A week ago, I heard a voice saying, “John 3:16. You need to preach from John 3:16.” My first thought was that the Holy Spirit was speaking through His still small voice. Then I realized it was really Joy Harrod sitting next to me in Sunday School class. Then, later in the week, it dawned on me that God sometimes uses such events to guide a preacher to the passage he wants preached!
In this passage detailing the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, the Lord says, very plainly, that He came into the world to provide salvation for sinners. The matter of salvation is of vital importance to every person under the sound of my voice this morning. You see, what you do about your salvation will determine where you spend your eternity.
Before we move deeper into this message, I want to offer up a definition. Too often, we Christians forget that we are like a little subculture. What I mean is that we have our own dialect and sometimes the things we say are confusing to those who don't know our lingo. One word that I want to define this morning is the word Jesus used in verse 17. Jesus tells us that He did not come into the world to “condemn” the world, but that the world, through Him, might be “saved.” It is that word saved that I want to consider for a moment.
As Baptists, we throw that word around in our sermons and in our testimonies, but those who are not saved may not understand what we mean when we use the word. So, to clear up any confusion, I want to tell you what that word means. The word "saved" comes from the Greek word sōzō, and literally means, "to save, to keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction.”
If this word has that meaning, then why do we use it in regard to the soul? Because, man in his natural state, is a sinner: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NIV). When we come into this world, we arrive here already under a death sentence: “For the wages of sin is death, ... ” (Romans 6:23, NIV) Unless a person is "saved" then they will die in their sins and they will spend eternity in Hell, forever separated from the presence and power of Almighty God. Now, no right thinking person wants that to happen to them! This is the danger that God wants to rescue sinners from. Therefore, we must know how we can be saved. That is something I will explain as this message unfolds.
The question of the hour is "Can God Really Save Your Soul?" That is, if you do what the Bible says and receive His plan of salvation, can God really save you and keep you out of Hell? That is the question I would like to answer this morning. I say, "Yes He can!" Allow me to give you three reasons why.
I. GOD'S PROMISE TO SAVE
- John 3:16 “For God so loved the world ... “
A. IT IS AN OLD PROMISE
- in the beginning, when God made man in His image and man decided to sin against the Lord, God made a promise to Eve in the Garden of Eden
- “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, NIV)
- here is the first promise of a Savior found in the pages of Scripture
- Rev. 13:8 tells us that Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"
- the Apostle Peter takes it even farther
- 1 Peter 1:20 says, "who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world"
- His is a plan older than man, older than sin, older than Satan and older than Hell
- God's promise to save is an old promise that shall never fail!
- His promise to save is as old as God Himself, yet it is as new as the day when you call on Him in believing faith
B. IT IS AN ONGOING PROMISE
- while God's promise is older than the world and even older than mankind, it still has all the power of the Almighty behind it
- the promise is a valid today as it has ever been
- ““I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24, NIV)
- “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)
- “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4–5, NIV)
- God is a saving God and nothing will ever change that truth!
C. IT IS AN OPEN PROMISE
- God's promise of salvation is that sinners who repent, confess and believe will be saved
- in His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus is very clear that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life
- whoever means exactly what it implies—whoever
- ILLUS. There is a wonderful story over in the book of Acts where God teaches the Apostle Peter an important lesson. Peter has embarked on a preaching tour along the coast of Israel. He finds himself at Joppa where mighty things happen. While there, he also receives a vision. Three times a great table cloth is lowered from the sky with all kinds of nonkosher food on it, and a voice commands him to eat. Three times Peter emphatically refuses to eat any of the food. Finally, the voice declares, “What I declare clean, don’t you declare unholy.” The Scriptures say that Peter is greatly perplexed about this vision. Now, unbeknownst to Peter, thirty-five miles up the coast at Caesarea God has sent an angel to another man. The man’s name is Cornelius and he is a Gentile and a Roman soldier. But he is also a devout man who fears God. The angel tells Cornelius to send for the Apostle Peter who will deliver an important message. Cornelius immediately sends some men to find Peter down in Joppa. Well, to make a long story short, Peter goes with them and Cornelius tells Peter about the angel’s message. Peter then suddenly understands the meaning of his vision of the table cloth full of noinkosher food. The Gospel is not just for the Jews, but for everyone! Peter tells Cornelius, “ ... “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” (Acts 10:34, NIV)
- my guess is, is that everyone here qualifies!
- “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6, NIV)
- “ ... Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17, NIV)
II. GOD'S POWER TO SAVE
- John 3:16 “ ... that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
- now that we know that the Lord has promised to save those who receive His plan of salvation, we need to understand that He can do what He says He will do
- just how does God go about bringing men unto Himself?
- the Reformation theologians referred to it as irresistible grace
- God will move and work in a sinner’s life in such a way as to eventually bring them to a point where His love, and His mercy, and His grace are so attractive that you can no longer resist the testimony of the Holy Spirit in your life
- when a sinner does surrender to God’s grace, how does he or she know that God can do what He has promised?
A. HE HAS THE POWER TO CALL THE SINNER
- no one can be saved when they feel like it—God always takes the initiative in the sinner’s life!
- the Bible says that the sinner, apart from God, is spiritually dead
- “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,” (Ephesians 2:1, NIV)
- in fact, they don’t want to approach God
- “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:11, NIV)
- ““No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44, NIV)
- here is the irresistible grace I’m referring to
- salvation is a process that always originates with God in Heaven!
