3:16 Number of Hope
INTRODUCTION. Last week we began an incredible journey of exploration as we dug our way into the 26 English words that comprise John 3:16. The center word in the verse is son. That is appropriate because Jesus is the center of God’s plan and passion for mankind. No other single verse in all the Scriptures has been as blessed in the salvation of souls as this incredible verse.
John Piper says of John 3:16; “O that God would give us a spiritual taste for the things of John 3:16! They are like spiritual honey. How do you describe honey to someone who has no taste buds? How do you even describe taste? The way to be persuaded that the sweetness of honey is real is simply to taste and see. That is what we mean by spiritual awakening, or revival. When God moves in power by his Spirit to give spiritual taste buds to lots of people at the same time. That is what we call revival. It is a work of God.” (Sermon: “The Danger: Perishing”, John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1994)
John 3:16 has been described as the gospel in miniature. Paul stated the gospel like this; “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter,and then to the Twelve.”
That is the essence and heart of the gospel:
· Christ died
· Christ was buried
· Christ was raised!
John 3:16 does not mention the resurrection by name but does so by RESULT. The PROMISE made in John 3:16 could not happen without the resurrection.
Listen to the great Promise of John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)
Listen to John 3:16-17 in The Message: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it.”
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are all about the work of Almighty God to produce your acquittal! Because of the death of Jesus, in your place, the holy and just nature of God are satisfied. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ the path and way for you to enter eternity was paved and made clear.
Last week we looked at this awesome verse and we observed:
· God’s Great Grace (INITIATIVE), “For God so loved the world”
· God’s Great Gift (SACRIFICE), “That he gave his only begotten Son”
· God’s Great Gospel (INVITATION), “That whosoever believeth in him”
Today, on Resurrection Sunday, we shall see:
· God’s Great Glory (INSURANCE), “Should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Notice with me God’s Great GLORY.
SHOULD NOT PERISH
Perish is a word of clear warning but God has always been in the imperishable business!
The rebellious sinners in the ancient world perished but Noah was spared. The people of Sodom perished but Lot was spared. The first born of Egypt perished but Israel was spared. Sinful Israelite’s perished from snake bites but those who looked upon the brass serpent on a pole did not perish. Jericho’s citizens perished but Rahab was spared.
Here is the promise: “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish.” Jesus made that promise but before He could deliver on the promise a resurrection had to occur.
PERISH. The word perish is a dreadful, awful word! It is an alarming word especially when it is associated with ETERNITY. It makes you understand that life on planet earth will NOT last forever and that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun; a reward to receive or a punishment to merit.
This terrible word means to be lost, to be utterly destroyed, to lose eternal life, to be spiritually destitute, to be cut off, TO HAVE NO HOPE!
Every person in life goes through life having one of these two destinies: he is either perishing, moving ever downward toward the grave, which is HOPELESS; or he is being saved, moving ever upward toward eternal life, which is HOPE FILLED.
In the Greek, both perishing and being saved are continuous action; that is, a man is perishing or is being saved. The words are not static; there is no sitting still in life. He is ever “perishing,” more and more being gripped by the flesh and being conditioned to accept a perishing, dying world; or he is ever “being saved,” more and more being freed to walk righteously and godly in this present world.
That is why I proclaim to you: 3:16 = the number of hope.
(1) Perishing means to be in a lost and deteriorating state in this world.
It means to be aging, deteriorating, decaying, dying. Men have searched for ages to find the FOUNTAIN of YOUTH but all their searching is in vain. This is the fate of every person! There is nothing you can do but practice all the disciplines for good health and HOLD ON!
ILLUSTRATION: I think it was famed baseball player Mickey Mantle who said in the sunset years of his declining health, “If I had known that I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”
ILLUSTRATION: Often food will be marked “Perishable”, meaning that it can spoil after a certain date and no longer be useful for human consumption. Every person born in Adams race bears the stamp, PERISHABLE.
So what keeps life from being useless and meaningless, a tedious and dreary slide into oblivion? Where does the HOPE and MEANING come from?
That’s were the resurrection comes in!
(2) Perishing also means to be in an eternal lost state in the world to come.
It means to die, suffer separation from God and from all loved ones, face judgment alone, hear the words “CONDEMNED” pronounced upon your life and experience all that is hell.
But…John 3:16 changes all of that! These are the numbers of HOPE!
Listen to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:42-50 as he describes the difference that John 3:16 makes and the TRANSFORMATION that occurs because of the resurrection.
· perishable to imperishable
· dishonor to glory
· weakness to power
· natural to spiritual
The beauty of John 3:16 is the word attached to Perish. It says…NOT PERISH. That is WHY Jesus came, WHY He died, WHY He arose from the dead…so you and I would NOT perish. The word PERISH is a horrible word! The words NOT PERISH are HOPE-FILLED words.
