Christians Are A Breed Apart - Pastor John Roekle
March 11, 2018 [Lent 4] John 3:14-21
Jesus said: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
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. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Christians Are A Breed Apart
Dear Friends in Christ,
A host on a daytime talk show host recently made an offhanded remark about Christians. She was reacting to something that Vice President Mike Pence (who is a Christian) had said in respect to Jesus talking to him. She said: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus; it’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct. Hearing voices… Say what you will about Mike Pence and his religiosity, and everything else, I don’t think that he’s mentally ill even though he says he is hearing voices.” She later backed off on her comments and claimed that she didn’t mean to offend Christians and that she herself is a Christian. She claimed that it was ‘a joke.’
So what would you say about her comment? At the very least we can say that it was a joke in poor taste. But there is something that she is putting her finger on in respect to Christians even though it was most likely unintentional. Christians are different. That’s actually an understatement. Christians are a breed apart. Even though the world recognizes that fact, it often times has a hard time putting its finger on why Christians are so different. Jesus’ words here reveal that truth to us.
When someone calls 911, a network of emergency police, fire and medical responders are set in motion. These emergency responders make a lot of sacrifices. Their families do too. They often work long hours on few hours of sleep. That means they will often be away from their families. But they do it for a purpose. To help those who are in need of their services. Emergency responders have a heart to help people.
In terms of making sacrifices, no one had made a greater sacrifice than God: “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.”
There may not be a more well-known verse in the Bible than this one. And that’s a great thing, because it speaks of God’s great sacrifice for us… for the world!
Why did God make this sacrifice? The reason is in the word LOVE. The music industry has made a living on producing songs about love. The movie makers have capitalized on it. It is an often used word.
Yet, God defines what love is here. His love. God so loved the world! Jesus uses “world” as a figure of speech here. He didn’t want to exclude anyone. Yes, God loves everyone. Think of how remarkable that is. God loves all people, even though many are murderers, adulterers, terrorists, ruthless dictators, and even atheists. He loves all people even though all people, including you and me, are by our very nature: selfish, greedy, spiteful, and unforgiving.
And God’s love is so great that he didn’t hold back. He expressed his love by sending a part of himself. He sent his one and only Son.
For what purpose did God send him? Jesus reaches back to the Old Testament lesson for today in explaining his purpose: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
The complaining Israelites were faced with a plague of poisonous snakes. Many of them got bit and were dying. They called to Moses for help. Moses, in turn, called on God. God’s solution? God provided an antidote. He told Moses to mold a snake of bronze and put in on a pole. When an Israelite was bit, he was to look up to the bronze snake and he would live.
Likewise, God sent his Son so that he would be stretched out on a pole and lifted up in full view of everyone. This was God’s antidote for sin. Anyone who looks in faith to Christ, his life and his death on the cross, is saved from the devastating effects of sin – death in hell. That is what sets us Christians apart: we look to something for salvation that looks foolish to the outside world. We look to something that looks illogical to everyone else. Just as that bronze snake may have seemed like nonsense to many of the Israelites, so also the cross of Christ seems like nonsense to those who don’t rely on it.
But just as the bronze snake gave life to people who looked in faith at it, so also trust in the cross gives us life. And that cross leads us to understand that God’s love has no limit.
As a group of college students toured the slums of a city, one of the girls, seeing a little girl playing in the dirt, asked a guide, “Why doesn’t her mother clean her up?” “Madam,” he replied, “that girl’s mother probably loves her, but she doesn’t hate dirt. You hate dirt, but you don’t love her enough to go down there and clean her up. Until hate for dirt and love for that child are in the same person, that little girl is likely to remain as she is.”
God matches that description. He hates the dirt of sin and he loves us enough to clean us up and to keep us clean. That again was the purpose of God’s Son: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
The non-Christian lives in constant uncertainty. They don’t truly know what is going to happen to them. As it is, the non-Christian stands under God’s condemnation. They are on the path to hell.
But the Christian is different. The Christian is not condemned before God. That is a great reassurance, especially because the Christian knows that he sins daily. But God isn’t going to simply take away his salvation because he sins. God through Christ’s sacrifice took away the condemning effects of that sin. God isn’t about to withdraw his forgiveness. The Christian knows that the only way he would face condemnation is if he stops believing in Christ.
But again, that’s what makes Christians different. We lean on God’s limitless love. We know that he loves us and continues to wipe away the filth that would otherwise condemn us. And knowing this truth leads us Christians to live according to God’s truth.
Jesus said: “19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Just think about how this plays out in society. How often are evil acts carried out under the guise of darkness? Or in secret? Why is that? Because people are afraid of being caught for doing something wrong. They don’t want their evil deeds to be exposed, and perhaps punished. But they also don’t want to give up doing evil.
That is what sets the Christian apart. The Christian lives by a different standard: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Christians love the light and aren’t afraid of stepping into it. Why? Because they know the truth of God’s Word and they strive to live according to it. Christians aren’t afraid to boldly live in the light, even though their sin is exposed. The Christian knows there is forgiveness for that sin. In response to the love of God, Christians seek to live the life God wants them to. Yes, Christians are indeed a breed apart.
There were two gentlemen who were traveling on a plane and were seated next to each other. One turned to the other and asked, “What do you do?” The gentleman replied: "I am a minister." "Oh," said the first man. “I don’t believe in that religious stuff. It’s for kids, you know, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so...’” The minister politely laughed and asked the other man what he did for a living. "I am an astronomer," said the first man. "Oh, that stuff," said the minister. “I thought it was just for kids, you know, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star...’”
You and I really shouldn’t be surprised when people are puzzled about Christians. There really is something different about us. Even though many of us have the personality that just wants to blend in wherever we go, God tells us that we are distinctive. We have something that others don’t. We are something that others aren’t. We as Christians will want to stand out so that we might be given the opportunity to communicate to non-Christians about the hope that we have in God’s one and only Son. So, dear Christian, you are a breed apart. Embrace it! Amen.