Sermon Series: The Gospel of John #2
Last week we began a six-week look into who Jesus is... as proclaimed by the Gospel of John.
We heard that Jesus is the Word made flesh. The “Word” being the Logos - the mind, the wisdom, the knowledge of God. He is, in fact, himself, God (John 1:18)... and has been part of the Trinity (God the Father, Son and Spirit) since before the Creation itself. Jesus and God are one in the same. He’s not just a good, moral teacher... He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
A recent study found that “just under half of Americans say there are many ways to heaven.”
In fact, that same study said 45% of Americans believe just that... which, of course, stands in direct conflict and contradiction with the traditional, biblical, orthodox view... that says salvation is linked to a personal faith in Christ.
67% of Catholics and 55% of mainline Protestants, are the most likely to say heaven is wide open... with many ways in. Evangelicals and black Protestants, 19% and 33% respectively, are much more skeptical.
About half of Americans say salvation is in Christ alone (53%). Four in 10 people polled believe those who’ve never heard of Jesus can still go to heaven, and three in 10 believe that people will have a chance to follow God even after they die!
All in all, it sounds like Americans believe in heaven and hell... and little bit of heresy!
Of course, God‘s Word reminds us that salvation is a gift from God. In verse 6 of our scripture lesson this morning, Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
In other words, no good deed, no amount of education, no work of our physical flesh, will ever bring us restoration with God. We can’t learn enough, we can’t do enough, we can’t merit enough, to ever find salvation and restoration with God on our own. It’s a free gift of grace… Salvation cannot be earned, nor can it be lost.
One of the strongest doctrinal positions of the reformed faith, our faith, Presbyterian faith, is called the doctrine of the “Perseverance of the Saints”. Some faith groups call this “once saved, always saved” - and we’ve all heard that at some point, I’m sure!
The Perseverance of the Saints is that belief (based on God’s Word) that professes those who are chosen, the Elect, those who have heard the voice of Christ and follow the voice of Christ, will never ever lose their salvation.
I’ve said many times, that I prefer to say once “truly” saved always saved - because “true” salvation is always evidenced by “fruit” - our lives show (give evidence as to) whether or not we’ve been “saved” - by our actions.
Of course, God’s Word says as much...
Luke 6:44; “Every tree is known by it’s fruit (by what it produces).”
John 13:35; “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I personally believe that once you’ve tasted and experienced the irresistible grace of Christ… Once you have walked in the way, the truth, and the life, and you’ve known the full and abundant life that’s offered in Christ and in Christ alone (for yourself, personally), you’ll never turn away from it. And one thing is beyond debate: God will never turn away from you!
Of course, salvation is a gift that’s held in Christ for us. It’s our blessed assurance… that you and I will forever and always be held in his presence, and there’s nothing in this life or the next will ever be able to separate us from his love. That’s good news isn’t it?
Of course “John 3:16" is surely the most popular (and well known) scripture in the whole Bible. It can be found plastered just about everywhere. From baseball games, football games, and all types of sporting events (like NASCAR)... to concerts and even political gatherings, you can often see banners in large bold letters and numbers “John 3:16"!
But of course it always begs the question how many people actually know what it means?
“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.”
It’s a beautiful promise, for sure! But, many have claimed it’s too exclusive! Too narrow. Too restrictive.
Really? It’s kinda like they overlook the “whosoever” part!
John Calvin said, “No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief.”
“The gate of salvation is set open unto all...”
Of course, the claims of Christ are exclusive and unique. As we talked about last week, Jesus is God... they are one in the same! Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life... no one comes to the Father except through him.” That’s pretty exclusive!
But exclusivity doesn’t mean for one moment that Heaven’s Gates are closed to some, and opened to others! Salvation is open to all... and the only thing that prevents it... is disbelief!
So, in other words, the exclusive claim to the Father is real... but the key to opening the door is easy... for us. Because Jesus has already tended to the hard part... all we have to do, is accept what he’s done.
In other words... John Calvin was right: the only holding us back, is our own unbelief.
Our culture exalts tolerance to the point that anything deemed “exclusive” is condemned as being judgmental and narrow-minded.
But in verses 18-21, Jesus makes it perfectly clear, that those who believe in God’s Word... those who follow and profess God’s Word... those who share the truth of God’s Word... are NOT being judgmental. Those who reject the Gospel are judging themselves.
Sharing the Good News... is not (and never will be) an act of judgment; it’s an act of love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.