I like to hear what kids say about God. Here are some actual prayers kids offered up to Him:
“Dear God, if you watch in Church on Sunday I will show you my new shoes.”
“Dear God, I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday night. That was really cool.”
“Dear God, I don’t think anybody could be a better God. Well, I just want you to know that I am not just saying that because You are God already.”
“Dear God, please take care of my daddy, mommy, sister, brother, my doggy and me. Oh, and please take care of yourself, God. If anything happens to you, we’re gonna be in a big mess.”
“Dear God, if You can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am!”
For three weeks now, we’ve talked about author C.S. Lewis- prolific writer of 67 books and countless articles and other publications and how he often wrote about Christian themes. We talked about the piece he wrote about Jesus that basically laid out what we’ve called a trilemma- a choice among three options. Lewis’ three options were, in a nutshell, that Jesus was either A. a liar, B. a lunatic or C. The Lord. If He wasn’t divine, then the only other alternatives were that He was evil or deluded. Lewis said Jesus couldn’t be more than one of them. Therefore, we are left with a choice.
Today, we wrap up our current 4-week sermon series designed to delve into those three options, pick them apart and see where they lead us. Two weeks ago, we looked at “liar”. Last week, we looked at “lunatic”. Today, we consider the third option- “Lord”. We have tried to be as objective as possible- not simply dismissing the first two because we “know” the third choice is the “right” answer but instead weigh each one from its own merit. With all of that in mind, here is today’s Scripture-
John 3:16-21 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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
If the 23rd Psalm is arguably THE most recognizable and quotable passage in the Old Testament, then part of today’s Scripture is arguably THE most recognizable and quotable passage in the New Testament. People who know NOTHING about the Bible have heard of John 3:16. In fact, some theologians have said that, if you had to boil the entirety of the Bible down to one sentence…it would be John 3:16. “For God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Good stuff, to be sure. But if you read on, it STAYS “good”. “For God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” And those two verses- John 3:16 and 17, are really the crux of the argument for today. Think that through- God loves us SO much that He sent His Son- His ONLY begotten Son- here to teach us, to guide us, to be an example for us. And when that task was complete, He sacrificed Himself as payment for our sins.
And that is key- He sacrificed HIMSELF. No one took His life from Him. He willingly laid it down, as part of the plan, for our sakes. He took the pain and punishment of the world on His shoulders and bore them all the way to the cross. And when that task was complete, and not a MOMENT sooner, He declared that “it was finished” and He laid down His life. His time on earth, roughly 33 years, came to an end and He took His rightful place in Heaven.
And how do I know that? Well, originally, I knew it because other people taught it to me. I learned it from sitting in church and listening to pastors preach about it. I learned it from sitting in Bible studies and being part of conversations about it. I learned it from watching other people live their lives in ways that told me they actually believed what they had learned about Jesus.
All through this series, I have stressed that I wanted you to get to the point that you could look into the tomb for yourself and decide what you believe. So, I am NOT going to tell you what to believe. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I believe. Do I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God in human form? Do I believe that He is Lord? As I have shared before, the simple answer to that question is, unexpectedly, no. I do NOT believe it.
If you have not heard me say that before, I’m going to guess you are more than a little surprised to hear it now. Here’s the deal. If I say I believe something, there is clearly room in the use of that word- believe- for it to NOT be true. Look at it this way- if I say I believe there is life elsewhere in the universe, I am also saying that I might be wrong. Why? Because I don’t KNOW there is life elsewhere in the universe- I haven’t experienced it. I simply believe it.
On quite the other hand, I KNOW Jesus Christ. I have had personal encounters with His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Can I prove it to YOU? No. I don’t have any kind of definitive proof at all. But I know it. He changed my life. I am not the person I once was. And the reason why is because God SO loved the world…
I can honestly say that I have been through all 3 choices in C.S. Lewis’ trilemma- liar, lunatic and Lord. And while it makes my heart hurt to know that I have thought those things, the fact THAT I’ve thought them is, in the end, a good thing. Because I have considered all the options. I have wrestled with them. I have fought them. And I have come out the other side with the seep, abiding conviction that Jesus isn’t just Lord- He is MY Lord.
I love my family. I love the church I serve. But I love Jesus more. I have people say, “How can I truly love Jesus if I don’t love my family first?” My response is, “How can I truly love my family if I don’t love Jesus first?” If I put something ahead of Him…anything…I can’t find any real balance in my life. But if I put Him above all else, then the other relationships tend to fall into place.
Can I tell you what to think? No. Can I make you believe something simply because I claim to know it? No. But what I CAN tell you is that getting to know Jesus Christ is the best thing that I ever did in my lifetime. And that’s a lifetime that includes marrying the beautiful creature who is celebrating her birthday today! The BEST thing I ever did is coming to the understanding that Jesus is my Lord. My advice to you is this- don’t miss the opportunity.