[This is a short homily I preached for a preaching club I am part of and I thought I would share the manuscript here. It has been a while since I have posted and that is because Seminary became hectic and killed a lot of my heart. That being said I have been slowly compiling post so that I can post regularly and not sporadically. I pray this find you well.]
Our Scripture for today is arguably the single most recognizable verse in the whole canon, John 3:16. Most Christians know this verse by heart and I debated on whether or not I should even read it. But before we get into the scriptures let me start by saying, Christianity has always has faced two dangers. These two dangers have been present since our faith’s inception and have persisted until today. Depending on the era and location one danger has been more prominent than the other but they are still present and both threaten the power of Gospel. The first is that the faith becomes so complex so pie in the sky theology that the Gospel becomes the rudimentary beginning of the faith, something that we quickly master and move onto other more difficult things. The Gospel is not Christianity 101 and then we move to upper level faith, the Gospel is the first truth and the last truth and the one truth. In regards to the Gospel Paul Washer said “it is the truth that you will be chewing on even throughout eternity”. Either we believe that the Gospel is powerful or we think it is weak and easily mastered. The second danger is what we meet in our Scripture today is that the faith be so watered down that it becomes fortune cookies, bumper stickers, and catchphrases. That all it means to be a believer are these cute t-shirts, bumper stickers, and wall decorations. We turn the faith into these one-liners that are catchy but are not completely the Gospel. Let me show you how this plays out.
I have a seven hour drive home and I often see signs that say “Jesus saves!” And that’s it! Jesus saves what is my question; the milk, the goal, me a seat at the theater. That is an incomplete Gospel message which robs the Gospel of its power. Watch a baseball game and behind home plate you will likely see a big sign with John 3:16 plastered on it. So what does it say? Let’s go to the Scripture.
Read John 3:16
I have some questions: 1st who is God? Who is God’s son? What does it mean to believe in the Son? What do I have to believe? Why would I perish without believing in this Son? Does this mean I won’t die? Will I live forever?
You see it is incomplete. It is fortune cookie faith, Bumper sticker belief, and Catchphrase Christianity. It has truth but it has no real meaning and certainly no real power.
We need the whole Gospel and John 3:16 while being true is not the Gospel, it is a fraction.
But let us read further down through verse 21.
Read John 3:16-21
Here we get a much better picture, still not full but better. There are still many questions that are unanswered and many more are raised by the passage. We need the whole Gospel. We need the whole story of God’s love for and interaction with humanity. We need the beginning to the end, from Alpha to Omega, and from Genesis to Revelation.
My brothers and sisters I beg you, do not water down the Gospel with John 3:16, don’t rob the faith of its force, and don’t tame the text to understand it. The world doesn’t need fortune cookie faith or bumper sticker belief or catchphrase Christianity; the world needs the Gospel because Fortune cookie faith can’t find the lost and bumper sticker belief doesn’t break the chains of sin and catchphrase Christianity cannot save.