From God's perspective, our salvation is a healing of our body, mind, and soul.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
John 3:16 provides us a summary of the whole Bible. As we think about that verse and unpack the words that are there. We just about just keep going, just pretty much cover all the various threads that we find throughout the scriptures in those words.
The one that always stands out to me the most in that verse is where it says that, "God so loved the world." Because even though people of all different persuasions and viewpoints in the church will share in an affirmation of this verse. There still seems to be a lot of thought that God doesn't love the world and wants to destroy everybody in life unless they meet certain, come up to certain standards and meet certain criteria. But what I hear God saying to me through this passage is that God loves the world. As we always affirm in our communion, that comment in the beginning, God created all things and called them good. Created all the people and called us good. Even though our love failed, God's love remains steadfast.
Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on March 14, 2021
for Briensburg UMC
It's our love that fails, it's not God's love. It's our love that is imperfect. And even sometime to the extent that we don't really always know what love is, we have limits as to our understanding of the debts, but for God none of that is present. His love is pure and perfect, and infinitely deep for you, and for me, and for all. And that is the law that Jesus gave, that Jesus highlighted, that Moses highlighted, love. Now, when we think of that law and commandment, we sometimes put it into the realm of keeping the law or breaking it, as being like keeping human laws or breaking them, laws that some legislature has, or some leader has imposed. And so then if we're caught breaking the law, then we were taken to court and judged and punished accordingly.
And I think that imagery is there in the scriptures, but I think it also points us to something deeper is that the law of love is a physic law, like a law of physics, it's like gravity. Don't break the law of gravity because if you do, then there will be consequences, but it won't be that you will be dragged before the magistrates to be judged and punished accordingly, it will be the repercussions of not getting along with, and not being in harmony with that principle, universal principle.
And the same it is with love, that it is a universal principle, that was the motive behind God creating the whole universe, including us. And so when we get crosswise of that love, when we break that law in that sense, when we are not in harmony with the law of love, then the consequence is the harm, and hurt, and illness, and hard things that we bring, either upon ourselves or upon others, or on society, and many times that are handed down through the generations.
No matter who or how much
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (KJV)
So God loved the world so much, and out of this motive, out of this love, out of this divine sense of caring and concern and love for everybody, that God gave Christ to be our Savior. And his desire in doing so was that no one would perish. That's God's desire and hope for us as expressed by the apostles as well in saying that, it's not God's desire that anyone should perish but all should come to a knowledge of salvation. And in the promise said, "Eventually every knee will bow. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."
And so he gave Christ, so then no one would perish. That whosoever believeth. So lift that phrase up, especially today, "That whosoever," and there's a song that, "I'm so glad that whosoever will may come." Includes everybody. No one is excluded from this call and invitation, "That whosoever will. Whosoever believeth." Whatever categories we might put them in, in our way of organizing our thoughts about different people, whatever those categories may be. They're just invisible grid lines that we put on them, they're not really real. What's real is God's all encompassing universal love for everyone. Everyone everywhere, without exception.
And out of that, "And whosoever, believeth." So I say, no matter who or how much. Jesus gave the parable of the mustard seed, and said, "Even if you just have that tiny little bit of faith like a mustard seed, that you put that in the ground and it grows, until it gets bigger, it'll grow." That's not what we have to worry about. We don't have to decide if somebody has enough faith or if we have enough faith. If we have any faith, we put it in Christ, just whatever tiny bit we may have. However difficult it is for us to believe, if we just try and turn to Christ with that faith, and then there's something there to work with for us, for each other to work with, for God to work with. So just try and see.
Just try and see
So Moses made a snake of fiery copper and put it on top of a flagpole. Anyone bitten by a snake who then looked at the copper snake lived. Numbers 21:9 (MSG)
This passage that, of the gospel comes from the early ministry of Jesus and Nicodemus came to him by night. And they talked about these different subjects like being born again and everything and that, and then Jesus referred back to that book of Numbers, in the Old Testament, which was named that because of the census that is included in that book but it also tells a little more about the Exodus journey of the children of Israel as they were, just like Exodus telling about that period of time.
And as they were traveling through the desert, then they came on this horrible, evidently pretty large area of poisonous snakes. And so they expressed that they felt that was God's punishment on them for breaking God's rules. And so Moses took it up with the Lord and said, "What shall we do about this?" And so the Lord told Moses to do something that seems contradictory to the 10 Commandments, but he told them to make an image, 10 Commandments said no graven images but in this case, God told Moses to make a snake out of brass or some material and put it up on a pole and in the midst of the camp.
