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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Receive God's greatest gift of love to the world
Text:John 3:16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2015-03-08
Added:2015-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation: NKJV

Psalm 57:1

Psalm 6:1,2

Psalm 40:4,5,7

Hymn 80:1,5,6

Psalm 57:5

Read:  John 3:1-21; Romans 5:1-11

Text:  John 3:16

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the most important message you are ever going to hear.  It may not be the first time you have heard it and it may not be the last.  But it is the most important.  It may not be the best crafted and in that sense might not be the most gripping message you have ever heard.  But it is still the most important message that you are ever going to hear.

It is a message about God’s love.  It is a message about God’s gift.  And it is a message about God’s promise that

“. . . whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

I preach to you the Gospel, the good news of salvation under the following theme:

Receive God’s greatest gift of love to the world.

We will see:

  1. God’s love.
  2. God’s gift.
  3. God’s promise.

1. God’s love. 

It is for a good reason that John 3:16 is one of the most well known and well loved verses of the Bible.  This Bible verse gives us a clear and simple explanation of the gospel and it also gives us the reason for the gospel: the great love of God.  It is the gospel message that we must hear and believe and it is the gospel message that Nicodemus so badly needed to hear, so that in time he too might believe.

Nicodemus was confused on that night that he came to speak to the Lord Jesus.  He was confused at what Jesus said, that

“. . . unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3)

And when the Lord went on to explain that one must be born of water and the Spirit, Nicodemus asked in John 3:9,

“How can these things be?”

How can these things be?  How can one be born again in the manner that the Lord Jesus was describing?  And that is a question that we all need an answer to.

You see, on one level Nicodemus was a good man.  He was a man of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews, the teacher of Israel.  He would have prided himself on being a man of integrity, a man of high morals.  He knew the law and not only did he preach it, but he would have tried to live it.  But Nicodemus had a problem.  And the problem was this:  Nicodemus was not as good as he thought he was.  He was not holy and blameless.  In and of himself he was not so righteous that he could enter the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus was a sinner.  Indeed so great a sinner that it would not be enough for him to make a little change here or there:  Nicodemus needed to be born again!  He had to start all over.

And so do you.  We all need to be born again if we are to see the Kingdom of God, if we are to inherit eternal life.  And the reason for that is this.  (And now I am going to paraphrase articles 1-5 of chapter III/IV of the Canons of Dort.)

In the beginning man was created in the image of God.  He was created good, righteous, and holy.  His heart was right, his affections were pure and therefore man was completely holy.

  But then came the fall into sin.  Rebelling against God, man brought upon himself blindness and horrible darkness.  He became wicked, rebellious, perverse, impure and unholy.  And this corruption spread from Adam to all his descendants so that it can rightly be said that we are all conceived and born in sin. 

  And so by nature we are not children of God but children of wrath, incapable of any saving good, inclined to all evil, dead in sins, and slaves of sin.  And without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit we can not turn to God to be saved.

  That is not to say, of course that we have no idea at all of what is good and what is bad, what is honorable and what is shameful.  But even that is affected by sin so that people will call that which is bad good and that which is good, bad.

  And just as we can not save ourselves through following our moral conscience, so we can not save ourselves by keeping the law of God, the Ten Commandments.  Rather than provide us with the way to be saved, (which really was not the intention) the 10 Commandments show us up for the sinners that we really are!  Man can not, therefore, through the law obtain saving grace; rather, the law leaves us under the curse.

That is what Nicodemus had to understand.  This is what we need to understand.  We need to understand both the depth of our sin as well as the consequence of our sin.  Our sin is like poison and the corruption of our souls means death.  In our old, sin-filled state, we are just like the Israelites of Numbers 21 and that John 3:15 refers to, the Israelites in the wilderness who had been bitten by fiery serpents, by poisonous snakes.  Like those men and women of Israel we have in our flesh the poison of death.  Indeed, the poison of those snake bites is a visible picture of what is wrong with each one of us outside of Christ:  we have a death sentence and in and of ourselves, we can not escape. And if we are not healed, we are not saved, we are going to perish.

