“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” – John 3:17
In 1829, a career criminal named George Wilson robbed a
But in the days leading up to his scheduled execution,
things got really interesting. Some friends of George Wilson petitioned President
Andrew Jackson and convinced him to offer
Well, the district court wasn’t sure what to do. So,
Are you another George Wilson? Are you rejecting the forgiveness and grace that Christ has offered to you?
The frequently-quoted John 3:16 is an amazing verse. But verse 3:17 is equally amazing. In His first coming, Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn people to hell. That will happen at His second coming, on Judgment Day. But Jesus’ first coming was never about judging or condemning. It was all about love and salvation. In love, God has offered every person the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. But God cannot and will not force you or me to receive His loving pardon from hell. What you do with God’s get-out-of-hell-free card is up to you.
Jesus went on, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (v.18). Again, Jesus didn’t come to condemn us to hell—because we’d already beaten Him to the punch. We’ve already condemned OURSELVES to Hell. Satan has convinced most people that if so-called “good” people end up in hell, it’s God’s fault. If anyone other than murderers, rapists and child predators go to hell, it’s because God unjustly sent them there. Ultimately, it’s easier to blame God than to look in the mirror and realize how steeped in darkness and evil we really are. Here’s the truth: If you end up in hell, you have no one to blame but yourself. God didn’t sin. YOU did. Jesus doesn’t deserve hell. YOU do. If you didn’t take hold of God’s get-out-of-hell-free card, the fault is yours. Jesus threw you a lifeline, and you shoved it back in His face.
So, why would any rational person do that? Why would anyone reject Christ’s gifts of forgiveness and heaven?
Jesus responds, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil” (v. 19). Most people will say they “love Jesus.” But the sad truth is, most people love their sin MORE. Most people love the darkness of the world more than they love the light of Jesus. Most people love their own evil deeds more than they love the righteousness of Jesus. Christianity has never been about simply believing in Jesus (John 3:16-17). Christianity is about believing in Jesus AND walking in the light of Jesus (John 3:18-19). The proof of your love for Christ is in your actions, your priorities and your lifestyle.
Here are three Life Lessons we can draw from this passage:
Life Lesson #1: Before Jesus came onto the scene, you were drowning in your own sin. You were self-condemned. Going to hell is easy. Just live your life here on earth however the “hell” you want to, and you’re a shoo-in. Every person who ends up in hell will end up there because of their own wicked choices—because they wanted to live life on their own terms. They didn’t care about God. They ignored God’s commands. And when Jesus Christ stretched out His hand to offer them a lifeline, like a cockroach fleeing the light, they rejected Him and retreated back into their darkness. Ultimately, they will be in hell because they preferred the darkness of hell over the light of heaven.
Life Lesson #2: Jesus didn’t come to earth in anger to bring you judgment. He came to earth in love to bring you the gift of salvation. When the perfectly holy Creator of the universe came to earth 2,000 years ago, He had every right to condemn us all to hell then and there. Hell is the just punishment for our sin and rebellion against God. But that’s what’s so remarkable about John 3:16-17. God had every right to send Jesus to judge us and condemn us. But instead, “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” (v. 16).
Life Lesson #3: When Jesus Christ reaches out to save you, you can cling to your sin and stay in the dark … or you can cling to Christ and step into the light. President Jackson threw George Wilson a lifeline by giving him a pardon. Like a fool, George Wilson refused it. And most people today—like George Wilson—refuse Jesus’s lineline and pardon from sin.
Are you another George Wilson? Are you rejecting the forgiveness and grace that Christ has offered to you? The light of the world, Jesus Christ, is within arm’s reach. I hope and pray that you will take hold of Him today.
Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us at our new worship