March 2019   
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The Four "D's" of the Gospel
The Danger: Perishing
John 3:16
For the next four Sunday, I want to do a dangerous thing and that is preach on the most famous and familiar verse in the Bible.  I'm talking about John 3;16.  The danger is that it we know it so well.  I would venture to say that most of us have it committed to memory.  And as the old saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt.
But hopefully, we will approach it with the sense of awe that it should inspire in us.  One of the reasons this verse is so widely memorized and so deeply loved is that it is such a remarkably full summary of the gospel.
Now, for our study, I am dividing it into four parts that make a natural presentation of the gospel. And I want to call our study "The Four "D's of the Gospel." And here is my objective:  if you have never been saved, I want you to listen and think and ponder the message this single verse of Scripture delivers to you.
And hopefully, before we are finished with our study, it's message will have become a personal message and testimony of your new-found faith in God.
If you are saved, then I hope you will take good notes and commit some of the things I will share with you to memory because they make an excellent method of sharing the gospel. 
And because of the familiarity of the verse, you will find it easy to begin a gospel discussion with friends and neighbors and family that need to be saved.
Now, as we begin, I want to give you a little overview of what we're going to see in this verse:
First of all, this verse talks about the danger that we are in without Christ—" That's the first "D" and it's described with the word "Perish". God loved us and gave His Son so that we would not perish. 
Every human beings is in danger of perishing, which is not merely dying, but is the opposite of eternal life. Eternal perishing means eternal separation from God in a place called hell.
The verse also talks about the design of God to rescue us from perishing and that plan is summed up with the word "love".  So the second "D" is the design of God in that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." It's the love of God giving his Son that rescues us from perishing.
Third, the verse talks about the duty that we must fulfill if God's plan works on our behalf.  God's plan is motivated by His love, but we must respond to that love with faith.  That's our duty, third "D".  We must believe in the Son of God because whoever believes will not perish.
The fourth "D" represent the destiny of those who believe.  We are given eternal life in the place of perishing. 
Now obviously, not everything that is important in the Bible is contained in that verse, but what is here is so basic and so precious and so powerful, it tells us everything we need to know to be saved from our sin, miss hell, and spend eternity with God in heaven.  So it is an extremely important summary of the gospel. 
We will spend a week with each one, and we will barely scratch the surface. Each of these four things is inexhaustible in greatness and importance for your life. They are ten thousand times ten thousand more important than any other things you will ever read or hear. 
So I encourage you to be here every Sunday ready to listen and learn and allow God to use this single verse of Scripture to speak to our hearts.
Let's begin today with The Danger: Perishing.  As I said a moment ago, you and I and everyone who has ever lived or will ever live exists in the imminent danger of perishing if we don't trust Christ.
Now, to help us understand what that means, I want to ask three questions, and those questions will serve as our outline.  First question:
1.  What Is Perishing?
Of all the things that the Bible teaches about what happens when unbelievers die, let me summarize them under four headings that will help us answer this question. 
First, Perishing Means Being Under the Wrath of God
Verse 18
The issue is not merely dying, but being judged by God. In fact, a little farther down in this chapter, we encounter one of the most sobering verses in all the Bible. 
Verse 36
What this says is that if we are rescued from perishing, it is because the love of God has rescued us from the wrath of God. To perish means that we remain under the wrath of God because we will not trust Christ. And that is a terrifying place to be.
2. Perishing Means Fiery Torment
In one of John's other books, the Revelation, he describes the one who is perishing in chapter 14, verse 10:
He will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
Perishing is not, as some say, going out of existence. It is staying in existence and suffering in the fiery torments of hell.
In fact, in Mark 9, in a matter of about six verses, Jesus says it would be better for a person to have their eyes plucked out and their feet and hands cut off and go through life maimed and blind, than to spend eternity in hell where the fire will never be quenched.
Now some will try to tell you that when the Bible speaks about hell, it is merely symbolic, figurative language and it's not describing a real place or conditions. 
So let me ask you, are you going to believe some liberal know-it-all or Jesus?  Jesus said it is a place where the fire never goes out. 
But let's just suppose for a moment it is figurative language.  Typically, the Bible uses figurative and symbolic words and phrases because the language is inadequate to describe the real thing.  So if hell is described as a place of eternal torment and fire that never ends, how much worse must it be if the language is limited in its description?
