Summary: We may share in the suffering of Christ by receiving his sacrificial love and by living sacrificially for others.
Title: The Cross of Salvation… Sacrificial Love!
Text: John 3:14-21
Thesis: We may share in the suffering of Christ by receiving his love and living sacrificially for others.
Lenten Series: The Crosses of Lent
Arthur Burns, a Jewish economist of great influence in Washington during the tenure of several Presidents, was once asked to pray at a gathering of evangelical politicians. This was his prayer: Lord, I pray that Jews would come to know Jesus Christ. And I pray that Buddhists would come to know Jesus Christ. And I pray that Muslims would come to know Christ. And Lord, I pray that Christians would come to know Jesus Christ.” (Mark Buchanan, “Singing in the Chains,” Christianity Today, February 2008, p. 33) My desire for us as we make our way through the Lenten Season is that we come to know Christ and experience the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering...
Series Key Verse: I want to know Christ and experience the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11
The placard stapled to the telephone phone pole read: “Lost Dog.” There was a description of the dog and a promise of a substantial reward to whomever found and returned the dog. It said, “He’s only got three legs, he’s blind in the left eye, he’s missing his right ear, his tail is crooked, he’s been neutered, he is almost deaf and answers to the name ‘Lucky.’”
Obviously, the only thing that makes that old dog lucky is the fact that his owner loves him and wants him back.
I guess that is the essence of our own understanding of salvation. It is a good thing for us that God loves us and wants us back.
I want to unpack a series of truths about the nature of our Christian understanding of salvation. The first truth is that it originates with God. There would be no salvation were it not for God.
I. Existence of Salvation… salvation originates in God.
For God so loved… John 3:16
Cause and Effect Theory
Two or three years ago Bonnie and I left of Christmas Day to drive to Chicago to join our family for a few days between Christmas and New Years. At the intersection of Sheridan and 60th Avenue the light turned red and we were suddenly aware that we were at that the intersection was a sheet of black ice. We slid to a stop and were promptly rear-ended as other cars careened through the intersection resulting in multiple collisions. We are fortunate to have excellent insurance coverage with Farmers Insurance Group and a nice lady in Alabama arranged for us to pick up a rental car out at Jeffco Airport and we were on a way in just a couple of hours.
But to the point… had there not been black ice there would not have been any accidents at the intersection of Sheridan and 60th that day. The black ice was the factor that caused the phenomenon or effect of multiple accidents. Of course it isn’t that simple because we know that something caused the black ice and something caused the conditions that caused the conditions that caused the black ice and so.
Some call that the butterfly effect which proposes that a hurricane forming somewhere far out at sea is contingent on a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere, several weeks prior. Similarly the ripple effect is the phenomenon that is caused by a stone being dropped into a pond.
The argument for causality is essential to our biblical understanding of creation, i.e., “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” The argument then being, God is the original cause of all causes and effects.
Similarly, our text today teaches us that Christian salvation originates with God.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6-8
William Barclay reminds us that a biblical understanding of salvation is of “God acting, not for His own sake, but for ours.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Vol. 1, p 128) In other words, we brought nothing to the table. We were utterly helpless. We were spiritually bankrupt. We did not have a leg to stand on. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Salvation originates with God.
A second truth about the nature of salvation is that it is vast in scope.
II. Expanse of Salvation… the world.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son… John 3:16