John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God is Love
We should never read this verse just by itself quickly and then decide it is the summation of the gospel and that all we have to do is make some profession of faith in Jesus Christ and now we are God’s children and that heaven is secured us when we die and that nothing can take it away from us no matter how we live our lives on this earth. So, I am going to break this verse down word by word and look at what it is really saying.
God is our triune God – Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit. He always existed and he is eternal and he is absolutely perfect in every way. He is our creator who made the world and the universe and everything in it. He is the one who knit us together in the wombs of our mothers and who placed us in the families where we grew up. And all the days ordained for us were written in his book before any of them came into being. He has a plan for our lives.
God, who is love, loved the people of this world who he created. And this love is not just some sentimental feeling. But the word literally means to prefer, to love. When we love with this love, we prefer to live through Christ and to choose his choices and to do his will and to obey his will for us through his power. It means to actively be doing what the Lord prefers. So this love God has for us is going to prefer what he prefers and to choose his choices. Our salvation message will never be opposed to the holiness of God.
In other words, his love for us in sending his Son (God the Son) to die on a cross for our sins is going to align perfectly with his will and with his divine character. For what he prefers for us is holiness, righteousness, godliness, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, moral purity, us loving one another, us not sinning against him or against one another, us obeying him and doing his will, and us living free from our slavery to sin and walking in righteousness.
What it Means to Believe
So, John 3:16 is NOT a “I believe in Jesus and now my sins are all forgiven (past, present, and future) and now I am eternally secure and heaven is what awaits me when I die and nothing can take this away from me, not even myself.” That is so contrary to the divine character of God and to what he prefers for us as his followers. That is not according to what God prefers at all. So then let’s look at what the word “believe” really means.
Well, number one is that the tense of the verb is a verb tense that is not in the English language, from what I understand, but the word is “believing” which is present tense and it is active. So we don’t just believe in Jesus once (past) and now we are good to go to heaven when we die regardless of how we live our lives while we still live on the earth. We must be “believing” still when death arrives, so we must continue in this belief all throughout our lives on this earth up until the moment of death. So what does that mean?
Well the word means to be persuaded. Oh, and let me back up a little here. According to Scripture Jesus is the author and the perfecter of our faith and our faith is gifted to us by God and it is not of ourselves of our own choosing. So we don’t get to choose what this faith looks like. And we can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless God the Father first draws us to Christ, i.e. unless he first persuades us as to his holiness and righteousness and of our sinfulness and of our need to be delivered from bondage to sin.
So, if this faith is authored by God, and it is gifted to us by God, and it means to be persuaded by God, what is a holy and righteous God going to persuade us to do? He is certainly not going to persuade us that we can make a simple confession of faith in him once in our lives and then we can go about life largely ignoring him, refusing to honor him as God, refusing to obey him, and refusing to submit to him as Lord and to forsake our lives of sin to follow him.
[Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2; Jn 6:44; 2 Pet 1:1; 1 Co 10:1-22; Heb 3:1-19; Heb 4:1-13; Rom 8:24; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Rom 8:29; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Eph 1:3-4]
Our Salvation from Sin
That idea (previous paragraph) that we can believe in Jesus Christ and then live however we want goes completely against who God is and what he prefers. And that goes completely against his purpose in sending Jesus Christ to the cross to die for our sins so that we can be crucified with him in death to sin and so that we can be raised with him to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
For Jesus died to deliver us (to set us free) from our slavery (addiction) to sin so that we can now live holy lives pleasing to God, by his grace, in his power. He died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness in his power and strength. And he died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who died and was raised. And he shed his blood for us on that cross to buy us back for God (to redeem us) so we will now honor God with our bodies (with our lives).
When we believe in Jesus with God-given faith in him, our old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, is crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we will no longer be enslaved to sin. So we must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. And we are to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies, to make us obey its passions. For sin is to no longer have dominion over us because Jesus set us free from our slavery.
And then we must know this. As true followers of Jesus we must no longer walk (in conduct, in practice) in sin. For if we do, we will not inherit eternal life with God, but we will face the wrath of God. If we do not forsake our sinful practices, but we continue in them deliberately and habitually, and if we do not follow our Lord in obedience to his commands (New Covenant), in practice, and if we do not love our fellow humans, we do not know God and we do not have eternal life with God. So, please take this to heart.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
You are Loving and Forgiving
An Original Work / February 19, 2012
Based off Psalm 86
You are loving and forgiving,
Jesus, Savior, King of kings.
You provided our redemption.
By Your blood You set us free.
You are gracious; full of mercy.
No deeds can compare with Yours.
Great are You; there is none like You.
Glory be to Your name.
Teach me Your way, and I’ll walk in it.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth.
May I not have a heart divided,
That Your name I give honor to.
I will praise You, O Lord, my Savior,
For great is Your love toward me.
You have delivered me from my sins.
Your grace has pardoned me.
You, O Lord, are full of compassion,
Slow to anger, bounteous in love;
Faithful to fulfill all You promise;
Glory be to Your name above.
Hear, O Lord, and answer Your servant.
You are my God. I trust in You.
Turn to me and grant Your strength to me.
You are my comforter.