Have you ever wondered why Jesus’ death only covered those who believe he is the Son of God? If he was God’s sacrifice for mankind, why do we have to “confess and believe?”
John 3:16 is a very popular scripture - God loved the world, gave his only son, whoever believes will live forever. I’ve often reflected on the verses that follow – God sent Jesus to save, not condemn, the world. If you don’t believe you are already condemned. Light [Jesus] came into the world but people loved darkness instead of light because they could hide their evil deeds in the darkness. But those who live by truth allow the light to reveal God’s greatness.
Great stuff but I’m not sure it makes sense to someone who is not already a Christ follower.
This week I’ve taken a closer look at the verses leading up to John 3:16. The chapter begins with Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, coming to Jesus at night seeking understanding. Jesus introduces the concept of being “born again” to Nicodemus and continues with an explanation of flesh versus Spirit – visible versus invisible life.
Nicodemus isn’t getting it. Jesus’ words in verses 10 – 15 sound like my tone when I’m tired explaining something for the umpteenth time to my kids.
Jesus likens his crucifixion with the experience of Moses and the Israelites found in Numbers 21. This comparison gave me a new perspective of the cross.
God provided all the Israelites needed – protection, food, success in war. But when things got boring the Israelites got impatient and started complaining. God gave them something to really complain about - venomous snakes. The snakes “bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Yep, that straightened out their attitude but God didn’t send the snakes just as a punishment. He sent them as discipline. It was a tool for teaching the Israelites that the life he provides is more than what we can experience with our five senses. When the Israelites adjusted their attitude he gave them the opportunity to experience the power of the invisible God in a very personal way.
God instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. “Anyone who is bitten by a snake can look at it and live.” There was no power in the snake. The power was from the invisible God. That power changed their life.
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve been bitten by a venomous snake. The venom kills by creating a sense of self-dependency or pride. For others it clouds our view of hope.
God is the source of everything our senses can comprehend and more. Jesus was lifted up to give us something to see as we experience the power of the invisible God.
Looking at the cross may not change your circumstances but believing in the power of God will change your life forever in a way that is visible to all.
Will you confess your need for God and believe in his power to give you new life beyond the physical? The new life begins now - it’s not a reward presented at the physical death.
Pray with me: God of wonders beyond our imagination, I am your created. All that I am and all that I have is from you. I have taken your gifts and your love as a spoiled child. I have claimed control over a life you created and intended to nurture. I have been wise in my own eyes yet foolish in failing to recognize your ways are so far beyond my comprehension. Forgive me for thinking I was powerful enough to make right decisions without you. Thank you for making a way for me to see your power and to live a new life in that power. May I live each moment according to your truth allowing the light of the Holy Spirit to reveal your greatness.
If you prayed that prayer with me, tell someone – a Christian friend or pastor. Jesus’ body was broken so that we may receive a portion of his Spirit. We are the Body of Christ only when joined with other believers.