Summary: This sermon is based on Max Lucado’s book 3:16 The Numbers of Hope. I tried to distill his entire book into one single sermon. Of course, all the credit for this one goes to Max.
by Scott Bayles adapted from Max Lucado
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
Max Lucado just released a new book titled simply 3:16. The entire book focuses in on just one single verse from the Bible--John 3:16. I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy, sent to Family Christian Stores employees by Thomas Nelson, and I’m so thankful that I did because 3:16, the book, drew me back to what I believe is the single most significant sentence in all of Scripture--3:16 the verse.
Preschoolers can recite it. Football fans paint boldly across cardboard signs. It’s brief enough to write on a napkin or memorize in moment, yet solid enough to withstand 2000 years of storms and questions. It begins with God, ends with life, and urges us to do the same! Listen to the impact this verse has had on people’s lives:
“I love John 3:16 because it is the gospel in a nutshell. It shares God’s great love for us, and our great need for him.” Mac Powell, Third Day
“John 3:16 is the foundation of my faith. A picture of undeserved, unconditional, and unwavering love from a Father to his kids.” Ernie Johnson, TNT Sportscaster
“John 3:16 is the North Star of the Bible. If you align your life with it, you can find The Way home.” Anne Graham Lotz
“This is the promise that bears hope for the hopeless. When we finally realize ‘I can’t do this on my own’ this is the Father responding, ‘I know, so I’ve done it for you.’” Jeff Foxworthy
If you know nothing of the Bible, begin here. If you know everything of the Bible, return here. This is the Hope diamond of Scripture!
But before we can get to 3:16, we have to set the stage. It all begins with a silent figure moving stealthily through the darkened streets of Jerusalem. Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees, the religious elite who militantly rejected Jesus. So when he decided to seek Christ out and learn from him, he had to do so in secret. Slipping through alleyways and dimly lit streets, Nicodemus finds his way to a simple house where Jesus and his followers are staying.
“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you” (John 3:2 NLT).
Without hesitation, Jesus replies, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). I’m not sure what was on Nicodemus’ mind that night, but it’s clear what was on Jesus’ mind. Christ’s exposition on salvation reaches it’s climax in the sixteenth verse.
John 3:16 (NIV)
“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.”
In this one verse, we see the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ how it relates to us. I want you look at some of the beautiful intricacies of this verse, starting with two simple words...
I. HE LOVES:
“For God so loved the world…” If those words are true, it changes everything, doesn’t it? Imagine what the world would be like without God’s love… A dark planet hurtling through space unguided, undirected. No hope. No future. Nothing to live for. No greater purpose to our existence. Every death would be an end. Every grave a place of despair.
But God does love the world! We see it in every sunrise… every blade of grass… every fountain of water… every birth… every child’s face. God so loved the world!
My children watch these cartoons--Veggie Tales. In case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere and haven’t heard of Veggie Tales, it’s this show with computer animated vegetables that tell bible stories. You know, Sunday morning values, Saturday morning fun. Well, at the end of every episode Bob (he’s a tomato) says, “Remember kids, God made you special, and he loves you very much!”
Isn’t that the message of John 3:16? Isn’t that the message the world needs to hear? God made you special and he loves very much. That’s the message George Matheson needed to hear. He was only fifteen when he was told that he was losing what little eyesight he had. Not to be denied, Matheson continued with his plans to enroll in the University of Glasgow, and his determination lead to his graduation in 1861 at age nineteen. By the time he finish his graduate studies he was completely blind.
But his spirit didn’t collapsed until his fiancée returned his engagement ring. She said she couldn’t see herself spending her life bound by the chains of marriage to a blind man. He adapted to life without sight, but never recovered from his broken heart.