************ Sermon on John 3:16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 2, 2012
"Christ Came to Save Us from Hell"
Why did Jesus come? Why did God send Him to earth? Why the incarnation?
Quoting from 1 Timothy you might say, "That's easy to answer. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." If this is your only answer, I am afraid your Gospel is too small, your Christ is too small, and your faith is too small. Furthermore, your view is too man-centered and self-centered. Saving a lost in sin mankind is not the sole reason for the incarnation; in fact, it isn't even the most important reason.
Why did Jesus come? Why did God send Him to earth? Why the incarnation? Yes, to save sinners. But as we celebrate Advent and Christmas this year, we will also explore other reasons. Why did Jesus come? To destroy the devil and his work. To bring a sword. To be light. To heal. As the wisdom of God. To glorify God.
Why did Jesus come? Why did God send Him to earth? Why the incarnation? Today, we want to answer this question by looking at John 3:16.
I The Gospel Love
A "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." At the heart of Christmas and Advent, at the heart of the incarnation, lies God's love. If it wasn't for God's love there would be no incarnation, no taking on of human flesh, no coming of Jesus, no Christmas. God's love is so wondrous and awesome. And, we celebrate that love today.
B "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son." When the Bible tells us that God "gave" His Son, it means that God gave Him sacrificially. God's whole purpose in sending His Son was to give Him up to suffer and die. God's whole purpose in giving His Son was for the Son to suffer the punishment for sin. Imagine, sending your only son to die upon the cross. That takes love – a love far greater than any of us can ever show.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son." At the center of Christmas lies God's love. But at the center of God's love lies a sacrifice. We need to remember that this Christmas season.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son." People tend to trivialize these words or become sentimental about them. But there is nothing trivial or sentimental about the first Christmas gift. There is nothing trivial or sentimental about a love that ends at the cross and the grave.
People – especially children – become excited this time of the year about Santas, presents, parties, parades, lights, candy, programs, shopping, Christmas songs, and decorations. But all this excitement should be very small next to the excitement of knowing God's love. I am not saying that all the things we do this season are wrong. But, more than anything else, we should remember and realize and celebrate God's love in sending us His Son to die.
C "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son." Notice, this great and awesome love of God is for the world. That is, it is for the world of men and women and children. God's great and awesome love is not meant for fallen angels. Nor is it meant for puppy dogs or pet hamsters. God's great and awesome love in giving His Son is directed towards mankind.
And, I need to specify it is meant for the whole world. The Jews in their vain conceit thought that the Messiah would be sent in love only for their nation. But our text makes clear this is not the case. God, out of love, sends His one and only Son for the world, the whole world – that is, for persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
II The Gospel Benefit - Shall Not Perish
A "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 not only tell us about God's love in sending His Son, but it also tells us why God sent His Son to earth – namely, so that everyone who believes "shall not perish."
SHALL NOT PERISH. Think about these words. So much is packed into them. They mean that at the heart of Advent and Christmas lies an ugly word. They mean that at the heart of Advent and Christmas lies the word HELL. SHALL NOT PERISH means hell and hell-fire and eternal death. Jesus came so God wouldn't have to send all of us to hell. Jesus came so not everyone will perish. Jesus came so we are delivered from the miseries of hell. Jesus came so our pardon is purchased and our sins are paid for. That is the message of John 3:16.
How come we don't see this on Christmas cards? Hallmark's Christmas cards say things like:
Peace on EarthHave you ever seen a Christmas card that says, "SAVED FROM HELL."
Joy to the World
Glory to God
Many people today would rather not think about hell, and many preachers do their congregations a disservice by never talking about it. Hell is not a pleasant subject. But that does not mean we should be silent about it. In fact, God commands me to tell you about hell rather than silently watch you go there.
You and I need to know about hell. Only then will we know how to avoid it. Only then will we know how much God really loves us. Only then will we know what God has done for us in Christ. Only then will we know from what Christ has saved us. Only then will we realize why Christ has come.
B I want you to think, for a moment, of John the Baptist. God chose him to prepare the way for Christ's coming. God chose him to tell people to get ready and be ready for God's one and only Son. Do you remember John's basic message? "Repent or perish!" That's his message: "Repent or perish!" John's words don't make for good Christmas cards.
After telling us about John the Baptist and his message the Bible adds this comment: "And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them" (Lk 3:18). Did you catch this? What John the Baptist preached was "good news." You may wonder, how can such language be good news? Where is the comfort and love in such language?
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." We look at these words and we realize that John the Baptist's hard-hitting language flowed out of God's love and God's mercy and God's grace. John the Baptist said what he did so people would seek salvation. He told the people about their sins so they would seek repentance. He warned of eternal darkness and death and fire so the people would turn to God's one and only Son. That, my brothers and sisters, is the language of comfort and love. That, my brothers and sisters, is the language of Advent and Christmas.
