To Save Or Condemn?
A daily devotion for January 9th
16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
John Testifies Again About Jesus
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
This verse is a great guideline as to how we ought to talk about the gospel to people who do not know God, to those who are living careless, indifferent, often sinfully wretched lives. We ought not to come shaking our finger at them, pointing out how terrible they are and what evil things they are doing to themselves. We ought to come sensing the agony, the hurt, the inward shame, the loneliness, misery and anguish they are going through. That is the way God feels and that is the way we should feel too.
Paul puts this very beautifully in his second letter to the Corinthians:
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, (2 Corinthians 5:19). That is why in every vignette we have of Jesus in the gospels, where he is dealing with acknowledged, open, blatant sinners, we never hear a word of condemnation. Witness the woman at the well of Samaria. She had five husbands and was now living with a man outside of marriage. Jesus was courteous to her. He did not attack her, blame her, or judge her. There is no condemnation.
Of course that does not mean that God is not concerned about our sins. He knows that we cannot be free until something is done about them. Everywhere in Scripture we are reminded that he came to set us free from our sins, not to leave us in them, or to say they do not matter, but to set us free. Yet what he wants us clearly to understand is that our sins do not keep us from coming to him. We can come to God knowing we will be received with a loving touch, a forgiving heart, and open, wide-extended arms.
There is a moving story about a young man who had quarreled with his father and left home. He continued to keep in touch with his mother, and wanted very badly to come home for Christmas, but he was afraid his father would not allow him. His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home, but he did not feel he could until he knew his father had forgiven him. Finally, there was no time for any more letters. His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father, and if he had forgiven him she would tie a white rag on the tree which grew right alongside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station. If there was no rag, it would be better if he went on.
So the young man started home. As the train drew near his home he was so nervous he said to his friend who was traveling with him,
I can't bear to look. Sit in my place and look out the window. I'll tell you what the tree looks like and you tell me whether there is a rag on it or not. So his friend changed places with him and looked out the window. After a bit the friend said,
Oh yes, I see the tree. The son asked,
Is there a white rag tied to it? For a moment the friend did not say anything. Then he turned, and in a very gentle voice said,
There is a white rag tied to every limb of that tree! That is what God is saying in John 3:16-17. God has removed the condemnation and made it possible for us to come freely and openly home to him.
Grant to me, Lord, a heart of compassion rather than condemnation. Forgive for the times I have judged others when you yourself were reaching out to them in love.
Life Application: Refusing God's saving, sacrificial Love gift is an act of self-judgment. Are we walking in the Love and Light of His forgiveness? Do we forgive others as God has forgiven us?
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