God’s Love – Part Two

Let’s look at God’s Love Is Extravagant!

“For God so loved…”

It’s difficult for modern people to understand the cultural world before Christ. Even among the Jews in Nicodemus’s time, the idea that “God is love” was counterintuitive. If you had played word association with a citizen of that day, when you said “God,” the response would have been “fear.” Among the Jews, God was a strict observer of man’s follies and quick to disapprove and punish. Outside the Jewish community, God was considered an outright tyrant.

Even today, heathen religions are all about appeasing the wrath of a furious god. Medicine men and witch doctors cycle through desperate incantations, warding off death, disease, famine, and calamities inflicted by their gods. At the root of this fear is the fact that all people recognize in their hearts that they are unworthy sinners. Not knowing the good news of John 3:16, they are left to dodge the lightening from heaven, which they sense they have earned.

And then into that context Jesus drops these words: God so loves.

It turns religion topsy-turvy. It confounds Pharisees like Nicodemus. It forces a rewrite of one’s idea of the Creator. No longer could the ancients think God to be aloof, simmering angrily on His throne, leaving us to figure some way to forestall His wrath. They had to radically shift their concept of Him from fear to love. Many people today also need to make that shift in thinking – even some believers.

But if we think John 3:16 announced a change in God from wrathful to loving, we miss the point. William Barclay wrote: “Sometimes men present the Christian message in such a way that it sounds as if Jesus did something which changed the attitude of God towards people from condemnation to forgiveness. But this text tells us that it all started with God. It was God who sent His Son, and He sent Him because He loved people. At the back of everything is the love of God.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Volume 1, page 128). God was never the wrathful deity of the ancients; He loved us from the beginning.

John 3:16 opens with a bang, starting not only with God, but with God doing something — God loving. Excuse me — God so loving. The most intense word in this verse is the smallest. Bound up in those two letters, s – o, are all the agonies of the Cross; all the suffering of the Son as He walked among men; all the exertion of a God willing to leave Heaven and take on flesh, not because He simply loved, but because He so loved. Hands that hold us are loving. Nail-scarred hands that hold us are so loving. 

In the world famous St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, there is in the annex a huge statue of Jesus Christ, writhing in anguish on the cross. You can see the pain on His face, the blood-sweat of His body. Beneath to statue, a plaque read “This is how God loved the world.” He so loved the world.

So loved  is what we say when loves drives someone to action. It’s what we feel when we see the message of God’s devotion written in flowing red script with a pen dipped into His lifeblood — love at great cost, love clearly understood in every language.

This is extravagant love. God didn’t simple say, “I love you.” He said it in torn flesh, in agony, in bearing unearned, vicious punishment. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

SOMETIMES I FEEL INCREDIBLY LONELY

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-3smms-10254a6

 

When God created the world, He declared that everything was good (Genesis, Chapter 1)

The sun, the earth, the moon, and the stars — all good!

  • He was pleased 
    • Pleased with the animals
    • Pleased with the mountains
    • Pleased with the oceans
    • Pleased with the trees

Above all, God was most proud of His best work: Man (“very good”)

All was good — except one thing… Read more

It Is a Matter of the “Want To!”

If we fail to find all that we want of Christ, it is not because He is unavailable. It has been said that most of the things we really want, we get; that the true prayers of the innermost heart are always answered, but the key is to aware what your innermost heart is really saying. If you want to be married, there are ways. If you want to get into university, there are ways. If you want to make a million dollars, it’s not as impossible as you think. It’s all in the want to. There are incredibly gifted athletes who fail and untalented ones who make it to the highest level.

But God is attainable to every single member of the human race. Again, it’s a matter of the want to.

Consider Paul, who had three visions of Christ in his lifetime. In 2 Corinthians 12 he described how he was caught up into the third heaven and saw things that were beyond human vocabulary. Paul had a remarkable physical life and a remarkable spiritual life. How touching it is that in his final years, when he knew the end was coming, he wrote that he had only one desire, which he hadn’t yet fulfilled. 

Philippians 3:1-14 “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Here was a man exalted by the early church, obviously admired by all his correspondents. And he was telling them that he had one goal and he hadn’t reached it. The older he got, the closer he got, and the more he wanted to lay hold of that for which he’s been laid hold of.

