The Duty: Faith
The Four D's of the Gospel
The Duty: Faith
We are studying John 3:16, one of, if not the, best-known and most familiar verses in the Bible. I am trying to structure these messages in a way that they will, first and foremost, provide anyone who is not a Christian a very logical and simple understanding of the gospel message. After all, your decision to confess or reject Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the most important decision you will ever make.
I also want to give those of us who are saved a way of remembering what's in this verse so we can share it with others.
Suppose one of your neighbors or someone at work says, "You're one of those born again Christians, aren't you?" You can say, "I don't know if I fit your category of them or not, so before you put me in a box with everyone else, why don't we take some time to trade viewpoints?"
Then, when you meet, you can say, "One way to summarize my faith is with the words of Jesus from the gospel of John: 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life.'
In this verse, So Jesus tells us the danger we are in—the danger of perishing. He tells us the design of God to send his Son to rescue us from perishing. He tells us the duty we have to believe in his Son.
And he tells us the destiny we have if we believe, namely, eternal life instead of perishing."
It is a simple way to share the gospel from a verse that many people know and have heard, and best of all, it all roots to a single verse of Scripture you probably already have memorized.
Today, I want us to focus on the third "D"—the duty that we have to believe. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish."
Let me focus our attention on this act of believing from several different angles. First, believing is
1. The Vital Link Between Your Soul and God's Love
In other words, if we don't believe, we forfeit the love of God and remain under the wrath of God. What do we read in John 3:36?
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
Believing is our link with the love of God. In other words, it's what connects us with God's love. Notice how Jesus points to the significance of God's love. He speaks of it as a rescue. God chose to love the world in the way He did so that believers would not perish.
One of the ways to express this is that the love of God is sufficient to save the world, but efficient to save those who believe.
Efficient means his love actually saves believers. It is effective in saving them from perishing. It comes to bear on their circumstances. A lot of people believe Jesus died on the cross and He did it because God loves the world. They believe that theologically. They've just never made it personal.
So while, God does love the world and Jesus did die to save sinners from perishing, it has no effect in the lives of those who do not believe and they perish anyway.
So believing is absolutely essential. The world divides into two groups as the gospel moves through it. Those who believe and those who don't. Those who believe are vitally linked to the love of God and are rescued from perishing. Those who don't believe remain under the wrath of God.
Believing is the vital link with the rescuing love of God. It isn't your race; it isn't your IQ; it isn't your church attendance or religious background or how many mortal sins you've avoided. It is whether you believe on the Son of God. So what is that? Believing links you savingly to the love of God.
Second, believing is
2. An Ongoing Condition of Heart and Mind
One of the great deceptions of the devil is to convince people that if they make a one-time decision, they are saved.
Now listen very carefully: Salvation does include a one-time commitment of your life to Christ, but that's not all there is to it.
Believing is an ongoing condition of the heart and mind, not a one-time act. Ask many people if they are saved and they will point you back, in some cases decades, to a time when they were a child or teenager and they will tell you how they walked an aisle and prayed a prayer or went to camp or got baptized, and upon that profession of faith, they declare they are saved.
But their life gives no evidence to that decision. In fact, their life and decisions and relationships would lead us to conclude just the opposite. And yet, they are convinced they will not perish because they "believed" on Jesus
But I want you to see something critical here in the verse. Notice that John 3:16 says, "whoever believes", not believed, should not perish. It's present tense, not past tense. And that means it is an ongoing, continuous action.
And if you study the Gospel of John, you will hear him say that over and over again. He says it three times in this passage.
John 3:15, 16 and 18 all use that language. We see it again in John 6:29, 40 and 47. In fact, over 80 times in his gospel, John uses this language. In fact, at the end of the book, in John 20:31, he tells us why this whole gospel was written and makes the continuousness of believing very clear.
Listen: there is this vital link between the rescuing love of God ongoing, continuing believing condition of the heart.
It is very dangerous to base the security of your eternity and the assurance of your salvation on some past decision. I'm not nearly as interested in what you did years ago as I am whether or not, at this moment you are believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. That is the critical issue. Does believing describe the ongoing condition of your heart as evidenced by the conduct of your life?
3. Jesus Christ is the Object and Focus of Our Belief
What does the verse say? "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him . . . " —the Son of God sent by the Father.
