane words given to John. But the Baptist would have it no other way! He knew his task – to bear witness to one infinitely greater than he. One day soon this Baptist would say “He must increase, I must decrease.” He truly was called by God, and that is great, but don’t miss is – the message he preached was exemplified in his introduction to us here. We would be fools to think we could do life any other way…to think that we’ll gain honor in this world by preaching the greatness of another. Not in a million years. The character of the kingdom is decrease, not increase.

An Illuminating Incarnation (v9-11)

This third and last section for us today begins with the remedy for those who thought John was the true light. “The true Light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Here the Word of v1-3 is said to be both the Light come into the world, but the source of all true illumination in the world. Recall v4, “In Him is life and the life is the light of men.” John the Baptist is the Light, this Word is the Light, and in His light all the darkness of sin and unbelief scatters. But notice how this happened. v7 says the Baptist came as a witness to the Light, and here in v9 it says the Word came into the world as the Light. The Word came. Where was the Word before He came? v1-3 tell us He not only was God but that He was with God as well. So the Word that was God and with God left the throne of God and came here among us. And with His coming there also came a holy light that illumines the hearts of men. Speaking of this illumination, the Swiss theologian Heinrich Bullinger once said when Christ comes as Light into our hearts He comes to, “…instruct, to regenerate, to vivify, to sanctify, to liberate, and to justify.” Or as David Crowder says, “God spoke, and my heart, it burst to life!”

Yet, though the Word was God and with God, and though the world had been made through the Word, when the Word came v10-11 says the Word was rejected. This is a summary statement of what would eventually happen to Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, during His incarnation. The world did not know Him, His own people rejected Him, He was not received. There is no greater wickedness. There is no greater evil. There is no greater sin than to reject Jesus Christ. Many people, believers and unbelievers alike, know and could quote John 3:16 verbatim without a moment of hesitation. Few people can quote John 3:18, “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.”

Historically this prologue is significant. Many rejected these very things, taught other things, been tried by Church councils, and condemned as heretics for teaching false doctrine. Men such as: Arius, Apollinaris, Eutychus, and Nestorius are some examples of men who denied John 1 and taught that Jesus isn’t who John says He is. For more modern examples: did you know Jehovah’s Witness have altered the translation of John 1:1 because they reject Jesus’ deity? Did you know Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, also altered the translation of John 1:1 for the same reason? To move away from John 1 will still leave you with many beliefs, but those beliefs will not be Christian to any degree. Many churches and many Christians can disagree on many things and still remain Christian. But no one can call themselves a Christian while rejecting the deity and distinction of the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ.

President or Savior?

“When the people saw the sign that He had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” (John 6:14-15)

Election Day is tomorrow and many of us will be going to the polls to vote for the person we hope will be our next president. This is an important issue that requires much thought and prayer. However, it is not the most important issue.

We can see this in the Gospel of John.

In John 6 (go ahead and read it) Jesus is sitting on a mountain side with His disciples when a large crowd approaches Him. The crowd was following Jesus because of the miracles He had performed for the sick (v2). Much to their delight, Jesus performs another miracle by feeding the crowd. He takes five loaves of bread and two fish and provides enough food to feed five thousand men, in addition to any women and children who were also present (v9-12), and still had plenty left over (v13). Jesus had taken a meager meal and made it into a feast for thousands with plenty to spare. It was a remarkable feat that no mere man could have accomplished. Of course, no mere man had accomplished it, but the God-Man, Jesus Christ, had accomplished it. Then v14-15 tell us, “When the people saw the sign that He had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’ And “they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king.”

