Text: John 3:36
Main Point: Belief, love, and obedience mark the Christian life.
I enjoy a well-placed movie quote. One of my favorite movies to quote is the movie The Princess Bride. There are the classic lines, “Mawage,” “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” and the debate between being half-way dead and mostly dead. Today I want us to think about the line delivered by Inigo Montoya to the bad guy, Vizzini. After Vizzini repeatedly pronounces a stunned, “Inconceivable” Inigo challenges him, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” The things Vizzini understands to be inconceivable are actually conceivable. Vizzini is using the word, but he is not using the word correctly.
Our word for today is the word believe. When sharing Jesus with a neighbor we want that neighbor to believe. When Jesus explains himself to his neighbors he calls them to believe. This word is so important to Christianity we use the word believe to define Christianity; we are believers. That person who is not a Christian is a non-believer. We use the word believe all the time. The problem is, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.
So far, we have defined worship, sin, judgment, atonement, and resurrection. Worship, sin, and judgment provide the context by which the gospel is understood. The gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sin and rose again to bring us to God. Belief is the way the benefits of the gospel are realized in our lives. The words belief, and its synonym faith, are essential words for the Christian life. A person must believe the gospel in order to be a Christian.
Concerning our gospel outline, we will add John 3:36 today. For the good of our souls and the salvation of the lost we are going to explore Jesus’ use of the word belief in John 3. Turn to John 3:1 in your bibles. Let’s see if this word believe means what we think it means. Read John 3:1-18; 31-36
Let’s consider what it means to believe
I. Belief is a personal submission to the truth (3:12)
Belief is more than recognition. Belief is more than “yeah I heard you.” Think about a fire alarm. If you are at The Driftwood 6 watching a movie and the fire alarm begins to scream its warning, you will recognize it. The question is if you will believe the fire alarm. Will you personally submit to the truth of the fire alarm and run for safety? Many of you may recognize the truth of the gospel, you may hear the good news that Jesus died for sin and rose again to bring you to God, but you are still sitting there watching your movie. To believe the truth is to obey the truth. The gospel demands a response. This is true. Believe this. Be this.
- A believer believes he/she must be born again
Look at John 3:12, Jesus says, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” A believer believes earthly things and heavenly things. One earthly thing is the new birth and one heavenly thing is eternal life. Jesus told him, but Nicodemus did not believe he needed to be born again. Basically, being born again is the act by which your life is demolished and remade. The Holy Spirit makes it clear that you need to be remade and the Holy Spirit leads you to trust in the crucified and remade Jesus in order to be remade yourself. Believers believe the demolition and renovation of the new birth needs to happen.
We need to be clear when we invite people to believe and be born again that we are calling them to submit every aspect of their lives to the Holy Spirit’s work of demolition and renovation. Unfortunately, we tend to reduce Christianity to a certification that allows you to receive a bigger salary. Christianity becomes continuing education. Just add “believes in Jesus” to your resume and it will open the best doors for you now and for eternity. But adding Jesus is not like adding a duck stamp to your hunter’s license. No, you don’t need the addition of Jesus, you need to be born again. You need your systems of thinking, ways of living, and identity stories to be demolished and rebuilt around Jesus. You are broken and need to be remade by the Holy Spirit. Your heart of stone must be replaced with a heart of flesh or you are going to keep running after death. We believe a person must be remade or born again. That has to happen right now on this earth.
Let’s be clear, believing, or becoming a Christian, can be terrifying and hard. Being a Christian means renouncing all you are and all that you have done. Turn away from your old ways. Count your old ways as rubbish in order that you may gain Christ. Our goal is to gain all that Jesus is and all that he has done. A believer believes she needs to be born again and seeks that new life in Christ. Alongside of that belief,
- A believer believes he/she needs to be saved
I’ve been working with the Kindergarten through 2nd grade of AWANA lately. That group is called Sparks. Every Wednesday they rehearse a simple gospel outline using Sparks as an acronym. S is for savior. P is for power. A is for according to the Scriptures. R is for rose again. K is for keep. And the final S is for, say it with me, Saved. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).
