This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between:
Easter…and when Jesus said “It is finished” as He breathed his last breath and
John 3:16-21… why it began.
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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
Good news! Great news! Marvelous news!
God gave, at great expense, His one and only Son to the undeserving. Why? Because of His extravagant love. Reading John 3:16, I recognize God’s heart to rescue and save us from ourselves. I can see His heart that responds to our brokenness with the cure that brings wholeness and holiness.
And there is another gift we’ve been given that we take for granted. Our Creator gave us the ability to choose. We can choose good or we can choose evil. We can choose life or we can choose death. We can choose darkness or we can choose light. We can accept His Son or we can reject Him. We can agree that Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves, satisfying the penalty for our sin. Or we can disagree. But what one believes or chooses not to believe doesn’t change who Jesus is and what He did. It doesn’t change the truth that we are loved by the one, true living God.
I know it’s difficult to understand God’s ways. His abounding love, His holiness, His justice, His mercy, and His grace are so far beyond our ways. I like what St. Augustine said. “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.” We don’t have to understand to believe. That’s faith. But when we believe, we connect to God and begin the journey of learning and understanding.
I find it challenging when people say the Christian faith is one of exclusivity because this well known verse actually declares something to the contrary. “Whoever believes” sounds inclusive to me.
So now for the bad news. Those who choose to reject the Son will perish. And as much as some want to believe that perishing means annihilation, it’s not the intent behind the word. We were created for eternity. While you and I cannot see beyond death, life continues. Those who choose to reject God now, will discover their choice is honored. They will forever be unable to enjoy His presence.
A non-believing friend once asked me to describe hell. I answered, “The Bible describes hell as a place of torment and agony. I don’t know much more than that but if I try to imagine what my greatest torment would be, it would be living in a place where I could catch a faint glimpse of the beauty and grandeur of God, yet know that I can never, ever enter into His presence. And then, what if I kept seeing replays of the countless number of times that God wooed me, protected me, and shouted, “Believe!”
I heard it suggested that this life could be the closest a non-believer will ever come to experiencing heaven. And…this life is the closest a believer will ever come to experiencing hell. Ponder that thought!
You are dearly loved and desired!