Monthly Archives: April 2017

What does “God so loved the world” mean?

It is so easy to think John 3.16 means “God loves every single human being so much” and leave it at that. But it has to mean more than that. It says “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.”

It still might be easy to think it means “God loves every single human being so much, so He gave Jesus.” But it has to mean more than that. It says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” John 3.16 starts with the word “for”! And right before that, Jesus says, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” So just like Moses lifted a bronze serpent (a symbol of a cursed and defeated enemy) for the life of the Israelites, so Jesus must be lifted up (on the cross, as a crushed enemy of God!) for the life of believers. God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son to die!

It still might be easy to think it means “God loves every single human being so much, so He gave His Son to die.” But it has to mean more than that. For what does dying have to do with love? If you know the gospel, you know that Jesus died in the place of sinners, so that sinners would not have to die. So that does sound loving. But John 3.16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (to die), that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

So many conclude John 3.16 means “God loves every human being so much, so he gave Jesus to die in their place, to give them a chance to be saved.” That is where good old fashioned logic helps. In John 3.16 God’s love leads to the sending of the Son, which leads to every believer being saved. The end of God’s love is every believer being saved. Go ahead and read John 3.16 again, and see if that is not what it actually says. In other words, God’s love does not merely produce a chance. God’s love produces salvation for believers!

Good Friday is good because it is the day God loved the world!

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Struggle with vs living in sin

If you cannot distinguish between struggling with sin vs living in sin, you undercut much of the work of the church. Consider the following:

  • “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9.23)- Suppose a person professes they want to follow Christ, but looks at pornography everyday, and you say to him/her, “Let me help you turn away from sexual immorality,” and they say to you, “everybody struggles with sin.” Are you just going to say, “yes, you’re right,” or are you going to help them deny self?
  • “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8.31)- Suppose a married couple says they are disciples of Jesus, but they fight all the time, so they are getting a divorce, and when you press them on the covenant they made before God, they say, “we’re all sinners. What makes my sin worse than yours?” Are you just going to say, “you’re right, all sin is equal,” or are you going to help them abide in Christ?
  • “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6.2)- Suppose a girl wants to get baptized, but lives with her boyfriend, and when you call her to repent she says, “we all struggle with sin; give me time to grow.” Are you going to say, “yes, you’re right, we all struggle with sin,” or are you going to call her to stop living in it?

The final judgment will be a judgment for the “cowardly, the faithless, the detestable…murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” (Revelation 21.8). For those who struggle with sin, there is good news: trust in Christ and you will be saved! Then the Church can help you struggle against sin for the rest of your life.

For those who live in sin, you still have time to repent! But if you refuse to repent, that’s you in Revelation 21.8, no matter how much you say you love Jesus. God knows the difference between “struggle” and “living.”