Friday, July 31
Apostles' Creed Focus
“from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”
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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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.” - John 3:16-17
John 3:16. You’ve seen it written on signs at sporting events. You’ve seen it on bumper stickers and t-shirts and tattoos. John 3:17…is more of a head-scratcher. It starts out pretty straightforward. God didn’t send His son to condemn the world (awesome) but to save the world through him (more awesome). Maybe people at the Super Bowl should put John 3:17 on their signs. But then, we come to the next part: “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.” Is your head spinning a little? Mine too.
Let’s think of this another way. Imagine you decided to serve at a soup kitchen. There would be people that would come in and get the food. Some, however, may choose to stay outside instead of sharing in the meal. It would be weird if people asked what you did that night and you said, “I stood at the door and decided who could come in and who couldn’t. You would say, “I served at a soup kitchen.” It’s the same with Jesus. He didn’t come to earth to separate the good from the bad. (Spoiler alert. We’d all be the bad.) Instead, He came to save the world. If we choose to stand outside, it’s not His condemnation, it’s our choice.
And our choices matter. Not just the ultimate choice to say “yes” to Jesus, but the others that follow. Imagine being a college student and suddenly getting a letter that someone decided to pay for your tuition, board, and anything you want from the campus store. You’d probably feel like you should go to class and study regularly because you wouldn’t want to squander this generous gift. Salvation isn’t free college or even all the collegiate swag we could ever wear. It’s infinitely more. So, why wouldn’t we live differently as a result?
Pastor Keith reminded us last weekend that we will be judged. We will have to give an account of the choices we made after making the ultimate choice to follow Him. But, despite what popular movies and TV shows suggest, we don’t earn our way to heaven. We make one decision to come in and eat at the soup kitchen or to stay outside. Once we’re inside, we make other decisions. Decisions that will be judged, but will not decide if we’re in or out.
When I think of that college student with free tuition, I imagine him being one of two ways: an entitled brat who sits in his dorm playing video games instead of going to class, or someone who knows they’ve been giving a remarkable gift and tells everyone about the giver, is generous with others, and wears that free swag with pride. As Christians, we can live like the entitled kid. We can look down our noses at others and sit around in our comfortable life. Or we can tell everyone we know about a Savior who paid it all. We can love others the way we’ve been loved. We can use the gifts He’s given us to point others to Him.
Take a minute to do something. If you know your standing outside the soup kitchen, what’s holding you back from coming inside? Think of someone you trust that you could talk to about that decision and maybe make a plan to give them a call. If you’re already a believer, jot down a few ways you can do a better job of being the second college student. Who do you need to tell about the giver? Who can you serve? What gift can you use to point others to Him?
Dear Jesus, thank you. Thank you for coming to the world to save us. I never want to underestimate what was done for my salvation. Help me live like I know I’ve been saved -not so I can earn it but because I could never do anything to earn it.
Verses for Further Reflection
Romans 8:1-3, Hebrews 10: 24-25, Matthew 25:21
You will need a dollar bill (or more) for this illustration. Pull the money out and talk about how it is your money and how you came about having it whether you earned it or it was given to you as a gift. Whatever the case may be, it belongs to you.
Ask your kids what they would do if they had the amount of money you are showing them commenting on what you think of each idea.
Begin reading Ephesians 2:8-10. Ask what it means for something to be a free gift. "So if I wanted to give this money away and offered it as a free gift to anyone who wanted it, they could come and take it for their own without working or doing anything for it except to just receive it?"
Continue making similar comments while waving the money around - hopefully, (one of) your kids will come and receive the money as their own.
Only one person got the money. It was not automatic though just because it was offered. They had to choose to get up and actively receive it. Everyone else still made a choice...the rest chose not to receive it (or however it played out in your family). Everyone had the opportunity.
A free gift cannot be forced and remain a free gift. Love can be given, but cannot be forced to be returned. It is a choice, an act of our will. God has offered, but He gives us the choice to receive Him or not.
Read Ephesians 2:8-10 again and ask which comes first the word "faith" or the word "works."
-- Draw a simple train engine with a couple of train cars behind it. --
Write the word "FAITH" on the engine and "WORKS" on the train cars. Just as the train cars do not come first and pull the engine, our works are not what initiates faith. Both grace and faith are part of God's free gift that He first offers. Once we have received it, salvation is ours. And because we have received it, then good works follow because of God in us and at work in our lives!