3:16- John

June 26, 2016

We’ve all seen them, at sporting events and
concerts.  The obligatory John 3:16
signs.  In case you are wondering that
all started in 1980.  A guy by the name
of Rollen Stewart had been making a name for himself by appearing at major
sporting events wearing a rainbow coloured wig and dancing wildly for the
cameras.  He was referred to as “Rainbow
Man”.  In 1980 following the Super Bowl,
Stewart was sitting in his hotel room watching a Televangelist by the name of
Charles Taylor and committed his life to Christ.  Shortly after that he decided to add the John
3:16 sign to his “Thing”. 

He claimed that he travelled 100,000 kms a
year to various sporting events, including the Indianapolis 500, the Olympics,
The Super Bowl and even showed up at Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s
wedding.  He truly felt that what he was
doing was a ministry that would lead people to Jesus. 

Not everybody agreed.  One sports director actually threatened to
fire any cameraman who focused on Stewart.

But things spiraled out of control for
Stewart, and his actions became increasing bizarre.  His wife left him claiming that he choked her
for holding her John 3:16 sign wrong, at the 1991 Masters he blew an air horn
as Jack Nicklaus lined up a putt. 
And in 1992 he was arrested after an
attempted kidnapping turned into a hostage situation.   He is presently serving 3 consecutive life
sentences in California. 
But it wasn’t
just Rollen and his sign.  You might
recall Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow wearing John 3:16 printed on his eye
black while playing College Football. 
When his team won the 2009 BCS (Bowl Championship Series) Championship
game John 3:16 was the most googled term on the internet the next day.   Shortly after that the rules were changed,
forbidding college football players from having words written in the eye
black.   This is sometime called the
“Tebow Rule”.
And on January
8, 2012 exactly three year to the day from that College win Tebow played his
first NFL playoff game and led the Denver Bronco to victory over the Pittsburg
Steelers.  and here are some stats for
that Game.   Tebow
threw for 316 yards.   He averaged the
highest single-game postseason completion average in NFL history and that was 31.6
yards per completion,

The second-quarter interception, which resulted
in the Bronco’s taking a 17-6 lead, came on you guessed it the third-and-16.

But it’s not just football, pro-wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin has been known to
wear an Austin 3:16 shirt, and some Christian Businesses try to include it,
here is a cup from Christian owned “In and Out” Burgers in the states, and it
creeps up on Road signs every once in a while.  
Back in the day
a buddy and I were hitchhiking from Sussex to Saint John, and so we included
3:16 on our sign.  We walked a lot on
that trip.
Just a year ago
Keith Urban went to number one on the Country charts with this little ditty.
(John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16)

John 3:16, in case you are wondering, is
probably the most memorized verse in the Bible, it has been called “The Gospel
in a Nutshell”.  In the King James
Version it says  John 3:16  For
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  In the New
Living Translation it reads John 3:16  “For God loved the world
so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him
will not perish but have eternal life.”

The
story has been told about President Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore and George W.
Bush or  you can simply insert the name
of your least favorite politician. 
Actually
the first time the story was circulated was in 1990 in regards to George W. Bush’s
Father the first President Bush.  But the
story is always the same that that particular politician is speaking at a
gathering of religious leaders and as part of his remarks he comments on his
favorite Bible verse and he means to say John 3:16 but instead he cites John
16:3 which says John 16:3  And these things they will do to
you because they have not known the Father nor Me.  Completely
different meaning.

I guess we’ll stick with 3:16.  But John isn’t the only book in the bible to have
a third chapter with a sixteenth verse.  And
so this summer we are going to look at a variety of 3:16s throughout God’s
word. 

Now please understand that there is nothing
magical about 3:16.  Every Chapter 3
verse 16 in the bible doesn’t have something profound for us.  The system that we have of Chapters and
verses in the bible has only been around for the past 500 years or so.  And they are pretty arbitrary and were just
put in place to make it easier to find locations in the bible.  So there aren’t 66 parts to this series, there
are only 11.

