“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
The most important and fundamental question in life is “What does God think of me?” What is your answer?
The answer determines literally everything. If you decide He doesn’t care, then you’re on your own. If you believe He rejects or is angry with you, then fear will rule your life. If you believe God is reluctant or disappointed in you, then you will feel highly insecure as you struggle to meet His out-of-reach demands.
However, if you believe God loves you, then that changes everything too.
No single verse in the Bible better sums up God’s attitude toward you than John 3:16. Luther called it the gospel in a nutshell. It’s likely the most memorized verse in the Bible and for good reason. It settles the matter of how God feels about every individual. It’s the ultimate answer to the first question of meaning: “who am I?” You are created, loved, and redeemed by God.
You might not know this, but scholars are not entirely sure if these words are from John, the writer of the Gospel, or if he was quoting Jesus. The verse comes on the heels of Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus where they discussed new birth and the work of the Spirit. Jesus appears to finish His words in verse 15. Verse 16 begins John’s reflections on Jesus’ teaching.
It doesn’t change the meaning of the verse at all, but it’s an important point. The Gospel of John was the last of the four to be written, and it appears to have been late in the first century. John was an old man, perhaps 80. He was even older when he wrote his letters (1, 2, and 3 John). So, he had all those years to think about his time with Jesus, reflect on His teaching, and come up with the very best way to present the core message in, well, a nutshell.
Not only did he write “for God so loved the world” in his Gospel, he also wrote “God is love” in his first letter. Twice. You never find a verse in the Bible that says “God is uncaring” or “God is mad” or “God is unimpressed.” But you do find John, after decades of reflection on the ultimate revelation of God saying, “He really, really loves you.”
Remember our story from Acts about John Mark and all the voices he must have heard when he disappointed Paul? Today we complete the trilogy, and it’s important because you have those three voices also. The voice of your critic provides correction. The voice of your supporter provides encouragement. But the voice of God always provides your value. God’s voice absolutely must be the most constant and insistent.
Life often is hard, and you can be very hard on yourself. The worst critical voice is the one that shows up at 2:00 a.m., the proverbial buzzard on the headboard. It’s the voice that originates between your ears.
Life also can be much clearer when you radically accept the truth that God radically accepts you. That’s what Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection demonstrate most powerfully. That voice, that truth, absolutely will silence the critical voice.
I recently heard someone say “You may feel that you are only one in the world, but you are the world to One.” That’s the answer you need to the most important question.
Dr. Terry Ellis
September 29, 2019