Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

03/18/12 Sermon

John 3:14-21

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

John 3:16----One of the best known and most loved verses in the Bible. Many of us grew up memorizing it; we see John 3:16 at sporting events--Tim Tebow---black eye reflection. 
It’s a verse that really sums up the Christian faith; theologians have called the Gospel in a nutshell.
But because it’s so well known it’s easy for us to move right past it. Its so memorized that its become a yawner. We often look past this passage.
But it's a verse that’s so significant, so complete that we need to look at closely and study it because it truly does give us the heart of the gospel.
As that’s important for us to be able to witness to; especially in our world today where the message of what it means to be Christian is becoming more clouded and obscure and watered down.

But this verse, these words from John’s gospel refocus us on what it means to be Christian......................

Now when we look at this verse we can see the gospel message in 3 parts.
First we see the words—“For God so loved the world”:
Years ago a pastor was traveling by ship with his young daughter across the ocean.
Earlier that Sunday he had preached a sermon about God's love. It had been a very difficult service to preach, because he was newly widowed
He was standing against the rail of the ship, looking out at the vast and magnificent ocean, when his daughter asked him if God loved them as much as they had loved her late mother.
"Of course He does," answered her father. "There is absolutely nothing bigger or more powerful and all-consuming than God's love for us. It's the biggest thing there is!"

The little girl pressed on for more information, wanting to know exactly how big God's love was.  Finally her father with great tenderness said, "Well, look across the sea as far as you can. Look up and down and all around. God's love stretches around to cover all of that; above the blue sky and deeper than the deepest part of the ocean underneath us."  The little girl pondered for a minute and replied, "And to think Daddy, we're right in the middle of it."............

(Choir anthem—How Deep the Father’s love for us, how vast.....)

“For God so loved the world” reminds us that we live in the middle of God’s love. Our Creator loves His creation.
God loves us and the world we live in. Our God is not indifferent, not out to get us, not a punishing tyrant.
Our God is a God who cheers us on, and who cries when we cry.

He gets angry at injustices just as we do. He is a God who sorrows at the disappointments you’ve undergone and has great joy when you overcome them.

“For God so loved the world” reminds us that we have a personal God who truly cares for us.
So many people want to blame God as the one who causes tragedies. They wonder where God is to save them in their times of need.
But in reality God is the One who is there to help us when the tragedies of this world come. He is there to save us.
And we know this even more as we look at the 2nd part of this verse: “That He Gave His one and only son”
In our culture today there is a theology that focuses only on the first part of this verse--- Gods love. God loves you just as you are. God wants you to find your inner self and be who you were meant to be.
And while God loves us just as we are and wants us to be happy, God’s love for us goes even deeper than that.
God loves us so much that he wants to rescue us; to save us.
The second part of this verse seems to be under attack today especially by those who push a theology of universalism. They say that since God is love that he would never condemn anyone to Hell.
But this scripture reminds us that God doesn’t condemn anyone to Hell.

In verse 18 we read that we are already condemned to hell. God just wants to rescue us.

And its a rescuing we can’t do on our own. So God gave his one and only son to rescue us.

A sailor who was aboard the USS Saratoga accidentally fell overboard at night into the cold, dark ocean. He was terrified of what was lurking beneath him as he waited for rescue.
Finally after hours of struggling to stay afloat a helicopter was flying overhead shining its light. They spotted him.

But in shining the light the sailor saw a shark fin getting closer and closer.  The copter dropped a lifeline for the man but it was out of reach. He kept trying to reach it but kept coming up short.

Finally out of the helicopter a rescue expert shimmied down the rope. And with a special harness attached to him, he was able to reach down and rescue the desperate man. He was saved. (Larry Davies Fishing and breaking bricks, Sowing Seeds Ministry Devotion, March 1, 2001)
John 3:16 reminds us that we are in need of rescuing. We are already condemned to death swimming in unsafe waters. And there is only one way to be rescued . And that is thru Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately people are swimming around oblivious to their predicament. They fill their lives with water toys to surround themselves with but when this life is over what’s next?
You will either have already been rescued or your decision to not be rescued will be your choice.
But people object, "How can the God of love allow any of his creatures to suffer unending misery?"
Well the answer is that God doesn’t. God is offering everyone a lifeline. But God loves us so much that he doesn’t force his love on us. To force love is to commit assault.
To make us take the rope would be worse than a tyrant.
God allows us to decide. He gave his one and only son to rescue us.

He loves us, he encourages us, he woos us, he pursues us, he urges us to receive Christ but he doesn’t force us.

So how do we receive Christ? Well the 3rd part of John 3:16 gives us the answer:
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. 
We cannot save ourselves. We can only respond to what God does first. We respond to his love and to his offer of grace in being rescued. We’re called to respond with belief.

God’s grace and our faith are a “mutual interaction”… God acts and we respond.

So what does it mean to believe?

Well, in John, the word “believe” is an action verb---To believe in Jesus is not simply a cerebral activity of affirming that Jesus is the son of God and was raised from the dead…..
So many individuals are under the assumption that they are Christians because they agree with the premises of the faith.  But their life and the way they act and treat people doesn’t show it.

Our scripture today in the 14th verse speaks to Jesus being lifted up, being exalted. When you lift something up you aspire to follow and emulate what you lift up. You try to model it.

Max Lucado tells the story of a man who had been a closet slob most of his life. He just couldn't comprehend the logic of neatness. Why make up a bed if you're going to sleep in it again tonight? Why put the lid on the toothpaste tube if you're going to take it off again in the morning?  The man admitted to being compulsive about being messy.

Then he got married. His wife was patient. She said she didn't mind his habits ... if he didn't mind sleeping on the couch.

Since he did mind, he began to change. He said he enrolled in a 12-step program for slobs.
A physical therapist helped him rediscover the muscles used for hanging up shirts and placing toilet paper on the holder. His nose was reintroduced to the smell of Pine Sol.  By the time his in-laws arrived for a visit, he was a new man.
But then came the moment of truth. His wife went out of town for a week. At first he reverted to the old man. He figured he could be a slob for six days and clean on the seventh. But something strange happened.
He could no longer relax with dirty dishes in the sink or towels flung around the bathroom or clothes on the floor or sheets piled up like a mountain on the bed.
What happened? ---------Lucado said: It’s simple. He had been exposed to a higher standard of living.---- Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace
That’s what believing is about. It’s lifting up Jesus as the standard we live by that then lifts us up.
To believe in Jesus and to receive eternal life is a daily journey not a one time decision. It is being formed into his likeness every day.
Unfortunatley so many have made being a Christian a one time decision; a finish line or a destination.

And as a result their lives do not emulate Christ. Their response to grace was either cerebral or an emotional experience and it shows in their witness.  But believing in Christ is a life long commitment. Even as we struggle in our belief and fail in our following we repent and allow Christ to rescue us again and again and again.

For this faith is a journey where we are growing and being formed into eternal imperishable creations who will make the journey into eternal life.......................................

Today...on this 4th Sunday of Lent we are being called to read John 3:16 again with new eyes.

We’re being reminded of this God who loves us more than we can imagine.
We’re being reminded that God sent Jesus into the world to save us from the dangerous and deadly waters we’re swimming in.
And we’re being reminded that we are called to live a life that is a set apart; modeled after Jesus Christ, the one we lift up; the one we believe in...............
Today if you haven’t begun the journey or if you’re on the journey but struggling right now, know that God loves you and seeks to be in relationship with you.
Receive the gift of Christ, lift him up and follow him on your journey to eternal life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen