I woke up this morning, got in my run (on the treadmill due to inclement weather), stepped outside on my front porch, and started reading. John chapter three is probably the most well worn chapter in the whole New Testament. How many John 3:16 posters have I seen at sports events? How many times have I heard John 3:16 preached? How many sermon series have I heard of entitled “Nic at Night” (Nicodemus, meeting with Jesus at night…. Nickelodeon…. get it)? I was tempted to skip this chapter because I’ve heard it all from every angle. I’ve heard the debates about John 3:16 over what the word “so” means in “God so loved”. Can I just be honest? I’m ho-hum about John chapter 3, not because I’m arrogant or think it’s unimportant, but because it’s been beaten to death. John 3:16, as great as it is, has become background noise. Every good little Baptist knows it by heart since the age of three. We’re taught to repeat it on command, but seldom meditate on it for nourishment.
Anyways, I didn’t skip it. I know better.
Good thing I didn’t. Despite how I started this, John 3:18 is what nourished me today. If John 3:16 is the good news, John 3:18 is the reason it is good news.
“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.”
When I sat down to read today, I’ve got to admit that I was unconfessed, not especially wanting to read, but I made myself sit down as a matter of discipline. I started reading through John 3. All the sermons, all the arguments, all the debates I’ve ever heard over this chapter started to distract me. I was getting bogged down in what other people say about this chapter, and not paying attention to what it was actually saying.
When I got to 3:18, my heart was awakened. I was stirred deeply. I sat there on my porch, an unconfessed mess with the guilt starting to creep its way inward. Then the words, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned,” echoed in the hallways of my heart. Immediately my attitude shifted. I wanted to confess. I wanted to read.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned. This is the good news of the Gospel. So incredibly simple. So incredibly hard to believe. And so completely freeing. This is the power behind “whosoever believes in him” because without this, salvation could be a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. But because there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ, do’s and don’ts don’t count. Because there is no condemnation, failure is insured. Failure is a part of being human, and without John 3:18 it would mean an endless cycle of fear.
Failure is insured? Yes, absolutely! It must be so, or else condemnation would still have power. Then what stops us from failing with flying colors, very purposely failing since we will never be condemned? One thing, and without it, you will absolutely fall into this trap.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
Got a sin problem? You have a love problem. We all do. That’s why there must be no condemnation for those who believe, even in the face of failure, or else no one could stand. God knew this. This is why he planned it this way. The truth is that God does love us (John 3:16) and he purposed everything in his plan to make a way for us to be with him in eternity. There is no, and never will be, any condemnation for you if you believe in Jesus. That ought to generate some serious love for Jesus that translates to obedience.
Meditate on this and grow in love for Jesus.