PERISH NOT PERISH
· horrible · hope
· result in hell · result in heaven
· fire! · fantastic future
#1. On December 1, 1958, the news reported that a Chicago school fire burned 89 children and three nuns to death. The entire nation felt the pain because fire and tragedy are two words that go together. One New York newspaper described this particular tragedy with the headlines: "A GLIMPSE OF HELL."
#2. Two ships collided somewhere at sea off the New York coast. One of these ships was loaded with a million gallons of fuel. The explosion and fire that followed resulted in many merchant seamen dying a horrible death in what the newspaper called "AN UNQUENCHABLE FIERY GRAVE."
Are you beginning to see the horror imbedded in this word PERISH? You must see that in order to understand the hope embedded in the words NOT PERISH.
There is an illustrative story about the horror and the hope of eternity. It is found in Luke 16:19-13. I encourage you to read it. It is the story of CONTRAST between two men: a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The rich man perished; Lazarus was imperishable.
Don’t miss the POINT! God does not want anyone to perish; He does not want us cut off and separated from Him. God wants us to spend eternity with Him not apart from Him. That is what the cross and resurrection is all about.
2 Peter 3:9 is clear: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE
BUT. A small conjunction, a word of contrast with great meaning.
God’s goal in sending his Son from heaven to earth was not to condemn you or to show you how bad you are; how hopeless you are. BUT God’s only desire in sending his Son was show you his love and draw you into a love relationship with him. As Jesus headed to Jerusalem and the cruel fate that awaited Him, John records “Having loved His own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” (13:1)
Jesus didn’t come into the world in order to rebuke you BUT He came to rescue you.
He didn’t come to make you feel guilty but to show you the full extent of His love for you.
He didn’t come to condemn you but to acquit you.
We have a tendency to STOP at John 3:16 BUT listen to the next two verses:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever 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.”
He didn’t come to criticize you BUT to cleanse you.
He didn’t come to punish you BUT to pardon you.
He didn’t come to destroy you BUT to deliver you.
BUT. A word of contrast. A word of meaning. A word of HOPE. BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.
Life. Life is mentioned 36 times in John’s Gospel.
John 3:16 begins with God and ends with life. Everlasting life is much more than just eternal existence because if that were the case, the devil and all sinners would have it.
What is everlasting life? It is the life that you have because of Jesus. It is the life Jesus spoke about throughout His ministry. Listen to these words:
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6)
John declared, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12)
Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life..." (John 11:25)
John 1:4 says, "In him was life..."
The life Jesus offers is the life you would choose for yourself if you were smart enough to choose wisely. It is the life you could have before you chose DOOR # SIN. It is the life God intends for you to have before sin robbed you of the joy and sweetness of life. It is the life Adam and Eve enjoyed BEFORE THE FALL. It is life as God means life to be. Abundant. Full. Happy. Holy.
And, that is good! But there is more. Jesus came, lived, died and arose from the dead not just so you could have life BUT so that you could have EVERLASTING LIFE!
And, that’s real good!!
The word life is a beautiful word but when you add, EVERLASTING…WOW!
Everlasting life begins the moment that the life of Christ enters your being. Paul declared that our life of victory is found in the very life of Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
How much does He love you? He gave His life in order to give you your!
ILLUSTRATION: More than fifty years ago, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a young sociology professor assigned his class the project of interviewing 200 city youth residing in downtown slums. He asked them to predict their future.
Students predicted that ninety percent would serve time in prison. Twenty-five years later the same professor asked a class to track down the original kids and discover what had happened. One hundred eighty were located and only four had ever been in jail. Why were predictions so far off?
There was one common denominator. All 100 boys mentioned the strong influence of a teacher they all had in common. They then located the teacher, a seventy-year-old Sheila O’Rourke, in a Memphis nursing home. Puzzled by the interest in her, she could only exclaim, “All I ever did was love each of them.”
That is the power of love. Love gives life. If that is the result of being loved with an imperfect, human love what must be the results of being loved by a perfect, divine love? As a result of this teacher’s love each of these boys had a life.
But as a result of God’s love each of us can have eternal life.
But, just like last week, I must close with a warning. God’s life is LIMITED and CONDITIONAL. It is only available to “whosoever believes.”
In 1830 a man named George Wilson was convicted of robbing the U.S. Mail and was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon for Wilson, but he refused to accept it. The matter went to Chief Justice Marshall, who eventually made the following ruling:
"A pardon is a slip of paper," wrote Marshall, "the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged."
Over 2,000 years ago God the Son, in the person Jesus the Christ issued a pardon offering HOPE that reads:
“Whosoever believes will not perish but have everlasting life.”
BUT just like in the case of George Wilson, the value of this pardon is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon and the promise of HOPE perishes with it.
Will you believe? Will you accept the pardon?