It is a hard thing to say, a hard thing to hear, but it must be said and it must be heard.  Unless we are born again, yes, unless we believe in God’s only begotten Son, we will perish.  John 3:18 says,

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

And John 3:36,

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

He will perish.  The wrath of God abides on him.  We can not gloss over those words.  We can not ignore them in our rush to get to God’s love.  John 3:16 presents us with two ways to live, two modes of existence: to enjoy everlasting life or to perish.  And to perish is to be separated from the love of God.  To perish is to experience His wrath.  His wrath against sin and against all ungodliness.  To perish is to go to hell.  And like heaven, hell is forever.  We need to know that.  We need to understand that.  And then we need to understand that to be a Christian is not simply a way of life but to be a Christian is to turn from death to life.  And there is only one way to do that.  There is only one way that this could be possible.  And it is not what you do, nor what I do, nor what Nicodemus did.  It is because of what God did.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

And why did He do it?  It is because He loved.  And the object of that love was the world.

“For God so loved the world.”  I want you to think about that.  I want you to really understand what that means.  For there is the danger that we become so pre-occupied with what this does not mean that we lose sight of what it does.   It is true and it must be said that this does not mean that God loves everybody in the world in the sense that Jesus died for all, nor that everybody is going to be saved.  Rather, as John 3:36 says, 

“he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” 

But rather than focus on what it does not mean, today I want you to think about what this does say, what it does mean.  In the first place when the Bible says that God so loved the world, this means that He loves the whole world, not just part of it.  Specifically, not just the nation of Israel.  God’s love goes beyond the boundaries of Israel to every tribe and tongue and nation.  This would have been news for Nicodemus – and this is good news for us!  But there is more to think about, for what was the world that God so loved?  It was a world that was at enmity with God!  A world that had turned its back on God.  And that is amazing!  We can understand that God would love the world that He had created when it was new.  We can understand that He loved Adam and Eve when He first made them, when He blessed them and placed them in the garden of Eden.  We can understand how God would have been delighted to be with Adam and Eve in that garden, when all was good and when there was no sin.  But that is not what John 3:16 says!  That is not what John 3:16 is getting at!  Rather, it says here that God so loved the world!  And the world that He loved was – it cannot be denied – the world that He loved was a fallen world.  A world that had become corrupt.   A world that had rejected Him.  A world that was at enmity with Him.  A world that had turned to darkness.

A world that would kill His only begotten Son.

That is the world that God loved! 

And do you know where that world can be found?  That world can be found in every nation and among every people and in every city and in every town and in every street and in every house and in every family and in everyone.  That world can be found in you.  That world can be found in me.  The truth is that it is not just that we are in the world, but that the world is in us.  And it is when we understand this, that we begin to see something of the wonder in those words,

“For God so loved the world.”

It was not as though God said “There are still some good people left in the world, so I will send my Son to save them.”  It was not as though God said, “I will help those who first help themselves.”  It was not as though God said, “I will help the strong and forget about the weak.”  Rather it says “For God so loved the world!”  In all its darkness.  In all its badness.  In all its sin.  And specifically now, in all the darkness and the badness and the sin that is in me, that is in us!  For what did we read in Romans 5?  Not only did we read in verse 5 that

“the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us”

but, Romans 5:6,

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” – that’s us!

And verse 8,

“But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.:

And verse 10,

“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

We were ungodly, Romans 5 says.  Sinners.  God’s enemies.  And to repeat what we confess in the Canons of Dort: children of wrath, incapable of any saving good, inclined to all evil, dead in sins and slaves of sin.  But God so loved the world, yes, He so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son.  That is the gospel!  That is the depth, the wonder of the love of God.  That He should love the world.

 

2. God’s gift.

We glossed over a word in John 3:16, and I want to go back to it.  It is the word so.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”  How much did God love the world?  He loved it so much that He gave to the world His only begotten Son.  That is amazing!  That is incredible!  The greatness of God’s love is that He gave His Son to a world that hated Him, to a world that would crucify Him.  And I say this deliberately because even we who have received Him, who believe and have life in His name even we only do so because of the regenerating Spirit of God that is within us.  We are not better.  We are not a different class of people, somehow more worthy to be saved, as if by nature we were not sinners, we were not God’s enemies.  And yet God gave us His Son!  And not just any Son but His only begotten Son.  That is, His one-and-only Son, His one-of-a-kind Son.  He is the Son who has always been there.  He is the Son who is eternal, who was there before time.  He is the Son that the Nicene Creed describes as

“the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father, before all ages; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father.”

