Wow, what a peculiar week! When it comes to exegesis and sermon preparation I have a certain pattern or rhythm which I follow. If I do not, then all heck breaks loose. For a number of reasons that could not be avoided my usual day for exegesis was interrupted. Instead of following my usual pattern I became worried that I would not get it done so I decided to short cut the process FAIL! Mixed with 6 or 7 nights of broken and little sleep the end result was not so good! I guess this is all a part of the process of becoming who I am as a minister…
“For God so loved the world…” Perhaps I became lost in its simplicity. Everyone knows this text. I KNOW THIS TEXT. It is the church’s favourite evangelistic text. It says everything we need to know about creation, fall and salvation. It leaves no doubt about God’s love for the entire world and our responsibility to this love. God loves us and if we believe we will not perish but have eternal life. In essence it’s the gospel!
Billy Graham calls these verses the simplest and clearest in the New Testament. A friend reminded me this week of how easily the beauty of such a simple passage can be lost. And there it was. I had spent this week studying John 3:1-17. I’d looked at the Greek, I had torn the passage apart (and it seemed I would never get it back together again). I read it, I reflected on it, I read it again, and I took notes. All along I missed the beauty that was before me. The profound simplicity of the Good News!
One of the things I think is easily forgotten when we come to a text such as John 3:16 is that it is only the beginning of the journey. Eugene Peterson suggests that getting a person interested in the gospel is not difficult. In fact over the past 30 years the church has done a wonderful job of marketing the gospel. It has packaged and sold the gospel all around the world. Courses have been designed, pathways have been followed. Yet the back door of the church is wider than the front, and people not long after coming to faith return to the way of the world. As Peterson says, getting a person interested in eternal life is not difficult, however, sustaining that interest is! Peterson goes on to suggest the Christian life is best described as a long obedience in the same direction. I love that metaphor – A long obedience in the same direction. It is a wonderful picture of the Christian life. There is nothing fancy about the journey. In fact often the scenery is bland, boring and mundane. Nevertheless, the journey is the journey of working out the gospel, the good news; allowing the story of Christ to take shape and to shape us into his image.
Peace be with you….