Let's get back to the basics, shall we? Let's return to whose we are and who we are, shall we? Let's return to the beauty of John 3:17 (You thought I was going to say 3:16 didn't you!) As we all know, when we think about the basics of the Christian faith, we often turn to John 3:16, as it is certainly the crux of our confession. However, we must be careful in thinking that if we know John 3:16, it is sufficing to say we know everything we need to know about the Bible. After all, it is John 3:16 that teaches us that God loves the world, that he gave his Son, and that if we call upon the name of Jesus we will have eternal life. Praise God for the promise of that verse in that we have the full assurance of eternal life through Christ and Christ alone.
In our time this week though, as we return to the basics, I'd like for us to consider first whose we are - meaning I'd like for us to remember and claim something about God and what it means to belong to Him. You see in John 3:17 we read, "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." In this verse we can remember and claim the truth that God is not out to condemn the world, but to save the world.
Now, if I may, I use to have a skewed belief of who God truly was, I conceived God was out to smite the world, not to save the world. I concluded that God was out to see how much trouble I was in and ensure I faced the consequences. This, however, is not the God we see revealed to us through the witness of the Bible. For in the Bible, we learn the fundamental truth that God is for us, God is out to redeem, out to save, out to love, out to defeat the works of the devil. God is not looking to lash out his wrath upon humanity. God is out to save humanity. God is out to love sinners like me and you. God's heart toward you, my dear neighbor, is love.
Tell God of your past and he will tell you of his great love. Tell God of your failures and He will reveal to you his great faithfulness. Tell God of your doubts and he show you his patience towards you. In belonging to God, as the crown of his creation, we learn through John 3:17, that we belong to a faithful God, whose heart is full of love - we learn the simplicity that we are loved, that every image bearer is truly loved by the one in whose very image we are made.
Secondly, we can be assured of who we are in the heart of the Father after reading John 3:17. Here, in this verse we learn that we matter, we learn that God's plan is for our redemption. His plan is for our redemption because we are loved. Does that sink in for you today, the forever truth that you are loved? This verse should soak our minds so much that when people ask who we are, we can't help but say, "I'm a child of God, God sent Jesus to save me - not to condemn me!"
What a joy it is to know that we belong to God as his dear image bearers and that we are loved by God as children redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Now, our time would not be complete if we left it right there. For we must confront something - if God is out to save the world instead of condemn the world, shouldn't we have the same mindset? Shouldn't we be a people here in Nashville and the surrounding area seeking to redeem the world by being witnesses of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit? I think so.
Friends, we have the best news in the world and in case you haven't realized it, FOX nor CNN is not going to carry this news - it's up to us, you and me, to go out and teach people who they belong to and what God did through Jesus for them. Now, finish that cup of coffee, and get to work being a witness!
Luke is the Associate Pastor of Nashville United Methodist Church in Downtown Nashville.