It was this Son Whom the Father gave to the world.  God the Father so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son.  He gave Him up for us.  He poured out His wrath upon Him, His wrath against the sin of the world, He poured out His wrath on Him so that we who believe in Him might not experience that wrath but instead be recipients of His love! 

There are people in this world who are angry at God.  And there are people in this world who refuse to believe in Him.  There are people who say “If God exists, why is there so much suffering in this world?”  And “If God is a God of love, how could He send people to hell?”  But can you see the folly, the foolishness of such talk?  For who are we to answer God?  And how could we even think to say that God has not done enough for the world, for the world that hated Him, that was at enmity with Him?  Just think for a moment what He has done.  When Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden of Eden, rather than leave them in eternal misery, God promised that He would send a Deliverer.  He would send the One He called the Seed of the woman to crush the head of the Serpent.  He promised that He would still have a people for Himself, that sin and Satan would be destroyed.  Then when mankind grew in sin and lawlessness, He sent His flood – not just to punish the ungodly but also to save the believer Noah and His family so that He might yet have a people for Himself.  Then He called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans, from a family of pagans.  He made His covenant with Abraham and his descendants saying, “I am your God and you are My people.”  And then even when God’s people rebelled, time and time again, He called them back, He would not let them go.  And then when the time came, God performed the greatest act of love of all:  He sent down His Son.  He sent down His only begotten Son.  He sent Him down knowing that He would be rejected that He would be killed – and that at that time even His closest disciples would run away and abandon Him.  He would be despised and rejected by men.  But not only that:  in order to bear the punishment of God’s wrath for the sins of the world, when He hung on the cross, the only begotten Son of God would be forsaken by the Father.  And in those hours of darkness, God the Father poured out His wrath upon God the Son, His wrath, His punishment against the sin of the world.  And He did that so that whoever believes in Him should not perish under God’s wrath but rather live with Him in everlasting life.

And that brings us to our third point.

 

3. God’s Promise.

John 3:16 also teaches us why God did these things.  He gave His only begotten Son, He gave Him up to suffer and to die so that

“whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Whoever believes in Him should not perish.  That is, whoever believes in Him will not perish!  Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born again?”  And, “How can these things be so?”  And in John 3:16 we have the answer.  The reason why we can be born again and the way that these things can be so is not in us nor is it from us.  But it is because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life!  Everlasting life!  Life with God! Living with Him in heavenly joy and glory forever and ever.  That is the gospel!  That is the best, the most important message that you are ever going to hear!  For that is the good news of our salvation! 

But it is not enough to hear these things.  You must also receive this.  You must believe this.  That is why it goes on to say in verse 18,

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

There are two ways to live, two roads to travel.  Reject God’s gift, reject His only begotten Son and remain in your condemnation, that is perish in your unbelief.  Or else receive Him.  Receive Him as your Saviour.  Believe in Him and trust in Him for your salvation.

And the promise is this:  whoever comes to the Father though Jesus Christ will have everlasting life.  Whoever!  No exceptions!  Verse 17,

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

That is the promise for you and that is the promise for this world!  Brothers and sisters:  will you receive this promise?  And will you tell others about it?  “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Whoever.  No exceptions.  Yes it is true that it is God’s elect who will be saved.  It is true, as we confess in chapter 2, article 8 of our Canons of Dort, that it was His most gracious will and intent to give to them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation.  But that does not take anything away from the whoever of John 3:16!  The call to believe goes out to all the world, and it is a genuine call, a real promise.  The promise that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

  Brothers and sisters, do you believe that?  Do you believe that for yourselves?  Do you believe that for others?  Also for your unbelieving neighbors?  Yes, even for those who, practicing evil, are at this time still haters of the light?  God has given you His gospel, He has given you the best news, the greatest message you are ever going to hear.  And you have the privilege not only to believe it yourself but to tell it to others and to say to them:  whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

How can a man be born again when he is old?  How can these things be?  It is because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  That is the good news, the gospel, that Nicodemus went home with on that night so long ago.  And that is the good news, the gospel for you as well.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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