“The Two Most Important Questions”
When you look at the Bible, what do you see? Do you see a big book with lots of religious words that is hard to understand and out of date, or do you see a timely message that relates to us today and that focuses on one primary truth? Oh, people look at the Bible, or God's Word, in various ways; and yet, if we are not careful, we get overwhelmed with the things that are confusing and difficult to understand. We get wrapped up in controversies and discussions that seem to accomplish very little. No, we do not have to know and understand everything in the Bible in order to become a Christian. In fact, there is one primary thing that runs from the beginning to the end, it runs from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation. It is the story of God's love for all people, and that is the message that is most important and deserves our full attention. God has been on a mission for a long time to bring people into His kingdom. He is doing that in ways and through people we may not even realize, as He constantly pursues us with His love. In our lesson today on "Key to the Kingdom," we will look at a very familiar passage in the Bible. Oh, I am quite sure you will recognize it. You might have even committed it to memory. But have we given much thought to its meaning and significance? We will spend a few minutes breaking it down into several different parts, as we focus on God's love and our response. I hope you will stay tuned as we look at the Greatest Story that has ever been told.
Life is sometimes confusing, isn't it? We get all kinds of mixed messages from the world that ask us to consider this or that in regards to what we eat or what we wear, perhaps even what we drive. We have messages that encourage us to pursue wealth and happiness, while other messages encourage us to be content with what we have. Yes, life can get complicated and confusing very quickly. And the same is true with religious and spiritual matters. Sometimes it becomes very confusing and we don't know for sure who to listen to or what to believe, and it's very easy for us to become confused and upset, not knowing for sure what we read and what is important here in this Book called the Bible. We might even ask someone, "Above all else, what do I need to know and what do I need to understand about God's Word?" And we ask that question; and yet, sometimes still, we do not get any kind of a good answer. Oh, I believe the message of the Bible asks and answers the two most important and basic questions of life, and those two questions are important and we all need to ask them at one time or another. Those questions are these: What has God done for me and what is my response to Him? Perhaps you have asked those questions before and did not get a good answer. Well, I want you to know today that I am glad you are still seeking answers to those questions. I am also glad that you have tuned in to the broadcast today as we try to seek an answer from God's Word, from the Bible, to those two questions: What has God done and what is my response? For the next few minutes, I want us to open up God's Word and to allow it to speak to us and to find the answers to those two most important questions in life. In the Gospel of John chapter 3, a man named Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night and he asked Him about being born again and entering into the Kingdom of God, and Jesus has a number of things to say about such matters. And then, in verses 16, we find the answers to those two questions we just presented. And, no doubt, you have heard this passage of scripture before. No doubt, you know these words, you've heard them time and time again. In fact, these are the most memorized and often quoted words in the entire Bible. But, I believe that they have the answers to the two questions we just asked. Listen if you will to the reading of the Gospel of John chapter 3 and verse 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.> Well there it is. In that one phrase, in that one sentence, in John 3 and verse 16, we find the answer to the question, what has God done for me. We also find the answer to the question, what is my response to Him. Let's look at this passage more closely. First of all, what has God done? The first thing that we notice in the very first phrase is God so loved the world. When these words were written, when these words were spoken, God loved all the people who were living in the world at that time, God continues to love all the people who are living in the world today, and God will continue to love the people who will come after us, after we are gone. God loves people. And why is that? It is because there is a little bit of God's DNA in all of us. He created us in His own image and He loves people everywhere. It really does not matter how rich or poor we might be. It does not matter what language we speak or the color of our skin. It does not matter what our name is or where we might live. Somewhere in this world, God loves each and every person; and, that is an undeniable fact. When I think about all of the characteristics or qualities of God, that we read here in the Bible, the one for me that stands out more than anything else, God is a God of love. Pause for a moment and think about the many ways in which God has loved you. No doubt God has blessed you in a variety of ways. He has demonstrated His love by allowing you to live and to see the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. He has blessed you with good health, and with good prosperity by the job you have. He puts people and friends and family members into your life whom you can love and they in turn can love you. Yes, in many and various ways, some which we don't even realize, God demonstrates His love for all people, and that includes everybody. It makes no difference who we are, God loves people. When I think about that, I realize that is the first and foremost thing that God has done for me, that's the first thing that He has done for you. He loves people. And so number one, when we asked the question, "What has God done for me?" God loves. But then there's something else here in this passage in verse 16, we notice that He sent His one and only Son. Did you see that in the second part of verse 16? And that means God held absolutely nothing back. God gave His very best. God gave His one and His only Son, and His name is Jesus Christ. He had no other son to take Jesus' place. He had no daughter. He had no other children. He sent Jesus into this world to die for you and for me as He went to