The Heart (and Mind) of the Matter
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16
One verse has been considered by people of faith through the centuries as the most important statement in the Bible. It’s the centerpiece. It summarizes what God has done and highlights an unavoidable decision you must make. Everything starts and flows from its truth.
Nothing in this life truly makes sense until John 3:16 makes sense. In order for that to happen, both your ability to think and your capacity to feel have to be fully engaged in the choice God offers in this verse. Choosing to believe requires your whole heart and mind.
This crucial message from our heavenly Father starts with His love. This action on God’s part should never be taken for granted. There’s nothing that requires God to love us, and at times there is very little about us that’s loveable. He loves the world as only our Creator can—despite our rebellion and rejection. “God so loved the world” because He chose to do so.
In order to effectively doubt or reject God’s love, we have to ignore its ultimate proof: “he gave his only Son.” Yes, He sent His Son, and the Son willingly came. But here is the truth that God gave His Son, in order to demonstrate His love.
Gavealso means “allowed Him to perish.” The crucifixion of God’s Son came at the hands of men, but under His permission. The Father's love allowed that terrible act because the death of His Son made life possible for many. Jesus took our place as sinners on the cross. Because God loves, He gave.
God’s choice places our most important decision before us. The phrase “whoever believes in him” actually divides humanity into two groups: those who choose to believe in Him and those who don’t. Whoever believes receives one result; whoever doesn’t believe receives a different result. Just as those who believe in Jesus receive eternal life, those who reject Jesus are subject to eternal death.
The phrase “shall not perish” reminds us of our fate if God doesn’t intervene. The reason we perish is sin. Acknowledging our sinful reality is called repentance. It’s more than regret or feeling sorry; it’s a deep-seated desire to turn around from the direction we were headed. We turn away from sin so we can turn toward the One who loves us.
Agreeing with God’s accurate view of your sinfulness is the repentance part of trusting Him. Believing in Him means you put your full weight down on His love for you. It's choosing to believe with your whole heart not just that God loves, but that He truly loves you as you are, with full knowledge of your shortcomings. Beyond an intellectual agreement, you must embrace God’s love for you as your ultimate source of forgiveness, hope, direction for living, and eternal life.
In John 3:16, God's truth comes close and confronts you. You can’t remain neutral about the choice to believe in Jesus. Either you do or you don’t. And it’s the most important decision you will ever make.
What choice have you made about Jesus and what differences has that choice brought about?
What evidence of God’s love for you can you identify right now?
Lord, the familiarity of this verse sometimes keeps me from stopping long enough to appreciate again its essential message for my life. Your love is not only expressed most powerfully in giving Your Son, it is also expressed clearly in recording this verse. You inscribed Your love for me and Your Son signed the declaration with His own blood on the cross. Eternity will not be long enough to express the gratitude I feel for how You loved and rescued me. My heart, soul, and mind bow in worship and seek to love You in response. In Jesus’ name, amen.