Signs and Wonders - Week Four: "The Verse After THE Verse"

The Season of Lent 

The Scriptures help us paint a picture of Lent filled with signs and wonders for those willing to see them.  They help tell the story of how far God is willing to go to rescue those whom God loves.  

This is the Fourth Sunday of Lent 

We will read a passage that includes the most famous verse in the New Testament and why the next verse should be more famous. 

Roadside Christian Signs—the good, the bad and the ugly

Images of Roadside Signs with Christian-y Declarations

But there’s one reference that gets more play… and that's John 3:16.  We find it being waved in sports stadiums, plastered on buildings, even athletes put the verse on their body.  

The question that we will be asking today is: 

If all you had was John 3:16—would that be enough to tell the whole story?

In the passage we're reading today, Jesus tells a religious leader that to fully experience the kingdom of God, he needs to be "born again."  

Being “born again” - how that can be problematic and helpful 

The helpful part is that it gives a framework for how we need to have a complete shift in how we think about ourselves---our pedigrees, our accomplishments, our status, pretty much everything.  

The unhelpful part is that because of the nature of this entire discourse and how we tend to stop reading past John 3:16, there is a dualistic theology where there are saved/unsaved, haves/have-nots, inside/outside.  

And an air of condemnation springs from this way of thinking.  It is the foundation of a theology that is grounded in triumphalism. You have many people who think they have it all figured out because they got "born again" but then continue to live their lives as if nothing really happened.  

Meanwhile, scores of people are left out of this scenario and condemned.  Far too often, the way Christians approach this is to say, "Well, you're already condemned for all eternity, so why don't we start now?" 

This, my friends, is why we read the Bible.  So let's do that.  But first, let me just state something for the record so we can hold tight to it through the sermon.  


John 3:14-21

First, who is Nicodemus? Pharisee, Sanhedrin, Open and Curious 

He comes to Jesus "by night."  And he opens with a remarkable statement: 

"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God..."  Who is "we?"  There must have been more on the Sanhedrin who thought this but kept quiet because they feared the power of the religious elite they were a part of. 

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[a] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[b]

Jesus takes Nicodemus back into history for a lesson in “lifting up” 

16 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. 

“This is how God loved the world...” no more pedigrees, being “right” 

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

What happens if you read 16 and not 17—you miss the whole story 

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 

“Believe and live” - they are inseparable.  

Self-condemnation - what does that look like? It's when we choose to continue embracing the systems and powers of this world, leaning into the world's ideas of power and salvation. 

It leads to spiritual "death," much like what we see in the Garden of Eden story.  

To read this passage as a referendum on what happens when we die, misses the point.  

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 

Ironically, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the darkness but then stands in the light.   

Those that continue to embrace the sinful systems of this world as their ticket to rescue, do so away from the light because they are afraid of what they would have to change if they didn't. 

21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

If Christians say that they believe the truth about John 3:16 but not the truth of John 3:17 they are missing the point, and missing out. 

What we need to know about God’s amazing grace today... 

1. We will never be good enough to deserve God’s grace 

2. God gives it to us anyway

3. Because of this, we are not condemned



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