I long to be that kind of man when I stand on the outskirts of this short life. I long to be uncomfortable, not settled into an easy-chair faith in an easy-chair church, surrounded by people who reassure me that we’ve reached the bonus round of the kingdom of God, so we can just put up our feet and watch the world go by. No, I choose to be like Paul and lived thirsty — straining to take hold of the prize, knowing I’ll never quite get my fingertips on it in this life. The straining hurts, but it’s a good kind of hurt – a blessed kind of hurt.

The question is, Do you want to be comfortable or Christlike, relaxed or renewed?

If you want to be Christlike, ask yourself whether you are satisfied. The Puritans used to say, “He has the most need of righteousness who least wants it.” They were right about that. Are you smug, self-satisfied, and feeling pretty food about where you are spiritually? If that’s your feeling, then you aren’t hungry.

Do you have an appetite for the Word of God? Jeremiah the prophet said, “Thy words were found, and I ate them” (Jeremiah 15:16). The Word is our food, and a living, invigorated spirit hungers for more and more food. Sherwood Elliot Wirt, former editor of “Decision” magazine, explained:

“The problem with this whole hunger issue with Christians is that often we think spiritual hunger works the same way physical hunger works. When you are physically hungry, the longer you go without eating, the hungrier you get. When you finally do eat, fill yourself up, the hunger is satisfied. In the spiritual realm, it’s exactly the opposite of that. In the spiritual realm, the longer you go without eating, the more your appetite wanes. If you don’t eat, you can go for long periods of time and you aren’t even hungry.”

It works in reverse too. Physically, the more you eat, the more you’re full; eating satisfies your hunger. But spiritually, the more you’re filled with the Word, the more you want; spiritually appetite only intensifies. No one truly experiences God and says, “That’ll do me for a couple of weeks.” The more you have of Him, the more you want of Him.

Sometimes, of course, we hit the depths. It takes passion to restore passion, and our needle is on empty. We pick up the Bible. And it’s as dry as dust. The sermons don’t come to life. Prayer life is nonexistent. We feel like we have “lost God“ It is in these times that we should use the strategy I call “force-feeding” based on the principle that it’s better to act your way into feeling than to try feeling your way into acting. 

So, sit down, open your Bible. Read. If drowsiness beckons, read aloud. Stay the course. Sooner or later — this comes with my guarantee — God is going to show up again, I assure you, you’ll know when it happens. It will be like rain after a long drought, feasting after days of starvation. It will feel as if the door has opened to your heart, and springtime sunshine is flooding in.

The next day, you’ll show up for Bible reading ten minutes early, and you’ll go overtime. And as passion for God steals back into your life, an amazing thing will happen. All the passions of your heart will begin to fall into place, to seek their proper levels. You’ll realize that it was more than spiritual dryness that was besetting your soul. When you lose Him, you lose everything., And it is only then He is once again rediscovered that you realize the proper place of every other passion and concern. 

I hope you never lost God. But if you do, remember that He doesn’t withhold His blessing from those of us who wander along the road — as long as we are pointed towards heaven, passionately seeking, hungry, thirsty, and wide open for all that He wants for us to become and to do. 

God’s Work, God’s Purpose, God’s Plan

God is at work in your life. More accurately, God is at work in you – inside your heart and soul. 

Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

And the purpose of God’s work (His plan and His purpose) in you is for you to become more and more like Him. 

Many people ask: “If God is at work in me, then what in the world is He up to?” People are disillusioned because they are trying to measure God’s involvement in their lives by looking at the outside – at their circumstances. But that approach is a trap. The end result of God’s work is not measured by how smooth your life runs or how rich or how physically attractive you become. His goal is to re-create in you the character of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul said it this way: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:29a). That’s what God has been working to accomplish in you — to make you more like His Son. This doesn’t mean He wants you to start wearing a robe and sandals, grow a beard, and add a “verily, verily” to the beginning of every sentence. His goal isn’t to make you smarter and smarter, or to alter your personality. After all, He is a God of variety. He never made any two things alike.

It means that when you became a Christian, there was placed in you a brand-new potential for character. The life of Christ was planted in you. Your potential for good, for character, for change, went up about 1,000 percent. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be God. I know that comes as a shock. But it does mean that you have been given the life of Christ along with all its potential. And now that you have this potential in you, God wants to fan the flame so that as your character develops, you reflect Jesus’ character.

