Tag Archives: John 3:16

just believe

Lately I’ve found myself spending a good deal of time in the gospel of John. I’m currently teaching a Sunday school class on the “I am” statements, working our way chronologically through John in a Sunday evening Bible study and even the Lectionary has us encountering Christ through John. So needless to say I pretty much live there. The central theme throughout the book of John is that of belief. This belief and it’s benefits are spelled out pretty quickly in the prologue,  “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12 Even the most often quoted piece of the entire Bible contains this theme as well, “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.” – John 3:16 But what does the gospel writer mean by belief?

I can’t help but think of the scene in the story of Peter Pan where Tinkerbell is poisoned by Captain Hook. In order to resuscitate her the audience (as this is the play version I am thinking of) must say they believe in fairies and clap their hands. As the audience claps, Tinkerbell is restored to life in the presence of their “belief”. But is this the “belief” that the gospel writer is referring to? The Greek word used throughout the book of John is the word pisteuō and William Mounce defines it as, “to believe, put one’s faith in, trust, with an implication that actions based on that trust may follow”. And I think that this last portion of the definition is where the gospel writer is taking us…and rightfully so.

The thesis of the gospel of John is quite simple. He writes so that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Belief that Jesus is the Son of God cannot in any way, shape or form be separated from what one does with that belief. It cannot be a statement of mere vocal expression. Because when one says that Jesus is God’s son, one is saying that Jesus fully embodies the Divine force that created every speck of existence and therefore that which he enacts and commands for us carries that same weight. In his trilemma, C.S. Lewis put it this way, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.” So truly I tell you, there is no such thing as ‘just belief’. To say one believes that Jesus is the Son of God must transform one’s very existence and therefore create in each and every one of us an entirely new way of living. So where is your belief taking you today?

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love

I’m not sure how most of your homes work, but ours has always had a division of labor. Certain tasks fall to my wife and certain tasks fall to me. With the exception of rocking infants, one of my tasks has always been the bedtime ritual. I imagine a large part of the motivation of this division is due to my wife’s exhaustion after handling the kids most of the day, but it is a task I have gladly accepted. This usually includes making sure teeth are brushed, pajamas are on, stories are read, prayers are said and kisses and hugs are distributed equally. Last night as I was putting the bigs (this is now the affectionate term given to the two older kids) to bed I leaned over to hug my daughter and she blurted out, “God loves you, God loves me, God loves the whole world and God loves grandmother” (I’m still not sure why my maternal grandmother gets her own line, but if you knew her you might understand that a bit more). But I was touched by her innocence and the profoundness of that assurance that she had.

I think sometimes we think differently about God’s love. Maybe we feel it is something that we have to earn. Maybe we feel sometimes we think it is something that we aren’t deserving of. Maybe sometimes we think it is meant for someone else and not for us. Maybe sometimes we get that turned around and think of others as unlovable by God. But I come back to this again, “God loves you, God loves me, God loves the whole world.” We find this declaration in one of the most often quoted passages of scripture in the whole of the Bible. “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.” – John 3:16. It doesn’t say that God loved a certain portion of the world. Or that God loved the people that look like me, act like me, dress like me, etc. The text says that God loved(s) the world…This is why he came. This is why he gave his life. Because he loves us all.

I have read many books about theology and Biblical thought in my scholastic career and in my time as a pastor. But I really think that sometimes we forget how simple this message is for you and for me. Sometimes I like to sing the following to myself as a little reminder:   Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

“God loves you, God loves me, God loves the whole world”. If you get nothing else from this today, I pray that you are able to rest in the love of God. A love that was not passive, but gave everything to redeem you. A love that is never-ending, unstoppable, always and forever, divine in nature, looking beyond my faults and calling me his own kind of love. This is the kind of love God has for you and for me.

 

 

 


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