At the very least, perishing means a place of unending, fiery torment.  Third,
3. Perishing Means Separation from the Glory of God
Paul describes the perishing in 2 Thessalonians 1 when he talks about the coming of the Lord and how He will come
verses 8-9
Every day, in a thousand different ways, we are surrounded by the power and glory of God and it is ours to observe and see and it leads us to worship and acknowledge God.  But in hell,  the perishing will be cut off from all his work and glory, left to experience only the work of wrath.
4. Perishing Is Everlasting and Irreversible
What we read here in John 3:16 about perishing is the exact opposite of eternal life. In fact, in Matthew 25;26, Jesus calls it "eternal punishment".  In Luke 16:26 he says there is a great chasm fixed between heaven and hell, so that no one goes from one to the other. Perishing is eternal and irreversible.
Perishing means wrath; it means fiery torment; it means separation from God; and it lasts forever. And I want to warn those who are perishing as plainly as I can to flee from the wrath of God to the love of God through the door of Jesus Christ.
Now this is a significant moment in this service because what this moment means is that any of us who stands before the throne of judgment unbelieving will not be able to say to the Lord, "Nobody ever told me what was at stake."
The Lord will remind you that on April 22, 2018 at Trinity Baptist Church in Ardmore, Oklahoma, I sent my servant Terry Tolbert, to warn you.  He was obedient to my direction and command, he spoke the truth from my Word, and you are without excuse."
The Bible reminds us that "Now is the acceptable time, today is the day of salvation" and the great news of John 3:16 is that the love of God rescues us from the wrath of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Second question:
2. Why Are We All Perishing If We Don't Trust in Christ?
The simplest way to answer this is to quote the apostle Paul in Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Later, in Romans 6:23, he wrote, "The wages of sin is death." He could just as easily have used the word "perishing".  The wages of sin is perishing.  We have all sinned and sin deserves perishing.
But there is another to look at that.  It's not as simple, but it is absolutely imperative to know.  And maybe you've never thought about i this way, but I want you to consider something:
Now remember, our question is, "Why do sinners deserve to perish?"
The answer is that God is the most worthy person in the universe. His greatness and his value are infinite. All things are measured by him. He is the beginning and the ending of all things. Every person depends on him for everything. We owe him perfect trust and allegiance and love and worship and honor and respect and obedience, because he made us and owns us and sustains us.
Therefore rejecting him, and distrusting him, and disobeying him, and neglecting him, and enjoying other things more than him—all these are infinite insults because he is an infinite treasure. And an infinite insult—or a life of infinite insults—deserves infinite punishment.
Now the more you dwell on that the more precious John 3:16 becomes.  The more you come to understand about the character and nature of God makes it that much more significant that He loved us enough to give his own Son to rescue us from this perishing.
We deserve to perish, to go to hell for eternity, but the God against Whom we had sinned, stepped in and did something about our predicament. 
One final question: 
3.  Is It Helpful to Hear This Threatening News?
The essence of the gospel ministry and mission is that everyone deserves to be warned about what awaits them without Christ.  How cruel it would be if a loving God determined lost sinners would go to hell, came up with a plan by which that penalty for sin could be avoided, but then did nothing to warn them and give them opportunity to be saved. 
And I will tell you, there are countless thousands who will be in heaven who will testify of how the wrath of God drove them to the gospel where the love of God relieved their fear.
One such man is John Newton.  He was born in 1725 and became a sea captain and slave trader.  As a perverse rebel against God, he was brought to faith in Christ through a series of fearful dangers that shocked him into spiritual seriousness, and made him take heaven and hell seriously. He almost shipwrecked. And while God was dealing with him after that, he was in Londonderry, Ireland, hunting. 
In his autobiography, Out of the Depths, he wrote,
"As I climbed up a steep bank, pulling my shotgun after me, in a perpendicular direction, it went off so near my face as to burn away the corner of my hat."
Newton came to see these experiences as God's way of getting his attention and teaching him to fear so that he would look for relief in the only place it can be found: Christ.  So he finally wrote the great hymn:
T'was grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved,
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed.
I would answer our last question, "Yes, it is helpful to warn people about what is at stake in life. I pray that your experience may be the same as John Newton's. There is no reason to delay."  Why? 
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Let's pray.
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