The thousands that Jesus fed rightly perceived that He was the long-awaited Prophet, one like Moses, who had finally come. However, they wrongly perceived why He had come. They were seeking a political ruler, a king, one who could liberate them from the Roman Empire. They saw that Jesus had the power to heal the sick and provide endless amounts of food; certainly He could liberate Israel and reign as their king! They wanted Jesus to help them politically and materially. They were not looking to Him as a Savior from their sin; they were looking to Him as a king for their earthly benefit. But Jesus did not come to be a political ruler. He did not come to be an earthly king. He came to save His people from their sin. He came to seek and save the lost and give His life as a ransom for many. Jesus was not interested in political leadership – He was interested in spiritual transformation. He was not the Bread of the Temporal, He was the Bread of Life (v35).

There are a couple of takeaways for us as we head into Election Day tomorrow.

First, we need to realize, unlike many of those in John 6, that man’s most essential need is not a government or material needs or a presidential candidate that aligns with all our values and beliefs. Our most essential need is a Savior who can save us from our sin. Don Carson put it this way: “If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, He would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, He would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, He would have sent us a politician. If He had perceived that our greatest need was health, He would have sent us a doctor. But He perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from Him, our profound rebellion, our death; and He sent us a Savior.” 

 We are a people who have offended a holy God by our sin and as a result we deserve infinite punishment. On our own we cannot make this right. No political policy or candidate can make this right. Only Jesus can make this right. Only He can fix our severed relationship with God the Father. He does this through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection – not political leadership. Politics are important. We should vote and vote wisely with Biblical principals in mind. However, we should not act as if all is lost if our candidate does not reach office. A president in not our Savior, Jesus is.

Second, we need to look to Jesus as our Savior and our Treasure. The crowds in John 6 looked to Jesus as the means (powerful king) to an end (liberation, provision, power). We too have the tendency to look to Jesus in the same way. We hope Jesus will bring us a better life now here on earth – better America, better career, better finances, and so on. But Jesus did not come to give us a better life now; He came to give us eternal life. We should not look to Him as a means to an end:

He is the end. 

He is everything. 

He is our Treasure.

As we go and vote tomorrow let’s vote knowing that regardless of the outcome Jesus is our Savior; He is our King, and He is our Treasure. If the election goes how we want or not, we have Jesus, and to have Him is to have everything. Jesus in John 6:35 says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall not thirst.”

This government, this world, may not be what we want it to be, but let’s remember that our hope not in government or the world around us, our hope is Jesus and He is all we need.

“Abide in Me” – Don’t Sit on the Fence!

John 15:4 says, “Abide in Me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Jesus uses a lot of word pictures in His teaching.  This one for example is easy, but a profound lesson for us to heed.  Branches are part of vines, or parts of a tree.  If a branch is by itself on the ground, un-attached to anything, can it grow?  Can it produce fruit?  Does it have carry the life of the tree within it?  No.  It cannot grow, produce fruit, or be alive if it is apart from the tree.  When it is attached to the tree it can blossom into what it was supposed to be, a big branch.

Jesus uses this lesson to teach us a simple truth.  We cannot bear fruit unless we abide in Jesus.  Just as the branch is dead on its own, so too we are lifeless on our own if we live a life apart from Christ.  He is the life-giver, He is the source of growth, and He causes fruit to show up in our lives.  In this same manner, we can only exist and sustain in Jesus.  In the next verse Jesus makes it clearer, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

So you see this is simple isn’t it?  Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches.  We can only bear fruit (which He wants us to do, see John 15:8) if we live or abide in Him.  Apart from Him what can we do?  Nothing.  Did you hear that?  Apart from living closely with Jesus in this life you and I can do nothing.  That is a serious call to live close to Christ.  Are you?  Am I?  Do we do all we need to do to be closer to Him?  Sure there is always room for improvement, but we must see that we are not neutral agents in life.  We are either progressing toward Christ, or digressing away from Him – there is not fence sitting here.

It’s all about Jesus, it’s only about Jesus, it’s always about Jesus.  If you want to be like Him and love Him it’s because you see much in Christ that is worthy of admiration and allegiance.  If you don’t want to be like Him or don’t love Him that is because you don’t see Him as worthy of anything from you.  Which are you?

