Ever have one of those unexpected moments when one word, one thought, turns everything you believed in upside down? Like the day that you learned that Mom and Dad helped Santa Claus out in a really big way. Or the day that you figured out that the opposite sex wasn’t icky and full of cooties. Or the day that it dawned on you that going to school nine months out of the year was a lot easier than what the real world expected of you. Those jaw-dropping, eye-opening, heart-wrenching moments change everything.
Consider Nicodemus for a moment. Good old Nic was a Pharisee, a card-carrying member of the conservative religious right of his day. Nic was pretty sure that he had God figured out. Do all the right things, say the right prayers, dress the right way and everything would be ok with God and the long-promised Messiah would show up. Not only would the Messiah show up but he would kick out the Romans, establish his kingdom, correct the wayward Sadducees (the liberals of his day), and basically set everything in order. Nic’s world was basically divided into those that are in and those who are out. Jews – mostly in, gentiles (basically everybody not Jewish) – out, Pharisees – definitely in, Sadducees – we’ll see, Jewish tax collectors and other Roman sympathizers – definitely out. Then Jesus shows up and Nic begins to wonder if He’s the Messiah. In Nic’s view, God loves the in’s and is ready to punish the outs. So, one night Nic has a sit down with Jesus as recorded in John chapter 3. Now Jesus challenged many of Nic’s assumptions concerning God’s kingdom and the Messiah’s role. But there was one jaw-dropping, eye-opening, heart-wrenching moment that must have turned Nicodemus world upside down.
That moment happens when Jesus speaks what is perhaps the most quoted verse of the Bible, 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.” (John 3:16, NASB95) Consider this, God loves the world. Not just part of it. Not just the ins but the outs as well. Nic may have thought, “What? Wait! God loves the Romans? I thought we were His chosen people, and as Pharisees, we were the chosen of the chosen!” Then the second realization hit, not only does God love the world but He has opened the doors of salvation to anyone, “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Nic’s thoughts may have run like this, “Romans and tax collectors in Heaven, well that will drive down property values.” Perhaps there was some relief in Nic’s heart as Jesus explained that while the door is open to all the choice is up to each person to enter and many will choose darkness over light. (John 3:17-21)
Think about our world and the people in it. God loves everyone, from the saintliest saint to the vilest of sinners. Old, young, red, brown, yellow, black, white, educated, non-educated, rich, poor, in between, atheist, agnostic, religious, new ager, pagan, angry, meek, ruthless, fair-minded, self-centered, male, female, gay, straight, law-breaking, law-abiding, moocher, philanthropist, civilized, and uncivilized, you name it – God loves everyone and desires them to choose the light of Jesus Christ over the darkness. That choice is exercised through belief. This belief does not take the form of simple knowledge or opinion but to trust with a firm reliance on God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:8–10, NASB95)
Think about your world, the people that you encounter one way or another in your day. The lover, the cheater, the offensive, the different, the angry, the stupid, the nice, the wise, the pleasant, the invisible, the ones that won’t shut up, the backbiters, the huggers, the crazies, the haters, the judges, the marshmallows, the heroes, the cowards – God loves everyone of them and desires them to choose the light of Jesus Christ over the darkness of sin and self.
Take it one step further. God loves you. Every part of you. He knew you before you even existed. He knew the wrong choices you would make, the sin you would choose instead of Him. But God loves you anyway, He has made the way through Jesus Christ to love Him in return. He has presented us with the truth to know right from wrong and good fruit from poisonous choices. He has offered us the life, not just existence or mere survival but an abundant, overflowing, adventure in Jesus Christ. God loves you so much that He left the choice up to you. And that thought should be a jaw-dropping, eye-opening, heart-wrenching moment that changes everything.