Summary: The gospel in a verse is a reminder of the life we’re called to live
File under, "a little child shall lead them". Bryan McNair, a pastor who served First Baptist in Huntsville Texas tells a story about his daughter Laruen. Laruen wrote out John 3:16 one time and, to make it stand out, added colorful designs and doodles. Brain said, "she brought her finished masterpiece to me and I looked at it with utter amazement. The verse was John 3:16 all right, but she inadvertently ran two words together... Instead of writing, ’For God so loved the world…’ she wrote, ’For God solved the world.’"
Now contrast Lauren’s vision of Christ with that of Jack Nicholson. In an interview following the 2007 release of The Bucket List, Nicholson reflected on his personal life.
He said, "I used to live so freely. The mantra for my generation was "Be your own man!" I always said, "Hey, you can have whatever rules you want—I’m going to have mine. I’ll accept the guilt. I’ll pay the check. I’ll do the time." I chose my own way. That was my philosophical position well into my 50s. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to adjust."
Adjust maybe but as Nicholson says: “We all want to go on forever, don’t we?” his voice hoarse from cigarettes. “We fear the unknown. Everybody goes to that wall, yet nobody knows what’s on the other side. That’s why we fear death. I’m naïve emotionally. I can’t bear the number of funerals you go to once you get older. I have to find a way to adjust to loss or sentence myself to a life of grieving. So I focus on the immediate, on my children.”
This young girl knows the truth of the pain that Nicholson knows too well. She is well aware of the reality that Jack professes he wants when he says, "I want to go on forever" but can never hope to do without the solution Lauren so clearly sees.
John 3:16 is this great centerpiece of the message of God to each and every one throughout the world. It is the simplest and most dangerous message ever given to humans. It is an offer of the most wonderful comfort and transforming love. Yet it is a crushing burden and insurmountable barrier to so many. And here is why.
Jesus reminds Nicodemus what happened to Israel in the desert. In Numbers 21 the people have been given victory over Canaanite cities and seemingly in the next breath they complain about their situation and even the Manna God provides. God brings judgment against them. Snakes bite many and people start dying. When they confess their sins they ask Moses to make it all better. Moses prays and God’s answer is for an image of the snake to be put on a bronze pole and raised up. Those who look at it are healed those who don’t look on it dies.
That is what God has done for Lauren, Jack Nicholson, Alan Wilkerson and each of us. He has raised Christ, up on a cross, so that those who look on Him might be saved, healed, forgiven, transformed and made whole. Those who don’t look on Jesus miss the promise of eternal life.
In our world, where we try to make everybody feel good how can I make such an exclusive claim? I don’t make it, God’s word does. I wish that I could arrange for the people I like; respect and think are neat to go to heaven. I wish I could send the people I label as bad, nasty or not worthy to hell. I don’t get to do that for that you should be thankful. You don’t get to do that and for that I am thankful. God makes that judgment and it is perfect.
How do I know that? Look at verses 17-21. Jesus’ purpose isn’t condemnation it is salvation. The problem is, there are those who simply refuse to be a part of God’s plan. "Those who do not believe are condemned already", Jesus says because they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God. The evidence of this is visible everyday in our lives. People like darkness [sin] more than light. Light hurts our eyes. Light makes us wince in pain. Light shows us what is wrong. Light means we can no longer ignore something.
The proof of this is all around us. Spiritually we have people making claims that excuse all types of evil. Relationally when the light breaks in people are faced with change. Darkness let’s our excuses remain unchallenged. Excuses for not doing being different like, "so what", "that’s just the way I am", "I don’t care" or my favorite, "I don’t want to." Darkness lets us wallow in grudges and sin. Darkness means we don’t have to deal with the hell we’ve caused others. Darkness in politics lets us play the "blame game" and hiding from responsibility. Bonuses are paid in the darkness under the excuse of "contractually obligations". Congress finds darkness hides their lack of control on the very money paid out. And I can’t even begin on the darkness which media tries to sell us.