In the American Legion every February we are to remember 4 Chaplains in WW 2 for their bravery and sacrifice for their fellow soldiers. They were on a troop ship when a German submarine hit them with a torpedo, these four men, were on deck, and saw men trying to get to life boats. They gave up their seats so that 4 others might be saved. They also gave up their life vests, their gloves and any thing else that might save one more man. As the men in the life boats looked back at the ship as it was sinking, they saw these four Chaplains, arms around each other, singing hymns and praising God as the ship sank into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. They did not check to see if the men they helped were of their own faith, they just did what they could to save others.

John 3:16 NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Now that particular portion of John needs to be looked at more closely, because we have so abused this verse that it has become a throwaway for our society. I mean, look, it shows up at football games, baseball games and other trivial events. People, in the beginning, would look at it and some would say it out loud or to themselves because they knew it so well. Others either went and looked it up online to find out what John 3:16 actually was, others just ignored it.

Yet this particular portion of scripture which we are looking at today has a meaning that can lead to life or death, it is literally that important. John writes that Jesus said to Nicodemus that, God so loved the world that he gave himself, his Son who was God in human form, that he gave himself so that, whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The world was in such a state that it was steeped in sin and ready for destruction. God had sent Jesus to be the salvation for the world, not by being a warrior, but rather by being obedient even to the point of dying.

We need to understand that without the death of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary, there can be NO SALVATION, for only Jesus Christ was sinless, all of us living then and through all the centuries since, have lived in SIN. Sin has to be the most heinous of crimes, and in reality it is, because it says, I want to be god for myself. It is Idolatry, believing that God doesn’t care, or doesn’t exist at all. Next of course is the simple fact that God says, if you believe then you will be saved, else you will escort yourself into the perdition that we find ourselves heading for in our sinful ways. Belief, the faith that God is real that Jesus is indeed the Savior sent from heaven to lift us all to a better place and life eternal.

As we go through this time called Lent, a time of preparation for the execution of the Lord for our sins, and then the glory of the resurrection Easter Sunday it is God’s desire that we will come to understand just how much He truly loves His creation. He also wants us to seriously look at what it is He is saying to us in this set of verses we read today.

John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus did not come to condemn the world to destruction for its sinfulness, but rather that the people of the world might be saved through His death at Calvary. That is where the love of God really shows through. That is also where the Church, really falls short. The Jewish teachers taught that when Messiah came everyone not of their faith would be destroyed.

Jesus teaches that this is not true, He came that all persons, Jew and Gentile alike would be saved, if they accepted the death that He died for them. The other side of that coin is simply that all who refuse to believe, will perish. Not because God wants them to, not because God condemned them to death, but because they choose death over life. They refuse to believe that God loved so much, He would die for them.

I once knew a man who thought that God didn’t love him, that God had rejected him for his sins. When he was dying with cancer, his wife asked me to come visit and to pray over him. I prayed for him and laid my hands on his head and the next week he was up and moving around. He had a colostomy removed because they could find no cancer. He spent the next year of his life, rejecting the reality of what had happened. He still said that God hated him and was rejecting him.

After a year of this the cancer returned, and he was actually pronounced dead. He came to as they were wheeling him out of his room to the morgue. He told them he could not die yet he needed to speak to his pastor. Saying that there was nothing else they could do for him they sent him home to die. His wife called me to come and see him, and I did. He still insisted that his sin was so bad that God would never let him into heaven. Exasperated with this, I said to him, what is it that you have done that was so heinous that even God would not forgive you? I had asked this question many times, but he would never tell me.

“I got in a bar fight when I was a kid, he pulled a knife, I pulled a gun and shot him dead.”

I said to him, with relief in my voice, “Is that all?” then I said something to the effect: “God will forgive you if you are ready to come before Him and confess that you have sinned and fallen short of His glory.” We prayed together and he accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, and he knew he was saved. His entire countenance changed, his body relaxed and he asked if he could take the Lords Supper. We got grape juice and bread and, with his wife and Yvonne, we celebrated the Lords Supper. Three weeks later he died peacefully in his sleep. God doesn’t condemn you or me or anyone else to hell, we do that ourselves. Refusing to accept God’s Love, refusing to have faith that Jesus really is the Savior.