Hear Jesus again: “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”  The call here is one that will take all of you for your whole life.  “Abide in Me” from this time forth and forevermore.  Abide in Christ, He is home.  He has always been home.

“Come to Me” – An Ironically Easy Demand

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Upon first reading this I think most Americans (myself included) pass over it too quickly thinking that the verse is for people suffering, not for us busy people who work everyday.  But is it really?  Of course the answer is no, but it takes some time to get there, and to really appreciate the verse for what Jesus holds out to us in it.  In this verse there are 3 strong realities that Jesus puts forth.  First, Jesus is calling us to come to Him.  Second, the call is directed toward those who labor and are heavy laden.  And third, Jesus promises we’ll find peace if we come.  I think I have such a strong tendency to brush past this passage quicker than I ought to because I’m so busy, most of the time, that I don’t think about being heavy laden and in need of rest.  Does that resemble your own life?  Living daily life in this world does not make it easier to have faith in Jesus, because it seems that everything under the sun is distracting us from the source of life, God Himself.  We are a people who need a pause in life to stop upon statements like this in the gospels – “Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him to come to Me and drink.'” (John 7:37)

I think if we’re all honest with ourselves, when we get all quiet in our soul as silence creeps in during the night, we know this.  We know we are thirsty, and not only thirsty, we know we’re spending our lives drinking from this fountain, and that one, or that one to find satisfaction.  Has it worked?  Nope.  Jesus also said the same thing like this, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall hunger.'” (John 6:35) We have this call from Christ Himself, we know we’re thirsty/hungry/craving life sustenance deep down in the fibers of our souls, and yet, being aware of this we don’t come.  Funny huh?  Isn’t it ironic that we know these things, know how simple it would be to cast it on Christ, and yet remain immovable in heart.  Why do we have a stubborn refusal to do what we all know we ought to?  Because of our dead-ness.

What?  Yep, you read that right.  I’m dead, or at least I was once.  All who are apart from faith in Christ right now at this very moment are spiritually dead and cannot do anything to better their situation before God.  We are like zombies, because though we live, move, and do all sorts of things, we are dead on the inside and this is precisely why we cannot come to Christ when He calls us to.  What do dead men need?  Simple – life.  Who can grant life?  Simple again – Jesus.  John 11:43-44 gives a description of how Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave from death to life.  It shows us that the voice of Christ holds within it the power to raise men from the dead.  So in a few sentences I’m going to write John 11:43-44 down here, but as you read it don’t pass over to rashly.  Take your time with it, see how Jesus raised this dead man to new life by simply “calling” him.  Think about your dead-ness.  You need this call too don’t you?

“When Jesus had said these things He called out in a loud voice saying, “Lazarus!  Come forth!”  The man who died came out.”  (John 11:43-44)

You Must Be Born Again

John 3:3-7 says:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered,“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

This passage above is Jesus’ response to the Pharisee Nicodemus.  In John 3:1-2 we see Nicodemus coming to see Jesus, not in the middle of the day, but during the night.  Why?  Nicodemus was afraid, scared, and ashamed.  Afraid because he didn’t want to be aligned or associated with the very Person the entire collection of Pharisee’s hated.  Scared because he saw something clearly saw something in Jesus that was different, that was truthful, and wanted to find out what that was.  If his friends found out he was going to meet with this outlaw named Jesus, his reputation would be done.  I think too, along with being afraid and scared, that he was ashamed.  Because he recognized “different-ness” in Jesus, he wanted to see Him, but didn’t want to come in broad daylight.  Part of Nicodemus had to think that  Jesus would be aware of his reasons for coming at night rather than in the day, but Jesus being full of grace and truth responds and cuts straight to the heart, revealing the main issue for every human being, ever.

