Summary: John 3:16 is so simple and easily understood that sometimes we fail to understand how majestic and powerful it’s underlying message can be.
OPEN: I once read the story of a man had been driving on an out-of-the-way 2 lane highway running thru the rural countryside. He noticed an old tumbledown shack standing in the middle of an open field. He had to smile to himself as he read the crudely printed message on one whole side of the shack. Apparently, some young man had scrawled in large letters with a piece of chalk: "I love you - Kathy."
A few weeks later, as he drove down that same road, he looked in anticipation for that same romantic message. His disappointment was as great as his surprise.
Not only was the message gone, so was the barn. But his smile returned. Beside that field, on the back of a large road sign, scrawled in large white letters were the words: "I still love you - Kathy."
APPLY: John 3:16 is like that message. It is the message from God that He loves us – and that message seems to show up literally everywhere.
You’ll see it at football games, basketball games, on billboards along the road, on bumper stickers of cars, on paintings and statues.
ILLUS: I’ve even read about an eye doctor who has an eye chart in his office that – instead of traditional chart with the E at the top - has John 3:16 in letters with descending size. “Can you see this?” he will ask. While his patients smile, he sometimes has the opportunity to talk to them about the Lord.
Christians are totally in love with this verse because it seems to sum up so much of what the Bible teaches about salvation. It’s so popular that - when I visited sermoncentral.com – I found that there had been over 400 sermons dedicated to this text alone.
I’d even read once of a preacher who believed that he could preach every Sunday for the rest of his ministry simply on this text. I’m not sure I’m anywhere near that inventive. In fact, as I prepared for this Sunday’s message I found it difficult to think of anything to say that seemed to do justice to the simple majesty of this verse. And then… I decided to simply look at each part of the verse, and the power and depth of what I saw spoke volumes to me.
I. God so loved the World
This is the heart of the Gospel.
It isn’t us desiring to find God… It’s God desiring to find us, to embrace us, to claim us as His own.
1 John 4:10 declares: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
And 1 John 4:19 tells us “We love because He first loved us.”
And notice… John 3:16 says God loved the WORLD
ILLUS: There’s a commentator that I enjoy reading by the name of John Gill - but I was shocked by his interpretation of this verse. Commenting on this verse, he stated that “not every man in the world is here meant” (John Gill’s Expositor). Gill essentially maintained that God only loved the elect and that Jesus was only sent for them.
The problem with Gill’s interpretation is that it robs the verse of it’s power. It defrauds the true message of this passage.
John 3:16 doesn’t say He loved just the good looking people
It doesn’t say He loved just the rich and successful
It doesn’t say He only loved a select few of us….
It says GOD LOVED THE WORLD
That means everyone who is damaged by sin and deformed by the corruptness of the world around them.
ILLUS: This kind of love was beautifully described in story I read years ago by Mary Ann Bird. She wrote: “I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech.
When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.
There was, however, a teacher in the 2nd grade whom we all adored – Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy – a sparkling lady.
Annually we had a hearing test… Mrs. Leonard gave test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back – things like “the sky is blue” or “do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words that god must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”