that cross and He purchased our salvation. And God, by doing that did not say, "Jesus, I don't love you anymore." But rather He said to all people everywhere and for all time, "I love you so much I am going to allow My son, Jesus, to die on your behalf." What an incredible amount of love! And that is exactly what Jesus did. He came to this earth, He ministered and He served, but so many people rejected Him and His message and they put Him upon a cross, and Jesus died a painful and a humiliating death. But, He did that so we could experience salvation. He took away our sin; so, that sin does not stand in our way of having a relationship with our God in heaven. Yes, God no had no other option to save people except through the sacrifice of His Son. And so, God demonstrates His love to us, He demonstrates His love to all people on the face of this earth, by sending His son Jesus, His one and only Son, to die on our behalf. Now let me ask us the question. Would you be willing to do that with one of your children? Would you be willing to do that with your only son or daughter? We don't even want to think about that do we? We don't even want to think about sending one of our children to die on behalf of someone else that we don't even know; and yet, that is exactly what God did. Oh, I don't want to send any of my children to die for the sake of anyone else. They are too special and precious to me. And no doubt God felt the same way, but He also feels that same way about you. You are special and you are precious in His sight, and He demonstrates that love by sending His Son. Now that is the first part of John chapter 3 and verse 16. Those are the two things that God has done. Let's look at them again, God loved and God gave. God loved the people of this world and He continues to do so, and God gave His one and only Son on our behalf. That is what God did. Now the question then comes up; what is our response? How do we respond to God's love and God's gift? Look at the second part of verse 16. We believe in Jesus, we believe in Jesus so that we do not perish, but have eternal life. Well, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Well it means that we don't have to know everything there is to know about Jesus. We don't have to know everything there is to know about the Bible. Oftentimes we have so many different things from the Bible, in regards to our salvation, that we get confused and we don't understand what is the most basic and important message. We don't have to know how many books are in the Bible and how to spell them. We don't have to know all of the parables Jesus spoke and all of the miracles He performed. We don't have to have a good understanding or theology of the book called Revelation. The words in verse 16 are 'we believe in Jesus,' and that means to put our trust in Jesus Christ. It means to put our full weight upon Him and to depend upon Him for our salvation. When we believe in Jesus, when we put our trust in Him, we are saying, "I can't do this on my own. I don't know how. I don't have enough wisdom. I don't have enough good deeds. I don't do enough in order to earn this salvation, and so I have to depend upon Jesus Christ to provide it for me." We basically say, "Jesus is my only hope. I don't know where else to go from here. I don't know what else to do. I don't know how to handle my sin and my separation from God, but I know Jesus does, and so I will believe in Him. I will put my trust in Him. I realize that no one and nothing else can provide my salvation except Jesus Christ, God's one and only Son, and therefore I will believe in Jesus." I think about the words of Peter, in Acts chapter 4 and verse 12. Peter was a follower and a disciple of Jesus Christ, and he said, "There is no other name under heaven given to man by which we must be saved." And what is that name? It is the name of God's Son. It is the name Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of the Living God. And so we say, when we believe in Jesus, "I depend upon you and nothing and no one else. My full confidence and trust is in you. I have no other options." And when we believe in Jesus as the source of our salvation, then everything else begins to fall into place. Oh, it's easy for us perhaps to simply say, "I believe in Jesus," and leave it at that. Yet, what does that mean? How do we demonstrate to Jesus that we do believe in Him? How do we demonstrate to the rest of world that our dependence is upon Jesus Christ and Him alone? What do we do? As we believe, we act upon that belief; don't we? We demonstrate our belief by the way we live. One of the things we do is that we turn away from the sin in our life. We say, "You know, I have messed up. I have made some mistakes in the past. In fact, I'm living a sinful life right now, today. But, I'm not going to do that anymore and I'm going to turn away from my sin and I'm going to turn to Jesus Christ. I'm going to think about Him and I'm going to love Him and I'm going to receive His love for me, and I'm going to change the way I live." That is called repentance. The next thing we do is simply die to that way and we begin to live a new way in Jesus. The apostle Paul describes how all of that takes place, in Romans chapter 6. We die to our old way of life and we are buried in baptism with Jesus Christ, where our sin is washed away and forgiven and forgotten. And then we rise up from that water to live a brand new life, walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We submit to Him. We recognize that Jesus is the Lord of our life, the totality of our life and we're all going to go where He wants us to go, we will do what He wants us to do; and, that is called discipleship. Yes, those are some things that demonstrate our belief in Jesus Christ is real, that it means something to us, as we repent and as we are baptized and as we begin to be a disciple of Jesus. Yes, believing in Jesus Christ simply says, "I'm all in. He is mine and I am His. He is my only hope. I am going to do what He has called up on me to do. Why? Because of God's great love for me. I do that because God has sent His one and only Son into my life so that I can have eternal life." And that is our response to what God has already done. And so the first thing we do is we believe; and, that comes as a result of God's love and God's gift. Yet as we continue to look here in verse 16, we find one more thing in regards to our response to Jesus. That is, we receive. