Posts Tagged #salvation

John 3:14-21 “No Snakes at Church”

A sign of lifesaving work

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” [John 3.14-21: NRSA]

This passage contains the heart of every sermon in the most familiar verses of this chapter, vs. 16 and 17. We will get to them in a moment, but first, we look back to the Moses and the People of God in the Wilderness, living in peril, fear, and separated from all they had known before.

In the wilderness, they had a problem with snakes. People were getting bitten by poisonous snakes and dying left and right. It was a mini plague, a real crisis for the community. They turned to Moses, who turn to God.

Notice the response of Moses always includes turning to God.

God instructs him to place a snake upon the staff that had parted the sea and guided the people, and to live it up for all to see. The Wilderness Journey was all about teaching the People of God to look to God, trust God, and follow God.

Moses’s remedy is no different. The sign is the promise that God will take care, God will guide, God, will save. Follow God and find Life. That was the Old Testament message, and Luke is telling the same as our New Testament message.


The connections between a snake in the garden with Eve and Adam, being lifted up, as an offering, a sacrifice, as an example of God’s power to save..blessed the Israelites in the Wilderness and points us to Christ who dies for us all, is also lifted up, as a sacrifice for our sin and the payment for our life with his own.


Much of the evil and corruption we see in the world is tied to money and power that can be seen in the transactions of payment. The great three traded resources in our time are weapons, drugs, and people. Money is laundered to transact these commodities for power around the globe. This is when human trafficking, the war on drugs, and the quest to limit nuclear weapons and still new technologies as always at work behind the scenes. Money is given for oil, that is traded for weapons that are traded for drugs, that paid for with the lives of human trafficking and/or slave labor. It is a horrible system of evil at the deepest and highest levels.

We say, thankfully none of us do anything like that!

But we want our prices low at the discount stores; the largest cost is labor. The lower the price the less has been paid for labor. It is politically convenient for some to argue that we should raise the minimum wage to bring justice. But that is not the model to support. Somewhere the work has to be done and someone is paying the full cost.

If my shirt is made of cotton, it was grown by someone, harvested at the hands of others, traded and transported, prepared into clothing, transported, made into garments, packaged and transported, sold, and transported yet again. Who deserves what percent of the product? the grower, harvester, transporter, trader, weaver, designed, sewer, packer, shipper, or the retail salespersons at the end of the line? If the minimum wage doubles, would not the cost of each step also increase, and though the wage increase so would the value of the product and process. Bottom line, when we speak about cost and payment, someone makes the risk, the sacrifice, and therefore determines the true value.

The Value of Eternal Life has been paid through the sacrifice of God’s own Son, God’s grace, God’s work! Why? Because God loves us. Because God does not want to give up on us. God is not ready to be cast us away.

John 3:16-17 Gets all the attention

But let’s look at verses 18-21:

  • “And this is the judgment,” with the proclaiming of Jesus as our means of salvation, he is also our advocate in Judgement. This is a reminder that just because we are with Jesus doesn’t mean we skip the final judgment.
  • the light has come into the world,
  • people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
  • For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.
  • But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

By What will be judged? Here is the scorecard: Light or Darkness, Love or Hate, Self or God, Evil or Good’s Righteousness.

The thing about sin is that it is an all-or-nothing dilemma. We are with God or we are not, We are in the light or dark, no 50 shades of grey with Righteousness. So we step up to the plate, we already have three strikes and are headed back to the dugout. Why try if we are out before we start. We don’t like this so we..

The best players in history bat in the 400s which means the very best strikeout or get out a majority of the time. Not too different from playing for the world’s team.

World’s Baseball teams: The Dark Nights, The Evil Weasels, the Hidden Hitters, the Shagging Shamers,

My prayer is that evil may be seen for what it is. If we were to see the real evils in the world we wouldn’t be less likely to look the others way and allow evil to have a pass.

When we believe that our own salvation is connected to exposing all that is hidden, in darkness, with the light of Christ, our passion is not kill-people-with-kindness (that’s always a miss used phrase)

We share the light of Christ because God wants the light of truth and life to reveal what is broken that it might be exposed, healed, redeemed, and transformed, buy the same grace that saves us.

