John 3:16 – God Actually Gave His Only Son

Raymond Brown translates John 3:16, “Yes, God so loved the world so much that He gave the only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” In his commentary he makes a case for translating “gave” as “actually gave”, pointing out that the emphasis in this verse is on God’s giving. Why do we need emphasis on the giving?

  1. It is hard for some to believe God would become a mortal man. In the Greek literature Salmoneus was a man who decided he wanted to be equal with Zeus and actually began telling people he was Zeus. Zeus punished him for his arrogance. It is natural for mortal man to want to be immortal divinity and unnatural in our thinking for the divine to become a part of mortal humanity.
  2. It clears up the confusion of an unkind God sending his Son to suffer and die. God gave  him…all of him…because of God’s great love for us.
  3. It reminds us that these are real events that really did happen. This is not some great myth or fairy tale. God really did send Jesus to bring life into a dead and lifeless world.
  4. Good intentions don’t cut it. What if God intended to actually give His only Son but never did a good job on the follow through?

Imagine how much different our lives would be if John 3:16 actually read, “For God so loved the world that he held onto His only Son so that men might not have a chance to believe in Him and in so doing lose their chance at having eternal life.” Instead, God actually gave his only Son for us. Like Father, like Son…Jesus himself did not consider his divinity something to be eagerly or greedily held onto…instead he gave himself on the cross for us (Phil 2:6-8).

I am so thankful for God’s generosity and not just His “one time shot” generosity through Christ. I am thankful for the generous mercy He has for each and every one of His children every single day of our lives. The giving just keeps going and going and going. And God expects us to continue on His great tradition of generosity (Col 3:12-14).

What are we actually giving in response and which parts are still just good intentions?

Tim Tebow Talks About Finishing Strong – This is a Great Read

Shortly after posting the previous silly video about Tim Tebow I got this email in my inbox from my friend Donny who was at this dinner. He passed this message on through email today and I asked him if it was okay to share. This is a great story…

Finishing Strong! Submitted by Amanda D:

A true story shared by Tim Tebow at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes annual dinner on Thursday, February 12, 2009. And, a follow up story shared by Urban Meyer!

During the 2008 NCAA Football Season the National Championship University of Florida football team faced many challenges. Everyone remembers the passionate speech quarterback Tim Tebow delivered after the mid-season 1 point loss to Mississippi. The team morphed into a better, more cohesive and stronger unit. The theme for the team became FINISH STRONG!

During the 4th Quarter of the SEC Championship game, facing the #1 Ranked Alabama Crimson Tide without star running back/receiver Percy Harvin and behind on the scoreboard, Tim Tebow and the Florida offensive team rallied on the sidelines and passionately committed to FINISH STRONG as they went out and scored the winning touchdown in dominating fashion. They FINISHED STRONG!

During the 4th Quarter of the National Championship game, facing the #1 Ranked Oklahoma Sooners and the most dominant high powered offense in the history of college football, the defensive team…special team…and the Tebow led offensive team rallied on the sideline and passionately committed to FINISH STRONG as they went out and shut down the Oklahoma offense and then s cored the winning touchdown to secure the win.

Once again…they FINISHED STRONG!

Tim Tebow spoke about those games and compared them to the game of life. We face many opportunities to make good decisions and to passionately pursue many different goals in life. Most of us pursue them passionately and many of us successfully achieve those goals. But when we don’t achieve those goals…are you able to say that you FINISHED STRONG? In life, as we move toward our destination, are you going to feel good about your answers to the following questions that ultimately are waiting for you: Did you do enough? Did you do too little? Did you finish strong?

The guy who wears number 15 and accessorizes with a ‘red cape’ finished his testimonial after dinner with the following story:

A day or so before the national championship game God touched his heart with a message…Tim needed to change the message on his black eye liner that he wears when he is playing. All year he had a reference to Phillipians 4:13 on the eye liner which represented the following: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. He talked to four or five others about switching the message and everyone except his parents told him not to do it because they had been so successful all year with the Phillipians 4:13. His parents, Pam and Bob Tebow, supported the change and Tim knew it was the right thing to do. He played the championship game with John 3:16 on the eye liner which represents the following: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

We all know the outcome of the game, but the phone call that Tim received a couple of days later when he was back in Gainesville was nothing short of unbelievable. Tim answered his cell phone and it was the P.R. guy for the UF Football game. He said, “You set a record.” Tim wondered what kind of record was he talking about. “In the 24 hour period from the start of the championship game, JOHN 3:16 was Googled…93 MILLION times! No other topic had ever been Googled that many times in a 24 hour period of time.”

Follow up story from Urban Meyer, Coach of the 2008 National Champion University Florida football team:

As Coach Meyer was introduced next, he looked out at the 400 attendees and said, “How do you follow that?” as he referred to Tim’s testimonial.

Coach Meyer then shared a few stories and then introduced his last story with the following introduction:

We all hear about the incredible family Tim is a part of. With everything going on in the world, you just know there is no way Pam and Bob Tebow can be as perfect as they are made out to be.

I am here to tell you I witnessed the most amazing conversation which is the truest testimonial to how incredibly good the Tebows truly are.

