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“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21

            This passage contains what is probably the most familiar verse in the Bible, where we have God demonstrating His love for the world by sending His one and only Son into the world to give life to those who believe. It’s well-known for good reason, because it is on this rock of God’s love that we find the basis of our hope. In Romans, Paul uses this gift of love as the foundation for his confidence in God in the face of trials, suffering, and death:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:31-34

            The message is clear: God gave up His most precious Son Jesus, so that we would have life. In the face of this, how can we not rest confidently in Him? We know that we are not condemned, because Christ died and was raised. Therefore, if He is trustworthy in the greatest sacrifice to meet our greatest need, we should not doubt that He is trustworthy in everything – because he has also promised that for those who love God, all things work together for good.

            No condemnation…all things working together for good…eternal life…peace with God. That’s the message of John 3:16 for those who trust in Christ. But, what about those who don’t believe? In verses 17-21, John continues to develop the thought began in verse 16 and answers this question for us.

            God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save it through Jesus…but in verse 18 we see that those who do not believe are condemned. Why? They are condemned because they have not believed in Jesus.

The verdict against them is this:

            The light (that is, Jesus) has come into the world, and men have loved the darkness more than the light. Their sinful thoughts, desires, and deeds are comfortably hidden in the darkness of their hearts, deceiving their conscience that all is well. One of the effects of light is to show things for what they really are, and one of the effects of seeing Christ is that our thoughts, desires, and actions are exposed for what they really are – horrible, ugly sins. Those who don’t believe Christ are condemned because they prefer to remain in darkness rather than have their sins exposed for what they are.

            We who believe in Christ welcome the light. Upon seeing the horror of our sin, we flee to Christ for mercy. As we begin to walk in the light, Christ begins to live through us. Now, the same light that exposed our sin, exposes our new life for what it is – the very work of God in us through Christ. Let us give thanks to God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” that he has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Cor 4:6). In his death and resurrection we find hope, and His light shines to guide our path, exposing our sin and leading us in paths of righteousness.

            But also remember that the same Jesus who said, “I am the light of the world,” also said “you are the light of the world.” Therefore, let’s be conscious of letting Christ’s light shine out of us in such a way that when people see our love, compassion, and generosity, God gets the glory, not us. This not only includes our acts of love, but also the way we handle our sin and suffering. We should pray for the grace to recognize sin, and the strength to flee from it. If we sin against others, we should repent to them in a spirit of humility, knowing that not doing so would defame the name of Jesus. When wronged by others, we should be gracious, obeying Christ’s command to love our enemies, and we should seek to overcome evil with good. In suffering, we trust patiently in the Lord, knowing that are afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. When others see our actions and hear our words, whether they praise us or persecute us, let it be because we faithfully represented Christ to them.