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Sunday, June 10, 2018

posted Jun 10, 2018, 5:44 PM by Site Administrator

 

FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD…

 

John 3:14-21

Key Verse 3:16

 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

 

First, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake…" (14-15). In the previous passage, we learned about how Jesus tried to help a ruler, named "Nicodemus." Jesus gave him his divine counsel, saying, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." Nicodemus could not see the kingdom of God because he was not born again. He was empty despite his great success morally, socially, politically and intellectually. He must be born again through water and the Spirit; he must really turn to God in repentance. But Nicodemus kept talking back instead of accepting Jesus’ words because of his pride and unwillingness to repent. It seemed there was no way to help him out. But Jesus did not give up on him. Instead, he rebuked him, and now, in today’s passage, he showed Nicodemus God’s amazing love for lost sinners like him. Look at verses 14 and 15.Let’s read these verses together:

 

14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

 

This event, in which Moses lifted up the snake, is recorded in Numbers 21:4-9. It was 40 years after the Israel people came out of Egypt. During this long period of time, the Israelites had wandered in the desert, and all men who were over 20 years old when they came out of Egypt had died in the desert because of their unbelief and rebellion. Now, the new generation had grown up and was serving in the community. They saw how God had guided their way with the pillar of fire by night and of cloud by day, and how God had provided them with bread from heaven every day in the desert, and also how God had destroyed the former generation because of their rebellion. 603,550 soldiers died in 40 years. It means, each and every day, about 40 people who were able to handle weapons for battle died; if we add the women of the same generation, then, everyday, 80 people died.Yesterday 80 people died, today 80 die, and tomorrow again, 80 will die. Every day, there were 80 funeral services. It was really horrible. This new generation of the Israelite soldiers saw all this, and they knew why such a horrible thing had happened – it was because of their fathers’ unbelief and rebellion against God.So they should have learned a lesson. But when they grew impatient on the way to the promised land, they too spoke against God and against Moses and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"(Num 21:4,5) They blamed God for bringing them out of Egypt; they blamed God for saving them only because of some difficulty they had on the way to the promised land. What difficulty did they have? They said, "There is no bread! There is no water!" "Bread" and "water" is about the security. Actually, God gave them the security by raining down bread from heaven. Also, in the desert, for the past 40 years, God always provided them with water, sometimes, leading them to oasis, sometimes, when there was no water, he just let water gushed out from even rocks. So, God took care of them. But now what they wanted was more than just the basic security. They wanted a little more tasty bread than eating the same bread all the time - they wanted a little more variety of bread. Out of this desire, they despised God's provision of bread, saying, "We detest this miserable food." Let's say you gave people some food, and they say, "We detest this miserable food." How do you feel? You never want to give them anything. What about you have provided with food and water for the past 40 years faithfully, and now, instead of appreciating your provision, faithfulness and love, they say, "We detest this miserable food"? How do you feel? Their sin was really great. Like their fathers, they, too, had no gratitude to God for His salvation grace and generous provision of bread from heaven for the past 40 years in the desert. Ingratitude is the root of all kinds of sins. In our Christian life, God takes care of our needs. Maybe, we are bombarded financially; maybe, we don't drive a Mercedes Benz or we don't live in a Beverly Hills mansion. But at least, we live in a studio apartment; at least we drive a Honda Civic. As we live for God, it is God who takes care of our needs. Yet, some people, out of desire for more luxurious and pleasant life in the world, do not appreciate God's provision; instead, comparing themselves to others, they complain - this is the beginning of all kinds of sins. Give thanks to God for his guidance and provision.

 

When God heard their grumbling, He was angry with them. So He sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. (Num 21:6) Then, only after having been punished, the Israelites came to their own senses. They came to Moses and said, "We have sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people. (Num 21:7)

 