The Church, that is you and me, has been called to bring people to meet the Savior, yet most Church folks come on Sunday, then return home and promptly forget what happened at church. They turn on the TV to watch the Cowboys, or the Spurs and forget that their neighbor down the street is a person who needs help. We have a terrible time inviting folks to meet Jesus.

Yet it is as much what we do as it is what we say that makes the invitation real. It is our lives as we live them that say, I am a member of the Kingdom of God, Jesus died for me and I live for Him.

God sent Jesus not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by his death on that cross. Verse 18 says simply: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Faith, in Christ, belief in him brings eternal life in glory.

Rejection of him, unbelief just holds on to the condemnation of sin, that is a part of every persons life. It is when we believe that the condemnation is lifted from us, God forgives us for our sin, and sees the righteousness of Christ upon us.

It is our believing that brings justification to our lives, and starts us on the road to sanctification. Finally verse 19 tells us: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

This is the judgment. Condemnation comes not because we are born sinners, nor because we have lived many years in sinfulness, but rather because we rejected the idea that Jesus Christ is God and Savior. That His death paid the price for our sin, some of course will not even admit to having lived in sinfulness at all and therefore, do not need saving. The scriptures tell us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, yet many of those who call themselves Christian, still live lives in the world. Chasing after riches, power and personal pleasure. They do not know the risen Savior, in many cases they have actually never been told about salvation.

I have to admit, I would never have come to Christ had I not gone to my mother’s church with her, and heard the gospel preached. It was a Baptist Church, we had been members of another denomination, and I had never heard that I had to confess my sin before God, and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It took a few more visits to that Church, but the pastor spoke the truth, and I knew it was the truth, cause he stepped all over my toes with his words.

Yet I also realized that he was speaking words that God had given him to speak, and I had to own up to my own sinfulness, confessing that I was a sinner, asking for forgiveness, and receiving the simple message of the gospel. I was now a child of God.

My wife, will get up in the middle of the night, and will not turn on a light but rather will stumble around, stepping on things, so she won’t wake me up by turning on a light. We have a long haired cat who sheds terribly and therefore tends to throw up hairballs. If you are not careful you will step into one of those things and that makes it really hard to clean up. You have heard the commercial I guess, about people who really love their bank? I really love my flashlight, it helps me to get around when I get up in the middle of the night. Yvonne now has one by her side of our bed as well.

God does not want anyone to perish, He says clearly in this passage again John 3:16 “For God so Loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The word, whoever, means what it says, if a person believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he was born to die for the sins of mankind, your sins and my sins, then if you believe this is the truth, and confess your sin and call on the name of Jesus, you will be saved, and you will enjoy eternity in the presence of God.

Condemnation comes because we refuse to allow the light of Christ into our lives, so that it can shine out onto those around us. If we walk in the light and become the light for others to find their way to Christ then we are taking care of our responsibility. Are you washed in the blood?

If you are then let your light shine so that others may find their way to the fountain of Christ. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord, note that it does not say, accepted Jesus and his life and death. It says you are to believe in Him as Lord, Savior, and God.

We heard how none of us can ever pay enough to become saved, none of us can ever become righteous on our own, none of us can make it to heaven on our own. Without being washed in the blood shed at Calvary you cannot be saved, and will have condemned yourself to eternity in hell. All of us will live eternal lives, but only those who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord will live in heaven. All others will still live in eternity, but it will be spent in eternal HELL! The decision is yours to make, God is calling upon you today, if you have accepted Jesus as Lord, are you now hearing God asking you to reach out to others? That is the rest of the story. God so loved YOU, can you now love your friends and neighbors enough to tell them the truth of sin and death?

Choices, are always part of life, if you are washed in the blood, you will be saved, if not you will die forever in hell, do you want that for your friends and neighbors?

Choose today what you will do, for yourself, for your friends, neighbors and relatives!