For God So Loved Us (Part 2)    

Verse John 3:16 is one of the best known verses in the entire Bible.  I believe it’s because the passage proclaims the good news so clearly and simply.  It summarizes what Jesus had been teaching Nicodemus concerning the manner by which the new birth is received.  God, we read, so loved the world, including all mankind, past, present and future, and is not willing that any one should perish.  The extent of His love is shown by the fact that He gave His only begotten Son.  It was an expression of His infinite love that our Heavenly Father would be willing to give His unique Son for a race of rebel sinners.  However, this does not mean that everyone is saved.  A person must receive what Christ has done for him before God will give them eternal life.  That is what the scripture means when we read, “whoever believes in Him should not perish.”  A way has been provided by which all might be saved, and that is what a person must acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ is savior.  Just as the thief on the cross acknowledge Jesus as Lord before he died.  And Jesus told him, “and today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

    There is a little church in Ystad Sweden, it isn’t particularly beautiful nor is it exceptional. However, when you enter the Church you will notice there is a crucifix hanging on the opposite wall of the pulpit.  What makes this crucifix exceptional is it’s life-sized and life-like even to the use of real hair mangled beneath a crown of thorns.  How did this unusual crucifix happen to be in a Swedish Lutheran church?  Well, it seems in the early 1700’s the King of Sweden paid an unexpected visit to the church.  When the pastor saw the king in attendance he was over-whelmed.  He ignored the prepared sermon text for Sunday and replaced it with an oratorical outburst of tribute and praise for the king.  Soon afterward the church received the crucifix from the king.  With it came this command: “Hang this within the church so that whoever stands in the pulpit will be reminded of his proper subject.”

    When we look at the cross of Calvary, we see death, we see pain, we see suffering, but if we can look beyond that, look beyond the physical realities of the cross, what do we see?  We see the love of God; we can see the sacrifice that Jesus offered on our behalf.  We can see that he offered himself; he took the sting of death upon himself, so that we won’t have to.  Because Jesus died and because God raised him on the third day, we too will be free from the sting and power of death by victory of the resurrection.  Because Jesus offered himself for us, we no longer have to fear death.  For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son.

    The love that God has for us allows us to live in a special way, we are enabled to repent and live God’s way.  God loved us enough that we can change and follow him.  It is like the following illustration.  Robert Hastings reported that more than fifty years ago, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a young sociology professor assigned his class the project of interviewing 200 city youth residing in downtown slums.  He asked his students to predict the youth’s future.  Students predicted that ninety percent would serve time in prison.  Twenty-five years later the same professor asked a class to track down the original boys and discover what had happened.  One hundred eighty were located; only four had ever been in jail.  Why were the predictions all askew?  Looking for common factors, over 100 of the boys mentioned the strong influence of a teacher they all had in common.  The students then located a seventy-year-old Sheila O’Rourke, in a Memphis nursing home.  Puzzled by the interest in her, she could only exclaim, “All I ever did was love each of them.”

    We pray.  Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the saving faith in Jesus Christ my Savior.  Please give me a deep and abiding faith and grant me the grace to show in all my actions that you are the Ruler of my heart and mind and that the joy of salvation is the dominating influence of my life.  Lord, you are gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great mercy.  Help me speak your praises and honor you with my life.  Amen