We have more sense than a moth. A moth is drawn the light and will continue to attack the bulb until it burns it up. Why, the month is not very bright.

Why do we continue to do what is hidden, selfish, evil, sinful —

The world looks at the church says, We don’t like Christians because they are too judgemental. And we run around trying to find away to soften, couch, and even hide the truth until are able to explain the Good News. Yet…

Honestly we usually just keep letting things slide, and people think what they want so they will at least leave us alone, and we can just co-exist in some lowest common denominator or detent we vaguely call peace. And we become those who keep silent.

The implied instruction in the famous John 3:16-17 about Jesus is the summary of Grace, and 18-21 is the reason why we who are in Christ are called to expose evil, name the truth, stand for God’s righteousness.

But the moment we do, count on the power of evil not resist. Remember from the sermon on the Mount, Blessed are those who are persecuted FOR MY sake, for the purpose of revealing and teaching God’s righteousness and goodness.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Salvation is for those who hold fast to righteousness and speak the truth to evil, greed, pride, shame, deception, and all manifestation of sin and brokenness.

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1 John 3:1-7 Known as Loving Children

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. [NRSV]

This text embodies the simple yet life-changing message of salvation.

  • God loves us
  • God loves us even when we rebel and reject
  • Goes does not force us to love but hopes we will trust Christ
  • God knows we deceive and are deceived
  • God Be in God is to be whole, sin does not exist.
  • God calls us to be in the truth

Preventing Grace/Love: The Love the God has for us started before we were created, before we were born, before we came into this word, God was already loving us.

As United Methodist, we call this love the first part of our salvation. God loves the world, and all of us in the world. This does not mean that everyone is behaving, acting or thinking in ways that reflect God’s love. The starting point is God’s love for us, for us all.

As United Methodist, we call this love God’s preventative love. The love that goes first. As every loving parent loves the child before they are born, hoping and dreaming of the life and joy they will experience and become. (The truth of the human example is that not every parent loves their child. Not every parent hopes and dreams for the life that child might become. Not every parent knows how to love and certainly not love selflessly)

Our salvation is not based on our parent’s love, it is grounded in God’s eternal love, that Goes first.

This preventative love shows the example of love, trust, and hope for a shared relationship. Remember the first time you made yourself vulnerable to express to someone that you loved them and they rejected or ignored your feelings or declaration? It is emotionally painful, but we find other persons or other times that persons are ready and able to love and we try again.

Saving Grace/Justifying Grace: The second express of love that forms our faith and relationship as a Christian, as a child of God, is God’s second dose of loving us, not in our ignorance, but in our rejection of ignorance of God’s love. God sends his son, Jesus, to express human love and relationship.

Through sin: pride, greed, longing for self-reliance, and self-determination we declare: “I want” or “I need” or “I must” or “Look at what I made” and we in our immaturity and foolishness we express the world is for our purpose and our benefit. We grow and mature looking for rational and measurable ways to prove what we can measure, calculate, predict, plan and control and we leave little to no room for the love shared with God. It is self-love.

It is for self-loving people that Jesus came to show God’s love was extended first and continues to be offered even when we close the door to God’s love. God continues to love us; God continues to hope we will love in return.

The Cross of Jesus is God’s gift of grace that says, First I loved you when you didn’t know how to love and now I love you even when you reject, refuse, ignore or deny my love.

Note: For all the love God shows, God does not force love upon us. That would void any room for love in our relationship with God.

Christ is God’s second offer over love. This act of sacrificial love proves the nature of God’s love and the power and reality that sin is that which keeps us from returning love, trust, and faith in God’s love.

Can you remember a time when you reach out to help someone who may have hurt you in the past and you offer to try to renew or restore the relationship and yet they spurn, reject, ignore you even more? God’s love stands as an eternal love that spans all time and all generations. What Jesus did by allowing his life to be given for ours make a way for us to find God even when we burned our bridges.

As a child, I had the privilege of living near the woods, near a creek, both were filled with God’s creatures and seasons. The creek was deeper than I felt safe to wade across and I would find limbs and old board to try and reach to the other side, but being unable to reach the distance and not able to withstand the force of the stream, and unable to secure both sides without the current dragging my efforts away. I required someone who could bridge the distance.

