Summary: A sermon for Lent 2 based on John 3:1-17, emphasising what it means for us to be loved by God.
“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. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
Martin Luther calls this the entire gospel in iniature.
In other words the entire gospel summarised.
John 3:16 and 17 expresses,
the core of the Christian message
GOD LOVES YOU
And God wants you to know it.
That is why Jesus was sent into this world.
To live among us.
To suffer for us.
To rise again for us.
Now this has a major implication for each of us.
It changed the way in which we should see God.
It changes how we should experience God.
Jesus’ influence on this world,
by what he said and by what he did, established a foundation for all Christians.
And therefore it establishes a foundation for the church.
This foundation is that all Christians are to communicate to each other and to the world that
GOD IS LOVE
In the gospel reading Cathy read earlier, this is the message Jesus was attempting to communicate to Nicodemus.
Nicodemus had everything going for him in the circle of Jewish Leaders.
He was wealthy.
He had the right status.
He was a member of the elite Jewish council.
He was considered very knowledgeable.
However there was one big problem with Nicodemus.
Nicodemus had a perception of God and how to enter God’s kingdom that was not correct.
And as a Jewish Leader he had dedicated his life to this way of living, the wrong way of living.
He was travelling down the road of what he thought was important.
Of doing everything correctly.
A road that suggests that unless you do everything 100% correctly God will reject you forever.
Nicodemus thought that God’s highest priority was to select the elite for a place in heaven, and reject everybody else.
In other words he thought God was like a grumpy old judge or boss, who would severely punish anyone who didn’t perform perfectly, and there were no second chances.
Have you ever thought of God that way??
Do you know someone who thinks that God’s main priority is to reject rather than accept,
that God wants to condemn rather than to save?
A picture that some people have of judgement day is that there will be a huge screen with God showing a dvd or video of your life.
And that He will be fast forwarding the story, pointing out all the sinful parts of your life.
The parts where you stuffed up.
Well such a picture tells only a small and distorted part of the story.
From what Jesus told Nicodemus, and what He has told us throughout the bible, on judgement day God maybe there showing the film of your life,
but he will be highlighting those occasions when He has been at work in your life.
When you were created.
When you were accepted into his family in baptism.
When He gave you opportunities to develop as a person as a Christian.
When he moulded you as a result of you experiencing Him in His worship, in bible studies, in socialising with other Christians and as a result of prayer.
And everytime one of your stuff ups are shown, Jesus will be standing right beside you, saying I paid the penalty for that.
Jesus will be telling you and His father isn’t it great that you sent me to earth so this child….you….. can be in heaven with us.
Now for Nicodemus this was a completely different way of thinking.
Verse 3 to 11 demonstrates how difficult it was for Nicodemus to grasp this way of thinking.
And it is difficult for many people today to grasp.
It is difficult for many Christians to understand Jesus’ way.
Our first thought as a church,
should be what can we do so people can hear and experience the message of John 3:16-17!!!!
And do you know why?
Because no one else on earth is given that task.
Unfortunately this is not always the message we convey
through how we act,
how we relate to each other and to others,
what we do in our congregations.
Sometimes our number one question is how does this relate to the past….
Other times it is what will it cost us in time, in money or in other resources.
Sometimes our number one question is, what do I believe the church should be?
Other times we are influenced by how other organisations are run.
Recently I was talking to a senior pastor, who has made this important observation.
Everything associated with the church communicates a message.
A question he often asks is: Is the message of John 3:16-17 being clearly communicated in every experience people have with the church he serves?