Abundant Life

March 14, 2021
by Pastor Joel Plisek
4th Sunday of Lent
Scripture Reading: John 3:14-21


Jesus, in the gospel of John, says that is why I came.  He says that I have come so that they may have life, abundant life.  Friends, today our gospel reading is in John chapter 3, which is one of the great life chapters of the Bible.  We are reading the story of Nicodemus who was a Pharisee. 

Pharisees prided in themselves religiosity. They followed the letter of the law to its purity.  They were conscience of their relationship with God and the way that they had it all together.  This one, Nicodemus, was very wealthy and seemed to have it all together, but truth be told, Nicodemus did not have it all together.  He realized that there was something wrong in his life, and so, he secretively in the middle of the night went to see Jesus, a rabbi that he had heard about. Jesus says something very strange to Nicodemus. It was that he was born once but needed to be reborn.  He needed to come to life a second time, and not by what he could do, but only by what the Holy Spirit could do. 

Nicodemus was confused and he asked how he could go into his mother’s womb and be reborn a second time.  Are you kidding? 

Then Jesus starts to explain.  He uses the example of the Israelites who had disobeyed God in the book of Numbers.  They had complained against God so much that God had enough and sent poisonous snakes to bite them.  The people were dying off and they pleaded with God to save them.

So, God told Moses to put an image of a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole and when people looked in faith upon God’s provision for their healing they were healed. 

Jesus said in the same way, “the Son of Man must be lifted-up on a cross so that everyone who believes in him will have life.”

Then comes John 3:16 which is perhaps the most famous verse in all the Bible. It’s been called “the little Bible”, and “the gospel in a nutshell”.  It has been said if Satan could blot out one verse in all of the Bible, it would be John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

This one verse has meant so much because the bottom line is life, this is what God wants for you.  This is the fullness of life that God would have for you.  Its life and union with him, and a relationship with Him that spills out into a relationship with other people.  So many Christians talk about everlasting life, eternal life.  We always think that it is way off in the future.  That true, everlasting life is the prize, it is what we strive for.  But the life that God gives to you isn’t just when you die, it’s right now.  That is what abundant life is all about.  It is not a finish line to cross, but a life lived.

God has in store for you a life in union with Him that assures you of who you are as God’s child.  It assures you that you are not wandering aimlessly through life without a purpose, and that God loves you and is going to work things out for you in your life.  That God has our back when the world tells us otherwise.  Peace that passes all understanding.  That you have hope for today and a promise for the future.

You ask why did God do this for me?  Why did God make this spectacular offer to you?  The answer is love.  God so loved the world. 

When you talk about the qualities of God, maybe you think of God’s omniscience, how He is All-Knowing. You talk about how God is omnipotent, He is All-Powerful.  He is omnipresent, He is present everywhere at the same time.  God is Eternal, He never had a beginning, He never will have an End.  But the one quality of God that is so amazing is that God is Love.  That is His very character, that is who God is; God is Love.  Because of that love, God knows you.  He knows what you have done wrong, He knows the sins that you have committed.  He knows your short comings; He knows that you cannot earn the love but that it is a free gift that God gives to you.  God so loved that He gave.  That is what God has done for you.

The Greek word for world is cosmos. God so loved the cosmos.  A definition of that would be every single person that has ever been born in the past, everyone that is alive today, and everyone that will be alive in the future.  That includes everyone doesn’t it!?  When we see this, there is no room for all the division that we have now in our culture when you think about who God loves.  He loves everybody.  He includes everybody in the invitation. 

The “what” is life.  “Why” because he loves the world.  But “how” do I get that in my heart and in my life?  This passage answers that too.  “That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  Finally, the assurance of life with God is not a matter of jumping through certain hoops.  It’s not a matter of how much you give in the offering plate.  It’s not a matter how well you know the pastors or anything else that happens in these walls.  It’s all about belief.  Believing in Jesus Christ. 

That’s a word that we throw out all the time, but let me tell you belief, true belief, faith that leads to salvation is more than an intellectual assent.  It’s more than just knowing about God. 

You can spout off Bible passages, you can go through Sunday School and Confirmation and Adult Sunday School; it’s not about how much you know.  I like to think of true faith as embracing four things. 

First, to have saving faith you must look at yourself.  When you look at yourself what do you see?  There are a lot of good things about you, but to be accepted by God, the Bible says that you must be better than pretty good.  How good would you have to be?  Perfect!  At the sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “you shall be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Raise your hand if you are perfect! 

When we look into the mirror of God’s law we realize that we have all sinned and we have all fallen short of what God has expected of us.  It’s not only what we have done wrong, it’s also the things we should be doing that we’re not doing right. 

The first part of faith is realizing that we need a Savior.  Confessing our sins and asking Jesus to come into our lives. The second aspect of faith is where you look for your help. Some look for self-help, it is all about me and it is all about what I can do.  But when it comes to your relationship with God it is not about you.  So, we look to God.  Where does your help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.  The one who made me,  He is the only one who can help me.  So, we look to God for the solution.  What did God do out of his love?  He sent His only begotten son, Jesus.

Yes, we recognize our sin, we look to God for help and then we accept God’s solution to our sinfulness and that is the person and the work of Jesus, His Son.  True God and True Man, He was able to do what we could not do, He lived a perfect life.  Then when He was 33 years old, He took all the imperfections of the cosmos upon himself and He suffered the punishment, there on the cross. He suffered the penalty for sin, death, and damnation.  He did not do it because He did anything wrong, He did it for us.

Finally, you trust Him.  You hang on to the promises of God with a strength that only God gives you. You hold onto God’s promises so that you know that there is nothing that can ever separate you from Him.  That no matter what you are going through as a child of God, somehow God is going to work it out for you. You can trust Him rather than wander aimlessly through life. God offers a plan of hope and a promise that nothing in the world can offer.

Just as the famous hymn written by Charlotte Elliot goes “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come,” we must go to the Lord. There was something missing in Charlotte Elliott’s life and the Holy Spirit led her to write those words. The Holy Spirit also worked in the heart of man named Nicodemus who thought he had it all together.  He was wealthy, he followed all the religious rules, he did everything he was supposed to do, but there was something missing. Is there something missing in your life? 

Maybe you have gone to church your whole life.  Maybe you have a good grasp of scripture. Maybe you try to do everything you are supposed to do, but there is something missing.  You are not experiencing the abundant life that Jesus has for you. 

So, friends, what do you do?  Along with Nicodemus and all those Christians who have gone before us we recognize that we need a savior. You are sorry for your sins.  You realize that your help comes from the Lord, not from yourself. You accept the promises of God in Jesus Christ, that He died and rose for you and for me. That through the Gospel the lights of faith are turned on so that we can hold on to Him, we can trust Him for anything that comes our way. Friends, that assurance is yours, thank God for the life that you have, the life that is more that you ever looked for before.  More than this world could ever offer is given freely and fully in Jesus your savior’s name. May God make that happen.  Amen.