Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

God SO LOVED the WORLD

Sermon / Homily on St. John 3:16

The Offer

by Pastor Stephen Muncherian

John 3:16

How many of you remember Joe Isuzu? Pathological liar. Expert Isuzu salesman. There is a reason for this. Watch this. (Isuzu commercial)

Think about what it means to be given an offer that we couldn’t possibly refuse. (Godfather "Join the family")

On your sermon notes you’ll find the words to John 3:16 - or they’re up here on the overhead. I invite to read John 3:16 together with me. What we want to focus on is God’s irresistible offer given to us in Jesus Christ. God’s astounding offer of life with Him that is the focus on John 3:16.

Let’s read together: “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” (John 3:16)

For God so loved the world.” Let’s say that together. “For God so loved the world.” - US.

The truth of that statement is so simple and yet it boggles the mind. Its so easy to say and so hard to wrap our minds and hearts around. God loves us.

Maybe God’s love is hard to understand because so many of us struggle with seeing ourselves as lovable. Why should God love me? I can’t even love myself. Maybe we hear about God’s kind of love. But in life we’ve been shown quite the opposite.

And yet the truth remains. God loves us. Each of us, no matter what we may think of ourselves. No matter what others may think of us. No matter what our sins or our attitude towards God. Whether we accept the truth of His love or not - He does love you.

You can put your own name there - each of us is a part of that world that God loves. That Jesus came for. For God so loved - Steve - or Bill or Daniel or Kathy or Shiela. God loves - put your name there. Go ahead. Say it. Out loud. “God loves ______.”

What does it mean that God loves us? One definition of love that I’ve heard Steve the younger share is that “Love takes the initiative to act sacrificially to meet a need.” God loves. God initiates. Let’s say that together, “God initiates.” The initiative to love comes from within God.

Anyone know who this is? This is Dick Hillis. Dick Hillis was a missionary to China. He founded what is now OC International which has about 500 missionaries in about 65 countries. Dick Hillis died in 2005 just up 99 in Ripon. Dick Hillis - in his book, “Love is a Costly Thing” Dick writes about a mother lying on the ground. In her arms this mother held a tiny baby girl.

Dick writes, “As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little. But, it was all I had.

“Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.

“Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived.”

One definition of love that I’ve heard Steve the younger share is that “Love takes the initiative to act sacrificially to meet a need.”

Sometimes we see examples of God’s kind of love lived out in the lives of others - like in that mother. Love that’s sacrificial - that gives outrageously - love that’s committed beyond reason - love that simply goes beyond what we can wrap our minds around.

God’s love is undeserved. Its unearnable. God doesn’t need to love us. Love initiates with God because God is love. He simply chooses to love us.

In John 3:16 - Jesus goes on: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son...”

God gave Jesus. Which means that God acts. Let’s say that together, “God acts.” God in His love for us gave His own Son.

We have three sons. And I love each one of them very much. I can’t begin to imagine sacrificing any one of them for a for a friend - especially not an enemy. They probably appreciate hearing that.

How many of us would give our son to die? Especially our only son? Remember Abraham? There was no higher proof of Abraham’s love for God than when he gave God his son - his only son - Isaac whom he loved.

A while back I read about a family that was reduced to absolute starvation - and the only possibility of preserving life was to sell one of their children into slavery. The hunger was unbearable - and the children’s pleading for bread was tearing their parent’s hearts apart. So they considered it. Imagine the desperation. Sell a child into slavery.

But which child? They had four sons. Not the first-born - the heir and future patriarch. And the second was too much like the father. The third was like the mother. And their youngest - the baby - how could they part with him? They concluded that it was better for all of them to die together than to part with one of their children. Can you feel the struggle of that family. (1)

There is an old story about Knute Rockne - former football coach of Notre Dame. Rockne devised a play where both guards and the center pull to go block for the ball-carrier. Which left a huge hole in the center of the offensive line. It was the quarterback’s job to block all the big linemen who poured through that hole. In other words, the play was suicide for the quarterback.

