John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
I’ve received some pretty amazing gifts over the years. Cars. Money. Trips (and that’s just from the other pastors that I serve with). I’ve also given some pretty amazing gifts over the years (or at least I thought they were amazing).
John 3:16, the greatest declaration in the Bible, describes for us the greatest Giver giving to us the greatest Gift ever. You might remember that John 3:16 comes in the middle of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus about being born from above, or born of God (see yesterday’s reading). Jesus has just said these words to Nicodemus:
John 3:13-15. 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
And then comes the best commentary ever written. John summarizes the whole conversation, and the whole of redemptive history with these famous words:
For God so loved – “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And love surrenders its own gain for the gain of others. This love is vital to us, for none of us have ever lived this way apart from first being loved by God.
the world – God’s love is an all-encompassing, world-wide love. God loves everyone. God loves the cosmos. This is the word John uses over and over to describe those that are in opposition to God. It’s not just that God loves so many people, but that he loves people who don’t love him. That’s true love.
that he gave his only Son – Here’s the incomprehensible nature of God’s love, that in a moment in time, God gave his Son to his enemies. The One that was in the Father’s bosom, wrapped up in his eternal hug, the co-creator, the eternal Word, the Beloved, God himself was given to us and for us by God.
that whoever believes in him – Belief is the singular response sought by God from us. This is not mere rational acceptance, but an ongoing entrusting of our lives to Jesus. And yet it is a simple faith. There is no adverb surrounding the word believes (praise God). We do not believe “deeply,” or “fully,” or “sincerely,” or “wholeheartedly.” Any such word would make our faith a work to be done. No, we simply believe. We do nothing but entrust our lives into the life of the One who has lived and died in our place.
should not perish but have eternal life – There is no neutral ground between these two extremes. Death or life. Perish or live. Those are the world’s options. Our options. And this eternal life is not just a future promise of heavenly bliss. It is our ongoing reality, in Christ, TODAY. By our union with Christ, we have been given the very life of God. An intimate relationship with him. All of his Trinitarian love, respect, and favor now shared with us.
Let that soak in for a second (or for an eternity).
“To live is Christ” is never about giving to God. It’s about receiving the best Gift you could ever get, from the best Giver ever – the love and life of our God and Savior Jesus. Now we can live lives as the givers of his love as Christ lives and loves in us.
What’s the best gift you ever received?
You in Christ
How can you be a receiver of the Father’s love today?
Christ in you
How can you be a giver of the Father’s love today?
Playlist: John 3:16.
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