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we have eternal life. Look at that passage again, verses 16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son and whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Well there it is. When we believe in Jesus, we have salvation. We receive eternity with the Father and with Jesus Christ, the Son. Oh, we have a part of that right now, and we look forward to the full realization of that when time ceases to exist. Yes, we receive eternal life when we put our trust in Jesus, when we depend upon Him for our salvation, when we believe in Him and then act upon that belief; and, we let everyone know that we belong to Jesus and we have that gift that He has given to us. Over the years, I have received a number of special gifts from a variety of people. I think about those gifts that were given to me by my parents, on my birthday and at Christmas and at other occasions. Those mean something to me. I think about the gifts that my wife has given to me, as she demonstrates and expresses her love for me. I think about the ways my children have saved their money and they went to make a purchase, a sacrificial purchase, and they gave to me a gift from their own heart, from their own savings, that really touched me. I think about all the other gifts that have come to me at various times from other people that say, "Bret, I love you and I appreciate you." Those gifts meant a great deal to me then, and they still mean a great deal to me today when I reflect upon them. Now, I do not want to sound as if I am ungrateful for any of those gifts. I am not. And yet, when it comes to receiving the gift of eternal life, nothing compares to the gift of salvation that God has given to us because of His great love for us. And this gift is something we cannot purchase. This gift is something we cannot earn. This gift is not something that says, "God, I think you need to give it to me; because, look at how much time I spend reading the Bible and praying, and how much money I give and how many times I go to church." It doesn't work that way. We receive what God gives. And so there it is. Those are the answers to the two questions. What has God done for me? He loves and He gives. And, what is my response? We believe and we receive. But there's something else here I want us to notice, it's the very next verse, verse 17. If we have memorized and are able to quote verse 16, I hope we can do the same with verse 17. Here are the words, <For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.> Isn't that a great statement! There is a thought that says, "God doesn't love some people because of the sin and the evil and the wickedness in their life." That's hard for me to believe, especially in light of what we have just seen in verse 16. Oh yes God sometimes is disappointed with the words we say, or our thoughts or our actions, and yet that in no way diminishes His love for anybody. God loves people. And in the midst of all the sin and the ugliness of our life, or the lives of other people, God very easily could condemn the world. He could very easily bring an end to all of it, to destroy and wipe it out for all time. And yet, that's not God; is it? Because God is patient, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. And why is that? Because God is a God of love and He wants everyone to receive that gift of love, through His Son, Jesus Christ. I want you to know something today. God loves you more than you will ever know. You are precious in His sight. He loves you even to the point that He gave His Son to die on your behalf. And that is the most important message you could ever hear. God loves you. God loves me. He loves all people everywhere. And He loves us just the way we are. In spite of our sin, in spite of our mistakes, in spite of all the things that are wrong with us, God still loves us. And, more than anything else, He wants us to receive the gift of salvation that He offers. It matters very little to Him what you look like or I look like, how much money we have, where we live, the color of our skin or the language we speak. God loves people, period, and He sent His son Jesus Christ as a demonstration of that love. He has no other option to demonstrate love. He sent His very best. He sent His one and only Son, and that is a gift that is absolutely free. And through John chapter 3, verses 16 and 17, He invites you and me to receive that gift. No, God is not in the business of condemning people. He is in the business of demonstrating His love to people, and He wants us to receive that love. Now there it is. In it's most simple and basic form, that is the gospel message, that is the Good News of salvation. It revolves around two questions: What has God done? He loves and He gives. And what is my response? I believe and I receive. My prayer and my desire for you, today, is that you will recognize that. Don't worry about all of the other things, in regards to religious and spiritual matters, but focus on the two most important questions of life and make that proper response. And I will be praying, that if you have not already done so, that you will put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and receive His great gift of eternal life, because of God's love for you.
Thank you for watching today's broadcast on "Key to the Kingdom." More than any other message in God's Word, this one is probably the most basic and the most important. If you would like to hear or view it again, please go to our website: keytothekingdom.com. It can be downloaded in a variety of formats without any cost or obligation. A number of other things are on the website as well. I hope you will find something that will bless you spiritually. Past lessons, inspirational videos and even daily devotional thoughts are just a few of the resources we offer. There are also some basic Bible studies about God's love and Jesus' salvation, which might be of interest. You can study through them at your own pace. And I hope you will also take a look at the work we are doing in India. Exciting things are happening among those people as we share God's Word and help the poor. Roku® Television, a free phone app for your smart phone, and even a Facebook page are other ways to access this mission effort. Now if you would like more information about us or if we can assist you in some other way, consider calling the number on the screen. Leave your name and phone number and we will be happy to get in touch with you. Let me say again, thank you for spending a few minutes with us today and I invite you to join us again next time, on this same channel and at this same time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."