‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36).
The Bible presents all people with a stark choice between two options. Only two. Will we believe in the Son, or not? Will we obey him, or not? And this choice divides humanity.
Of course, this choice isn’t what the world around us is insulted by. It’s the stated outcome of each choice that gets people up in arms. Believing in Jesus results in eternal life, but disobedience to the call to believe results in God’s wrath, judgement and hell.
This is unacceptable to our society, and illogical to a world that is increasingly moving away from believing in a binary, believing things are either A or B, and there is and nothing in between.
There were numerous times when I was in university ministry, presenting this verse to people. I would ask them which they were – were they believing in Jesus, or not? Were they living God’s way, having trusted in Jesus, submitting to him as King, and repented of sin? Or were they living their own way?
Repeatedly, people would say they were in the middle. They could see that the preferable option from this verse was to believe, because that resulted in life. But they were convinced they could have life without submitting to Jesus. So, they thought, they were in between. Not trusting in Jesus but getting life instead of wrath.
When we present the truth of the gospel to our neighbours, this is one belief we must undermine. You can’t be half pregnant. You either are or not. Binaries exist. Truth exists. You either have Jesus, or you face God’s wrath. What an important message we have.
Anyone who’s spent more than a second really thinking about life in this world knows there is something wrong. Live long enough and everyone’s experience is full of pain and heartbreak.
After recognising this pain, our question becomes, ‘how can it be fixed?’ We look to education and we wonder, if it were better would all the ills within society and me be eradicated?
One of our society’s greatest problems is that we don’t stop long enough to really consider what the cause of our problem is. This means that the ‘solutions’ will never be appropriate.
We must turn to the Bible to understand what the cause of our pain and heartbreak is, because it is there that God speaks and reveals what we would prefer hidden. And in the Bible, we find that the cause of our problems is sin; our own and others’.
And because we are the problem, we can’t be the solution. Anything we do will only continue to exacerbate the problem. More education only results in smarter sinners. Technology relieves some pain but is used to inflict other kinds of pain. We need someone else to deal with the cause (our sin) so the symptoms (our suffering) can be alleviated.
And that’s what God did. The whole of the Old Testament was promising and leading up to the solution, until finally we see Jesus on the cross. Taking our sin upon himself he cries, ‘It is finished,’ (John 19:30).
It could be said the cross was stage 1 of the inoculation; stage 2 is Christ’s return, when not only is sin forgiven but is completely removed along with its ill-effects. For those desperate for a world free of suffering we have an important message; ‘come to Jesus.’ He is the only solution to our problem.
One of the most beloved verses in the Bible is John 3:16. They are waters that the youngest child can paddle in, and yet the most mature Christian never reach the bottom. And they are words in which the unbeliever could find life, if only we shared it with them.
‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’
God loved the world. Incredible! This is the world that had rejected him and hadn’t recognised him when he came in the flesh. This world was dark, with no knowledge of God, and no desire to know him either. Yet, God loved the world. He loved us.
Why did he love us? Not because we were lovable! Our hearts, our inner being, was totally corrupted by sin. Sin oozed out of every thought, word and action. We worshipped and served created things, living for them even when outwardly it seemed we were doing the right thing.
Yet he loved us, and his love led to him giving his Son. The Son who had been with the Father for all eternity, who had never rebelled but had only honoured and adored his Father, was given up for the rebellious and rotten world. This love is beyond comprehension.
This Son was given over to die, so that those who believe in him wouldn’t perish themselves, but instead would find eternal life. In Jesus’ death he takes the punishment, shame, guilt, anger of God which our sin brought on ourselves. In him we have the offer of eternal joy and peace, eternal life with God.
God loved the world, gave his Son, and offers eternal life. This is our message. Who can you share that with this week?