Loved by God
Good Morning from the Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team to all who are listening to or reading this message. What a glorious day to worship God!
Today is the Second Sunday of Lent. Our Bible reading comes from the New Testament Book of John, Chapter 3, verses 1 through 17. This is a familiar text that gives us what is probably the most memorized verse in all of the Holy Bible, John 3:16, which emphasizes what it means for us to be loved by God.
Now reading John 3:1-17 (NLT):
1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the most precious reason to observe Lent with gratitude and praise. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior and Redeemer. We are continually humbled at the love You displayed through the sacrifice of Your Son on the cross; may we commit to remembering the price He paid as we offer our own sacrifices for Lent. May our focus be on You now in adoration and praise. Our hearts are full of deep gratitude for how You’ve worked in our lives. In the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday, help us recall the many blessings You’ve given us. May we purpose to let this season of Lent be a time of thanksgiving, rejoicing in our souls to You, the God who saves us. In Jesus' name, Amen.
In his commentary on our Gospel lesson for this morning, Thomas G. Long cites that the famed preacher, Fred Craddock, often described the tendency for us humans to try to shrink the Christian faith to a manageable size, to fit it into the tiny boxes of our impoverished religious imagination.
He says that with sharp wit, Rev. Craddock tells of people who have boiled the Christian faith down to slogans, of those who have taken the spacious and infinite promises of God and reduced them to bumper stickers. And how often these boiled down slogans truly miss the point of our faith. For example, he says that this shrink-wrapped faith is easy to identify when the back bumper of a car reads “God Is My Co-pilot,” to which Rev. Craddock adds, “So, Mr. Driver, that must mean that you are the pilot. I think I’ll take another flight.”
Even though Nicodemus thought he had a deep understanding of what it meant to be a person of God, the Spirit of God continued to challenge those tiny boxes in which Nicodemus had put his trust.
Nicodemus was one of the 71 members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Temple in Jerusalem. Nicodemus had everything going for him in the elite circle of Jewish Leaders. He was wealthy. He had the right status. He was considered very knowledgeable. No doubt he sought to keep all the man-made rules of his religion, as well as the law of God which was given to Moses.
However, there was one big problem with Nicodemus. Nicodemus had a perception of God and how to enter God’s kingdom that was not correct.
Nicodemus didn’t want to lose his seat in the Sanhedrin, yet he knew within himself that something was missing in his life. Nicodemus obviously wanted to know more about Jesus’ teachings so he came to see Jesus at night.
Nicodemus had many questions; Jesus listened to them and responded by saying, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.”
Nicodemus was looking at things from an earthly perspective when Jesus was talking about being ‘born again.’ Nicodemus was scratching his head, trying to work out how to crawl back into his mother’s womb. He was so focused on what he had to do that he was missing something. He was presuming upon his own ability to qualify for heaven.
Often, we too are so concerned with what we have to do. People cannot easily concede that heaven is attained not by our own merit, but only by the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. We love to think that we are good enough. Let’s get away from that notion or that we can co-operate with God in the mighty work of our salvation from our sins.
Do not be misled: if we think we can get to heaven by our own good works we will surely fail: “You must be born again.”
As Jesus was saying to Nicodemus, and says to us, it’s not about what we have to do, it is about what God has already done for us.
“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
This section of the gospel lesson focuses our attention on the action of God for our salvation.
Martin Luther calls this the entire gospel summarized. It communicates the core of the Christian message; GOD LOVES YOU and He wants you to know it.
That is why Jesus was sent into this world.
To live among us.
To suffer for us.
To rise again for us.
The message God was attempting to convey to Nicodemus was that He needed to allow God to be his influence and not something else.
We need to turn to Jesus, wholeheartedly, relying on Him alone for our salvation, trusting not in our own righteousness, but in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s pray that we may have faith to believe these things, and to put our trust in Him: without Him we can do nothing!
Love was God’s motivation for the mission of Jesus, and it should be our mission today as well. Bishop Sam Gray shared the following on his Facebook page.
We often hear of giving up things or “fasting” for Lent; may we fast from the destructive practices that so often define our actions and feast on the things that Jesus calls us to do.