Through the sacrificing love of the Cross, Jesus makes a way through sin, for me. He proves and paves a way to God, even where I have failed.

As United Methodist we acknowledge that God loves us, acting first and acting knowing our sin, through Christ.

Sanctifying Grace/Love: The third expression of love comes in the process of “abiding in God.”

You’ve heard a parent say something like: “as long as you are living in this house you will follow my word.” As a rebellious child we press the limits of these in our process of maturing. Especially if they “House Rules” are not loving. God’s law is eternally grounded in love.

We live in a give-and-take process of learning and practicing what it means to love as God loves. We grow practicing and testing what it means to trust God’s love, when we convince ourselves and others we have such great alternative choices. The choice eternally remains for us to choose how we see the world is better than God’s way, but that comes at the cost of our relationship.

Perfecting Grace/Love: The final expression of God’s love and grace is when we are in the heart of God.

There is not sin, no distance, no separation present; sin has no reality there. We are whole. We are promised this in eternity and we also experience moments in our faith journey in this lifetime. This is our shared journey.

The invitation of First John is to the community of faith, like ours, that knows God’s love, but we are called to be loved, love and grow in love in would that:

  • Loves it self
  • Love is defined by each individual
  • Love that not love but is temporary gratification
  • Love that is only physical and not eternal
  • Love that is contrived and manipulated.
  • Love that is not love AT ALL.

God is doubling down on LOVE being the language and path for our relationships.

We find it impossible to love some people.

Our seeming impossible to love in some circumstances.

This is where we point to the deception where the world is calling Love and Good and Truth that none of the above.

The most loving thing to do for one who is blind is to clear their path, help them when need help and let them practice seeing until sight is given in heaven.

The same is true in all our earthly relationships. (Do not home, do good, practice the path toward God.

What our of our differences in this broken and sin-filled world?? [ Look to 1 John 3:1-7 ]

See what love the Father has given us

that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are.

  1. Seek the truth of God’s love and know God loves us.

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be, has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  

  1. When the way is unclear, know the truth looks like GOD’s love.

And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. [WHOLE] 

  1. We complete the cycle of love, when we find ourselves in God’s love.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 

  1. When we don’t trust God, our hearts are not in God’s.
  2. We live in a world filled with those who run from God, twist God’s word, and don’t love.

You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 

  1. To live in God is to be free from Sin.
  2. To live in God is to be in the truth.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

  1. We are frequently and easily deceived and mislead others.
  2. Just because a group says this is love, does not make it so..

God loves us even in our sin, hoping that we grow out of sin, toward wholeness in him.


Some people are born with an easier journey toward God

Some are born with a more difficult path

If the path is not leading someone to God, it is not the right path.

We come into the world that is sinful and divided, Our goal is to find our way to God’s heart

We cannot find our way to God’s heart without confronting our sin and the sins of the world.

If we excuse each other to remain in sin, we forfeit the God’s gifts of grace for self and others.

Where divided people call on the name of God that they are following the TRUTH

Know the power of deception is enormous, we must be willing to question ourselves and learn from one another, learning from our failure rather than fueling our division.

The final word in this passage is about deception, the final challenge is to NOT deceive nor be deceived.

  • The greatest threat to God’s love is that that we listen to a voice other than the voice of God.
  • The first story of faith in the scripture is the children and a talking snake, the children listen to the snake instead of listening and trusting God. Sin follows sin corrupts, sin divides.
  • 1 Jn 3 vs7 The Right path, the right direction, the way to God, has nothing to do with my opinion, nor my theology, not my understanding, nor my experience. It is about our continuing to find our selves right when we belong, together, IN God.

Where we are divided, we are separated from God: What must we do to return to the heart of God.

Here is the call for us to lay down our traditions, our brains, our opinions, our faith and place ourselves at God’s direction. God will complete all that follows.  (the sins we struggle with are not as much the Top Ten, but the little assumptions, fears and ignoring when God is with us, to love and help us, always.


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