And so it only makes sense that our first
message comes from John 3:16. But like most verses in the bible John 3:16
doesn’t stand by itself, it is a part of a bigger story.  And it is the very beginning of the story as
told by John.  By now we have seen Jesus
baptized by John, we have been able to watch as Jesus turns the water into wine
at the wedding in Cana and have seen how he cleared the temple courts for the
first time. 
And chapter 2 ends with this statement John 2:23-25  Because of the miraculous signs
Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him.
 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature.  No one
needed to tell him what mankind is really like.   And that doesn’t
sound like Jesus, but it was. 
And then chapter 3 begins with these words John 3:1  There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was
a Pharisee.    And the next 21 verses chronicle the discussion that ensued between
Jesus and the man Nicodemus and it is in the discussion that we read the words
of John 3:16.
It is a given that John 3:16 is about
lover, but what is it we can discover about this love?   Let’s
take a look.
So let us start with John 3:16  “For God loved the
world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes
in him will not perish but have eternal life.” 
The first thing we discover in this verse is The Person of this Love How often do we hear about the wrath and
anger of the Old Testament God and the love and grace of the Jesus in the New
Testament? 
Somehow we get the picture of a gentle
graceful Jesus rescuing us in just the nick of time from this grumpy Old
Testament deity.
When we are challenged about events from
the Old Testament that we can’t explain or that embarrass us we blame the
vengeful jealous Old Testament God.   But
seriously, is that a reality? 
Listen up folks there is no Old Testament
God and New Testament God, there is only God. 
Or perhaps we see God the Father and God
the Son sitting around the heavenly strategy table and the Son saying “Well
Dad, we tried it your way and it didn’t work, so let’s try it my way.” And it’s
almost like Jesus argued with and persuaded the Father to try something
different.  To stop being so judgmental
and angry with the world
But that wasn’t it.  Listen again “For God”.  This was God’s idea, this was God’s love that
is spoken of in John 3:16.  “For
God”.  And we diminish the character and
the love of God when we try and define him by putting him in an Old Testament
box or New Testament Box.
Throughout the Old Testament we read about
the unfailing love of God, the love that God has for his people and God’s everlasting
love.
 And
so the Person of this love is God.  So
let’s go on from here.
John 3:16  “For God loved the world so
much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him
will not perish but have eternal life.” So the next thing we need to understand is The Breadth of this Love   God
didn’t just love part of the world, he didn’t just love the loveable, he didn’t
just love the obedient.  The word says “For
God loved the world.”   That’s not just a part of the world that is all
of the world.
It was for the world; it was not for a
single nation. Or a single group of people. 
 It was not just for good people,
and it wasn’t just for people who loved God. 
It was all the world that God loved, the lovable and the unlovable, it
was for the lonely and the lost.  It was
those who accepted the love of God and for those who have rejected the love of
God.
And that is hard to get our head around,
I’ve talked in the past of the scandal of Grace.  We all know who should be on the naughty list
and we all know who is on the nice list.
And while we are sure that God loves us and
our family, and the nice old lady next door who bakes us cookies and smiles at
our kids.  We’re not sure about the
terrorist and despots or the jerk who cut us off in traffic or the old guy who
yells at our kids for cutting through his yard. 
Or the person whith more than 8 items in the express line. 
But John 3:16 doesn’t tell us that God
loved nice people or lovable people, but that he loved all people.  Regardless of their gender, their race, their
colour, their religion or even their political party or personality.
Which is why we are told in Romans
5:8
 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die
for us while we were still sinners.  When?  While we were still
sinners.  And that is the reality that
whether we can get our heads around it or not, God loved the world, this
broken unregenerate world.  And he loves
it the way that parents love their rebellious child.  It is a love of broken-hearted grief but it
is love.
And so we continue John 3:16  “For God
loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that
everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” And
here we discover The Depth of
this Love 
It doesn’t just say “For
God Loved the world that he gave”  No, it
says “For God loved the world so much.” 
How much did God love the world? He loved the world so much, that he
gave his one and only son. 
Think about that.  Who is there that you would willingly
sacrifice one of your children for?
There was a time that I questioned
this.  I thought, “If God loved us that
much why wouldn’t he have given himself instead of his son?”  And then I became a parent.  
I have mentioned this before, there are
many of you here that I would sacrifice myself for, what’s the phrase?  I’d take a bullet for you.  But there isn’t one of you here that I would
sacrifice one of my kids or grandkids for. 
Sorry, but that’s the way it is.
But God loved the world so much, that he
was willing to give up what meant more than his very existence.
Paul tells us in the book of Romans 8:31-32  What
shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can
ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him