John 3:16 is wonderful. God loves us. Because God loved us he sent his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. A believer believes he needs to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from wrath, saved from condemnation, and saved from perishing.
Perishing is the awful state of dying. The book of Revelation repeatedly mentions the second death (Rev 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). Revelation 20:6 tells us that death and hell will be thrown into the lake of fire which is the second death. The second death is a forever dying, a forever perishing, and a forever struggling. A Christian believes that she deserves to perish the first time and forever in the second death. BUT a Christian believes she is saved by Jesus from perishing. Jesus perished in my place. So, what are we saved from?
A Christian is saved from perishing and a Christian, John 3:36 is saved from wrath. Look at 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” The wrath of God is the justice of God perfectly and purely poured out on sinners. A Christian looks at himself and understands that he needs to be saved from the wrath of God. I need to be saved from the perfect and pure justice of God. Jesus save me! And Jesus saved us by taking upon himself all the wrath that we have stored up.
What is awesome is that Jesus saves us from perishing and wrath by saving us from condemnation. Look at verses 17 and 18, “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.” Condemnation is judgment unto death.
Jesus saves us from condemnation by taking all our condemnation. Christians should be the most humble and grateful people because they feel how much they deserve condemnation, wrath, and death. We are humble because we know our sin and we are grateful because we know Jesus took all our condemnation upon himself. Jesus took God’s wrath on the cross. Jesus died in our place. We believe we need to be saved from God’s justice. We believe we are saved from God’s justice through Christ. So, what do we do? We repent of our sins and believe in Jesus for salvation. May the Holy Spirit teach us a believer believes she needs to be saved and
- A believer believes he/she receives eternal life from Jesus
Eternal life, the life of God, is part of the heavenly things Jesus references in verse 12. Nicodemus thinks he is good. Nicodemus thinks he’s got it going on. Nicodemus doesn’t believe he needs to be demolished and remade. Nicodemus doesn’t believe he needs to be given the very life of God. Nicodemus believes he already has everything he needs.
Christians believe they need to be demolished, remade, and invigorated with Jesus’ life. We need the Holy Spirit! The resurrection life of Jesus, the unstoppable eternal life of Jesus is what we need. We should be able to see to the bottom of pseudo-lives. If I am a success on the basketball court, then I will have life. If I am a success in the classroom, then I will have life. If I am a success at home, then I will have life. If I am a success with the ladies, then I will have life. If I am a success with the men, then I will have life. If I am a success at work, then I will have life. If I am a success in my community, then I will have life. If I am a success in ministry, then I will have life. No, no you won’t. If you believe in Jesus, if you look to him and depend on him for life, then you will have life. It is dependence on Christ that makes you a success. Jesus gives you his success. Dependence on Christ frees us from condemnation, wrath, and perishing. Dependence on Christ gives life. Plug into him; to look to him for life!
Now that you know these truths, do you personally submit to these truths? Do you feel these things to be true of you? You need to be born again. You need to be saved from wrath and condemnation. You need to be given eternal life. The fire alarm is sounding. Don’t just sit there doing your thing. Depend on Jesus. Act. Repent and believe. Let’s build on that.
II. Belief is a personal submission to King Jesus
Several years ago I got to go encourage and work alongside missionaries in Niger, Africa. Niger is a very poor country, one of the poorest countries in the world. I remember being shocked by vendors selling sandwich baggies filled with water outside of the hospital. When your friends or family have to go buy you a baggie of water because the hospital doesn’t provide it, you are in trouble. In preparation for going to Niger I had to get several vaccines. Getting those shots would inoculate me, kind of make me immune, to diseases. Get the vaccine and I won’t have to worry about the ramifications of the disease. Yes, please.
One of the big problems in Niger is malaria. When it comes to malaria, there are no good vaccines. So, what are your choices? You can risk it and see if you can make it through unscathed or you can start taking a daily malaria treatment. Malaria treatment is an everyday regimen. Which would you choose, risk it or start the treatment? What is the gospel to you? What is believing in Jesus to you? Is belief a vaccine you take so you can go do whatever you want or is belief your everyday dependence that keeps you going?
