Lent 4 + March 8 & 11, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin Download PDF
Text: John 3:14-21
This weekend is Daylight Savings Time. Daylight Savings Time has good intentions. By moving your clocks ahead one hour, there will be more daylight when people get off work. Then they won't turn on lights at home as much. That saves energy. But besides that, more daylight can also put people in a better mood. Sunlight gives us more energy and more optimism.
But for as good as daylight is, there is a better light. Jesus says, "Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light." (v. 19-20)
Darkness stands for sin and unbelief. This results in separation from God. This is damnation. On the other hand, Light stands for faith and faith's good deeds. This faith is the gift of God. And faith results in salvation. Of course, the true Light of faith and life and salvation is not the sun in the sky. It's the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. So, God's Word tells us: It's time for this daylight to save you.
And saving you is what Jesus is all about. That's why Jesus took on human flesh and blood. That's why Christ died on the cross. He did it all to save you for eternal life in heaven. In our text Jesus tells us how his life, death, and resurrection are necessary ingredients in our salvation equation. Jesus says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." (v. 16)
Now, love is a popular subject. Singers sing about love. Poets extol love. Romance novels gush with love. But all human love pales in comparison to God's love. That's because God loves with complete intensity. Just consider what God gave. God the Father and God the Son are one, indivisible essence. So, God gave something so close to himself that there is no possible human equivalent to how intensely God loves us.
But not only is God's love immeasurably deep it is also immeasurably wide. God so loved the world. There are no exceptions to God's love. God loved the betrayer Judas just as much as he loved the Apostle John. God loved Adolf Hitler just as much as he loved your little old granny. He loved the Jews and he loved the Palestinians. He loved the Americans and he loved the Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Koreans (both south and north), Arabs, Indians, Mexicans, Peruvians, Africans, and Afghanis, Yes, God even loved Canadians, and even our friendly Illinois neighbors!
And if God did not have this deeply intense and world-wide love, there would be no hope for your salvation. If there were some exceptions to God's love, uncertainty would torment you and me. We would always have to wonder, Well, maybe God doesn't love me. Maybe I slipped between the cracks of God's love. Or maybe God is just so sick of my pathetic response to his love that he has stopped loving me. Or maybe God is just too tired to love a sinner like me.
Well, we never have to worry like that. God's love never fails. God's love is like the sun in the sky. Even when it's night, the sun is still shining. Even when it's stormy and cloudy, the sun is still shining. Even when you go into a dark building, the sun is still shining. Likewise, God still loves you no matter who you are and no matter what you have done. And God's love even shines brighter, purer, and longer than the sun. God's love never fails.
Yet, not everyone benefits from that love of God. As I said, if you go into a dark building, shut the door, and block out all light, the sun is still shining. It's just not shining on you. And if you block out the light of God's love, you have cut yourself off from God's love. That means you have cut yourself off from Christ, from forgiveness, and from eternal life. That's why Jesus warns us, "men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (v. 20)
So, don't love the darkness of sin and unbelief. Don't give in to selfish desires, spiritual laziness, and rebellion against God's law. And don't be like the Israelites in our Old Testament lesson. Do not complain, God, why aren't you leading me to green pastures and a bed of roses? God, why don't I have enough money? God, there isn't enough happiness in my life. And, God I detest this miserable job, my terrible neighbors, and my crabby relatives!
No, instead of living in the darkness of sin, live in the light. That is, live in the light of faith. Jesus also says, “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." (v. 16-17)
Besides needing God's love, we also need Christ's sacrifice on the cross to save us. But besides needing God's love and the perfect holiness of Jesus, we also need faith.
Faith is trust. It says in Hebrews, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Heb. 11:1) In other words, faith makes us confess, Even though I was not there when they crucified my Lord, his blood still washes away all my sins. I am completely forgiven. Since God will never condemn me for my sins, nobody else can condemn me for my sins, either. And even though I was not there when they laid him in the tomb, Christ's death makes my death a temporary nap from which I will awake. Even though I did not touch the resurrected Jesus with my hands the way the disciple Thomas did, Christ's resurrection means that my body will also rise from its grave. It means that I will live forever without having to worry about sickness, disease, and death ever again.
That is faith. This faith saves. This faith conquers doubt, destroys Satan's control over your life, and erases death itself. Of course, this powerful faith is completely impossible for you to have. You can't have that faith because of what Paul says in our Epistle lesson. "We were dead in transgressions." (Eph. 2:1) Dead. Lifeless. Dark. Unresponsive. That describes your soul. Your sin smothered every last puff of spiritual life in you. Your inbred rebellion against God killed any spark of real holiness. So, you--and I--we are dead. Lifeless. Unresponsive. Hopeless.
That is, we are hopeless by our own powers. But listen to what Paul says. "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it (that is, faith) is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:4-9)
So, we can't boast about our faith as if it were our own production. But we can boast about God who loves us. We can boast about our God who gives us faith. We can boast about God who gives us his Son. We can boast about our Savior who laid down his life on the cross to save us. We can do all these things because faith does even more than give us forgiveness and eternal life. Faith also gives us a new life to serve God. Faith fills your words with love. Faith fills your thoughts with peace; peace with God and peace with all those around you. Faith fills your actions with kindness, humble service, and joyful dedication.
So, the Light who is Christ does indeed save you. He saves you for eternal life. He saves your daily life from sinful self and for service to God. This time of Daylight saving does not just happen two weekends a year. The Daylight who is Jesus Christ saves you every weekend, every day of your life, and for all eternity. So, live in the Light. Live in the light of Christ.