The Beginning of Eternity

Sermon Summary

This message is the fifth in a series on one of the most important verses in all of the Bible, John 3:16, and is sometimes considered "the Bible in a verse!" This sermon has two points. The first looks at what it means to believe "in Him" and the second examines what the words "shall not perish" mean. While John 3:16 does say "whoever believes" it does not say "believes whatever!" So we know God desires for us to place our faith in Jesus and the work He did for us on the Cross. Truth matters and it is important what we believe and who we place our trust in. The "shall not perish" certainly is talking about eternity, but this message encourages us to remember that people who don't know Christ are already perishing before they die. In other words, believing in Jesus doesn't just have an impact on a person's eternity it has great power to change their lives here and now. 

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Some have adopted the notion that when it comes to spirituality it really doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe in something. Why is this a dangerous line of thinking?

2. Jesus said in John 14:6b ...“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." From this we know a person gets into heaven because of the saving work of Jesus on the cross and the precious blood he shed to pay for humanity's sins. How God applies the blood of Christ and what constitutes saving faith is God's call not ours. Why is it important to understand this?

Deuteronomy 32:1-4 Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

3. Brother Larry shared the following statement: "My eternal life begins before I die and people who don't know Christ are perishing way before they die!" In other words, a person who accepts salvation begins their eternal life at that moment and a person who has never accepted salvation is already living a life that is perishing before they die physically. However, God wants to save them and allow them to live a non-perishable life! Read the following passage and then discuss this concept.

Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’  

4. In order for us not to perish, in order for our lives to be preserved, in order for us to be saved, God allowed His One and Only Son to perish on a Cross. Listen...

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

If you have children and you think about your love for them, how hard do you think it was for God the Father to send His One and Only Son so that those who believe in Him would not perish? Why would He do such a thing?

Full Sermon Notes

The Beginning of Eternity

"So high above us, yet slain for us!" What can we say to this, but thank You Jesus for loving us soooo much! I think that song could have been written for this series on John 3:16…

“For God sooo loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Let's pray and ask God to continue to teach us amazing truths from this amazing verse of Scripture!!
PRAYER!

Whoever Believes In Him!

Last weeks message was "Whoever means whoever!" But I want you to notice that while it says whoever believes, it does not say believes whatever! It says whoever believes in Him! It's amazing to me that in our post-modern thinking we believe there is truth, and absolutes in every school of thought. We believe in the laws of physics and the rules of mathematics! We believe there are things that can be proven or dis-proven through scientific research and application of the scientific method. And I don't know about you, but I sure want my surgeon to be up to date on the latest accepted and proven techniques, protocols, and procedures before he or she goes to cutting on me! I could go on and on, but somehow when it comes to spiritual things we've been told that there really shouldn't be any rules, protocols, or standards and that there's no absolute truth when it comes to spiritual things. In fact, they say you can just make up whatever you want to believe and that's fine. In essence we've been told we can create our own truth! Well I'm just gonna say this: You can believe whatever you want to believe, but just because you believe it doesn't make it true! And the harder you believe in something doesn't change it's reality. If you believe a lie, it's still a lie. You can be very sincere and be sincerely wrong.  

So I just want to remind all of us that truth really does matter and it matters in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm. It matters in theology as much as it matters in quantum physics. It matters so much that we are told in Scripture to seek truth and wisdom and understanding. And in Scripture we see that God takes the initiative to reveal spiritual truth to all who desire it. Proverbs 8 states...

Proverbs 8:1-14 & 17 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud:
“To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding.
Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.

And check this out in verse 17...

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

I believe if a person is truly seeking God, they will find Him. Why? Because God is already seeking a relationship with them. He takes the initiative. That's what John 3:16 is all about…God taking the initiative. "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son…!" He took the first step so that whoever believes in Him and responds in faith to God's offer, God receives. When God receives someone into His family, His Kingdom, things happen. Sins are forgiven, relationship is restored, and a new life begins. In fact, the title of this message is "The Beginning of Eternity!" When a person decides to trust Jesus as their Savior, not only does a new life here on earth begin, but their eternity begins. Salvation is the beginning of that person's eternity. God is the One who wants us to have eternal life with Him. In fact, God spoke some beautiful words through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel, but because of the new covenant, Gentiles are included in the promises of the Old Covenant. So listen to these words...

Jeremiah 31:1-3 “At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people.”
This is what the LORD says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert; I will come to give rest to Israel.”
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

There's that covenant formula again…"If you'll be my people, I'll be your God!" You can see how God took the initiative by loving the people and drawing them with loving-kindness. He's still doing that today! Sometimes people ask me how God will handle the people who've never heard the good news of Jesus. And what about sincere people in other religions? I struggled with that question when I was in Bible College years ago. One day I was driving down the interstate between Jackson, Mississippi and Vicksburg. I pulled off the interstate crying and asked God to help me with this perplexing problem. I thought about how rebellious I had been even though I was raised in a wonderful Christian family. I simply didn't think it fair that I would be given multiple chances to accept Jesus as my Savior and that others might not have a single chance. God led me to this passage...