When you think about it, that verse from Paul is a real mind-blower. The God of this whole universe has determined your destiny. He has plans for you. He has a purpose and destiny for you. And it is not to be His doormat or part of the sole of His shoe. He plan is that you are to be conformed to His image!

For me, at times, that is hard to believe. I look at some of my attitudes and habits and say, “Not only do we have a long way to go, God, but we’re going to run out of time before you ever get me to that point.”

Maybe you heard about the fellow who said, “Everybody has been given a certain amount of things to do in this life. Right now I am so far behind, I’ll never die.” If God’s plan is to totally conform my character to that of Jesus Christ before I die, I may never die, either.

Maybe you find it hard to believe, too. You’re thinking, That sounds good, but you don’t know me …I’ve got this temper, and it’s out of control … Or You don’t know about this habit I’ve got … It practically runs my life. That may be true. But keep in mind, God did not move in simply to fine-tune your behaviour. He moved in to transform your character. 

Sometimes the hardest part of getting in on God’s plan is simply believing that it can happen. All of us have areas that we assume are always going to be a struggle. A lot of the time it’s easier to say, “Well, that part of me will never change. That’s just the way I am! My mother was this way. Her mother was this way. Her mother’s mother was this way. I imagine Eve was this way, too. There is no point in even trying to change.”

Think about that statement for a minute. Have you ever felt challenged about an area of your life and given that as your response? Many people do. But God doesn’t accept that. He doesn’t say, “That’s just the way you are, eh? Well, okay, we’ll just work around that.” No, God seeks a total overhaul. And the question is, Are you going to continue to work against Him by making excuses? Or are you going to say, “God, if You’re an inside guy, then I want to be an inside guy. I want to be a part of what You are doing in me”?

God has the power to change who you are on the inside. Eventually these changes make their way into your behaviour. I’m not talking about imitating Jesus or asking, “What would Jesus do?” No, I’m not talking about a “do” thing at all. I’m talking about a “be” thing. And inside you is the potential to be what and who God wants you to be. Only then will you be able to do what He wants you to do. And it happens only because God is in you working and working and working. 

You Shall Commit Adultery!

The Bible states “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). However, an amazing and true fact is the in the 1631 edition of the King James Version of the Bible, the word not was omitted from the seventh commandment. The omission made the commandment read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” This edition became known as “the wicked Bible.” Let’s hear it for proofreaders!

Today an appalling number of people – including believers – behave as if this rendering were not a mistake. Dependable statistics on how many married people commit adultery are notoriously elusive, but most surveys show a rate of 30 to 60 percent. Adultery, as defined by the Old Testament, is consensual sexual intercourse between a married woman with a man who is not her husband or a married man with a woman who is not his wife. It is therefore a crime against marriage.

Jesus, however, makes a sobering extension to this commandment. In the New Testament he teaches that lust is adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). As with the preceding commandment about murder, where we can ‘murder’ someone in our heart, we are put on notice that the commandment is being redefined by the Lord and includes much more than the physical act. It’s more difficult to avoid guilt than we thought.

The Bible makes a point of distinguishing between sexual desire and lust. The first is no sin at all, but part of God’s plan for humanity; lust, on the other hand, is twisted and misplaced desire. It exists because of human depravity. The seventh commandment recognizes that lust and adultery destroy people, their relationship with one another, and their fellowship with God.

Recreational, impulsive sex is considered the norm in our troubled culture. Defending the seventh commandment against the modern world singles one out as a pious puritan stuck in a lost century. However, when we strip sexuality of the restraints God gave it, we create chaos that tears at the very fabric of society. And we place an obstacle that blocks the fellowship God wants to have with us.

God gives us this commandment from love. He is saying, “My child, sexuality is My gift to you. I want you to know that when it’s rightly used, it can bring you joy and intimacy with the spouse I gave you, and it can create a legacy of children to replenish the earth.

“But when it’s wrongly used, it can create absolute havoc. It will destroy you from the inside out, and it will injure people who love you. I love your children, and I don’t want them to suffer because you marriage has failed. I don’t want you to spend the balance of your life in deep regret over the damage and heartbreak that was your return for the impulse of a moment.