How did God answer Moses’ prayer? God said to him, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." (Num 21:8) It was a strange direction.Surely, as they had prayed for, God could have taken away the snakes from the Israel community, or he could have killed all of them in one secondBut, He didn't do that. Instead, He asked Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole so that people who were bitten by snakes might look at it and live.That's the way of salvation God offered them. This instruction sounds superstitious; making a snake shape of bronze is pagan-style; also, a snake is a symbol of evil, hardly nowhere else in the Bible, we see God using a snake or anything in the shape of snake for his purpose; simply, God's instruction does not sound biblical. Yet, this instruction shows God's principle of his salvation very well. Looking up at a bronze snake on a pole is not difficult; it does not require any labor; just use your neck muscles little bit, or roll your eyeball up little bit, then, you can see it. Anyone and everyone can do it. But when many venomous snakes were on the ground, it was a different story. Let's say, here in the sanctuary, 50 cobras are on loose. At that time, God asks you to focus on the worship service, or God asks you to close your eyes and kneel down and pray. What will you do? While 20 cobras are attacking you, you close your eyes, kneel down and pray! Your action, your obedience shows your absolute trust in God, and at the same time, it is the expression of your absolute submission to God, entrusting everything in his hands; it is the expression of your decisive turning to God for help, protection and healing. What God asked for their salvation was not their hard labor, but their absolute trust in God, even entrusting their life in God's hands. This is the principle of God's salvation - what God asks for our salvation is not some activities we do for him, but our absolute and complete trust in Him. Romans 10:9-10 reads: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  10  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." If we apply this principle to the people in Rome 2000 years ago, we can understand it better. In those days in Rome, those who openly confessed that Jesus was Lord, or those who received the baptism in the name of the Lord might be arrested, tortured and killed. In that kind of situation, those who did so showed their decisive turning to God in Jesus Christ; they showed that they would entrust their entire life both in this age and in the age to come, in God's hands in Jesus Christ. God proclaims his healing and salvation for those people. If we apply this principle to those in Muslim countries, China and North Korea, we can see that salvation is found for those who believe in Jesus Christ. We remember how alcoholism, anger, and demons were destroying Pedro; nothing could save him from such things. But when he decisively responded to God's calling based on Isaiah 6, saying, "Here am I. Send me." he was set free from drinking, anger and demons, and now he is a shepherd for God's flock. Actually, that's how we experienced God's salvation. When we responded to God's words decisively, we were healed of all our wounds and scars, and set free from demons and fears and sorrows - we experienced God's healing that way - that's God's salvation. People are not saved by their hard struggles of hoping and hoping, or by memorizing Bible verses or by saying some biblical words such as, "I believe in Jesus," but by their real faith in GodDo you have that kind of decisive turning to God for help, healing and salvation? Or, you still struggle to save yourself, hoping and hoping and trying to avoid snakes? 

 

Now let's go back to John 3 - Jesus was talking with Nicodemus. Here, Jesus describes Nicodemus, a prestigious and successful man, as one of the Israelites bitten by venomous snakes, dying moment by moment, and thereby needed God’s salvation. In Jesus’ eyes, Nicodemus was bitten by snakes and was suffering from the ill-effects of venom: emptiness, sense of meaninglessness, insomnia, depression and nightmares. In this way, Nicodemus was dying moment by moment. So far, he tried to heal himself, save himself in many ways – religiously, morally and politically, but nothing worked. To him, Jesus said, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Through this, Jesus showed him what God had done for him, God’s way of salvation for him. For him, soon Jesus would be lifted up on the cross, so that he may be healed and have eternal life. Nicodemus did so many good looking things, but nothing could save him from his life of emptiness and meaninglessness. Now Jesus helped him to turn his eyes to what God had done for him, what God suggested him for hissalvation from such a meaningless and empty way of life. It was the time that Nicodemus, instead of focusing on what he had done or how good he had lived, or what he had achieved, should see what God had done for him, and put his trust in God's promise of salvation. 

 

Jesus said to Nicodemus, "So the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Jesus was going to do this much for Nicodemus so that he would enjoy eternal life, called zoe, a truly fulfilling life. Nicodemus should stop making excuses. Instead, he should open his heart to Jesus and accept his love for him! He must secure this gift of Jesus - eternal life. How? By repenting and turning to God! By being born again through water and the Spirit! Now in verse 15, Jesus says, "that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Believing in Jesus is like the Israel people looking up at the bronze snake decisively turning to God for healing. Nicodemus needed to turn to God decisively in Jesus. How much Jesus hoped that Nicodemus might enjoy his gift, that truly fulfilling and happy life! Many people see this through their Bible studies. But at that time, instead of turning to God decisively in Jesus Christ, they say, "But what about this?" "What about that?" They are just like Nicodemus. No one should make an excuse of not repenting and turning to God - no one should rely on their own righteousness of attending church worship service for 10 years or 20 years. No one should reject Jesus' love for them. "So the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Turn to God decisively, entrusting your life in God's hands, by faith in Jesus Christ, and you will have eternal life, zoe. 

