Summary: In John 3:16, what kind of a world is Jesus talking about that needs saving?
Love the World
John 3:16 rings out loud and clear, “God so loved the world…” As I have traveled to some of our Free Methodist mission work I have witnessed the suffering of different people. I asked myself, “If God loves the world, why does he allow innocent people to suffer?”
In Haiti we traveled back roads to visit Albert Schweitzer Hospital. There I saw little babies with bloated stomachs lying helplessly from malnutrition. The hospital was doing their best to show God’s love to these little babies, but why do they have to suffer?
In Port-A-Prince Haiti as we traveled along the back streets you could see family after family living in cardboard houses and out on the street begging for food to eat.
In China we traveled by boat to an island caring for men and women with no feet or hands caused by leprosy. The sight of these suffering people was sickening.
I did see the love of God at work in the lives of missionaries caring for the sick. Ruth Winslow was love in action as she washed away dead skin and put fresh dressings on leprous sores.
What is Jesus talking about when he told Nicodemus “God so loved the world…?” Jesus told Nicodemus that God sent his one and only son not to condemn the world but to save the world.
The world Jesus is talking about needs saving.
I. World – an Evil System
The world that Jesus came to save is a world system that is evil, under the control of the god of this world, Satan. Jesus taught that as long as we live in this evil world system there will be suffering and pain. Jesus said that in this world we would have “tribulation.” The same root word used for “tribulation” is used for pressing out grapes into juice.
The Apostle Paul speaks of this evil world system in II Corinthians 4:4, “Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shinning upon them. They don’t understand the message we preach about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” NLT
Satan, the god of this evil world system, is your chief enemy. The Apostle Peter gives this warning, “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a raring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that Christians all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” I Peter 5:8-9
I’m afraid that the average American easily becomes inoculated to the basic teachings of scripture. Fairly recent polls show that 84 % of Americans believe in God. If you asked person on the street if he is a Christian he would tell you, “Yes, I’m as good a Christian as the next person.” “Who’s lost, I know exactly where I’m going.” The term Christian has lost its true meaning as a Christ follower. Many follow Jesus as such a distance they need telephoto lens to see Jesus. True followers are so close in following the steps of Jesus they get dusty.
Rather than turn to God, people turn to science, education, politics, protests, self – help resources. God is mocked on television and in movies, God is preached like a chameleon in some places. You can form god to meet your needs. Hearts become hardened to the creator God, maker of heaven and earth.
People who turn to the god of their inner self become hardened to the person of Jesus Christ. Hard-hearted people are confused. Their minds are full of darkness and wander far from God because they have closed their minds to the true light of the Gospel. Look at Ephesians 4:17-19 and see how close it describes the morality in America today: “With the Lord’s authority let me say this: Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They don’t care anymore about right and wrong; and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed.”
Hard hearts result in dysfunctional families. Hard hearts smash good marriage relationships. Satan the god of this world not only blinds eyes, but also hardens hearts so people cannot experience the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
Scriptures warn us against compromising and conforming to the evil systems of this world. “Stop loving this evil world and all that is offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.” I John 2:15-17