“I love you, and I know what will make you happy. Sexual ‘liberation’ is really one more brand of enslavement. It advertises thrills and delivers grief. A long and faithful marriage to your spouse will bring you peace and delight that are beyond price — and you and I will be drawn closer.”

Keeping the Sabbath?

In the midst of ten life rules – we call them the Ten Commandments – we read about “keeping the sabbath.” Let’s read it…

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Many have made this commandment into a legalistic nightmare. When I was growing up in a traditional, non-born again, church family we had separate rules for Sunday. Special clothes we wore to church. Special and fancy lunch in the dining room (only time we ate there), and no friends over to play and definitely no cards. 

A bit legalistic? Perhaps, but you should have known the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They actually crunched the numbers on legalism, and came up with 1,521 things you couldn’t do on the Sabbath Day. That sounds like the title of a book no one would want to read.

Among the 1,521: no rescuing of drowning people; no wearing of false teeth (reinserting them, should they slip, would be work); no looking in the mirror (plucking a white hair, also work). If your friend grew ill, you could do certain things to forestall the illness, but actually trying to cure him — too much like work. At the beginning of a famous revolt, many Jews stood and let themselves be killed rather than risking work by defending themselves (1 Maccabees 2:29-38).

Men made a bureaucratic nightmare out of Sabbath-keeping, but it wasn’t what God wanted. This commandment shows a deep affection for us. The word sabbath means “rest.” God knows we grow weary in the cycle of work, so He established a day for us to regularly disengage from toil and refresh ourselves. God cares about both our labour and our leisure.

The Sabbath was also to be a day to turn from the material to the spiritual, to connect in a deeper way with God. Before Christ, people worked toward the Sabbath, resting on the last day of the week (Saturday). Since the Resurrection, we work from the Sabbath (Sunday), living in the power of the risen Christ. 

The early Christians began to worship on the first day of the week because that was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead (Mark 16:9). By the time we get to Act 20:7, we see the disciples coming together on “the first day of the week” to pray, break bread, and listen to the teaching of the Word of God. By the beginning of the second century, Christians universally understood that the Lord’s Day was to be on Sunday, the day after the Jewish Sabbath. And in AD 321, the Roman emperor Constantine, by royal edict, proclaimed Sunday a special day of worship throughout the entire Roman world. It is remarkable to realize that every Sunday from the day of Christ’s resurrection until today, somewhere in the world the church of Jesus Christ has come together to worship.

When I was growing up, Sunday was a special day. And, back then, even those who chose not to attend church still reserved a certain respect for Sunday and how the day should be treated.

We need to accept the wonderful gift of God’s day. We can do this by recognizing its special purpose: to honour Him by resting and reflecting on His goodness. As we do that, we’ll want to find ways to return the gift to Him with gratitude — through ministry, through worship, and through avoiding anything that makes Sunday just another day.

The two command here are to remember it and to keep it holy.

The story goes that when Africa was first being explored, native guides were taking their visitors through the region. After six days of pushing through the jungle, the natives refused to walk. They explained, “We need a day to let our souls catch up with our bodies.”

God has given you a gift to get your soul back in alignment. Will you accept it?

Consumed By Heaven 

Have you noticed that Christians do not talk about heaven anymore? We used to preach about it and sing about it in our churches. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I spoke about heaven. I do remember the last time I was asked a question about what heaven is going to be like and it was almost a decade ago.

Perhaps today we focus more on the present life because we are self-indulgent and lack vision. Just a thought. Or perhaps we are self-indulgent and lack vision because we don’t focus enough on heaven. Either way there’s a reason the Scriptures instruct, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). Our citizenship is in heaven, and our hearts should yearn for our true homeland. 

Some people don’t talk about heaven because they don’t like to think about death.Philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard tells the story of a woman who refused to take about life beyond death because she didn’t want her children to be disappointed if it turned out no afterlife existed. As Willard points out, if no afterlife exists, no one will have any consciousness with which to feel disappointment! On the other hand, if there is an afterlife, whoever enters that life unprepared may experience far worse than mere disappointment.

