“The Greatest Gift (Ever Rejected)”
It’s the time of year when our lives are immersed in celebration, gift shopping and wrapping paper, party going, family visiting, church attendance. It’s also a time when we’ve probably gone outside of our budget and off our diet. And if we’re honest, we would also admit that we enjoy the giving and receiving of gifts. Some of us will usually prefer one over the other. As you’ve shopped for others this season, you may have also taken a look around at the latest technology devices, high def televisions, and the toys that are available today. Long gone are many of the toys that I grew up on. And I am amazed at some of the things that are available for our children in this time. However, I want to focus on one gift in particular. This gift is better than the iPhone 4 or the latest Wii or PS3. It is better than the 50” Plasma 3D HDTV with theatre surround sound!
The real story of Christmas is that the entire world has been given a tremendous gift! In fact, it is the greatest gift ever! I hope to expand a bit on the short clip you just watched because I want us to see that despite being the recipients of this incredible gift, many have rejected it. Few of us would turn down the entertainment centre I mentioned, and yet many will reject the Son of God who was born in a manger. And I want to do this by looking at a familiar passage to many people.
It used to be fairly common that when you turned on a football game or basketball game or some other major event, you’d often see somebody holding a sign that read John 3:16. Many children that grow up going to church or a mid-week program will likely learn this verse. This is because Christians believe that this verse holds the message of the Bible in a nutshell. If we want to share our faith with friends or family members, this would be a great place for us to start.
John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is indeed a great verse and message of God’s love. What I want to do is to examine this verse in light of the surrounding verses because it helps complete the thought of the apostle John here. The back of your program will have the primary verses that I want to look at. John 3.16-19.
I want us to begin by looking at the first point that God Loves. I want to point this out because it is not uncommon for many to distinguish between a God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New Testament. In other words, many will prefer the latter because they mistakenly believe that the God of the Old Testament is a mean, wrathful God with no mercy. And they think that Jesus is the gentle Shepherd that is plastered on many paintings in the local Christian bookstore.
What is misguided in this understanding is the understanding that God has always preserved his people despite their continual rebellion against him. God did not immediately destroy Adam and Eve on their direct disobedience. He also preserved Lot and family, Noah and family, and his people Israel.
And the New Testament is no different. Repeatedly it speaks of God’s love. This point is driven home in this verse in John 3:16. It is God’s love that prompts him to take action and not leave people in their helpless state.
The next point I want to highlight is the Gift is a Son. This is why we are here. This is why we sing the songs and tell the stories of the baby in a manger and Mary and Joseph, angels and shepherds and wise men. Jesus is the One that has been promised for thousands of years (even from the Garden of Eden). When people introduced sin into the world, God had already thought of the provision of this gift.
None of this took God by surprise. He knew that his creation would turn against him. He knew that their rebellion would require sacrifice. God taught his people throughout their existence that their sin necessitated sacrifices. In the time before Jesus, it consisted of bulls, goats and calves. But these were all temporary provisions. They were all preliminary for the eternal and perfect Sacrifice to come.
This all goes according to plan. Galatians 4 says that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” The prophets of old spoke of this and so it came to be. God’s love would prevail. God’s plan would continue. The immediate result of the love of God for the world would be the mission of the Son. His ultimate purpose is the salvation of those in the world who would believe in him.
I used that last phrase intentionally. Let me say it again. The immediate result of the love of God for the world would be the mission of the Son. His ultimate purpose is the salvation of those in the world who would believe in him. Verse 16 does not end with for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son – end of story. We need to realize that the Bible does not teach that “all roads lead to God”. This passage (along with many others) will show us that there are some who will inherit salvation (or eternal life) and others will face punishment. Why is this? Let’s look at the next point.
The next point is the Gift was Rejected. Beginning in verse 16, the distinction is made between those who perish and those who have eternal life. The distinguishing mark is belief in God’s provision, his gift to us. Let’s look forward to verses 17-18. The apostle John writes, “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”.
Do you see the issue here? Pastor MacArthur introduced the topic earlier. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, we are born into this world in this sinful state. Before trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation, we are condemned already. So Jesus comes into the world not to condemn (remember, we are condemned already), but to save! The world could be saved through him. He didn’t have to. God was not obligated to lift a finger to solve our sinful problem. Jesus did not have to leave a throne for a manger in a stable. But it was his love for us.
God sent his Son Jesus to come as a baby boy so that he would one day pay the price for our sin upon a piece of wood so that we would no longer be separated from him. The passage says that the world can be saved through him by believing in him. Mankind does not need to remain in their sin. They can be forgiven and reconciled to God!
Now you would think that this great news would cause all people everywhere to rejoice and to repent and to believe in Jesus. Right? If what I just said is true. If what John said is true, why would we not believe in Jesus? If the gift of Jesus far surpasses any gift imaginable, and if the alternative is to remain condemned and perish, why would He be rejected? I think verse 19 tells us.
Verse 19 says that “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their works were evil”. At the beginning of this gospel, John writes (1:1–1), “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
So it would seem as though those who do not believe in Jesus love the darkness rather than the light. Many choose rather to remain in darkness because they want nothing to do with the light. To come to the light, to come to Jesus means people’s works are exposed. To come to Jesus also requires bowing the knee to someone other than ourselves. This too is problematic for many. To believe in Jesus is to concede that a person is not their own god. Turning to the light involves giving up control of our lives. Many choose to remain in darkness.
I suspect that many have come this evening to hear a familiar story of this baby in a manger, to sing traditional Christmas carols, to enjoy the company of friends and to make new friends. All of these things I hope you will experience tonight.
But because I believe that the manger is the beginning of the tremendous story, and because I believe what John has to say in this passage, you need to know why God became flesh and dwelt among us. It is because of my love and concern for those have not yet trusted in Jesus that I must provide the more complete picture. Not believing in the God-sent Son is tantamount to self-condemnation; God is not to blame, but rather the unbeliever. Humans remain responsible agents; no one is compelled to believe. Unbelievers face “the necessity of escaping an already existing condemnation.
God Loved the World. He gave his Son as a Gift. And yet the Gift is rejected by many. I want you to know lastly, that the Gift is Life. We saw in verse 16 that whoever believes in him, Jesus Christ, will not perish but have eternal life. Those who have not trusted in him have not experienced the life that is found only in Jesus. To come to him is to have your eyes opened. And it is to live forever in his presence. Verse 17 says that the world can be saved through him.
Listen as I read a couple of other passages that speak of the hope found in Jesus.
1 John 4:9–10 “9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Propitiation means that Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins.
Romans 5:8 “8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
John 3:36 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
John 20:31 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
It is my desire that you would know this “life” that is often spoken of in the Bible. It is life that is found in Jesus alone. This is why Christians hold this season so dear. It is because God did not remain far off and let us die in our helpless state. He gave us hope. He came near. He is Immanuel – God with us! I would ask you to consider if you have trusted in the One who is able to give you life tonight. Do not prefer the darkness over the light. Believe in Jesus today. Let’s pray.