You must be born again.  You must be born again.  “Born again” connotates such a disgraceful, anti-intelligent, antiquated belief to most people today.  Yet for Jesus, it is pressing.  So pressing in fact, to embrace it means life and to ignore it means death.  Unless you’re born again what?  You see 3:3?  If you’re not born again you cannot SEE the kingdom of God.  You go about doing life on this planet being blind to the most foundational and real truths in existence.  Blindness is the non-Christians main problem, and this blind is due to sin (see 2 Cor. 4:4-6 and Eph. 2:1-10).  After Nicodemus misunderstands Jesus, Jesus makes it clearer for him.  Not born again as an infant by flesh, but born again as in born into the Kingdom of God by the Spirit.  Nicodemus seemed to understand this, and merely responded with a question in John 3:9, “How can these things be?”  The answer, found in John 3:10-21, is profound and is the home of the most famous passage of the whole Bible, John 3:16.

You have a problem, your sin has blinded you.  To correct this, you must be born again.  Then you will SEE the kingdom of God, and what people see they usually embrace wholeheartedly.

What Happens When the Holy Spirit Falls in Power?

I often find it both curious and funny when we as Christians would answer questions differently than the Bible answers questions. Let me show you what I mean by asking you a question.

What happens when the Holy Spirit comes in power?

What do you think most Christians would say? “Lots of stuff that we normally don’t see?” “Miracles, healing, wonders?” “Gold dust falling from the ceiling?” Perhaps. But notice how John describes this in his gospel.

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-15)

He does not say tongues, prophecy, healing, falling out, oil, etc? Why doesn’t he say this when most people today believe that is what the Holy Spirit causes and brings about? Perhaps John doesn’t say these things or mention any of them, because it’s not what the Holy Spirit is about. Now notice what John does say. In John’s view when the Spirit falls, Jesus is glorified, not the Spirit or His gifts. Therefore the Church that is concerned about the Holy Spirit coming in power will be mostly concerned with Jesus being glorified and exalted in their midst. I want to be a part of that Church.

What’s Up With Your Fruit?

John 15:2 says, “Every branch in Me that does not bring forward fruit He destroys, and every branch that brings forward fruit He prunes, in order that it may bring forward more fruit.

I saw two things here this morning:

a) No FruitJesus is the true Vine, so those who believe in Him are grafted into to Himself as living branches (Rom. 11:17).  Therefore we branches find all our life, support, and sustenance in Jesus.  We’re to look nowhere else to find these things, for if we do, we will dry up and become a dead branch (Rom. 11:18).  The branches in Jesus who fail to produce fruit are destroyed by God, for He is the vine dresser, or gardener.  Fault for the lack of fruit bearing does not fall on Jesus, but on the branches themselves.  By producing no fruit, these branches show themselves to be dead, that they were never true branches to start with (1 John 2:18-19).  They may have appeared to be living branches on the exterior, but the life giving sustenance of the Vine was not flowing into them.  Just as we look for grapes on the branches of the vine, we look for Christianity on Christians.  We look for evidence, we look for the fruit of the Spirit.  If it’s there, even to the smallest degree with can say the branch is true.  If it’s not there, we say, in despair, this one’s dead.  If no fruit shows, God takes those branches off the vine and destroys them.  This is speaking of final judgment for all those who are not in Christ.

b) Fruit: If fruit does show, God prunes it, for the purpose of making more fruit.  This means the only way to produce more fruit is by the pruning of the Father.  This is speaking of sanctification, and it shows that santification is always a painful process.  Pruning involves a cutting off of certain things in our lives that are keeping us from bearing more fruit.  A habit, an addiction, a temper, a lust, a greed, etc.  When those are gone, pruned away, we are free to bear more fruit than we did before!

Therefore, if you find yourself in a situation where life seems to be painful, you should not despair, for the Father is at work in you!  He is doing what only He can do!  He is pruning you so that you can bear more fruit at a future time.  This will most likely be very painful because they are things you love too much.  But O’ how great it is to become more holy as He is!  It is a kind of pleasing pain to me, and I hope it is for you as well.