Friday, May 8, 2009

John 3:16, The Christian Message in One Sentence

I was cheering on the Toronto Blue Jays last Saturday at the Rogers Centre. They won against the Baltimore Orioles in overtime. I must confess that not even once was I tempted to bring along a huge bristol board sign saying "JOHN 3:16." Yet apparently many Christians do this.image

Call me a skeptic. I've always thought it a bit crazy. People go to baseball games to watch baseball. And even if they see your "John 3:16" sign, what do you expect them to make of it? How are genuine non-Christians supposed to know what "John 3:16" means? Won't they just be annoyed if your block their view of the game with your impressive marker-drawn-the-night-before sign?

Well, isn't it great when you realize that an old dog can learn new tricks? Or, better, when a Christian can realize their trying to contain the new wine of Christ in an old wineskin? A friend directed me to a blog which had a posting which actually changed my mind about this matter of John 3:16 on signs at sports events! Maybe the blogger can change your mind too! Here's some of what he posted.image

John 3:16 and Sports
Pick just about any large professional or collegiate sporting event, football, baseball, basketball, you name it. You're likely to see someone with a sign of John 3:16....

In 2009 the Florida Gators played the Oklahoma Sooners at the Orange Bowl for the national championship. Florida's quarterback, Tim Tebow, lead the Gators to a 24-14 victory, capturing the 2008 national title.
    Like many college and professional football players, Tim Tebow wears eye black to reduce the light glare that can impede seeing an airborne football. Unlike most players, Tim boldly professes his faith in Christ by applying scripture to his eye black. Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy Winner, often sports Philippians 4:13, which reads, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  
    On January 8, image2009, at the Orange Bowl before a national audience, the message on Tim Tebow's eyeblack was John 3:16. The following morning, Google reported that John 3:16 was the #1 ranked Hot Trends search.

There's MUCH more to the blog posting, I recommend it to you (click on the title or here), it's fascinating reading. You see I was skeptical about any non-Christian finding meaning in a JOHN 3:16 sign, but the Internet changes the game! If you Google "John 3 16" it will bring up some pretty good material, great stuff that I would recommend to anyone interested in searching to find out more about the Christian faith. After all, John 3:16 is the Christian message in one sentence. imageLook what happened according to Google Trends on the night of the Orange Bowl. Google searches of "John 3 16" rapidly spiked from almost 0 to what they call "volcanic" hotness! People were checking out John 3:16 to see why Tim Tebow had it on his eye black. It worked! He got the Christian message out there! Fans realized this great athlete was a Christian who had a message to share with them. Who am I to fault Tim Tebow? Google also reports a spike in news media covering "John 3:16" as a result of Tebow's eye black message. How about that? You don't know any Christian preachers who can make John 3:16 a major news item, do you?

While searching the Google results for "John 3 16" I realized there are older dogs out there than me, ones that bark far more critically. Apparently some Christians can't accept that John 3:16 is good news for everyone! I would advise them to standby, Christ is about to burst their wineskins! God loves "the world" and everyone in it! This is a distinctly Christian idea which John 3:16 states so well, that God's love embraces everyone regardless of nation or race.

imageJohn 3:16 is actually making a bold statement about the extent of God's love; God loved so much that he gave. And what he gave is that which was most important to him, his only Son. It's not about our religious quest or striving to be spiritual, it's about discovering God's love and trusting in his Son. One sentence!

Without further hesitation... how about we look at what that one sentence of John 3:16 says? And, yes, of course I want to give it to you in a bold, fresh, contemporary English translation:

“God’s love for the world is so overwhelming that even giving up his own Son was not too great a cost to ensure that no one need succumb to death. All those who put their trust in him can have boundless life instead.” ( translation)

Many friends have been surprised when I tell them that John 3:16 should not be in red letters or in "quotation marks" making it look like the actual words of Jesus. The NIV puts it that way, but if you look closely at the chapter, you'll see that a shift happens in verse 16. Old-time New Testament scholar Leon Morris said it well: "It would seem that the Evangelist [John], as he records Jesus' words about His [coming] death, is led to some reflections of his own..." Up until this verse, Jesus refers to himself in his customary way, "Son of Man." Here in 3:16, we hear John using one of his unique expressions, "one and only Son" (see John 1:14). It's good that John is speaking because he makes clear what Jesus' words up this point (John 3:1-15) mean to us. Jesus' death and resurrection change everything. He offers us the power to change, to experience new life, essentially to be "born again." And that happens by accepting God's love, trusting in God's Son and finding this new life through relationship with Jesus.

image"Lord, give us eyes to see JOHN 3:16. As so many people have experienced life change and found themselves rescued by Christ when they believed the words of John 3:16, so we pray that many more would do so in our day." We can't all get the message out their with a "volcanic" hotness Google rating, but surely we can find some way to communicate this message. Can't we?


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