26 words. That’s all. 26 words that can change your life. Great writers are able to minimize words usage while maximizing word impact. I am not a great writer, I am one simply wanting to learn to write better. One key is writing, another key is reading great writers.
Of all the verses in the Bible that are actually in the Bible, John 3:16 is the best known. The one Bible verse most Americans can quote is, “God helps those who help themselves.” One problem though, it’s not in the Bible. That’s a quote from Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac. One other problem, the Bible teaches the exact opposite — God helps those who cannot help themselves.
That leads to these 26 words that can change your life from 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.”
26 words. 23 single syllable. Each one carrying its own impact.
For God so loved the world. Here’s the deal, if you are breathing, if you are alive. You are part of the world God loves. We can’t earn it. And hate to break it to you, we don’t deserve it. He simply loves. He loves you. It’s why Jesus came. It’s why He died. It’s why He’s coming back again. Here’s the other side, everyone you have met, read, heard of or locked eyes with is someone God loves.
that He gave His one and only Son. This is how God shows His love to the world, to you and to me. He didn’t simply say, “I love the world.” He gave. He gave His best. He gave His one and only Son. Some days I feel like Charlie Brown who said, “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than 1 night.’” It’s more than you and I went wrong, we sinned and God gave.
Martin Luther called this exchange of our unholy life for Jesus’ holy life, “the sweet swap.” Jesus takes up our sin, our guilt, our punishment, our death, and even our mistakes. And in the sweet swap we receive from Him His righteousness, His holiness, His forgiveness, His glory, His life, His love, His joy, His peace, His presence.
whoever believes in Him. Up to this point in John 3:16, the words apply to everyone, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” But then comes this phrase “that whoever believes in him” and that leads to 2 different paths. Either you believe Jesus is the way of salvation or you don’t. It’s the definite article that causes the problem. For most it’s okay to say Jesus is “a” way, it’s “the” way that throws people.
Think of a brick. Some feel such a statement of exclusivity is to build a wall to keep others out and let only certain people in. But that’s not God’s intention. He uses the brick to build the path to a relationship with Him. Jesus didn’t say, “I am the wall.” He said, “I am the way.” His exclusivity is not to keep people out, but to make sure everyone knows the path in through Him leads to eternal life.
Shall not perish but have eternal life. 2 paths are highlighted here. Some times people will say, “I cannot believe in a God who would send someone to Hell.” In a certain sense I agree. I believe God doesn’t send people to Hell. We send ourselves. C. S. Lewis put it this way, “The doors of Hell are locked from the inside.”
Heaven is full of forgiven people God loves. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves. Heaven is full of people Jesus died for. Hell is full of people Jesus died for. The difference is those who believe in Him have eternal life, those who don’t believe in Him perish. And that’s not just for when we die, it’s for life right now. For God so loves you, that He gave His only Son for you, because He wants you and the rest of us to have eternal life.
When you think of the 26 words of John 3:16, what’s your favorite word and phrase? How is that impacting your life today?