In an article in the Lakeland Ledger, Cary McMullen mulls over the abandonment of heaven by the contemporary pulpit: “Among mainline Protestants,” McMullen writes, “it was thought that speculation about the nature of a personal afterlife was anti-intellectual and belonged to the realm of red-faced, sawdust-floor evangelists. And too much talk of the next world might distract from efforts to relieve suffering in the present.” And it’s not only mainline Protestants; we hear little of heaven from Roman Catholics or evangelical preachers. Interestingly enough, the subject is more popular than ever with novelists and filmmakers. 

Most preachers have been approached by members of their church who questioned the point of focusing on heaven in this life. “We’ll have all of eternity to think about that,” they say. “Shouldn’t our focus be on making this life better?” And we have all heard people say, “If you’re too heavenly minded, you’re of no earthly good.” They figure that you can be so consumed with heaven’s golden streets that you neglect to fix the potholes on Main Street.

A. W. Tozer would beg to differ. He wrote that Christians of the mid-twentieth century had become so comfortable, so well-situated, that heaven held little appeal for them. Why live in hope of eternity, when you’ve got everything just the way you want it now?

In his book The Wonder of It All, seminary president and author Bryan Chapell tells the story of a young African seminary student who preached a sermon in a preaching class. His subject was the joy Christians will experience when Christ returns and ushers them into heaven. He, too, wondered if prosperity has caused us to neglect the reality of heaven:

“I have been in the United States for several months now. I have seen the great wealth that is here — the fine homes and cars and clothes. I have listened to many sermons in churches here, too. But I have yet to hear one sermon about heaven. Because everyone has so much in this country, no one preaches about heaven. People here do not seem to need it. In my country most people have very little, so we preach on heaven all the time. We know how much we need it.”

It seems that the more consumed we are with the love of the world, the less we will be consumed with the love of God represented by heaven. In his classic Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explained: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next … It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

God’s love stirs my heart to care deeply about heaven — and yes, the thought of heaven energizes me to live in the current moment with deeper joy, as someone for whom the best is yet to come. The bottom line is this: God love you, and He wants to share all eternity with you. Christ has gone to prepare a special and lovely place where you can come and live with Him forever. It’s called heaven and we need to know as much about our future home so we can make our present home here on earth better than it is. 

Hyper-conquerors

God’s love is so amazing. It is constant and unfailing. And, amazingly, it is also triumphant. Not only will it endure all circumstance, it will overcome all circumstances: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). We are not merely conquerors; we are more than conquerors. What can this mean?

The Greek word for “conquer” is hypernikao, a compound word made up of ‘hyper’ (“more, above, beyond”) and niko (“to conquer or prevail”). The term is a unique one, occurring nowhere in the Bible but this particular verse. It has no single-word counterpart in English, so we must cobble together two or three words to get the sense of what it means. Scholars have tried such phrases as “overwhelmingly conquerors” and “beyond conquering,” but my favourite by far is “more than conquerors.” Many of the more recent translations contain that familiar phrase. 

But let’s try another one: “hyper-conquerors.” If has a modern ring to it and suggests the idea of a new league of superheroes — “The Hyper-Conquerors”! I think I like it. Let’s try it out on what Paul is telling us:

    • In the midst of all these things that try to bring us down (tribulation, distress, persecution, you name it), we are hyper-conquerors.
    • When facing any problems that life can dish out — you are a hyper-conqueror.
    • In struggling with that problem you’re worrying about this very day, which is ____________ (fill in the blank), you are a hyper-conqueror.

The very term lifts our spirits and seems to infuse us with a ray of hope. But there’s more to being a hyper-conqueror than just emotional hype. If we were merely conquerors, we would have nothing to complain about. We would neutralize the forces that opposed us. We would prevail. But as more than conquerors, whatever comes against us actually ends up working in our favour. Every difficulty that challenges us finally serves to prove the love of God, from which nothing can separate us. When those evils lie in chaotic rubble, God’s love stands high and unfazed like an immoveable monolith.

How does this work in real life? Here’s a story that gives us the answer.

During his reign of terror, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini turned his war machine on Ethiopia and expelled all the Christian missionary there. Christians everywhere began praying immediately. The answer came in two waves: first, in the protection of the expelled missionaries; and second, in reopening the doors of Ethiopia to the Gospel after the military pride of Italy lay broken in the dust and Mussolini was executed by his own countrymen. 