One day Rockne was explaining the play to a fellow coach when the coach stopped Rockne’s explanation to ask how effective the play had been. Rockne admitted that he didn’t know. He said that his quarterback had never been stupid enough to call that play.

Its beyond our comprehension that the God of billions of galaxies would humble Himself to become one of us and to take upon Himself our weakness and our shame. But, God is God. And, that is exactly what He did.

God does that for us. Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners - that’s desperate need - sin is self-destructive - sin is spiritual suicide - sin separates us from God. There we were totally separated from God without any hope of anything different - while we were living in sin - God demonstrates His own love towards us - sacrificial - unimaginable - in that Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Let’s take that thought - God giving His Son one step further.

Jesus - for 3 years - has been purposefully moving around the countryside from Judah in the south up into southern Lebanon - traveling from the coast of the Mediterranean - around the Sea of Galilee - to east of the Jordan. He’s taught multitudes on dusty roads - by the shores of the sea - in humble homes - and in the grandeur of the Temple.

During that time of ministry - reaching out to the multitudes living in God’s promised land - during that ministry He’s triumphed over demons and the forces of darkness - proving that He’s greater than Satan and his minions. He’s proven His authority over the forces of nature - calming the wind and the sea. He’s healed the sick - the lame - the blind - proving His authority over disease and the infirmities of this world. He has raised the dead.

He’s bested the greatest theological minds of His day - of any day for that matter. Jesus has forgiven sins - claiming to be God incarnate - the Messiah. And God the Father Himself has more than once attested to the truth of Jesus’ claim.

Jesus has brought the reality of God’s kingdom into the lives of God’s people in a way never before understood - the realization of what God has promised His people.

Grab that: Jesus is the incarnate fulfillment of Biblical prophecy - of all that God has promised His people.

That Jesus was crucified is one of the undeniable facts of history. Some people may choose to deny His crucifixion. They man choose to deny His death. But, under the scrutiny of the historical record we know without a doubt that Jesus was crucified - put to death in exactly the manner God foretold - according to God’s plan - in God’s timing - and for God’s purposes.

God gave His Son to exile among men - to be born in a manger - to work in a carpenter’s shop - to be among scribes and Pharisees - and their cruel tongues and slander. He gave His Son to hunger and thirst - amid poverty and desire. He gave Him to be scourged and crowned with thorns. He gave Him to die on a cross - crucified.

And on the cross - Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” (Mark 15:34) “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” - God hides His face from Him. God gave Him to be made a curse for us - gave Him that He might die - Peter writes, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

How many of us would give up our first born and only son for this? What was there in the world that God should love it? There’s so much to warrant His displeasure - wrath - condemnation. Are any of us worthy of this love?

During that Passover week - on the Friday before the Sabbath - the crucified Jesus - very much physically dead - was taken by Joseph of Arimathea - a member of the Jewish Council - the Sanhedrin - and Nicodemus - a very wealthy Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. These two men were given permission by Pilate - Pilate who had confirmed that Jesus was indeed dead - under Pilate’s watchful eye these two men took Jesus’ body to Joseph’s own tomb - hastily wrapped it - prepared it - laid it in the tomb for decomposition. Then rolled a large stone in front of the entrance.

We know that the Romans and the Jews took tremendous security precautions to protect against potential fraud and lies by the disciples of Jesus. Ordered by Pilate to use the maximum measures possible - a detachment of soldiers - who’s very lives were forfeit if they failed to keep the tomb secure - a detachment of soldiers is placed at the tomb. An imperial Roman seal is affixed to the stone - warning of death to any unauthorized person one who would break that seal. Jesus’ enemies took every possible precaution to make sure that Jesus stayed dead and in the tomb. Apparently He didn’t.

Early in the morning of the first day of the week the women arrive at the tomb. They’ve come with spices and perfumes - ready to complete the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial. When they arrive they find the stone rolled away from the tomb and the body of Jesus missing.

