John 3:13-18 – The love of God revealed!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 5, 2012 AM
The “Blind Men and the Elephant” is a fable that originated in India. It was translated into English in the 19th century as a poem by the writer John Godfrey Saxe. He incorrectly saw it as a means to warn against religious intolerance. Therefore, the story has become widely used in philosophy and religion classes to illustrate the need for either religious or cultural tolerance, thinking that we form our reality and belief system on our limited experiences. In other words, perhaps each religious faith only holds partial truths that make up one part of God. However, the original tale actually dealt with the spiritual blindness of the four individuals and how if blind men could not grasp the physical reality of an elephant they could touch, how are we, spiritually blind people, going to grasp a God whom we cannot see.
This brings up a very interesting notion. If people in our day and age have a distorted view of spiritual things, especially where it concerns the Bible, God, and Jesus Christ, how do Christians help them to see the truth? We live in a nation full of folks with the opinion that religion should be all about them and what many evangelical churches have taught for the past several decades has only added to the confusion. Many cater to the self-centered nature of the situation rather than teaching the truth of Scripture. Jesus dealt with a myopic spirituality as well. The Jews of his day thought that God only loved them and that he should respond to others the way they thought he should. It was a startling revelation when Jesus taught that God loved and desired a relationship with anyone who would come to him by faith. It was the love of God revealed, let’s discover how and what this means for us today.
The Bible teaches us over and over that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts, yet we quickly forget this truth. From Hollywood to television and into popular culture the media and mainstream desires to mold God into their image. They squeeze him into a bottle that he simply cannot fit into. The love of God is grander than our constraints and in fact we do not completely comprehend it. Jesus demonstrated this for us in that…
I. The love of God is revealed from heaven! (v. 13)
1. We only hear what we want to hear!
1) Jesus tried to speak to his listeners on a level they would understand, yet they deliberately refused to do so. He earlier told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” (v. 12) We find Jesus teaching his followers in parables so that only they would understand what he was instructing them. He warns, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:9 NIV) When asked why, he tells them that he did it to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” (Matthew 13:13-14 NIV) The idea of having “ears to hear” means being able to comprehend the spiritual truth Jesus was teaching. Now, dear adolescent of the Lord do you have ears to hear what I am talking about? This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone into heaven” and then come back to earth and able to give clear teaching about divine matters, “except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man!” The Son of Man being a descriptive term for the Messiah. Jesus of course was referring to himself. Therefore, what we refused to comprehend or acknowledge has occurred, the love of God is revealed from heaven in Jesus Christ!
EXAMPLE: Cindy Kienow, who works at a popular restaurant in Hutchinson, Kansas, had been waiting on one of particular customer for 3 years. He always tipped her well, sometimes leaving as much as half the tab. Then, one day, he outdid himself—he gave her a $10,000 tip for a $26 meal! He told her, “I want you to know this is not a joke.” What an amazing display of radical generosity, however, an even more radical display was the love of God revealed from heaven!
No one had gone into heaven, but God was more than willing to come to earth! Now this is a rather radical and remarkable thing because mankind has constantly throughout history tried to reach up to the gods they create, but here in the pages of Scripture we discover that God through Jesus has reached down to mankind. In fact, God did something so extraordinary and so wonderful that it is hard for many of us to grasp. We discover that…
II. The love of God is revealed through the death of his Son! (Vv. 14-16)
1. Sacrifice is at the heart of God’s love!
1) When we think of love in our day and age we filter it through our experiences and what we are constantly taught. Love for us means something quite different from what Jesus meant here. The idea of love here is one of sacrifice. The amazing thing is God did not have to do what he did he did it because of his grace. We equate love with emotion. We think it is dependent upon need or yearning, yet the Bible tells us that God is sufficient in of himself. He needs nothing else, including fellowship. Now think about this for a moment my Biblical Buckaroo. If we know that God is all powerful, all knowing, all holy, everywhere all the time, then why would we ever think he is insecure? Contrary to what some would have you think, God does not need your praise or your friendship because he is lonely or in need! We find that God sent his Son to be “lifted up” as a means of spiritual healing just as the brass snake was lifted up before the rebellious Jews in the wilderness so that if they were willing to look at it and trust in God to heal them, they would be saved. (Numbers 24:4-9) And God did it for our faith and trust in him because, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 NIV) However, behind this wonderful truth is a horrible reality: God’s Son would willingly die for us on a cruel cross that would be lifted up! “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 NIV) The love of God is revealed through the death of his Son!
EXAMPLE: The story is told of a young preacher named Augustus Toplady, who was taking a walk through the English countryside when a sudden storm swept across the landscape. Toplady spotted a wide rock formation with an opening—a cleft—where he sought shelter until the storm passed. As he sat out the deluge, he contemplated the connection between his shelter and God’s love. He had no paper to write on but found a playing card on the floor of the cave-like structure and began to write the words to the beloved hymn “Rock of Ages.” Written on that stormy day in 1775, this hymn has been a source of strength for Christians ever since.
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
The love of God is revealed through the death of his Son!
Sarcasm aside, most men want to emulate a leader who would ride into the enemy’s fire to save a fallen comrade! Women want a white knight that would gallantly ride in, scoop them up, and save them from the dragon’s teeth! Now you may think you are too jaded enough that you do not desire this in your life, but deep within the human heart there is a yearning for nobility and salvation, for sacrifice and honor. Let me share with you a wonderful truth: Both of these things have come true and are yours for the asking. In fact, we discover that…
III. The love of God is revealed through our faith! (Vv. 17-18)
1. Faith cannot be earned, passed on, inherited, or given away by us or anyone!
1) “Consequently,” Paul would write that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NIV) What is the message? Namely, that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The word “perish”, in verse 16, does not mean annihilation or total destruction but rather a final destiny of “ruin” in hell apart from God. We learn that Jesus spoke vibrantly about the truth of eternal damnation for those who refuse to believe. It is startling for some sophisticates to realize that Jesus sternly warned his listeners, “I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:5 NIV) That one to fear that Jesus spoke of was God who loved the world! Yet God also tells us that “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32 NIV) The truth is that he desires everyone be saved! In fact it “pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3b-4 NIV) It is a truth that mystifies scholars and confounds common folk. You cannot be good enough, do enough, or wish it to be so enough because it is the simple truth, dear child, that “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18 NIV) The choice is yours. The love of God is revealed through our faith!
EXAMPLE: I read a story about a believer who was invited to a dinner party where he was seated next to a belligerent unbeliever who delighted in taunting Christians. Throughout the evening, the man baited him mercilessly about the evils of Christendom throughout the ages. With each insult, the Christian calmly replied, “That’s an interesting point of view.” And then he asked a question that revealed genuine interest in the man and deflected the discussion away from the issue that divided them. As the two were walking out the door at the end of the evening, the man fired a final jab, at which point the believer put his arm around the other man’s shoulders and chuckled. “My friend,” he said, “all night long you’ve been trying to talk to me about religion. Are you a religious nut?” The man’s animosity dissolved in a burst of laughter and then in sobriety, for he was indeed a religious nut. All human beings are. We’re insatiably and incurably religious—hounded by the relentless love of God, though we may try to keep him away. (Edited from a story by David H. Roper, RBC Ministries, Daily Bread, June 11, 2009) The love of God is revealed through our faith!
The love of God is revealed from heaven, the love of God is revealed through the death of his Son and the love of God is revealed through our faith! Do you know the love of God in your life?
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.