But during the missionaries’ absence, the Word of God multiplied in Ethiopia, and the returning missionaries found a larger, stronger church than the one they left. One group, the United Presbyterian Mission, had only sixty believers when the missionaries were expelled. On their return, the sixty had grown to thirty churches with a membership of sixteen hundred! These believers were more than conquerors.

With God’s love holding us when evils attack, we don’t merely prevail; we turn every dramatic event to our advantage. We feed on adversity and grow stronger. The greater the problem, the more we gain wisdom, spiritual power, and maturity. That’s what it means to be a hyper-conqueror. 

Nothing is meaningless in the world of the believer. Everything has a purpose; and in a world ruled by a loving God, the purpose is always to use every encounter to shape us into the perfect image of our Lord. Every difficulty will be turned to our favour and help us to become “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). Or, in Paul’s words, to become more than conquerors. 

The Gospel in 25 Simple English Words

John 3:16 has long been regarded as our greatest, most direct, and most concise statement of the Gospel. With almost miraculous precision, it places the good news of the love of God in the smallest and simplest of packages. When you say “John 3:16,” even many unbelievers either know what it means or know the verse itself. It is the most famous book-chapter-verse reference in the entire Bible. You’ll see it on a banner at a sporting event, emblazoned on a T-shirt, or scrawled in graffiti on an underpass. It’s a shorthand way of saying, “God loves us all.”

Tim Tebow famously placed the reference on his eye black (the tape strip beneath a football player’s eyes) before a national championship game in college, and the broadcasters frequently identified it as his favourite verse. Immediately afterward Google received more than thirty million hits from people looking up John 3:16. And that was only the beginning. Three years later, after leading the Denver Broncos to a rousing playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, someone noticed he had thrown for precisely 316 yards. The Associated Press reported that he also averaged 31.6 yards per completion. Those who didn’t “get it” again went to the internet, and by Monday afternoon John 3:16 was once again the most searched item on the internet.

It’s often been said that the Lord moves in mysterious ways. Some may think that finding significance in a quarterback’s passing yardage borders on superstition, but it may show us that God will use almost any means to tell us how deeply He loves us. When was the last time any of our efforts succeeded in getting ninety million people to hurry to the Internet and look up the Gospel?

Throughout history, millions of words have been written about John 3:16. Yet none of them are necessary to grasp the meaning of the verse. God communicated the heart and meaning of the Gospel — the most profound, far-reaching message of all time — in only twenty-five simply words of English text. When translated into any language, this verse is supremely easy to understand.

All we need in life is packed into those twenty-five words. Your Bible is the essential library of life, and every verse is profitable for wise living. But if worse came to worst, and we could only retain one of its 31,103 verses, this would be the one we could not let slip from our grasp.

I have many ways of sharing this verse but recently read of a new way to experience the truth of John 3:16. It is interesting to note that not only is the entire Gospel contained in the message of the verse, but there word gospel is embedded in the verse itself. 

                                For God so loved the word

That He gave His Only

                      Begotten Son, that whosoever believes

In Him should not Perish 

                     But have Everlasting

                                      Life

John 3:16 is thoroughly and essentially the Gospel in one verse. A statement of the Gospel so simple that a child can understand it and so profound that a scholar can never fathom its depth. It needs to be inscribed permanently on every heart.

John 3:16 is preached, studied, and cited more often than any other biblical passage, yet it never becomes yesterday’s news, never loses its majesty or its freshness, never loses one microvolt of emotional power. It is so inexhaustible that over a period of many years, one obsessive preacher compiled from it more than six hundred preaching outlines. Talk about a month of Sundays! That’s enough sermons to keep a church fed for almost twelve years.

The Gospel is found in this verse … “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

There are two things you need to KNOW

1> God loves

2> Like all people in love, God gives gifts

There are two things you need to DO

1> Believe (means to totally trust in)

2> Receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life

As I said, simple but profound. And a message that is seriously life changing. 

Risk-Taker

Most of us think of risk as a negative situation we should avoid. But risk is a part of life, and it’s a big part of faith. Not every risk is worth taking, but if you’re too overwhelmed by fear to correctly assess a situation, you’ll miss many opportunities for growth, increased strength, deeper faith, and success.