 

Second, "For God so loved the world…" (16-18). Look at verse 16. Let's read this verse together:

 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

 

This is Jesus' proclamation of God's love for the world. God loves the world so much. How can we say that? Because there is an evidence. He sacrificed his one and only Son for the world! The expression, "his one and only Son" means "his most precious treasure," or simply, "the highest price." Also, the way of sacrificing him was to crucify him to the cross - the most painful way of death. It was not like killing him on an electric chair - just a few minutes, or with poisonous gas, but the most painful way of death. God did this much for the world, willing to sacrifice his most precious treasure for it, willing to pay the highest price for it, willing to endure the greatest pain for itHe valued the people of the world so much that he was willing to do anything for them. Nothing could stop him from pursuing them. He would go to the end! That was the expression of his love for them! 

 

It seemed that the world was really precious, beautiful and lovely to him that he pursued it this much. But actually, the world was not lovely at all, but in constant rebellion against himjust like the Israel people in the desert. The first man Adam sinned by disobeying God’s command even in paradise. Even though God gave him everything even his wife, he teamed up with his wife and betrayed God; God was really hurt. And his son, Cain, was rebellious. When God gave him his divine counseling service not to sin, in rebellion, he did a more terrible sin than he had done before – he murdered his younger brother who was more righteous than he was. During Noah's time, people became nothing but flesh just like animals, losing their dignity as human beings that God had to punish them with the flood. Then, after Noah’s flood, people gathered together and built a city and a tower. Through this, they tried to get rid of the memory of God from human society and enjoy a beautiful life all by themselves. And today still people try to deny the fact that God exists. God’s eternal wisdom and power are well manifested in nature so that all people can acknowledge the work of God. But people suppress the truth deliberately and say that there is no God. Instead, they say that in the beginning was amoeba, and amoeba created all things. Using all their intellect and knowledge, people struggle hard to twist the truth and say, "In the beginning was a big bang." These days people struggle hard to establish laws and regulations that are against God.These people somehow try to get rid of God’s name from human society. What human beings do is so disgusting. Once Martin Luther said that he would have destroyed the world ten times a day, had he been God.

 

God so loved the world! For this world, so disgusting, He gave up his one and only Son to the cross. God wants to bring back the world to Himself this much; today, still God seeks the world, for He loves it. This undying and unfailing love of God has reached to even us, terrible sinners.

 

The next expression, "Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life," shows us God’s purpose in sending Jesus to die on the cross. God loves the world - that's undeniable truth. So, what did he do? He gave his one and only Son to the world. For what? So that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Here, two words are in great contrast - "perish" and "eternal life." If you don't have eternal life, you are perishing. If you have eternal life, you are not perishing. With the word, "perish," Jesus describes the real condition of all peoples in the world. Like the Israelites bitten by venomous snakes, people are perishing. Some people are perishing because of sorrow; some people are perishing because of anger and hatred; some people are perishing because of their lust and immoral life; some people are perishing because of the fear of future security; some people are perishing because of their greed for more money. No wonder Nicodemus could not see the kingdom of God despite his moralistic and religious life - he was perishingmoment by moment. Jesus loved Nicodemus, so he wanted him to have eternal life in him instead of perishing. 

 

God’s purpose in sending Jesus to be lifted up on the cross is to save the people of the world from this terrible status, and, instead, to give them the life that does not perish, but is eternal - no more gloom, or emptiness, but hope and vision, no more void, but a meaningful and fulfilling life. God sent Jesus so that we may stop living the life that is perishing, but live the life that is everlasting. No more life that is perishing, but life that is everlasting! For this, Jesus Christ our Lord died on the cross. He was lifted up on the cross for this.

