Summary: Exposition of John 3:16 for Christmas Day. God loves, He lavishes, we lean, we live.
Salvation: God Gives
Rev. Brian Bill
December 25, 2016
A pastor met a church member out in the community and asked why he didn’t attend services on a regular basis. The man replied that the sermons were so-so and lamented, “Every time I go to church you sing the same songs!” The pastor asked him which songs he was referring to. The man replied, “O Little Town of Bethlehem and What Child Is This?”
Whether you’re here every week or once a year, we’re glad you’re here!
I love how that song answers questions about what kind of Child Jesus was.
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and Angels sing
The King of Kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone Him.
In order to better understand who Christ is and why the Father sent Him to earth, we’re going to set up shop in one verse of Scripture today. This verse contains deep truth but it comes with some danger – because it’s so well known, you may nod when you hear it or just nod off. Familiarity can breed contempt or it can breed boredom.
It’s been called the theme verse of the entire Bible and the gospel in a nutshell. It’s extremely popular – when I typed it into Google, 1.7 billion results came up. That’s pretty amazing because the verse contains only 24 words.
If you watch sports you’ve seen the reference to this verse waved in the stands and in black under Tim Tebow’s eyes. Anyone want to take a guess what the verse is?
Listen to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The great preacher G. Campbell Morgan was intimidated by this passage and wrote these words: “This is a text I never attempted to preach on, though I have gone around it and around it. It is too big. When I have read it, there is nothing else to say.”
I like what Max Lucado writes: “If you know nothing of the Bible, start here. If you know everything in the Bible, return here. We all need the reminder. The heart of the human problem is the heart of the human. And God’s treatment is prescribed in John 3:16.”
This is a great Christmas text. We’re going to unpack it phrase by phrase. Here’s our outline.
• God loves
• God lavishes
• We lean
• We live
1. God loves. Here’s how it begins: “For God so loved the world…” The word “for” introduces a cause or clause (no, not Santa) and puts this text in context. If we go back a few verses, we read that during the time of Moses, God’s people experienced a plague as a result of provoking God. With the poison of snakes in their veins, all they had to do was look at a pole with a bronze serpent on it and they wouldn’t perish. Listen to John 3:14-15: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” God gave them a solution for their sinfulness.
For “God.” This verse begins with God. This is precisely where the Bible begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And listen to the beginning of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Everything begins with God and ends with God. The sooner we realize that life is all about giving glory to God and not to ourselves, the better off we will be. It’s not about you. It’s all about Him.
I love that little word “so” because it shows us that God doesn’t love a little, but a lot. The volume of His love is cranked up high. The word “love” is the word agape, which refers to an unconditional covenant kind of love. It’s a verb, meaning it’s a word of action.
And notice that God loves the whole “world.” This would have been a shock to Jewish listeners who thought God only loved them. He loves the Quad Cities and the Twin Cities. God loves those on the west end and those who live in Geneseo. He loves those who live in Bettendorf and those in Port Byron. He loves Moline and Milan, Andulusia and Aledo, Davenport and Rock Island…and everything in between. He loves refugees and the rejected. He loves the little, the least and the lost. And he loves the powerful and popular. He loves Iowa and Illinois, even though Wisconsin is the Promised Land!
Perhaps you saw the viral video this week of a woman who went on an unloving racial rant toward two Hispanic women. The words she used were hateful and wrong. He loves all races, nationalities and every ethnicity. God is not bigoted or racist like so many of us are.