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10 - The Love of the Father

No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 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. 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. 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. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 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.”

Few words in the entirety of the Bible have reached a level of renown quite like John 3:16. In these words is summarized the message of the entire Bible – God’s love for the world, the price He’s willing to pay for our salvation, and the beautiful reward which awaits those who believe. The thought is continued in 3:17 – the goal is not condemnation, even though it’s what the world deserves. The goal, rather, is salvation. God’s desire is not “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) – and God is willing to pay the ultimate price for that salvation to be realized.

The condition for salvation is not good works, but belief. Receiving salvation is predicated on this one necessity. Too often we try to add something to salvation, but Christ’s own words here demonstrate the sufficiency of belief. Should belief result in a changed heart and life? Absolutely. But the question we will face in judgment is not, “How many good works did you do?” It is simply, “Did you believe in Jesus Christ?” Dr. Michael Heiser phrases it this way: “That which was not gained by moral perfection cannot be lost by moral imperfection.” In other words, we never did something good enough to earn salvation, so sin remaining within us does not cause us to lose salvation. We will all stumble, but Christ will lift us up.

The practice of sin, however, often reveals within us that our primary desire is not Christ. I have learned through the years to practice a great deal of transparency with my wife and with those whom I serve pastorally. Keeping our actions in the light helps to prevent surrendering to temptation. Those who wish to walk in the ways of Christ will often find that the desire to please Him outweighs the guilt and shame which may be felt when our sins come to light. In fact, one of the key characteristics of revivals and outpourings of the Spirit is repentance and reconciliation. The revivals at Asbury University through the years have demonstrated this over and over again as students confess their sins before God and one another, choosing thenceforth to walk in newness of life. Christ brings us to a place of transparency and openness when we wish to follow Him, and that begins with repentance.

A key indicator of a changed heart is the desire to walk in the light. The heart which stands in opposition to God has no desire to pursue purity – it wishes only to maintain its pursuit of the sin which it craves. The heart which has been changed by Christ, however, wishes to put off the old ways and pursue righteousness. It is not success which is an indicator of a changed heart, but desire for the things of God which clearly shows He is at work within us.

God shows His own love for us in this: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He did not die for us once we had met a certain number of conditions which might indicate that we were moving in the right direction. Rather, He died for us in the midst of our sin, rebellion, and brokenness so that we might be free from that which ensnares. Christ Jesus demonstrates an unfathomable love which God has for us: in Christ, a self-sacrificing love which considers not its own interests but instead wills the good of another; in the Father, a love which is willing to pay a price far beyond anything we could ever reasonably expect from another for the sake of the impure and unworthy. God loved the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that all who believe in Him may receive grace upon grace, mercy without measure, and life without end.

Father, Your love for me is beyond my ability to comprehend. You have demonstrated Your faithfulness to me time after time when I lived in separation from You. You have chosen me out of darkness and brought me into life eternal, and I often take this for granted. Help me today to feel Your love afresh and anew, holding You in my heart in all things and pursuing that which is consistent with Your will. Create in me a desire for that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable – all which is excellent and praiseworthy. Create in me a clean heart whose sole desire is to please my Master.


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