 

God's ultimate desire for us in Jesus Christ is that we may enjoy eternal life, called zoeThis is what John's gospel is talking about from the beginning to the end. John 1:4 talks about this life, zoe, saying, "In him was zoe, and that zoe was the light of men." Jesus says in John 4, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jn 4:13,14) In John 5, he says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (Jn 5:35) He says in John 7, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (Jn 7:37,38) He also says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (Jn 8:12) Then, on the cross, Jesus finally said, "It is finished!" and he breathed his last. (Jn 19:30) With his death on the cross, all the preparations that must be done for people to have eternal life had been completed. The author John concludes his book in John 20:31, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life, zoe, in his name." This was what the apostle John had grasped. God's ultimate desire for us is not that we offer endless sacrifices like in the Old Testament; it is not that we offer endless ceremonies like in the New Testament either, but that we may have a wonderful life, a truly fulfilling life. Here, we see John's maturity. God wants you to enjoy eternal life, the very life you have dreamed about and pursued. For this, he did so much, even sacrificing his only son to the cross. This is the expression of God's love for us. Today, how are you doing? How is your life? Do you enjoy eternal life? Do you have zoe, that truly fulfilling life? If not, then, get rid of any and all sins that entangle you so easily, and believe. Remember what Jesus says, "Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." "Whoever believes is not condemned." When you believe, you have eternal life in Jesus; when you don't believe, you stand condemned already. The way to secure eternal life in Jesus is by believing. What do you mean, "believe"? Just in the case of the Israel people in the desert, while all kinds of venomous snakes are attacking you - sorrows, or fears, or demons, or depression,... you turn your eyes to Jesus, instead of trying to save yourself, you simply entrust everything, even your life in this world and in the age to come, in God's hands - while so many things are going on in your life, you decisively turn to God in Jesus Christ, entrusting everything in God's hands. Then, you will not perish, but will have eternal life in Jesus Christ.  

 

Third, "This is the verdict" (19-21). Let’s read verses 19 through 21 together:

 

19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

 

It seemed that Nicodemus did not accept Jesus’ message of being born again because he could not understand it. But Jesus declared to him, "The verdict is this: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." Nicodemus’ real problem was not lack of understanding, but his love of darkness. He wanted to have eternal life full of peace, joy and happiness, but he did not want to exchange his wealth, his fame, and his pride for eternal life, because he loved such things more than eternal life. That's why he kept saying, "I don't get it. How can this be?" When people do not want to repent of their love of the things of the world, they turn to theological arguments, saying, "By faith in Jesus, we are saved" or "I’ll go to another church." They must repent of their love of darkness and turn to God so that they might enjoy a truly beautiful life as children of God. There are many people who want to have salvation and eternal life in Jesus, but many of them fail because they do not want to lose their dreams and desires in the world. These people, even when they become completely religious in Christian religion, they cannot see the kingdom of God. Instead, they perish. 

 

Why do people have so much difficulty to renounce such desires and love for the world even though they know that they are going to hell? Jesus says in verse 19, "men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." This means that, when they did what was evil, they began to develop love for darkness. As they keep doing what is evil, their love for darkness grows stronger and stronger until it becomes so great that, even at the risk of being thrown into hell, they cannot reject it. Those who sin a lot go so far away from God that they cannot return. These people hate the light because the light exposes their shameful deeds. Instead of admitting their sinfulness, they hide themselves in darkness, saying, "I don't get it. How can this be?"

 

Jesus says in verse 21, "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." When the truth was revealed, when Nicodemus saw what he should do through his one to one Bible study with Jesus, he did not go by the truth; instead, he pretended that he did not understand his teaching - he did not admit his wrongdoing and rejected Jesus' message - thus, he was revealed as the one who loved darkness instead of light. But there are some people who admit their wrongdoings and repent, when the truth is revealed to them. They are the ones who live by the truth - when the light comes to them, they come into the light, by admitting and confessing their sins. They turn to God in Jesus Christ and have a new life in him. That's what happened to us - that's how we could start this new life in Jesus as his disciples. How could we do so? Verse 21 shows that it is only by God’s grace that we could accept the light and repent of our sins. We too were sinful. How could these sinful people accept the light instead of loving darkness? By ourselves, it was impossible. If we have done anything good such as accepting the light or repenting of our sins, it has been done only through God’s help; it was the work of God. 

 

In today’s passage, we learned of God’s love—that He sent His one and only Son to be lifted up on the cross so that people in the world can have eternal life. Jesus is the way of salvation God offered for all sinners in the world. How much Jesus wanted Nicodemus to open his heart and accept God’s love for him! How much he wanted Nicodemus to have eternal life instead of suffering from a sense of void, depression, insomnia and nightmares! Let’s accept this love of God so that we may not wander in the worthless things of the world any longer, but have zoe, eternal life. 

 

One Word: Shall Not Perish But Have Eternal Life

 

 

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