“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, CSB).
John 3 contains two Messiah-affirming stories of Jesus: (1) the secret meeting between Nicodemus the Pharisee and Jesus from which originates those iconic and rudimentary Christian propositions: “You must be born again” and John 3:16: “For God so loved the world….” and, (2) the defection of some of John the Baptist’s disciples to Jesus’ ministry, which John the Baptist acknowledges with a seeming air of expectancy, “He must increase but I must decrease” (vs. 30).
Then, the final six verses of Chapter 3 provide a theological recap of the case John is making through these two stories for the Messiahship of Jesus.
John declares that there is some metaphysical angst that accompanies unbelief in Christ’s divinity–the potential for eliciting the wrath of God. We often express this tension in the gospel message in terms like this: “If you believe in Jesus you go to heaven when you die, but if you don’t believe in Him you go to hell when you die.”
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. Watch out for ‘dogs,’ watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:1-3, HCSB).
Most Christians today are probably more concerned about learning correct doctrine than they are about avoiding incorrect doctrine. And, as a result incorrect doctrine can sometimes weave its way into our theological understanding if we don’t beware of incorrect teaching about our salvation in Jesus Christ.
Avoiding false doctrine and its dubious teachers was a big deal to the Apostle Paul. So much so that he used some pretty strong language to call out these teachers of false doctrine.
Specifically, the teaching Paul was castigating in these verses was legalism–salvation that is rules-based and works-oriented. These deceitful teachers told the Philippians that as Gentiles they not only needed to accept Christ as Savior but they also needed to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in order to be saved.
“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:10-11, ESV).
Do you ever want to get past all the doctrine and opinions and traditions of Christianity and get to the basics of what it means to be a Christian?
Well, here it is! The bottom line. The who, what, how, and why of being a Christian rolled into a couple of verses!
Two verses that in just a few words and phrases provide such a profound and succinct explanation about Christianity.
“For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s trespass…. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus,Christ” (Romans 5:15-17, ESV).
I have two friends whose backgrounds and Christian experience are completely opposite from one another. One of my friends yielded to God at a young age and has always lived for Christ as long as he can remember. My other friend ignored God and lived a very degenerate lifestyle well into his adult life. His degenerate way of life led him to despair and his despair eventually led him to Christ
Which one of my friends is more guilty before God when he came to Christ? Is it the one whose personal sins are the greatest?
Sometimes, we think that to become a Christian or “get saved” a person needs to repent of all their personal sinfulness. If that is true, then the more sinful you are before you get saved, the more you need to repent, which would mean, conversely, that the less sinful you are before you get saved the less you need to repent.
The fact is that it cost God the same to redeem both my friends. God has the same investment in both of my friend’s salvation–the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39, ESV).
In a post-game interview Baker Mayfield, rookie quarterback for the Cleveland Browns was asked how he had led his team to an amazing victory. Mayfield responded, “I woke up feeling dangerous today!”
Following Jesus is a dangerous undertaking! It sets you at odds with the very world in which you live.
Following Jesus can set your family against you when you love Jesus more than them. Following Jesus can set your your friends and colleagues against you when it becomes a higher priority than work or hobbies.
Following Jesus can set you against the popular culture and politics of this world when His values become your values.
It makes you look suspicious… unusual… dangerous!
“Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, ‘I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’” (Acts 3:4-6, NLT).
Since it’s the Christmas season, I think this gift-giving story of a different sorts is appropriate.
One day Peter and John went to the Temple for the afternoon prayer service. There was a man who had been lame for more than forty years (vs. 4:22) laying at the Temple gate begging for money.
As Peter and John were about to enter the Temple, the man asked them for money. Peter explained that he didn’t have any money to give the man, but he would give the man what he did have, which was the gift of healing in the name of Jesus Christ.
The man was instantly and undeniably cured and he jumped up and down excitedly and praised God (vs. 8). When all the people coming to the Temple saw and heard the formerly lame beggar, they were amazed and began to gather in the Temple.
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God? When they heard this they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, ‘So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!'” (Acts 11:15-18, HCSB).
Citizenship is generally a function of where you are born. You are a citizen of the country in which you are geographically born or of which your parents are a citizen.
The same is true for citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Kingdom citizens must be born of God; they must be birthed by the Holy Spirit.
“I love you, Lord; you are my strength…I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,and he saved me from my enemies…But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears…He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters” (Psalm 18:1,3,6,16, NLT).
This psalm describes how God will move heaven and earth to save those who love Him. David, the psalmist, entitled this as a song to the Lord when He rescued David from Saul and all his enemies.
The psalm first expressed David’s love for God and his assurance that God was His protector. When David called out to God for help, God heard him from His sanctuary in heaven where He resides and rushed to his aid.
“For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10-11, ESV).
Some people try to turn the source of evil in the world, Satan, the devil, into a fairy tale. But, the Bible makes it clear that he exists and that he hates those who have been saved by the blood sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross. He hates Christians so much that he accuses them before God 24/7.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
When the first wave of Jewish exiles returned to Judea, they were enthusiastic about rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians nearly fifty years earlier. But when their efforts to start rebuilding the Temple were opposed and resisted by neighboring nations and internally by the current inhabitants of the land, the repatriated Jews became discouraged and the Temple continued to lie in ruins for almost twenty more years.