Fast from judgment, Feast on compassion
Fast from greed, Feast on sharing
Fast from scarcity, Feast on abundance
Fast from fear, Feast on peace
Fast from lies, Feast on truth
Fast from gossip, Feast on praise
Fast from anxiety, Feast on patience
Fast from evil, Feast on kindness
Fast from apathy, Feast on engagement
Fast from discontent, Feast on gratitude
Fast from noise, Feast on silence
Fast from hatred, Feast on love
Fast from discouragement, Feast on hope
We are in the Second Sunday of Lent. This is a time when we prepare our hearts and minds to once more live through the events of Holy Week and Easter, Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is through those events that we are assured of God’s ultimate and complete love for us, and we can know the reality of God’s hope that is ours.
If you haven’t trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to invite Jesus to come into your heart and life right now.
I John 5:13 tells us: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Jesus has provided the gift of salvation to us which gives us not only hope for today but hope for eternity.
In Romans 10:9, we are told that “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
We receive salvation when we:
(1) Repent of our sins.
(2) Trust Jesus Christ as our Savior.
(3) Confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, invite Him into your life right now.
Or maybe there are those who are far away from Jesus. Have you allowed your comfortable, personally focused desires to act as an eclipse between you and God? Is Jesus obscured or completely blacked out of your life? Do you miss Him?
All it takes is to open yourself and say "I want things to be different. I know things need to be different. I know what’s wrong, what doesn’t belong and I invite You, Jesus, to come and change me.”
When we turn back to Jesus in repentance, when we ask for forgiveness, intending to live a godly life, God’s mercy reaches out to us with a message of love. God is a God of mercy, of redemption, of restoration and of renewal. Just come by faith to the throne of grace to receive it. He is waiting for you with open arms. Repent all over again and get back to fulfilling God’s plan in and through your life.
I’ll close with this touching story.
A lot of times as we watch football or baseball games on television, there are people who hold up a banner with the text John 3:16. They don’t write out the text, they just have those words printed on their piece of card board, John 3:16.
Is it supposed to be a reminder of what God did for us? Or is it supposed to be reminder that since God did so much for us, we are to reach out to those around us with the same kind of love?
Perhaps it is both and speaks volumes about God’s love for us and our love for each other.
In the city of Chicago, one cold, dark night, a blizzard was setting in. A little boy was trying to sell newspapers on the corner but the people were inside out of the cold. The little boy was so cold that he walked up to a policeman and said, "Mister, you wouldn’t happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you?
You see, I sleep in a box up around the corner there and down the alley and it’s awful cold in there at night. Sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay."
The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, "You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they come out the door you just say John 3:16 and they will let you in."
So, he did, he walked up the steps to the door, and knocked on the door and a lady answered. He looked up and said, "John 3:16."
The lady said "Come on in, Son." She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace and she went off.
He sat there for a while, and thought to himself "John 3:16.... I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm."
Later she came back and asked him "Are you hungry?"
He said, "Well, just a little. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days and I guess I could stand a little bit of food."
The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn’t eat any more. Then he thought to himself "John 3:16... Boy, I sure don’t understand it, but it sure makes a hungry boy full."
She took him upstairs to a bathroom to a huge bathtub filled with warm water and he sat there and soaked for a while. As he soaked, he thought to himself, "John 3:16... I sure don’t understand it, but it sure makes a dirty boy clean. You know, I’ve not had a bath, a real bath, in my whole life. The only bath I ever had was when I stood in front of that big old fire hydrant as they flushed it out."
The lady came in and got him, and took him to a room and tucked him into a big old feather bed and pulled the covers up around his neck and kissed him goodnight and turned out the lights. As he laid in the darkness and looked out the window at the snow coming down on that cold night, he thought to himself, "John 3:16... I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a tired boy rested."
The next morning, she came back up and took him down again to that same big table full of food. After he ate she took him back to that same big old split bottom rocker in front of the fireplace and she took a big old Bible and sat down in front of him and she looked up at him and she asked, "Do you understand John 3:16?"
He said, "No, Ma’am, I don’t. The first time I ever heard it was last night when the policeman told me to use it."
She opened the Bible to John 3:16, and she began to explain to him about Jesus. Right there in front of that big old fireplace he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought, "John 3:16. I don’t understand it, but it but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe."
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
You know, I have to confess I don’t understand it either, how God would be willing to send His Son to die for me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing. I don’t understand it either, but it sure does make life worth living. (Written by Pastor Tim Zingale February 14, 2005)
When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible, please click here and may you be blessed by singing along with "For God So Loved."