Someone is dying and you don't tell them the cure. Is that showing comfort and love? Someone is lost and you don't give them directions. Is that showing comfort and love? Someone is drowning and you don't throw them a life-jacket. Is that showing comfort and love? Someone is in danger and you don't warn them? Is that showing comfort and love? But now you need to realize our human condition is much worse than this. We aren't only dying, we are dead. We aren't only lost, we are forever lost. We aren't only drowning, we are drowned. Showing comfort and love means people are told the truth about their condition.
The Apostle John, like John the Baptist, shows comfort and love. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Jesus came to save us from hell.
C On this first Sunday of Advent, my brothers and sisters, I need to warn you about hell. Now, what is hell? The Bible gives us many descriptions – none of them nice, none of them pleasant to think about, all of them the stuff of nightmares. The main Biblical description has to do with fire. Hell is a place "where the fire never goes out ... and the fire is not quenched" (Mk 9:43,48). Jesus told a parable about a man who died and went to hell; there, "he was in torment" and cried out, "I am in agony in this fire" (Lk 16:23-24). The book of Revelation describes this fire as a "lake of burning fire" where the devil and all unbelievers "will be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev 20:10). It is further described as "the second death" (Rev 21:8). In another place the Bible describes hell as a worm that never stops its gnawing (Mk 9:48).
Fire and worm and second death and darkness. These are all ways to describe how horrible hell really is. It is a place beyond imagining. It is a place of pain and punishment. It is place of ruin and loss.
It sounds horrible – so horrible that most people cannot bear to think it is real. So horrible that many people insist a God of love would never send anyone to such a place. But I want to tell you, my brothers and sisters, if hell is not real, then heaven is not real either. If God's place of death doesn't really exist, then His place of life does not exist either.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." If God – out of love – did not send Christ, then hell would be the fate of this world and of everyone in it. There would be no possibility of escape. But God did send Christ so we do not have to end up in hell. That's the good news of the Gospel for you and me this first Sunday of Advent.
D "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." You might wonder why anyone would perish? Why did Christ have to come to save us from hell? Why did God send His Son to die?
The reason has to do with sin and God's wrath against that sin. Except for Christ Jesus, every person who has ever been born or will be born is a sinner. And, sinners deserve only one thing from God – wrath, judgment, hell-fire. "The wages of sin is death," says the Bible (Romans 6:23). It means physical death and eternal death.
Because we are sinners who deserve hell's death from God's hand, God sent His one and only Son. That's the meaning of Advent and Christmas.
III The Gospel Benefit - Have Eternal Life
A "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The first reason God gave His Son is negative – so we do not perish. The second reason God gave His Son is positive – so we have eternal life.
HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. Think about these words. So much is packed into them. It means life in heaven. It means the resurrection of the body. It means life on the new earth.
It means still more as well. It means a convicted sinner is not only pardoned but even blessed with unspeakable riches. It means to be treated with favor and honor, pronounced to be a child of God, and made into an heir.
B Especially, though, eternal life means life with God. As John puts it in the Revelation:
(Rev 21:3) Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
Life with God, of course, is life that is perfect. Again, as John describes it:
(Rev 21:4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.Isaiah describes eternal life this way:
(Is 65:20-25) "Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. (21) They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. (22) No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. (23) They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. (24) Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (25) The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD.This is what we can look forward to because God gave His one and only Son.
IV The Gospel Demand
A "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Let me end with the Gospel demand.
Let me introduce the Gospel demand by asking you a question: Has God sent Jesus to give you eternal life? Has God sent Jesus to keep you from perishing?
That depends on something in your life. That depends on certain things happening in your life. What is this something? Listen to what our text says:
(Jn 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.Do you hear what is needed? You need to believe. You need to put your faith in Jesus. You need to ask Him to forgive your sins and change your life. Then you will be saved from hell. Then you will have eternal life.
B Now, let us ask the opposite question. In order for you to go to hell, what must happen, what must you do? Nothing! Absolutely nothing at all! If nothing happens to you, if you just keep on being your normal self, then you are ready for hell and on the way to hell just the way you are. John writes:
(Jn 3:18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.If you don't believe in Jesus, if you have not been born again, if you have not repented of your sin, then hell is your fate. You need to know this truth so you, by grace, can avoid it.
Let me ask again: Do you believe? Have you been spared from hell?
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).
Do you know the most beautiful word in our text for this morning? The most beautiful word is "whoever." Jesus can save you – whoever you are. Whoever – no matter what you have done, no matter how evil and godless you have been, no matter how richly you deserve hell. Whoever – no matter what your nationality or skin color or ethnic group. Whoever – no matter if your are male or female, young or old. Whoever you are, you can be saved, you don't have to perish, if you – by grace – repent and believe.
Believe in Jesus. Trust Him today. And you will not perish in hell. Instead, you will have eternal life. That's the good news of Advent and Christmas no matter who you are.
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