up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?
And so this leads us to the next
point,  John
3:16
 “For God loved the world so much
that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not
perish but have eternal life.” The
Acceptance of this Love 
This is
where universalism breaks down.  If the
verse simply said “everyone” then it wouldn’t matter what you did, or how you
behaved or what you believed.
But the scripture doesn’t just say
“Everybody” but it says “Everybody who believes in him”.  Believes in who? Believes in the Son. 
Jesus goes on to say in John
3:18-20
 “There is no judgment against anyone
who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been
judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.  And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into
the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions
were evil.  All who do evil hate the light
and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.
And that isn’t just an isolated statement,
remember the first two weeks in June when I preached on baptism we kept going
back to Mark 16:15-16  And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.
 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved.
But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.
Jesus came to the world, salvation is
offered to everybody, and salvation is like the sun, it provides light for
everyone, but you have to open your eyes if you want to benefit from that
light.  And it’s not just a head
knowledge, it’s not enough for the belief to be here in the head but not here
in the heart.  You can’t just say you
believe if that belief hasn’t actually had an impact on your life.
I love the story of Charles Blondin, better
known as the Great Blondin.  And the
Great Blondin was a tightrope walker, and he was the first person to walk
across Niagara Falls.  He did it on June
30th 1859.   And after he got
across he asked the crowd “Who believes I can walk back across with a man on my
back?”  And everybody cheered, and then
he asked “Who wants to be that man?”  And
nobody said anything.  They believed
here, but not here.  And then one man stepped
out of the crowd and said “I’ll be that man.”   The rest said they believed, but Harry Colcord really believed. 
God extends the
invitation of his love to us, but it is up to us to accept it the invitation.
So what happens when you believe?    John 3:16  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one
and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have
eternal life.” The Results of the
Love 
Did you catch that? It is a
twofold result.  The first is that the
person who believes will not perish.  You
will not be separated from God for the remainder of eternity.  That means you won’t go to hell.
But it doesn’t just end there, you see more
than simply being a fire escape from hell the person who believes is promised
eternal life, not just living forever but living forever in the presence of the
God who we serve.  And sometimes I wonder
if we miss that. 
We think of heaven with pearly gates and
streets of gold, and good times lasting forever and ever.  Yep, in the presence of the God who we love
and serve and in the company of his children, other Christians.
Which is why I find it so hard to get my
head around why there are those who call themselves followers of Christ and
children of God who don’t spend any time with God or his kids now. 
A little aside here, it was J. Oswald Sanders who wrote “It is impossible for
a believer, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will
not take the trouble to spend time with God. Spend plenty of time with him; let
other things go, but don’t neglect Him.”
So, to sum up Nicodemus comes to Jesus and
Jesus tells him in John 3:3 that he must be born again, they get into a
discussion about what that means and Jesus eventually tells Nick how much God
loves him, and Nicodemus’ response?  We
don’t know.  We have no clue how the
conversation ended. 
In John Chapter 4 we read the story of the
Samaritan woman at the well and how she embraces the claims of Christ and goes
back to her village to tell everyone she knows about him.
In Mark chapter 10 we read about the rich young
ruler who came to Christ and left rejecting Christ’s claim on his life.  But there is nothing in this account to
indicate that Nicodemus either accepted or rejected the claim of Christ on his
life. 
Now we do hear from Nicodemus again before
the story ends.  When the religious
leaders begin to plot against Jesus we read in John 7:50-51  Then
Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up.  “Is it
legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.
 And then after Jesus has been
crucified and Joseph of Arimathea asked permission to take down Jesus’ body we
read this,  John 19:39-40  With
him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought
seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes.
 Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices
in long sheets of linen cloth.
In his book “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week” , Pope
Benedict XVI comments “The
quantity of the balm is extraordinary and exceeds all normal proportions. This
is a royal burial.”
And in both the Catholic church and the
Eastern Orthodox Church Nicodemus is revered as a saint. 
But we just don’t know.  We see Nicodemus at the beginning of Jesus’
ministry and again at the end of the story. 
But we don’t know if he actually embraced the grace that Jesus offers
each one of us.
And the question really isn’t how did
Nicodemus’ story end, the important question is “How will your story end?”  and only you will be able to answer
that.  Let’s personalize John 3:16 and
read it together, you ready?  John 3:16  “For God
loved me so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that when I believe in
him I will not perish but I will have eternal life.”