You may have heard Christians using the phrase "John 3:16". That's because it's widely accepted that in the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of the book of John, Jesus makes a statement that is at the very core of Christianity. Whatever the denomination, culture or individual beliefs of a Christian, this is the key statement that unites us in Christ and illustrates that we are only saved by God's grace (and not by our own efforts). It also shows the lengths to which God will go to show his love for each and every one of us.
I found this fantastic short video which breaks the verse up into segments and highlights the power of every word. Have a watch, and see what you think!
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. ~ John 3:16
The thing is, the Bible tells us that each and every one of us is created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]. Our purpose is to know God intimately and to have a relationship with him, which will result in peace and perfect fulfillment [Romans 5:1]. I think it's pretty safe to say that we are all looking for stuff to fill our lives with, things that make us happy and satisfied. We all look for these things in different places but at the end of the day nothing really satisfies us and that's because we're separated from God and we're not in that relationship with God we were meant for. There's a gulf between us and God and it's caused by the fact that God's perfect and we aren't. In biblical terms, our imperfections are called sin and it's what's keeping us from having that perfect, fulfilled life with our creator.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God ~ Isaiah 59:2
It's human nature to try and put our wrongs right in life. We want to make amends when we go wrong and we desperately seek that fulfilment but as mentioned above, nothing ever seems to totally satisfy. The problem is, no matter how much effort we put in, it's never enough. The Bible reiterates this:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. ~ Proverbs 14:12
The only way to bridge that massive gap is to let God do it. This is where Jesus comes in. God came to live with us as one of us, a human, and suffered in the same way we do. But the difference was Jesus didn't sin like we do. He was perfect because he was still God. Sin is what separates us from God, but Jesus took all our sin upon himself and died with it. But death could not hold Jesus, perfect as he was, and he rose again to prove that he had overcome death. He promises the same for each of us too, if we just allow ourselves to burden him with our sins and not to drag them around with us. We are all too often tempted to either deny we have a problem with sin, or else think we can fix it ourselves. But we can't, and Jesus offers to remove its hold over us for once and for all. Then death will have no strength over us either and we will achieve that wonderful peace and fulfilment that we yearn for in heaven.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. ~ 1 Peter 3:18
So God has done the work for us and provided a way across to a fulfilled life. With any bridge though, it's not enough that it's there for it to be effective; it needs to be crossed. This is where you come in! If you trust Christ and acknowledge that only he can sort out your sins, then you are crossing that bridge to God! It is a personal commitment and no one else can make it for you. If we each commit our lives to God through Christ, then no longer are we separated and cut off - we can know God's forgiveness and mercy and also his generosity and grace. It really is that simple!
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our lord. ~ Romans 6:23
You are not necessarily a Christian if:
Christians may do all these things, but that's not what makes them a Christian in the first place.
In his teachings, Jesus made it clear that he is the only way we can know God and that no one else can save us. So even if you've grown up surrounded by Christians, this isn't what makes you right with God. You personally need to admit to God that you've screwed up in life (don't worry, nothing comes as a shock to him!) and that you want to turn from these things and put Jesus first. This invitation is open to every single person regardless of what we've done before in our lives. We can learn more about this wonderful offer in the Bible.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ~ John 14:6