“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…”
“Amazing Grace” is one of those songs that it seems most everyone has at least heard. Maybe it’s the “John 3:16” of hymns.
I remember listening to my very young daughter trying to sing it. As someone learning to speak, she mixed up one of the words just a bit. It came out as “and saved a wrench like me.”
So whether you are a “wretch” or a “wrench,” this one’s for you. (And by the way, in case you were wondering, everyone qualifies.
Spoiler Alert: There’s something I want to share with you before I continue with this post on John 3:16. I believe it. I believe it to be true. I need it to be true. There words were written for a “wretch” just like me.
So, if you’re still reading, at least, you’ve been warned.
In a series of posts, I’ve been talking about some of the different phrases that we find in John 3:16. John 3:16 is the most popular of all verses in the Bible. It is the most searched-for verse on Google. It’s been a star on signs at football games and youth t-shirts since before anyone can remember.
If you want to catch up on the previous posts, try these:
- John 3:16 reminds us of God’s big reset (click here)
- When God gives, God goes big (click here)
- We are most like God when we give (click here)
Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of those powerful words that we find in that verse. I’m going to share them again with you and these words will come from the King James Version of the Bible. Why the KJV? Honestly, I like using many different translations of the Bible, but I memorized John 3:16 from the KJV.
So, here goes: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (emphasis added)
This journey through John 3:16 brings us to the phrase that appears above in bold. It’s a statement of a promise and a source of hope.
If you’ve ever taken a look at computer coding, maybe you’ve encountered the IF-THEN statement. It usually means IF (some condition is the case) THEN (take this action). In a way, this phrase is the “IF-THEN” statement of John 3:16.
IF (you believe in the only begotten Son that God gave because he loved the world so much) THEN (you will not perish).
That phrase “should not perish” is intriguing enough to ask whether the exact phrase appears in other places in Scripture. Yes, twice.
- In the Old Testament, King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2) has a dream and he needs someone to interpret that dream for him. He brought together all of the wisest men in Babylon and asked them to explain his dream. They could not and the king ordered their execution. But the king also asked Daniel, an Israelite, to explain the dream to him and Daniel prayed to God for answer so that he and his friends “should not perish.” God comes through and they are spared.
- In the verses prior to John 3:16, Jesus is explaining eternal life to Nicodemus and Jesus uses another Old Testament image. He talks about those in the wilderness were being plagued by snakes and God tells Moses to create an image of a snake and hold it up on a pole. The people were told to look up at the snake so they “should not perish.”
There’s some finality to the meaning of the word, “perish.” Strong’s Online Concordance gives it the following meanings: “to be destroyed or to be destroyed completely.” We can get that right. Believe in Jesus and you won’t be destroyed. It’s basic scriptural “fire insurance” — the “get of hell” card in the Monopoly of faith.
But, what about this other meaning of perish? “To be rendered useless.” That adds a different twist. What a life without usefulness, without meaning? Ignore Jesus. Want a life with meaning? Want a life that’s useful? Believe in the Son.
When Daniel and his friends prayed that desperate prayer, God not only saved them from destruction (execution), but he also gave them a way to experience usefulness in the Kingdom of God. When those in the wilderness looked up at the snake, they were saved from the immediate threat of destruction. And, they also found usefulness and meaning in the bigger picture.
And Jesus is saying that God has done the same thing. Look at Jesus, believe that he is the Son of God, and your life will not just be spared, but it will also have meaning and usefulness.
And all it takes? Believe in the Son.
For a moment, let’s strip away the special prayers that have to be prayed in certain ways. And let’s drop the additional requirements that we add (over and above Scripture) to be a part of particular Christian group. And let’s drop the belief that only people who are part of a certain denomination are in and others are out. (By the way, the Bible was not written for a “denomination”— it was written long before denominations came into existence.)
God opens the door to everyone.
He takes us all. He takes the rich and the poor and everyone in between. He takes Republicans, Democrats, independents and people who don’t even vote. He loves Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and everything else in between. God doesn’t seem to be nearly as concerned about a lot of the things that we spend a whole lot of time arguing about. God’s love is not bound by any wall, barrier, border, stereotype or label we have created.
God loves. God loves the people we love and God loves the people we struggle to love. And, here’s something super important, God EVEN loves us.
And Jesus’ invitation in John 3:16 is for us to simply believe and thrive in it. It’s the chance to experience a life that has true meaning and true usefulness.
I love this restatement of John 3:16 in The Message (It’s actually 16-18):
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”
Can you simply believe in that God without qualifications?
Want a useful life? Believe in God’s Son.
That’s awesome news for all of us “wrenches.”
Reignitemystory.com is based on the idea that our life stories are reignited when we reset them, renew them and redeem them. To contact the writer, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter at @reignitemystory