Concerning God’s wrath and our condemnation some of us want a vaccine. Just give me the baptism Jesus shot and I’ll go do what I want and not worry about wrath or condemnation. Here’s the problem, there is no vaccine. Others of you are going to risk it; you’ll take your chances with God on that day in order to do what you want today. But here’s the problem, God never loses. The only viable option is to take the daily treatment. Belief is personal submission to King Jesus. A good way to describe belief is a posture of repentance and faith (JD Greear). Christians don’t take some Lord’s Supper pill and thereby live immune from God’s wrath. Christians live in submission to King Jesus. Christians live in daily dependence on King Jesus. Every day we draw water from the well and Jesus quenches our thirst.
I’m getting this from John 3:36. Look at John 3:36 with me, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
- Jesus defines belief as listening to him
Let’s go back to our movie at Driftwood 6 and the fire alarm. The fire alarm is shouting out it’s invitation to life. Get out and live! Get out and live! But there you sit in your comfy seat arguing with the fire alarm, “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.” Since you don’t believe the fire alarm you will not obey the fire alarm. We’re talking about an unwillingness or refusal to comply with the demands of some authority (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A., Vol. 1, p. 467). Jesus defines unbelief as the refusal to obey. Therefore, Jesus defines belief as the willingness or commitment to obey.
Listen to what Jesus says in John 14. John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:24, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
I counted eight times in the Old Testament when God calls his people to love him and keep his commandments (Exod 20:6; Deut 7:9). To love is to obey. To obey is to love.
Think about how crazy it is for a person to be saved from God’s condemnation and wrath by Jesus, to be born again by the mercy secured by Jesus, to be given eternal life by Jesus, to be rescued from perishing by Jesus and then say to Jesus, “I don’t care what you have to say.” Jesus gets it. Those who believe in Jesus love him and obey him. Those who do not believe in Jesus do not love him or obey him. Jesus gets it. Do you? There is a direct connection between your appreciation for Jesus and your obedience to Jesus. There is a direct connection between receiving the life of Jesus and living your life for Jesus. If you love Jesus, if you believe in Jesus, you will be led to obey Jesus.
Let’s pause here and fight the false guilt of not being perfect. You and I are not going to be perfect until after the resurrection. We can’t believe, love, and obey Jesus perfectly until we are made new body, heart, and soul. Your spouse, your child, and your church will not be perfect until after the resurrection. So, what are we now? We are a people who keep repenting and keep believing until Jesus comes back. We are marked by repentance and faith. We are a people grateful for Jesus. We love him therefore we listen to him. When Jesus gives the command, we seek to obey. He loves us. He is God. He is trustworthy.
Let’s pause here and listen to the warning. If you reject the Son, if you do not believe the Son, if you do not obey the Son, then God’s wrath will remain on you. There are two ways to live. You can believe, submit to, trust, and put your faith in Jesus. Or, you can do your own thing. Your own thing may be a religious thing. Your own thing may be an atheistic thing. Your own thing may be an agnostic thing. Whatever it is, it’s still your own thing. Your creator God loves you and sent his Son to give you life. Yes, he makes demands on you and his commands are good. God gives you strength to keep the commands that he gives! Believe in Jesus. Obey him. He will give you life.
If we believe in Jesus we will obey him, and what has he said? “Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded.”
- Evangelism and discipleship are inseparable
Jesus commands us to evangelize and make disciples. Jesus made you, redeemed you, gifted you, and placed you where he placed you so that you will make disciples and teach them to make disciples. It’s not enough for you to obey Jesus’ commands. Jesus expects you to help your brothers and sisters obey Jesus’ commands. Jesus doesn’t expect you to do life on your own. He puts you in the church so you can be helped, taught, protected, and encouraged.
The alarm is sounding. Do you believe it? Do you believe Jesus? If you say you believe, are you using that word the way Jesus is using that word? You can. Look to Jesus and live. Look to Jesus and love. Look to Jesus and believe.