Look, Believe, and Live!

by Scott Vance on August 30, 2023

John 3:16-21 (ESV)
For God so loved the world
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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Verses 16-17 are some of the most famous and often memorized in the bible.  God loves the world.  God gave His Son.  God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
If we’re going to understand the full impact of those verses, we need to backtrack for a moment and read again verses 14-15 which round off Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
That’s a reference to Numbers 21:5-8.  It’s the time when the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness.  The people have already rebelled against the Lord, refusing to trust Him as they refused to follow the Lord and enter the Promised Land.  They have broken their covenant relationship with the Lord, and so the Lord gives them exactly what they ask for (Numbers 14:1-4) and He will not allow this generation to enter the Promised Land.  They will continue to wander in the wilderness for forty years until this generation passes away. 
As they wander, they continue in their rebellion, and they grumble against the Lord and against Moses.  So, the Lord sent poisonous snakes into their camp which killed many people.
But then, the people repent and cry out, and God gave Moses the remedy.  Moses was to make a serpent out of bronze and put it on a pole for all to see.  Anyone who was bitten by a snake could look to the serpent and be healed.
The point then, of verses 14-15 in our passage, is that in Jesus, lifted on the cross, He will be the remedy for the world.  The full force of our sin and evil will be taken on by Jesus and what we need to understand, what we must fully absorb, is that God is the one who has done this; God gave His Son, God sent His Son, not to condemn but to save.  Why?
Because God loves the world, God loves you!  Jesus on the cross, taking the full force of our sin and the evil of the world, that’s what God’s love looks like.  It’s not an accident, it’s not a happenstance, this is intentional, and God wants you to know the full extent of His love for you as His Son, Jesus hung on the cross.
So now it’s clear that there is a choice for us.  There is darkness, the prevalence of evil that must be condemned because it is destroying the world and keeping people from coming to the Lord (notice that condemnation is not directed at creation or people, rather it is directed at evil).
And there is light, God’s new life that is breaking into the world.  Remember that Nicodemus literally stepped out of darkness and into the light when he came to see Jesus, and others will follow in Nicodemus’ footsteps.
That’s really the point here.  You don’t have to be condemned.  God’s love for you is so great that He doesn’t want you to be condemned.  He sent His Son into the world, and Jesus lifted up on the cross, like the bronze snake, is God’s rally point in history; look, believe, and live!
God loves you.  Don’t just read through that and move on.  Let it soak in.  Whenever you feel the weight of sin or the gnawing of darkness and evil on your soul, look at the cross and say it out loud, “God loves me.”
God bless you and know that I’m praying for you constantly.


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