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John 3:16: Part 12

“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.”

Joel S. Heckendorf

Grandpas carry them in pockets. Restaurants stock them next to the cash register. A peppermint candy swirl is one of the most mouth-refreshing candies. Yet it poses a problem. It’s too easy to chomp down. Instead of lasting 10 minutes, you devour it in 30 seconds. Soon you wish you had a new piece of candy so you could savor its sweetness again.

John 3:16 is one of the sweetest pieces of gospel candy. Because of its familiarity, it’s easy to chomp this verse down without considering its meaning. Slow down. Let it sit in your heart and steadily send sweet sensations to your head and life. Savor the sweetness each layer of this verse offers.

GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON

The first sweet taste comes in the key word love. The original language of the Bible employs numerous terms for love. Agape, the term used here, is the sweetest and richest. Agape is a special kind of selfless love. It’s an attitude that results in action. Look at the action love prompted our Father to do—he gave his one and only Son.

Savor that sweet truth. God gave his Son. Relationships are strengthened by shared experiences. Think about the experiences the Father shared with his Son. Sitting in the heavens, they could recall the day of creation when they said, “Let’s make man in our image.” They could reminisce about their rescue effort of Noah or how they led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. They had an eternity of experiences together, and yet God gave his one and only Son for you.

THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM

The Bible clearly teaches that no one can believe on his or her own. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Savor the sweetness of this verse that subtly points to the miracle of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. Also, savor the sweetness of the seemingly insignificant word whoever. Whoever assures us that we don’t need a special pedigree to be part of God’s family. We don’t have to live in a certain era or location. The gospel spans cultures and classes. Savor the sweetness of the unity the Spirit brings to “whoever believes.” And you can’t earn the status God freely gives to “whoever believes.”

But it’s not just belief in anything. It says, “Whoever believes in him,” which brings us to the core of this piece of gospel candy:

SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE

To savor the full flavor of this sweet message, we need to grasp that hell is real. Hell is suffering. Hell is anger. Hell is pain. Hell is separation from God. Hell is where we were headed. But just as hell is real, so is heaven. Heaven is joy. Heaven is peace. Heaven is contentment. Heaven is seeing God face-to-face. Heaven is ours because Jesus rescued us by living a perfect life and dying an innocent death in our place. Through Jesus, God places the sweet taste of eternal life on our tongues. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Savor the sweetness.


 

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

1. What was the most difficult “good-bye” you ever had?

Answers will vary. Usually, the longer you are with someone, the more difficult it is to say good-bye. I think of my grandparents. Having been married for 68 years, my grandfather touched every pillow in the funeral home because he wanted the softest pillow for his now departed bride. Having lost the one who shared his life’s experiences threw him into a tailspin so that he died of a broken heart. The fact that we can witness such closeness in imperfect, human relationships makes us marvel at the love of the Father that he was willing to give his Son for us, the Son with whom he had a perfect relationship.

2. Describe a time when you most appreciated your unity with other believers.

Answers will vary. Examples may include a time when you were traveling. When Christians find one another in a heathen-dominant country or area, there is great joy in the bond of faith. Cherish the miracle that the Holy Spirit can make many “whoevers” believe.

3. Why do we often fail to celebrate the miracle of faith in our hearts?

We all are born with an attitude that I can do something to earn salvation. Or, we believe and live in a culture that promotes we are inherently good. Until we realize with the apostle Paul that each of us ranks as the “chief of sinners,” we will fail to fully celebrate the miracle of faith.

4. How does a declining belief in the reality of hell impact the sweetness of this verse?

Readers may want to check out this USA Today article: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-08-01-hell-damnation_N.htm. Five years ago, only 59 percent of Americans believed in hell. If hell is nothing to worry about, the need for a Savior diminishes. On the contrary, when we realize hell is where we were headed, our appreciation for the Son is magnified.

 

Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.

This is the final article in a series on the 12 most popular Bible passages accessed in 2012 through Bible Gateway, an online Bible resource.

Scripture references in this study are taken from the New International Version 1984.

 

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Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 101, Number 10
Issue: October 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Philippians 4:13: Part: 10

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Joel S. Heckendorf

“I think I can . . . I think I can . . . I think I can.” Author Watty Piper geared the book The Little Engine That Could for children. First released for publication in the United States in 1930, the classic’s optimistic message has climbed its way into a mountain of self-help books, motivational speeches, and personal mission statements.

Similarly, so has the Philippians passage. PHIL 4:13 appears on the eye-strips of athletes, and it’s inked on arms, engraved in rings, and printed on posters to motivate people. The reference is a visible reminder to never give up and to aim for success. To many, Piper and the apostle Paul were working with the same concept: “I think I can” = “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

But what happens when cancer isn’t beaten, even though Philippians 4:13 was the patient’s mantra? What happens when the PHIL 4:13 quarterback throws a game-ending interception instead of the game-winning touchdown? What happens when “I think I can” is traded for “I see I can’t”? It’s then, when the mountainous challenges in front of us seem impassable, that we need the intended comfort of Philippians 4:13.

Context is crucial when it comes to understanding this popular passage. Paul was in prison when he penned these words. With chains around his wrists, the likelihood of throwing any missionary touchdowns was slim. Yet he could confidently write, “I can do everything.” What did he mean? Back up a few verses, and we see that Paul is not screaming out a vein-bulging, locker-room pep talk in this verse. Rather, he is whispering the secret of contentment. “No matter the situation, whether it’s bleak or bright, you can face it. You can endure it because you are living in Christ. He will provide the strength. Even if you’re running on empty, the Holy Spirit has poured Christ into your tank. You’ll have all the fuel you will need for the journey ahead—the journey to our destination with the Lord.”

Paul’s final words (2 Timothy chapter 4) assure us that he applied Philippians 4:13 to his life. Facing his death, he looked back and was thankful that the Lord stood by his side as he fought his fight and ran his race. He knew that the goal of life was not about climbing the mountain of earthly success. It was to ascend the throne of the Lord. And he knew the strength to make that climb didn’t rest in himself. If it did, he’d only be able to chant, “I think I can.” Rather, Paul knew his climb to heaven’s mountain depended on Jesus. Because of Jesus, Paul lived with an I know I can confidence. So can you, because of Jesus.


QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

1. Context. Context. Context. List ways you have seen or heard this passage applied. How does the context of the original passage compare to the way it is often applied?

Example of Philippians 4:13 is often used by athletes, politicians or in the medical field. Philippians 4:10-12 shows that this is more about contentment and strength to endure all situations and not the ability to do all things.

2. What do you consider to be the top three things that rob us of the secret of being content?

Answers may vary. Examples include commercials, instant gratification/information, lottery/gambling, the de-Christianization of the world which places self at the center.

3. Instead of thinking of negative situations, why is it important to remember that even positive situations are possible through the strength that God gives?

It helps us to be humble and not rely on ourselves.

4. “Who gives me strength.” While not always translated as such, this concept appears seven times in the New Testament. After comparing Philippians 4:13 with the following passages, explain what it means to have strength from God: Acts 9:22; Romans 4:20; Ephesians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Timothy 4:17.

To be strong in the Lord emphasizes a reliance on him and a zeal to do his will no matter the cost.

Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.

This is the tenth article in a series on the 12 most popular Bible passages accessed in 2012 through Bible Gateway, an online Bible resource.

Scripture references in this study are taken from the New International Version 1984.

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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