SERVICE VIDEO (link)
TEXT: John 1:4-5; 3:16-21
Last week we talked about the hope we have in Christ. We talked about sin, how it separates us from God, not just eternally, but in ongoing ways. We are reconciled to God through the saving death of Christ on the cross, but ongoing sin keeps us from seeing, hearing, and participating in God’s work in the here and now. It keeps us from experiencing God’s justice, peace, blessing, and presence. But we also heard the Good News that God comes after us, seeking us not only for salvation, but for His work in the world. We are invited to continually repent and turn to the Lord again and again in faith and in hope.
Today we are going to talk about the reason behind God’s movement toward us. Why is it that when we fail and fall again and again, and again and again, that God still goes to such great lengths to heal, forgive, restore, and involve us?
In a word, it is love! We are going to look at the Gospel of John, at John’s description of Jesus and of God’s remarkable love for us. It is Good News indeed!
And this is not so much a “go and do” sermon as a “listen to this” sermon. It’s something God really wants you to hear, receive, and have sink in.
14 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. … 316 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
Life and Light (John 1:4-5)
The first verses of the Gospel of John describe the coming of Christ into the world. Though the world was shrouded in sin, Jesus came as Light and Life to shine in the darkness. John tells us that this was God’s plan from the beginning and John introduces two key images that help us understand what Jesus was about.
LIFE: Jesus brings joy, energy, breath, vitality. And he didn’t just bring it; Jesus was life, the life of the party, life from death, new life. For humanity facing death as the consequence of sin, Jesus brings the hope of Life, of salvation.
LIGHT: And into our confused, sinful, disobedient lostness, Jesus shines as Light in the darkness. When it’s dark, light helps us see obstacles and dangers. It helps us find our way. Jesus brings illumination: understanding of God’s truth and purpose and Kingdom. Jesus does all that and more. And he doesn’t just bring life and light; he IS Life and Light.
Not to Judge but to Save (Jn 3:17ff)
I want to jump to chapter 3, verse 17. Where we left off in Isaiah last week was that we continue to struggle with sin and it keeps us from seeing and hearing God at work around us. I noted that God doesn’t look upon our situation and squoosh us like a bug; rather, God comes to us in Christ to invite us to come, believe, and follow. That’s what verse 17 says: “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” That’s Good News for us humans who continue to sin, continue to embrace darkness and turn from the light. We don’t have to save ourselves!
What does God ask of us? That we BELIEVE: “He who believes in Him is not judged” … that is, “believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (v.18) And Jesus invites not only belief, but continued discipleship, continued following. That’s what it means to “practice the truth” in verse 21… deeds that have been wrought, that originate, in God.
God’s Motivation (Jn 3:16)
John 3:16 is one of the best-known verses of the Bible. But I think we focus on it as a very concise summary of salvation. That’s the last part: “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” And that’s absolutely true! But perhaps we miss the significance of the first part, especially if we have not pondered the depth and pervasiveness of our sin problem.
Remember last week? We break the commandments, both externally and at the heart-level that Jesus talked about. We also fail to do the good we ought to do, like the religious folks in the Parable of the Good Samaritan or those who failed to show compassion in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. We also participate in corporate sins like those of cultural racism, greed, and idolatry. We sin. We’ve inherited it from Adam and Eve and we continue to sin on our own. As scripture says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
And yet, why does God offer us salvation through the only begotten Son? Is it pity? No. It’s love: “For God SO LOVED the world that…” (v.16) It’s easy to love those who treat you well, who respect you, who do what you want, who are on good terms with you. But your enemies? Those who are far from being right with you? Those who are lost to you? That’s precisely who God has loved. YOU are precisely who God has loved.
The Light of Love
And it’s this love that is embodied in Jesus Christ. It is this remarkable love that Christ embodies into LIFE and LIGHT. When you are lost in the dark, realize that the Light is not the police come to hunt down a criminal, but a rescue squad sent out to bring you home. When you feel far from God and far from who you want to be, realize that God is not an angry parent waiting to condemn you should you ever show your face in church, but the Prodigal’s Father who runs to meet you, welcome you, clothe you, and celebrate your involvement in the family once again.
And remember that one of the images Jesus offers for us as we join in his work in the world is that we, too, are LIGHT in the world. Jesus is the Light of the world, but he invites us to believe, follow, and be Light IN the world, that others might see and be drawn to God’s love, salvation, and Kingdom work.
You are beloved of God, whether you know it or not. Come to Jesus; believe, trust, and follow the Life and Light of the World, God’s embodiment of His great love. Amen.
Some Music Used
- My Song in the Night
- It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
- Shout to the Lord/O Come, Emmanuel
- Rick Bean, jazz piano
- QUARTET: Resonet in Laudibus (Gallus) – Caritas acapella quartet
- Great are You, Lord/What child is This
- QUARTET: Do You Know the Song that the Angels Sang (Ferko) – Caritas acapella quartet
- Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming
- QUARTET: Go Tell it on the Mountain, excerpts (Ferko) – Caritas acapella quartet