Two angels are there to state the obvious. “He’s not here. He has risen. Why do you seek the living One among the dead? Don’t you remember what He said to you in Galilee about His crucifixion and resurrection?” The Bible tells us that at that point the women understood - believed for themselves - the reality of what Jesus had been trying to tell them.

A series of events unfold. Jesus walking with disciples on the road to Emmaus - a village about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem - revealing Himself to them. Jesus coming to the disciples where they’re hiding - cowering - mourning - hopeless. Showing them that He’s alive. Thomas having his doubts removed. Encounters with the living God.

We know that hundreds if not thousands witnessed the resurrected Jesus. The lives of the disciples were changed forever. Closer to home - the reality of so many in this room - myself included - who will testify that we personally know Jesus Christ who is very much alive today. (Matthew 27:57-28:15; Mark 15:42-16:18; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-21:25; Acts 2:14-47)

I read a story of a young man who had quarreled with his father and left home. He continued to keep in touch with his mother, and wanted very badly to come home. But, he was afraid his father wouldn’t allow him to come home. His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home. But, he didn’t feel he could until he knew that his father had forgiven him.

Finally, there was no time for any more letters. His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father. If he had forgiven him, she would tie a white rag on the tree which grew beside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station. If there was no rag, it would be better if he went didn’t come home.

So the young man started home. As the train drew near his home - he was so nervous he said to his friend - who was traveling with him, “I can’t bear to look. You look and tell me whether there is a rag on it or not.”

So his friend looked out the window. After a while the friend said, “Yes, I see the tree.” The son asked, “Is there a white rag tied to it?” For a moment the friend didn’t say anything. Then he turned, and in a very gentle voice said, “There is a white rag tied to every limb of that tree!” (2)

In Jesus, God has removed all the condemnation and made it possible for us to come freely home to him. Why and how - we really don’t understand. His love is too deep - too pure - too holy. But He has.

In God’s eternal purpose - Jesus was given before the foundation of the world. God gave His Son. Gave purposefully as an act of His will - His initiative - the process of which - the very intent of which - the demonstration of His love towards us as sinners - all of which was laid out before God even called creation into being. God so loves each of us that He gave His only Son to die for you.

Which brings us to the next part of what Jesus says in verse 16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him...”

For God so loves. God initiates. God gave. God acts.

Third - “Whoever believes” - God offers.

Let’s say that together, “God offers.”

What is it that God offers to each one of us?

We like noise. Appliances that beep at us. When we turn the computer on what happens? There’s a little light that comes on and a comforting hum to let us know it started. Wouldn’t you get nervous if you didn’t see that light and hear the hum?

Cell phones have all these ring tone apps. Someone had one the other day that was the sound of a duck. That quacked us up.

If things don’t make noise or have lights - or vibrate or hum or explode - we wonder if they’re working properly. Is the power on? Is something broken?

God demonstrates the reality of Jesus’ resurrection through the empty tomb - through the rolled away stone - through the facts of the resurrection. Jesus demonstrated it to His disciples with each encounter. We need those images. We relate to them. They connect with our lives.

But as Jesus moves from encounter to encounter - its not about establishing evidence for what is an incontrovertible fact of history - its about application. Bringing the reality of His resurrection into the lives of His disciples.

The resurrection isn’t about crosses and tombs and flowers oh my. The resurrection is about the saving work of the living Jesus touching us at the deepest need of our lives. The resurrection is about the forgiveness of sin - being set free - acquitted - from the penalty for our individual sin. Salvation from the wrath of the Holy God which must be poured out on the unholy.

The resurrection - minus all the bells and whistles - is about our need to believe that Jesus - the Savior - is alive. That what God’s offers us in Jesus - through the crucified broken body and shed blood of Jesus - God’s Son - God’s offer of salvation - is real. An offer that has been placed on the table before each one of us. The question before each one of us is whether we will accept God’s offer - to turn from our sin and trust God with our lives.

For God loves. God initiates. God gave. God acts. Whoever believes in Jesus. God offers.

