Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lent 2

Prayer of the Day
Heavenly Father, it is your glory always to have mercy. Bring back all who have erred and strayed from Your ways; lead them again to embrace in faith the truth of your Word and to hold it fast.

As Jesus continues during Lent to Jerusalem to suffer and die, we are reminded that there is a reason for it: our salvation. The motive for this sacrifice is God’s love. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us out of love for God and us. How does this affect us? Faith is the receptive agent, which brings to us the benefits of God’s love. In the Gospel, faith in the crucified Christ brings us eternal life.

It is hard to believe that faith saves a person from sin and consequent death. We would much rather save ourselves by our own efforts to please God with character and charity. There are various kinds of faith. There is faith in faith.

Even Satan has a faith that God exists. The Christian has saving faith. Just what that is the text explains. As we continue to see Jesus as the power of God He explains to us through His conversation that a faith that saves is —

1. Faith in Jesus’ teachings (Word) — V. 12. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

See how far Nicodemus had drifted from the kingdom even though he was a teacher in Israel. His problem was a failure of his will to receive the testimony that Jesus was teaching. His failure to understand these heavenly realities was a matter of a lack of faith.

2. Faith in Jesus’ cross (Deed) — V. 14. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.

The prophet Daniel uttered the following prophecy: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, [a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. [Daniel 7:13] Looking into human history Daniel saw the coming of our Lord Jesus breaking into time and space. Jesus descended into earth only to ascend back to the Father. John reminds us; "the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” [John 1] As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so also the Son of Man is lifted up. “That who believes in Him may have eternal life.”

The Father sent His only Son to be lifted up. We, by nature are like the children of Israel in their danger. We might not plagued by snakes. But we are plagued by sin, which causes eternal death. The Father sent us His only-begotten Son Jesus. He came into the middle of our world, “the snake pit” if you will. Yet God lifted Him up on a cross to give us a new life.

3. Faith to accept eternal life (Life) — V. 15. …that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

The Holy Spirit draws people to believe in Jesus. People are drawn to Jesus through Jesus. He came as a light to people in darkness. People are by nature in the dark; there is no self-created light. Jesus gives light to people who love the darkness because they were doing wrong.

Believers are a lot like bugs who gather around the porch light at night during the summer. We have seen the Light of Jesus Christ and have been drawn to it. When we saw Jesus, He revealed our sins and forgave them, and now in His light God sees us as righteous.

God did not send Jesus into the world so that people would be ashamed, scared, and guilty. Rather, He came so that we might have life through Him.

You now have the opportunity to share with others the good news of the gospel. When you read these words: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (v.16) do you get a feeling of relief? That’s God’s great love drawing you.

The Spirit continues to draw you. Don’t be like night crawlers that come out at night after a spring rain. When the light hits them, they zip back down into darkness. God does not want to harm you; He wants to save you. He has sent His Son so that by faith in Him we can now life.

Eternal life is a gift of God to those who believe in Jesus. It is a life in and with Christ. He is life, and to be one in him is to share in eternal life. If life is true life, it is inherently eternal, for Christ is eternal. This life begins not at physical death but upon acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior. When physical death comes, there is no break in this faith relationship with Christ. Eternal life, then, is not a natural disposition of the soul but is a gift of God in Christ received by faith.

In these verses “whoever” is a key word. “Whoever” believes shall not perish. “Whoever” includes very person regardless of moral or physical conditions. There are no national or racial limitations. Eternal life is offered to any and every one who believes in Jesus. There must, then, be no excuse for anyone’s not going to heaven.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

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