16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.[b] 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”[c]
We all know it. Even many non Christians probably know it. The first verse is everywhere. And when I saw that the sermon this past Sunday was going to be on this passage, I, probably like many others in our congregation, couldn’t imagine what else there possibly was to say about it. Fortunately, I had prayed on the way to church that my eyes, ears, heart, and mind would be opened to the gospel and to the truth of whatever was going to be preached about…otherwise I may not have been writing this.
The first part of the passage (John 3:16) wasn’t the part that really struck me. What struck me was the last part. For a couple of weeks, I have really been struggling to face my sin (my planks), to face God, to pray, to hear God’s voice. I’ve been in the midst of spiritual warfare, questioning my own salvation and spirituality. I’ve felt sorry for myself. I’ve withdrawn from people who love me. I’ve stacked sin upon sin and just saw no way out of my darkness.
I kind of liked my darkness. It was…safe. I didn’t have to answer to anyone. I didn’t have to confront anyone. I didn’t have to think about God or religion or family conflict or anything. On the other hand, I felt horrible physically and spiritually. I was depressed and angry. For almost two weeks I lived in the dark, in a pit of despair. I really questioned my salvation because I couldn’t imagine if I was a Christian how I could live in such a way. Somewhere in the middle of this chaos, I did mange to half-heartedly call out to him, literally, one time. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know there was no thanksgiving in it. There was no asking of forgiveness. There was no real desire to repent. It was more like a “whatever’s going on make it stop” kind of call. God (the knight in shining armor that he is) came to my rescue. Despite my wretched behavior and feelings, despite my sin against Him and others, He saved me. He came into my darkness and pulled me out when He knew I was unable to do it on my own….when He knew I wanted to come to Him but just couldn’t quite manage it, the Lord came to me. He carried me out of my two weeks of depravity and brought me back into His light.
When I heard that sermon on Sunday it hit home. ‘God wants you back,’ the speaker said (our actual pastor was out of town). God wants me back. He longs for me with an intensity like no other. How do we know? Because God gave his Son for his enemies. I, personally, don’t give presents to people I hate…not that I hate anyone but…well, you get the picture. Honestly, I’m pretty bad about giving gifts to people I love much less those that I don’t care for. And I certainly almost never consider giving something of mine if I only have one of it (something I really should work on). God did more than just give a gift to his enemies. He gave one of something. He gave his one and only Son forever and ever. There will be no more sons (or daughters for that matter). There will be no more children for God from God. Could you imagine giving up one of your children for say a serial killer, not many serial killer. Just one? I can’t even fathom that and I have TWO children. What kind of love is that…that the God of creation would do that? It’s the love that chased me down last Friday, captured me, and placed me back in His arms.
We long for things, material possessions – cars, houses, new shoes, clothes, etc. We typically long even more for non material stuff like children, loved ones who have died, loved ones who are away for a long period of time. Imagine the intensity of the longing of God for us…so intense that he sacrificed a human being that came directly from him. The only human being that would ever come directly from him. I can’t even think of an earthly comparison for this because there simply is none.
Light has come to the world to save us from the darkness. And as a Christian, I know that when I am unable to come to the Lord, the Lord will come and rescue me the same way He always does when I stray. He will never let me stray far. He will not allow me to stew in my darkness, in my sin and wretchedness for long…only so long as He needs to bring me back to Him.