Gregg Nydegger column sig

We’ve spent lots of time mining the Scriptural gold that John 3:16 contains. It’s an inexhaustible vein of heavenly wisdom flowing from God’s heart.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

We ended last month with “Whoever” — Or “whosoever” as the King James words it. Jesus came to be the Savior of the world. The gospel is “good news” for everybody, no matter what language, race, culture, or skin color.

Let’s continue examining Jesus’ words. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever …

“Believes in Him” — God didn’t force anyone into a relationship with Jesus. God’s idea wasn’t to save people whether they wanted it or not. God made a way in a manger. That way went through Calvary’s cross.

Ultimately God’s way centers on Jesus, who said He’s the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). People must believe in Jesus as the Christ and God’s Son. They must acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord and accept His sacrifice on their behalf.

The Greek word translated as “believes” is continuous present tense. Whoever believes in Him, and keeps on believing, just like Journey’s classic song: “Don’t stop believing.”

The message of John 3:16 is clear. It’s not enough to acknowledge Jesus once, and then go about our lives as if nothing has changed. Believing in Jesus is an ongoing, lifetime commitment and journey.

Jesus wasn’t talking about head knowledge, about knowing facts about Him. Facts aren’t enough. James wrote (2:19) that even the demons know who Jesus is, and tremble! But they don’t accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

This belief and faith that Jesus speaks of in John 3:16 is a relationship with God through Jesus Himself. The Jewish scribes and Pharisees, the chief priests and religious leaders knew who Jesus was, but they didn’t acknowledge Him as the Son of God.

They believed Jesus was real, just not really God. They believed He was a teacher, just not a teacher sent by God. They believed He died on the cross, but they refused to acknowledge His resurrection and lied about it.

Information and facts aren’t a relationship. Knowing Jesus is more than a cuddly manger story. Jesus said we must believe in Him and have faith in Him. Hebrews 11:6a says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him…”

Writing in Romans 10, the apostle Paul echoes this truth about belief and faith in Jesus as the Christ, Messiah, and Son of God.

“… because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.”

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved ...” So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

In John 3:16, Jesus showed that salvation isn’t because of nationality or because of the country we live in. Salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ. Salvation comes through faith. Faith brings us into the family of God. Ongoing faith keeps us there. Galatians 3:26-29 says:

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

For God so loved the world … have we acknowledged that love? His name is Jesus. Have we believed in Him? Not just yielded to the fact that He came, but put our complete faith and trust in Him? Have we been baptized into His family, and taken on His name so we can be called “Christian?”

God has done His part. He gave His only Son. What have we done with His gift? God won’t force Jesus on us, nor can our parents or grandparents do it for us when we’re born. We must make a conscious decision on our own to accept God’s wonderful and gracious gift. Abundant life, eternal life is available to all who’ll believe in Jesus.

In Mark 16:16, Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Gregg Nydegger is the evangelist at Christ’s Church at Monticello.

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