Tag Archives: John 3:16

What Can I Expect?

A buddy of mine asked, “I hear so much about the Holy Spirit: Who is He and what can I expect if He comes to me?” The first answer is the Holy Spirit is God. He is the form in which God lives inside humans, enabling us to know God and respond to God. That’s the second answer. It’s kind of like this: Satellites send an invisible, wave of energy to your GPS device, that enables it to be a GPS, to become more than just a dead box of hardware and software. When the GPS gets the signal, it becomes fully alive, which means it is now able to operate the way it was designed to operate. God sends His Holy Spirit to those who will receive Him, so that we can operate the way we were designed to operate.

This is not some new change of plans for God; He has always had it in mind to do this. 700 years before Jesus, He told Ezekiel about His plan:

And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:28)

God’s plan is to to put His Spirit in us and make us fully alive. Religion tells us to try harder to obey the rules. God tells us, “I will put My Spirit in you and cause you to live as I have designed you to live” (my paraphrase of Ezekiel 36:27-28). When we operate as we were designed to operate, we become fully alive. In other words, God’s Spirit is our life.

Jesus once shocked and startled people by saying:

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (John 6:53b)

But then He explained what He meant. He said:

“Does this offend you? … The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. (John 6:61-63 – excerpts)

The Spirit of God, living in us – guiding us, empowering us, connecting us to God in real time – is our life. With Him installed, we become fully alive. With that idea in mind, chew on these other quotes from Jesus:

“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.” (John 3:16)

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)

“…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. … Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:16b-20 excerpts)

Obviously, my friend needed more of an answer than those short tidbits. And we will go into it further in future posts. But, if this is new to you, chew on it. It is the essence of the fresh bread of life. Perhaps if you chew on it, one day you will be ready to swallow it.

The Gift

A friend told me of an elderly woman who spoke a brief but powerful message at his church.  She stood at the pulpit and said, “I would like to read a verse in the Bible you have probably never heard –  It’s John 3:16.”  Everyone laughed, since that verse is one of the most well known verses in Scripture.  Sunday school children can rattle it off by memory with lighting speed.   The people thought, “She’s joking; John 3:16 is the verse held up behind the goalposts, for heaven’s sake; of course we’ve heard it.”  Undeterred, the woman began to read: “For God so loved the world, that He gave…”  But at that point in her reading, her throat became constricted, there was a catch in her voice, and she had to stop to pull herself together.  She inhaled that jerky breath of intense sorrow.  Her eyes rimmed red.  She started again: “For God so loved the world that He….  (sob)…   that He gave…   (silent pause, clearing of throat)…  He gave His one and only Son…”   At that point she could not go on.  Her chest was heaving as she tried to take control of her emotions.  A tear snaked its way down her cheek.  She leaned over and fiercely glared at the text in the Bible, unsuccessfully willing herself to stop weeping.  And then, one by one, people in the congregation began to weep with her.  They began to “hear” this verse and to understand the profound generosity and the horrible cost represented by those simple words: “He gave His one and only Son.”  Soon the whole congregation was gripped by the shocking enormity  conveyed in that verse.  Tears flowed, noses were blown.   The old woman just waited.  And then, she closed her Bible and sat back down.  They had “heard” it.

How can God be loving and forgiving and at the same time be perfectly just?  How can He forgive our sins without also demanding the just punishment for them?  He gradually revealed to Isaiah what He would do to reconcile the apparent conflict between perfect love and perfect justice.  He told Isaiah:

“…For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given…” (Isaiah 9:6a)

The word, given, means given over.  Like a mother who stands by the bus and gives her son over to basic training.   In the marriage ceremony, the pastor asks, “Who gives this woman…”   The parents let go of their child and give her over.   Young women make the heroic choice to bear a child, and then, knowing their own inability to provide for that child, give him over for adoption.   Gifts, in the truest sense, have no strings.  They are given over, forever.  In giving His Son, God takes His hands off, removes His shield of protection.  He gives Jesus – to us.  

God gave Jesus over to whatever would happen to Him in this world.  You know what happened.  In that Gift, God accomplished love and justice.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)