“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (NASB)
Salvation isn’t academic stuff. Ya can’t just walk into a Walmart, ask the cashier with the yellow vest on what aisle its in, pluck it off the shelf like a book to read, head for the self-checkout, pay for it, and think you’re good. Anyone who has read any Dietrich Bonhoeffer knows this is a “cheap jack wares” kinda thinking and doesn’t do anything except cheapen the grace of God. I should know, I use to think this way. Life got tough and I thought that just saying “I believe in Jesus” was enough to plunge into a baptismal pool and be all better. Ha-Ha…
In John’s Gospel we are introduced to a Pharisee named Nicodemus. I usually assume that all the Pharisees were wacky (because they were) but there is something different about this one. Scripture really doesn’t go deep with Nicodemus but I’m gonna go out on a limb here (which I wouldn’t do for just any Pharisee) and say that for all the academics he would have studied, Nicodemus believes this Messiah, who has everyone’s attention because of the miracles He’s performing, is more than just a healer. So, Nicodemus seeks Jesus out and then enters into a conversation with Him. “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.” (John 3:2)
Jesus will start to break it down simply by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Now granted, Jesus will have to explain this to Nicodemus a little further because Nicodemus had a “Wha?” moment but eventually Jesus will state the true intent of His mission. And if we were to think about it a little further John 3:16 may go a little something like this…
“God (the greatest Lover) so loved (the greatest degree) the world (the greatest company) that He gave (the greatest act) His only begotten Son (the greatest gift) that whoever (the greatest opportunity) believes (the greatest simplicity) in Him (the greatest attraction) should not perish (the greatest promise) but (the greatest difference) have (the greatest certainty) eternal life (the greatest possession)”
Max Lucado would say that “The Word of God is so deep that theologians can dig their entire life and never reach the bottom of its wisdom, yet shallow enough that a beginner can completely grasps its truths.” Like I said earlier, salvation isn’t academic stuff but it is heart-core stuff. Every so often we need to be reminded that the heart of the human problem is the heart of the human (that’s a Lucadoism) and that John 3:16 has Jesus giving the Fathers planned prescription of treatment for it. He loves, He gave, We believe, We live. Pretty simple stuff and as Max puts it this is “A twenty-six-word parade of hope: beginning with God, ending with life, and urging us to do the same.”
As I have gotten a bit older, I’ve come to realize that I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed (but I ain’t the dullest either). However, I’m kinda like Nicodemus in the fact that I would consider myself a professional questioner. It’s as if I wanna make sure the truth is the truth but I look for loopholes because the obvious just can’t be that obvious. Like Nicodemus, I got my academic credentials, I belong to a religious organization, I can speak the religious language, and I participate in religious activities BUT does all that leave me in good standing with El Elyon? Hmm…
I wanna close today by saying that ain’t nothing wrong with a glass of milk from time to time. The apostle Peter knew this as well, “like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect in salvation” (1 Peter 2:2) Yeah, I know what Paul said to the Corinthian church but he wanted to push then into maturity. What I mean by a “glass of milk” is that there ain’t nothing wrong with getting back to the basics and John 3:16 does just that.
All the books by Henry, Tozer, Spurgeon, Calvin, Moody, Lucado, and Piper (just to name a few) aren’t gonna help you find the simplicity of God unless you already know who He is. Nicodemus snuck off in the dark of night, just outta curiosity, and came face to face with the only begotten Son and still asked, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9b) Jesus gave the answer…For God so loved the world that He gave. What else is there to know? Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris is a husband, a father, has an education in Biblical doctrine and is a graduate of The Colony of Mercy. He has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Think About This: “The difference between the disciples’ seeking and the Gentiles’ quest for God is that the disciples know what they are looking for. We can only seek God when we know Him already. How can you look for something or find it if you do not know what you’re looking for?” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer