I have to admit that I haven’t been looking forward to writing today's devotional. It’s not that I don’t love vs. 16—I do. The problem is that this is undoubtedly the most famous Bible verse in America, if not the world. I couldn’t begin to count the sermons and commentary space which has been devoted to this one verse, and most of it’s a lot more eloquent than me.
By the way, although I titled this under the “Nighttime Visitor” series, it's possible that it’s not part of this nighttime conversation at all. There were no quotation marks in the original Greek, so we have to figure out quotations from the context. Because of this, there's a possibility that Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus ended with verse 15, and 16-21 are actually commentary by the author of the Gospel. Not that this would affect our theology in any way: John’s commentary is just as inspired by the Spirit (and therefore just as infallible) as the words of Jesus himself.
I won’t spend a lot of time on this verse, for reasons I mentioned above, but can we camp out on it for just a moment? I came across this a few years ago. I haven’t been able to isolate the original source, but here for your approval I submit “The Gospel in a Nutshell”:
For God (the greatest Giver)
so loved (the greatest motive)
the world (the greatest need),
that He gave (the greatest act)
His only Son (the greatest gift),
that whosoever (the greatest invitation)
believes (the greatest decision)
in Him (the greatest Person)
should not perish (the greatest deliverance),
but (the greatest difference)
have (the greatest certainty)
eternal life (the greatest possession).
Moving on to vs. 17, doesn’t this contradict some peoples’ view of Jesus? They seem to think that this is the main thing about our faith is condemnation of sin. If that’s the view of the world around us, if they see us as only being against stuff, then they’ve missed the point, and we haven't communicated clearly. Yes, the Good News starts off with bad news, but that’s certainly not the main point.
I love how vs. 18 provides a perfect balance to vs. 17. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it. But those who don’t believe in Christ will be condemned someday. Wait a minute, that’s not what it says. It says that if we don’t believe we stand condemned already. And why is that? Is it because of some heinous sin that we’ve committed, like murder? Nope—It’s because we’ve failed to avail ourselves of the one way to be forgiven.
I guess there are several ways you can apply this, but I think there’s one way that God is showing me on a personal level. How is my attitude towards people who are outside of Christ, who lead blatantly sinful lives? Is my first instinct to pray for them and share Christ’s love? Or is it to condemn them? Friend, I don’t need to condemn them. They’re condemned already. Like my Savior, I'm not here to condemn anybody, but to point them--with my words and my actions--towards the only hope they have. I think I need an adjustment in my thinking. How about you?
Lord Jesus, the only difference between me and the worst sinner in the world is your grace. Please give me your mindset, your attitude, your love for people who are lost. I need that very badly sometimes.
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