Deuteronomy 32:1-4 Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.
I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

That day I realized there are questions I may never know the answer to this side of Heaven, but I decided to trust that God is "a faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He." I know Jesus made exclusive claims about Salvation when He said...

John 14:6b ...“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

So let me say this: When someone gets into heaven it's through Jesus and because of the precious blood He shed on the cross of Calvary. How that blood is applied to the accounts of various individuals is above my pay grade. God alone has the right to decide how His grace and mercy are given and what constitutes saving faith. I trust God is a just God who does no wrong, upright and just is He! Listen to this passage from Isaiah 45:18-22...

Isaiah 45:18-22 For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not
create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited — he says: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.
“Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations.
Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save.
Declare what is to be, present it— let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.
“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

So can you see how clear it is from Scripture that God wants people to be saved? But God has given us a choice and we must decide whether or not we will believe. He will not force His love on us. Let me wrap up this first point with the following words from Romans 10...

Romans 10:4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

And now verses 8-13...

Romans 10: 8-13 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile —the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Okay, ready for point 2?

Shall Not Perish!

John 3:16 “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."

Now I know, because it says "shall not perish but have eternal life," we automatically associate "shall not perish" with eternal life. Not a bad thing, and we'll talk about that eternal life next week, but I need to say this…Please don't make believing in Jesus, just about heaven or hell. Jesus is not just for the sweet by and by, He is very much for the hear and now! I once told someone very dear to me, who had decided they didn't really believe in Jesus, "even if there were no heaven or hell, I would still live my life to tell others about Jesus because of what He could do for their lives here on earth! I told them the difference Jesus had made in my life since I decided to believe was so amazing, I wanted others to find what I found! And what did I find? Purpose, genuine love, forgiveness, peace, real life, freedom, and hope: for here and for heaven! Now let me tell you something I thought about the other night as I was thinking about this message…

"My eternal life begins before I die and people who don't know Christ are perishing way before they die!"

Paul put it this way in Corinthians...

1 Corinthians 1:18-24 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age?
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him,  
God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

There's so many people out there who are perishing in this life! Some don't realize they are perishing. They are chasing after the things of this world…fame, fortune, happiness in things, or escape in substances or other addictions. Some of these people are super nice but have yet to discover purpose beyond the material world. They need to discover the reality of the spiritual realm. Some are so busy they don't have time or the desire to even consider the spiritual realm while others lives have crashed or are crashing and they desperately need the emotional, mental, and spiritual healing that can only come from a personal relationship with God through His One and Only Son Jesus! I talked with someone on one of our flights a few weeks ago and shared with them how Jesus had changed my life and given me a new reason to live. This person told me they had never really believed in God but they were interested and would love to find that kind of purpose and meaning in life! He shared with me that the main goal of many people from his culture was making money. Nothing wrong with making money, but if that's a person's main goal in life it can certainly leave one feeling empty and unfulfilled. It's amazing how people who have millions want more millions, and can't seem to buy the happiness and joy they seek. So many people are perishing in this world. They are not happy or contented or fulfilled, they are just empty. They are perishing before they die. But this is the message the world needs desperately to hear...

John 3:16 “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.

In order for us not to perish, in order for our lives to be preserved, in order for us to be saved, God allowed His One and Only Son to perish on a Cross. Listen...

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus lived a perfect life and had no sin, but God allowed Him to be sin for us! Who is included in that "us?" For God so loved the world! Max Lucado put it this way...

"Envision the moment. God on His throne. You on the earth. And between you and God,
suspended between you and heaven, is Christ on His cross. Your sins have been placed on Jesus.
God, who punishes sin, releases His rightful wrath on your mistakes. Jesus receives the blow.
Since Christ is between you and God, you don't. The sin is punished, but you are safe--safe in the shadow of the cross.
This is what God did, but why, why would He do it? Moral duty? Heavenly obligation? Paternal requirement?
No. God is required to do nothing. Besides, consider what He did. He gave His Son. His only Son.
Would you do that? Would you offer the life of your child for someone else? I wouldn't.
There are those for whom I would give my life. But ask me to make a list of those for whom I would kill my daughter?
The sheet will be blank. I don't need a pencil. The list has no names.
But God's list contains the name of every person who ever lived. For this is the scope of His love.
And this is the reason for the cross. He loves the world."

Think about it…Your name is on God's list. The list of names for which He gave His One and Only Son to die, so you would not perish, not in this life or in eternity. God loves you that much, and you can experience that love, but you must choose.

John 3:16 “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."