Let me show you something interesting about that statement. Sometimes in Scripture, Jesus says it believing on the Father who sent Him that gives life. Notice
Then other times, Jesus says that believing on the Son gives life. An example of that is found in
So which is it? Is it believing in Jesus or believing in God that saves us from perishing? Well, it's either and both. And we know that because of what Jesus said in
What does that mean? That means to believe in Jesus is to believe in God. For Jesus, all genuine believing in him was also a believing in God. That's what He means in verse 45. God is his Father and He was by the Father to reveal Father. Therefore to see Jesus is to see God and to know Jesus is to know God.
So the ongoing believing that links us to the love of God is believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God sent by God.
Next thing: Believing includes
4. Agreeing with the Truth about Christ
Believing is not just an emotional response to the fear of going to hell or a passionate appeal of the gospel. Believing, as indicated in this verse, involves specific, objective truth content.
And by the way, that content is true whether you believe and accept it or not. Christianity stands in diametric opposition to the relativism of our day that says, "It's true for me, but I won't make any claims that it should be true for you."
Christ is Who He is whether we believe Him or not. As C.S. Lewis said, I think, "An insane man in a padded cell screaming that there is no sun, has no effect whatever on whether the sun rises and sets on time."
Truth is truth whether we believe it or not. And genuine believing in Jesus agrees with the objective truth about Jesus.
For example, in John 17:8 Jesus prays, "The words which you gave Me I have given to them; and they received them, and truly understood that I came forth from you, and they believed that you did send Me."
They understood objective facts about Jesus—he came forth from God the Father. And they believed in those facts. Believing includes agreeing in the mind with objective truth about Christ. Therefore we need know and teach concrete truths about Christ.
Next, believing includes
5. Satisfaction with All That God Is for You in Christ
Let me say that another way. If your believing is only an agreement in the head with facts about Jesus, your faith is no different that the faith of devils—who believe and tremble (James 2:19).
Knowing and agreeing with truths is necessary, but it is not enough. It doesn't make you a Christian. Believing means being satisfied with what God is for you in Jesus.
A moment ago, I mentioned John 6:35 which says,
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.'"
Believing in Jesus is a coming to him in a way that satisfies you soul-hunger and your soul-thirst. Believing is a very powerful thing. It renovates the heart with new affections.
What once satisfied, is now distasteful. Believing is based on new taste buds in the soul. Once the soul was satisfied—or so it thought—with what the world could offer. Now Christ is so satisfying to the soul that the world is losing its power.
In other words, believing in what God is for us in Jesus brings relief to our troubled soul. Believing is not merely an intellectual thing, solving philosophical problems. It is that. And some of you should devote yourselves to spelling that out. But believing is also an emotional experience of being relieved of a troubled heart and a hungry soul.
It is coming to Christ and finding him true and satisfying to the deepest longings of the soul.
Now, let me review what we've looked at:
Believing is our link with God's rescuing love. There's no rescue without it. Believing is an ongoing condition of the heart not merely a one-time act.
The object or focus of believing is Jesus Christ as he is given by the Father. Believing includes mental agreement with objective truths about Christ and believing includes heartfelt satisfaction with all that God is for us in Jesus. One final thing. Believing is
6. A Work of God, Not Mere Human Initiative
This does not nullify what we have said already—that believing is a human act of the mind agreeing with truth and a human act of the heart being satisfied with Christ. That is true. But the Bible teaches that the human mind is blind to spiritual truth; and the human heart is hard to spiritual pleasures. So how shall anyone be saved?
The answer of Jesus is given in John 6:44
A few verses earlier, Jesus said,
And later, in verse 65
In other words Jesus' answer to the spiritual blindness of the human mind and the spiritual hardness of the human heart is that the Father draws them. He takes away the blindness of the mind and replaces the heart of stone. He grants us to see the truth of Christ's self-evidencing glory and he gives us a taste for the all-satisfying beauty of the Lord.
And he does this very simply through the words of truth—like John 3:16 and like this sermon (John 17:20). God is at work right now lifting the veil of the mind and softening hearts. My plea to you is: don't harden your heart. Don't stiffen your neck. Yield to the to the word of the Lord this morning. Believe on Jesus and you shall not perish but have eternal life.