Have you been playing it safe? Too safe? If forward is the direction you choose in your journey of faith, be prepared to take some faith-based risks. Being a follower and disciple of Christ in today’s world its not safe. And it isn’t intended to be.

In his 2002 book, Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus wrote, “I want to reiterate the fact that the center of God’s will in not a safe place, but the most dangerous place in the world. God fears nothing and no one. God moves with intentionality and power. To live outside God’s will puts us in danger, but to live in His will makes us dangerous.”

Think of the people in Scripture who took great risks.

    • Moses wasn’t playing it safe when he returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh – Exodus 5:1
    • Gideon wasn’t playing it safe then he dismissed most of his army – Judges 7:7
    • David wasn’t playing it safe when he strode up to Goliath – 1 Samuel 17:31
    • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren’t playing it safe when they refused to bow to the image Nebuchadnezzar had erected in the Babylonian plains – Daniel 3:16-18
    • Esther wasn’t playing it safe when she put her life on the line to save her people, telling Mordecai, “If I perish, I perish” – Esther 4:1
    • Peter wasn’t playing it safe when he stepped out of the fishing boat to walk across the water to Jesus – Matthew 14:29
    • Paul wasn’t playing it safe when he preached to Governor Felix about “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” – Acts 24:25
    • The apostle John wasn’t playing it safe in his old age when he sent a book from Patmos filled with images of dragons, beasts, and coming days of wrath and judgment.

You can’t play it safe either. Not if you want to seize tomorrow and accomplish the dreams God places in your heart. You will need to be a risk taker.

The best example of a risk-taker in my mind is Caleb. We were speaking about him yesterday. Many people don’t know a great deal about Caleb, because he only occupies thirty verses in the Bible. But what verses they are! What a man of faith! He is a powerful and wonderful example of risk-taking, future-grabbing grace.

In the book of Numbers, Moses sent twelve men – Joshua, Caleb, and ten others — as an advance party to reconnoiter the Promised Land. These men left the safety of their encampment, forded the Jordon River, and slipped into Canaan. Their mission: to make notes of the land, observe the enemy, study the fortification, estimate the population, and bring back enough intelligence to aid Moses in planning the coming invasion of the land God had promised the Israelites. 

The Bible tells the story this way: “So they went up and explored the land from the wilderness of Zin … Going north, they passed through the Negev and arrived at Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai—all descendants of Anak—lived” (Numbers 13:21-22 NLT)

The city of Hebron had been the ancestral home of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but now it was inhabited by an evil tribe of huge warriors known as the descendants of Anak. The sight of these warriors terrified some of the scouts.

The scouts quickly harvested some pomegranates and figs from the orchards of Canaan, and two of them lugged back an enormous cluster of grapes, carrying it on a pole between them. Imagine the excitement when the spies returned to Kadesh Barnea! Their mission had taken forty days, during which no one knew if they had survived or perished. Day after day, sentries on Israel’s parameters watched for them. Now that were back — all of them safe and sound.

But they were not united. Ten of the twelve had the fear of failure. The were not risk-takers.

Have you ever heard these names: Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel? No? These are the names of the ten spies who risked their lives on an espionage mission only to lose heart, doubt God’s power, and miss Good’s will (Numbers 13:4-15). They came back so discouraged they disheartened the people of Israel. And God determined that because they were not risk-takers and would not believe Him that they would not enter the Promised Land. In fact, they would all need to die in the wilderness before their decendants could cross the Jordan and take Canaan. All must die except Caleb and Joshua. 

Two of the spies had risked their lives to go into Canaan and report to the people what they had seen and encountered. Joshua and Caleb gave a positive report because they believed God when He said to Israel that this would be their land and they would defeat those who currently occupied the land. The other ten saw the same things but from a perspective of fear and not risk-taking and faith. 

Remember, Paul wrote to young Timothy and said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

To be a risk-taker, stepping out in faith, we must remember that we do not need to fear. That God has given to us everything we need to fulfill His will for our lives. That we walk in Power, love, and have self-discipline. No matter what our age we need to overcome our hesitancy and defeat fear so we can carry on and fulfill the plan and purpose of God for our life.

He calls everyone of us to be risk-takers.