- it never begins with man!
- when He calls is the time for you to come to Him
- “For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2, NIV)
B. HE HAS THE POWER TO CONVERT THE SINNER
- when a sinner places his or her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, God does a work of grace so powerful in their life that it cannot be explained in human terms
- salvation is a supernatural work of God that performs a miracle in the sinner’s life
- things of such a profound spiritual nature take place that it boggles the mind
- let me share with you what some of these profound changes are that will take place in your life when you commit your life to Christ:
- All Sin Is Immediately and Completely Forgiven
- “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:11–12, NIV)
- ““I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25, NIV)
- “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, NIV)
- “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1–2, NIV)
- The Power Of Sin - Rom. 6:14
- The Penalty Of Sin - Rom. 5:9
- The Presence Of Sin - Rev. 21:27
- “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17, NIV)
- “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1–3, NIV)
- “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” (1 Corinthians 1:2, ESV)
C. HE HAS THE POWER TO CONSERVE THE SAINT
- when God calls and the lost person responds to that call and they receive Jesus into their life, is it possible for that person to ever be lost again?
- does the saved person ever have to worry about somehow becoming "unsaved"?
- there are many denominations that teach that you can lose your salvation
- I emphatically disagree because I emphatically believe the Bible says otherwise
- you see, not only does God have the power to call and convert sinners
- He also has the power to keep them saved forever!
- God does not renege on His promises!
- I don’t have the time to preach a sermon-within-a-sermon on the perseverance of the saint, but let me at least give you some verses
- 1 Pet. 1:5; John 3:16-17; John 10:28; John 6:37; John 6:47; Rom. 8:38-39; Heb 6:1-4
- even the word "saved" loses all power and meaning if the "saved" one is still in danger of being “lost”
- I thank God that when salvation is given, He will not be taken back again!
- " ... But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12, ESV)
III. GOD'S PROVISION TO SAVE
- John 3:16 “ ... that he gave his only son ... “
A. HE PROVIDED A PRECIOUS SUBSTITUTE
- when man sinned in the garden, man fell under the curse of God
- when God himself slew an animal to provide a covering for Adam and Eve’s sin and guilt, and shame the pattern was set
- the blood of the innocent was shed for the life of the guilty as a temporary covering for sin
- a good chunk of the Old Testament is the story of God setting up a religious system that ...
- 1st, God provided a law that reminded the Hebrews how sinful they were and that they could never measure up to God’s standards of righteousness and holiness, and
- 2nd, God commanded the yearly sacrifice of a lamb whose blood brought forgiveness of sin for another year, and
- 3rd, that the whole system pointed to God’s Anointed One who would be born into this world, live the life of a man but without sin, and then become a perfect once-for-all sacrifice
- that Anointed One is Jesus
- God, knowing our need and our inability to do anything about it ourselves, provided His one and only Son as a perfect substitute
- you may not fully understand it this morning, but when Jesus died on the cross, He was literally taking the place of every sinner who would call upon His name
- He became the perfect sacrificial lamb
- “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)
- “but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:19–20, NIV)
B. HE PROVIDED A PERFECT SACRIFICE
- Jesus was a precious substitute because He was a perfect sacrifice
- His was a perfect sacrifice because it will never have to be redone!
- “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:24–28, ESV)
- sadly, there are many churchmen who want to downplay and minimize the blood of Jesus
- ILLUS. In an era when “image” and being “user friendly” has become the compelling goal of many congregations, we’re told that we’ve got to down-play the cross of Christ. It’s simply too bloody and too offensive to a modern culture. If we’re going to attract people to church, we’ve got to offer an inoffensive environment. That usually means services full of lots of music and entertainment. If there is a sermon, it must be kept brief and amusing. Churches following this pattern will see numerical growth, we’re assured; those that ignore it are doomed to decline. At the heart of the market-driven, user-friendly church is the goal of giving people what they want. The result is that the worshiper has become sovereign and God is not. The problem is that you cannot preach the gospel without also present the Christ broken and bleeding for sinners!
- may I remind you that without His precious blood, there is no salvation possible for any man?
- religion cannot save; neither can any ritual or practice—nothing saves but faith in the shed blood of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ
C. HE PROVIDED A PLAN OF SALVATION
- now, we come to the crucial question
- if God promised to save sinners, if He has the power to save them and if He has provided the means to save him, how does one go about being saved?
- the answer is found in the verses we read this morning - John 3:16-17
- the Bible tells us in no uncertain terms exactly what a person must do to be saved from their sins
- the answer is to believe on Him!
- what does it mean to believe upon the Lord, Jesus Christ?
- this is explained to us in great detail in Rom. 10:9-10; 13
- “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9–10, NIV)
- “for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” (Romans 10:13, NIV)
- man frequently wants to complicate it
- the best thing we can do is to simply take God at His Word and accept salvation as what it is: The gift of God
Conc: Maybe there is someone here this morning and you have been plagued with doubts about salvation. Maybe there are those who know that they are not saved. But, today, the Holy Spirit has spoken to your heart and you are ready to come to the Lord. God is calling and you know what you need. You may be asking. "Can God really save my soul?" I invite you to find out for yourselves that God can! You know your heart and al I ask you to do today is to listen to the call of the Spirit of God in your soul. If you need something from the Lord this morning, I challenge you to come get it right now. Will you obey the Lord today?