Have you ever watched a sporting event and seen someone holding a sign that says John 3:16? People who have never opened a Bible can recite it. Why is that one verse so ubiquitous?
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
When God created mankind, we were made in his image, made to be like God in goodness and love, in creativity and power, in immortality and perfect relationship. He created an entire universe just for us. He created us like himself so he could love us, like parents have children and love them more than anything.
Adam and Eve had no sin, but they soon chose sin. Adam’s and Eve’s sin was to doubt God’s goodness and love for them. They were persuaded that what they could take for themselves would turn out better for them than what God would give them. Every person who has ever lived since Adam and Eve has been less than perfect. The Greek word most often translated “sin” means missing the mark, falling short. You and I have missed the mark in big ways and small ways all our lives, and we continue to behave as though our way is better than God’s.
God still loves us. No matter what we do to him or how many times we try to drive him away, he just wants to be deeply connected to each of us. But God is perfect and holy, and no sin can touch him, no evil can be part of his kingdom. There is only good and love and peace. Sin disrupts that… it can’t be allowed. Not one drop of evil can be part of the kingdom of God.
Sinful people (that’s us) cannot experience true intimacy with God. Any sin creates a barrier. God’s holiness requires that no sin be in his presence. God’s justice requires that sin must be punished. But God doesn’t want to punish us, and he doesn’t want us to exist apart from him.
This is where that verse comes in. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…
God’s love and his mercy sent Jesus. Jesus, the son of God, came to earth to suffer the punishment that each one of us deserves, so that instead of being separated from God, we can live in relationship with him now and throughout eternity. The punishment for every past, present, and future sin was laid on Jesus when he was crucified. God’s wrath against man was satisfied once for all. There is no sin that’s too serious, nothing we have done or failed to do that he won’t forgive, that he hasn’t already forgiven. Everything was paid for, all punishment was endured, every debt was cancelled at the cross.
By dying on the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sin and made it possible for us to be in intimate relationship with the Father. By rising from the dead, Jesus conquered death and made it possible for us to live for eternity. By sending his holy spirit, Jesus made it possible for us to wield the same power that he has.
We can have it all, but we can’t buy it with money and we can’t earn it with good behavior. It’s a gift. All we need to do is accept it. Acknowledge that God is good, and we are not. Embrace the fact that Jesus did everything that was necessary for us to return to God. And just say Thank you, Lord.
Because Jesus paid for them all, there is only one “unforgivable” sin, which is to refuse to accept his gift. Even that is not unforgivable while we are alive, because God doesn’t give up on us the first time or the hundredth time or the millionth time we turn away from him. He keeps reaching toward us, giving us more opportunities to hear the truth and believe it.
…that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.