Fourth - “shall not perish, but have eternal life”

God Promises. Let’s say that together. “God promises.”

This world is going to come to an end. There is Gary Larson’s version of that. “Ooooooooooooo.” (Cartoon)

If you have a Bible please turn with to Revelation 20 - starting at verse 10: Every one of us is on one of two trajectories.

Trajectory number one is summed up in Jesus’ word “perish.” The word means to be utterly destroyed. In the way this is stated in the Greek it has the idea of a destruction that begins and just continues on and on and on without end.

Revelation 20 - starting at verse 10. Look with me at what’s coming - at the end. Verse 10: And the devil - our enemy - who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire - a lake not made of water - but fire - eternal fire - and brimstone - sulfuric gas - acrid steam - foul odor - a place of eternal burning - choking - where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Torment without relief. That’s where Satan ends up.

Verse 11: Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds,. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds

Point being that there really is judgment coming. Judgment with real consequences. Judgment where punishment is given to sinners like us - condemned because of their sin.

Verse 14: Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire - same place where Satan ends up. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

No one escapes what’s coming. The end coming to the ungodly - who appear before God’s throne without His forgiveness - those who die without trusting Jesus as their Savior - who appear the end is a lake not made of water - but fire - eternal fire and brimstone - sulfuric gas - acrid steam - foul odor - a place of eternal burning and choking - unending weeping - sorrow - gnashing of teeth - forever separation from God. Nasty place. Very real.

All that is what is summed up in Jesus’ word “perish” - the end point of trajectory number one.

Revelation 21 - starting at verse 1 - the Apostle John writes, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away” John’s description here is of what Jesus describes with His words “eternal life.” Trajectory number two - life with God without end.

John writes that in that new heaven and new earth we’re going to live where God lives. That’s better than any place on this earth. More beautiful - more awesome - a place of great joy - peace.

There’s a river that runs through that dwelling - the river of life - refreshing - renewing water - the purist crystal clear water - coming right from the throne of God. We’ll be able to see God - right there on His throne and drink from that river. God’s presence - God’s glory - will shine so there’s no night - no darkness - no sin.

All the crud of this world will have been wiped away. The baggage of sin that pulls us down each of our lives - that entangles us - that works against us - sin will be no more. Our relationships will be free of the struggles we have now.

There’ll be no more death. When we get to heaven we’re going to get new bodies. Bodies that aren’t subject to disease - that don’t wear out and break down.

God Himself will wipe away our tears. Wipe them away for good. No more mourning - no crying - no pain - all the physical stuff that drags us down - all the those things will have died with this world.

Whatever Hell is - Heaven is the opposite. A much better place.

Are you looking forward to being there? Amen? God has us here today for a purpose. But, I have to confess - more and more each day I’m looking forward to being there.

God’s promise is that whoever will respond to His love given to us in Jesus Christ - God’s offer of salvation laid out for us - whoever will respond to that offer with belief - turning from their sin and trusting Jesus as their Savior - God promises - that we will not perish - but we will have eternal life - now and into eternity with God.

That offer is on the table. An offer it seems impossible to refuse. Sadly many do.

Maybe we can’t fully understand what it means that God loves us. His love is beyond our experience. And yet, we need to accept His love - and trust Him - to believe in His Son Jesus as our personal savior.

What trajectory are you on? Have you made the choice to take God at His word? To accept His offer? To trust in His love? To receive what He’s chosen to give you? Salvation in His Son Jesus? What choice have you made?


Notes:

1. C.H. Spurgeon, Immeasurable Love, 07.26.1885

2. Ray Stedman, John 3:16-36, “The Best Possible News”

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

See Also:

For God So Loved the World
by Edward F. Markquart

For God So Loved the World
by Grover Gunn

Series: John 3:16 - The Danger: Perishing
by John Piper

Series: John 3:16 - The Design: Love
by John Piper

Series: John 3:16 - The Duty: Faith
by John Piper

Series: John 3:16 - The Destiny: Eternal Life
by John Piper

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 3rd Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)

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