And the point was that if anybody would even just glance over at that snake on the pole, if they believed just enough to even just look over and try it, then they would be saved. And so that brings up a couple of things more too, of course I guess I touched on a few already but, it brings up that salvation, our understanding of salvation. Because we may properly have this as part of our thought of being saved from eternal condemnation. But I think that also this points out that from God's perspective, our salvation is a healing of our body, mind, and soul. It is a healing. And the words are used interchangeably, or translated interchangeably. The words that are used for a healing in the Bible are translated interchangeably with the words for salvation. And so that's at least a major part of our salvation is the wholeness that God calls us to.
So our minds can be at peace and not be all going off in all these different directions, upset even within ourselves, the war that Paul talked about and warring within ourselves, but that we can have a peace in our minds, peace in our hearts, and peace in our relationships with each other. And even within ourselves, a wholeness, a sense of healing that is going on in our lives. And so all they had to do was peek over there and that would be theirs. They would have that peace, that wholeness, and that healing, and they would be rescued from this disease from the snake bite, the poison.
But did you know that there were a lot of people that said that, "Looked over there and they were healed," but even with the people that looked over there and it worked, there still were a lot of people who refuse to even just peek over there to see if it would work and who perished.
And so I bought that was a pretty appropriate for our times that we've been going through in the last year of the pandemic, because there are a lot of people that have been social distancing and wearing masks and getting vaccinations and trying to be careful. And even with that, there is a lot of people who have perished and who have suffered because of the pandemic, but yet as a way of helping, it definitely mitigates the circumstances. And yet there are a whole lot of people who won't even try anything like that. And so a lot of times it's not them who perish, it's other people who perish as a result.
So what is, what really is safe? A lot of those people think of it as an act of faith to not even try doing what will be helpful. I guess that's someplace where we have to explore for ourselves. But we have to, maybe a good way of checking on what really is our faith and where are we putting it when we can't even try and see, because that's what Jesus was talking about to Nicodemus in this passage when he gave John 3:16. Just look, just try, just take one little step, just do something, as a response to the invitation that, "Whosoever believes in me shall not perish, but have everlasting life."
Thank you, God
Praise the Lord for his loving-kindness and for all of his wonderful deeds!
Psalm 107:21 (TLB)
Again, think of the Psalmist that we shared at the beginning of the service, "Praise the Lord for his loving kindness and his wonderful deeds." We just have to thank the Lord for being so good and so kind to us, even in the midst of the struggles and difficulties. And for providing a life in this life and what we need in this life, and providing for life in the world to come, and providing a spiritual realm of life, where we are laying up our true treasures in heaven and where we have an internal connection and fellowship with one another. And for whatever blessings that we discover along the way, in good times, and in difficult times, praise the Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for what you provide us.
In the letter to the Ephesians, God raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ. So we continue our spiritual exploration during Lent, that's a big one there to discover how God has, not physically raised us up in a resurrection like Jesus, but spiritually has raised us up with him in his resurrection and in his eternal life to give us a little more. And we're not anywhere near close to fully realizing that, to a full healing, to a full resurrection of our spirit, but he's changing us, and transforming us, and lifting us up, and bringing us up with Christ, to sit with Christ in the heavenly places.
And so we can be, when we're thanking and praising God for what he's done for us, let's thank and praise him for the joy that we have, that we would not have. That for the insights and vision that we would have, that we would not have. For all the blessings of the spirit that we would not have were we not given these by the Lord if we had not, if we didn't believe. If we just didn't believe in it, in what he's giving us, if we didn't believe in God.
Heaven on earth begun
[God] raised-us-with Him and seated-us-with Him in the heavenly-places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:6 (DLNT)
And so, like heaven on earth begun as John Wesley wrote, in some of his songs, "Heaven on earth begun." We've started already, we're walking through those "heavenly fields." We're experiencing some of those graces now. And then just imagine how much more abundant and beautiful those will be when all of the difficulties and the hardships of this temporal life have been laid aside, and we enter into the realms of glory of everlasting, everlasting glory, and perfect love.
And that's where he's raising our minds to those higher planes, bringing us upward and onward, even though sometimes it might feel like a couple of steps forward and a few more steps back sometimes we're gradually on that trajectory of heaven.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:17 (KJV)
And so then after saying John 3:16, it goes to John 3:17, I'd like to close up with that thought, "But God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." Throughout all of this, today I think it's an important take away from this conversation with Nicodemus that, God's purpose in sending Christ was to save us, to heal us, not to condemn anybody, but to save everybody, to heal everybody. That's God's purpose in sending Christ. That's Christ purpose. And all that is being gifted to us is that we, and along with all of our family and friends and neighbors and community and world, would come to a knowledge and wholeness, salvation in Christ. That's God's purpose.
What's our purpose? We want to discover that and align our purpose with God's purpose, and to have that same motivation and desire to see everybody not condemned, but saved. And that's what we're about, I think here at Briensburg [United Methodist Church], is to extend that message of hope and salvation and wholeness. An invitation that whosoever will, may come.
Whosoever will may place what faith they have in Christ and find their wholeness and their salvation in the name of Jesus. Amen.