16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God. 19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.” — John 3:16-21
Believing in the Son of God
by Sally Cressman
John 3:16. It’s on signs at football games, tattooed on arms, and memorized in children’s Sunday school. You probably have it memorized in your favorite Bible version or translation. The verse is simple and succinct: God loved and gave His Son so whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.
However, in a recent Barna research poll, results showed that while 92% of Americans believe Jesus did exist at one time and actually walked the earth, only 56% believe He is God.
Why the disconnect between what people think and what the Bible says? Maybe because we’ve memorized this verse, passed the confirmation or Bible skills class, and think we’re saved and done. We’ve checked it off and moved on to other things. Yet believing Jesus is the Son of God is the first step to following Him.
This first step requires understanding why God gave. God loved so He sent His Son to deal with the very nature of sin. We cannot get around sin. We cannot rationalize it. We cannot redefine it. The only way to come to a holy God is through His Son, Jesus. Those who do not believe the work Jesus did on the cross are “already condemned” (verse 18).
This person continues to wade through the sludge of his sins thinking he is unnoticed by God. This person may believe in Jesus the person, but he does not know Him as God’s Son. Thus, his life does not reflect that of a follower. As David Platt says in His book Follow Me, “If our lives do not reflect the fruit of following Jesus, then we are foolish to think that we are actually followers of Jesus in the first place.”
I was one of those who had a basic knowledge about Jesus, but not a relationship with Him. I “graduated” from confirmation class by dutifully reciting my memorized Scripture and giving a pitiful explanation of a parable. I donned a special dress and went out to eat afterwards to celebrate with my family.
Did my life change because of it? No. Did I kneel before my Father and confess my need for forgiveness of my sins? No. Was my life consumed with learning more about Jesus and wanting to imitate Him? On the contrary, I thought I was done, when in fact I hadn’t even started! It wasn’t until later when I began studying the Scriptures as a young mom that God’s love and sacrifice in Jesus consumed me and turned me into a follower of Him.
When we recognize that we are sinners and that God gave His one and only Son to defeat sin, then it should bring us to our knees. When we look intently at the ultimate sacrifice He made, it cannot be a casual response. Rather, our lives should be radically changed from the inside. We should think differently, act differently and respond differently.
Max Lucado wrote a book devoted to this single verse called John 3:16. In it he calls this verse the numbers of hope. Friends, there is no hope except to believe that God loves us and that He gave His one and only Son so we can have eternal life in Christ Jesus—and in Him alone.
- How about you? Are you in the 92% or 56%? If you believe you are in the 56%, does your life reflect it?
- What false beliefs are we hanging on to about Jesus?
- Why is it important to believe Jesus is the Son of God?
- Have you taken the first step to following Jesus? Re-read John 3:16.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.