Daily Devotions

3:17 is the Loneliest Number

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“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:17)

This is the sad passage that gets no respect. John 3:16 gets all the attention. If you were alive in the 1970's, you couldn't help but know the rainbow colored, fake Afro sporting guy, who carried the John 3:16 sign at almost every sporting event. You ask most Christians what their favorite passage is, and the response is frequently John 3:16. Everyone forgets the lonely next verse.

When I was in seminary, I served a church in Schererville, Indiana. Their pastor, Allen Montgomery, became one of my closest friends. I was so blessed to have such a faithful mentor. He would drill into my head, "you never quote John 3:16 without also saying John 3:17." John 3:16 describes God's love for humanity, by offering Jesus as the means for eternal life. 3:17 describes God's motivation and means of providing eternal life.

God's motivation is not to bring condemnation but love and mercy. Rev. Montgomery would proclaim, over and over again, that Christian thought is horribly faulty if it leads to a theology of condemnation. Why would God become flesh, suffer and die a humiliating death, only to turn around and condemn those Jesus suffered so much to save? If anyone is condemned, then Jesus' death and resurrection is limited. We worship an Almighty, omnipotent God. To claim God was limited in any way is blasphemy.

Today, you have homework. If you haven't already memorized John 3:16, get to it. A guy sporting a rainbow afro couldn't be wrong. But you are not finished. Continue your memorization with John 3:17. They go together like "peas and carrots," to quote Forrest Gump. When you have memorized them, they will become grafted upon your hearts. You will feel what it is like to "not perish, but have eternal life." You will also feel the joy of acceptance, rather than condemnation. Memorize and become one with the one who gave, so we might have eternal life.

Snake Bit

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"And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14)

 

So much of the New Testament is rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). But honestly, I never thought I would be comparing Jesus to a poisonous desert snake. Both are lifted up on a wooden stick in order to save the chosen people. Let me explain.

 

In Numbers 21:6-9, the people of Israel are wandering in the wilderness. Amidst their many other trials and tribulations, they were overwhelmed by large numbers of poisonous snakes. Many were bit and dying, or already dead. The people cried out to Moses to intercede with God for help. God instructed Moses to craft a snake and place it on the end of a pole. When the people were bit, if they gazed upon the snake on the pole, they would live.

 

The Son of Humanity, Jesus, was placed on a pole (cross) and all of us who gaze upon it will be saved. Instead of snakes, we contemporary people have other things that poison our faith. We are bit with corporate corruption, treating women like objects, economic disparity, etc., etc., etc. But when we gaze upon the cross in faithful trust, God will save us.

 

It is so easy to get disappointed, then bitter, then soulless. We can feel "snake bit" so often, we can suffer the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We live in an unfair and unjust world. The only way to live amidst the snakes around every corner is to continually turn toward the Cross.

 

Today, thank God again for giving us the opportunity to gaze upon Christ's divine sacrifice on the cross. In a world full of snakes, God still wants we humans to live, now and for eternity. How can one not love God, when we consider the lengths God will go to save us? Ask God to give you the strength and faith to face down the snakes, and meet each new day with hope and trust.

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