A few days after the championship game I sat at a table in the back of the Ballyhoo restaurant with Tim, Pam and Bob Tebow. It was just the four of us and I listened in amazement as Tim’s future about moving to the next level of football was decided. Unbelievably, the NFL was never once mentioned. Tim’s dad started the conversation by saying that Brett Farve spoke about his faith and no one ever listened. Here was a future Hall of Fame quarterback and no one heard his message. Tim then said…”I can think of 93 million reasons why I would want to stay in school and play my senior year at the University of Florida.”

That’s how the decision was made.

Which platform would provide Tim with the best opportunity to share the word of God? As you now know, playing his senior year for the University of Florida would be that choice.

And, is there any doubt about Tim’s passionate commitment to FINISH STRONG?

Jesus and Nicodemus – John 3

“Rabbi, We know that you are a teacher who has come from God.
For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

From the title of this post you probably already know who said this. It was not one of Jesus’ disciples (at least not yet!-19:39? ). It is not someone Jesus has just healed. John introduces us to this man by saying, “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.” (John 3:1). The Jewish ruling council is another name for the Sanhedrin. For the text of John 3 click here.

Nicodemus surely had tension regarding what had just taken place. In the previous chapter Jesus had thrown the money changers out of the temple with a homemade whip (John 2:12-22). A few days later still in Jerusalem John says that, “many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” (John 2:23-24). This is the same conflict and tension that John mentioned in the prologue to the gospel, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:10-12).

If there was anyone who would should have recognized him it should have been a Pharisee. For as many hours as the studied the scriptures and committed so much to memory it is amazing that they did not recognize him when he showed up in the neighborhood. At the same time Jesus didn’t make it easy on them. He didn’t try to ease them into the idea that he was the Messiah, his teachings, signs, and wonders were confusing and did not fit the matrix of what a Messiah was supposed to look like and which rules he was supposed to comply with.

Then there is the issue of Jesus’ confusing speech. He replied to Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” (3:3). We toss that phrase around today but think about how confusing that would sound to the uninitiated. Nicodemus was certainly confused. His conception of the requirements of seeing the kingdom of God was that you were born into the Jewish lineage, a “child of Abraham.” Jesus said there is another birth that must take place. When a child goes from the womb into the room things will never be the same again. So it is with the kingdom of God. When you are born you go from the darkness of the womb to the light of the world. The sounds that you once heard in the womb that told you there was something more to life than being in a tightly confined womb come to reality when you meet those who had been talking to you even though you had never met them. So it is with the new birth. In it you find life and light and freedom that can only come through Christ.

Jesus clarified – this new birth comes by water and the spirit. It is not as some have suggested that water is our first birth (the water of the womb) and the spirit the second birth (receiving the Holy Spirit). Water and the Spirit both describe the new birth. The second birth comes by the waters of baptism and the gift of the Spirit (both again linked in Acts 2 and both experienced by Christians in the conversions in Acts). Jesus then uses a play on words as “wind” and “Spirit” are the same word in Greek – “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (3:8). You cannot control the wind. It does what it is going to do. God is going to do with his kingdom what he wants to. He will eventually even include Gentiles who are not born of the correct physical lineage from the Jewish perspective. If they have faith in Christ and are “born again” by water and the Spirit they are of the correct spiritual lineage to be the people of God.

Nicodemus response to all of this…”How can this be?” Still confused 🙂

Jesus rebukes Nicodemus and launches into language that is even more confusing than the first. He references something in addition to the new birth – his being lifted up like the bronze snake Moses lifted up in the wilderness (3:14-15 – See Number 21). There were three ways Jesus was lifted up – on the cross, from the grave and from the earth. Each of these builds faith in who he is that leads to eternal life. Then come those favorite words recited by millions – “For God so loved the world that he actually gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish by have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). [See Raymond Brown, ABC, 134 for “actually gave”].

How did God give Jesus? He gave him first in the incarnation that we will be celebrating in a couple of weeks at Christmas. The second way God gave us Jesus is through his crucifixion. Jesus didn’t have to do either of these things but freely chose both. It is a little unclear if this is John speaking about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, a teaching of Jesus at another time, or if Jesus actually said all of this to Nicodemus (the red letters aren’t inspired you know! Jesus probably spoke through 3:21). It is not unusual for Jesus to speak of himself in the third person as he did that on occasion. What is even more strange is that Nicodemus referred to him in the third person at the beginning of the chapter and to his face (3:2). Either way the message of the remaining verses are clear – Jesus came to save the world for those who understand the “light.” Those who do not are in darkness and have no fellowship with the light.

One last point that has an implication on how we deal with our sin. Jesus said those in the darkness hate the light and will not come into it for “fear that their deeds will be exposed. But those who live by the truth come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” There is a fundamental difference between those who live in darkness and those who are in the light – trust. Those in darkness fear their secrets will be exposed. They do not trust God enough to stand exposed. Those who walk in the light are honest with their shortcomings. Christians should rather their shortcomings be exposed rather than the alternative – to walk in the darkness.

We need better outlets for this within the church without getting into a big accountability mess that some churches have experienced in the past. This can only come through offering people a safe environment to be themselves and express their honest concerns and struggles. This can only come through time where we don’t feel like we have to smile if we aren’t smiling on the inside and don’t have to say everything is fine if it really isn’t. In one word – Authentic.