The Gospel of John 3:16 says, “ For God so loved loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ESV
I cannot tell you how many years during my Christian journey I spent having only a knowledge of God’s love. As a Bible Teacher, I had many opportunities to share the truth about God’s love. Even so, if I had been honest, I had the knowledge that God loved me, but not the experience. I knew I had eternal life and would one day be with him forever, but that was the extent of salvation as I had both known and encountered it to be. Constant struggle marked the majority of the years of my life as a Christian because in my life God’s love for me was based more on knowledge than experience. Looking back, I can only describe these years as one beholding something from a distance. I knew of its reality, but I had no encounter.
So different was my life then, my knowledge about God and his love, it wasn’t my understanding about God’s love but my eventual experience with it that has changed my life forever. John 3:16 can be looked at with a two-fold purpose. The first part reveals the remedy for the devastation and brokenness that has plagued mankind since the fall of the first human beings, the second speaks of the eternal benefit of God’s provision, made possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To put it another way, in the first half of this verse we can clearly see that when our Heavenly Father considered what totality of solution could be provided for our injurious and estranged state (estranged not in essence or awareness but in relationship to him) he both knew and decided from eternity past to demonstrate extent of his love in the power and person of Jesus Christ. Simply put, the love of the Father demonstrated in Jesus Christ is the complete remedy for the ailments of mankind due to sin.
“For God loved the world (you and me) so much, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
God gave his only son because his love alone has the power to change our condition. Even though there are countless examples from Scripture, one particular account comes to mind, the Gadarene Demoniac. The Bible states in Mark chapter 5, “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 And when Jesus[b] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
Pain and torment had become the trademark of this man’s life. Driven by forces over which he had little control, self- destructive behavior threatened to end his life completely. No one understood him. And no one could help him. When I think about this man in today’s society, surely he would find his sole existence in a padded room, heavily medicated. Yet Jesus, on the other side of the river, in a totally different place, was aware of this man’s condition, of his desire, and of his need. Which is why in the previous chapter, speaking in regard to the river, after teaching the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side.
The Bible tells us that when this man saw Jesus he ran and worshiped him. In that moment of worship, of embracing who Jesus was, the power and ultimate authority Jesus had to work in his life, this man was set free from that which bound him. When he could not come to Jesus, Jesus came to him. Here was a man whose life was steeped in darkness, yet Jesus invaded his world. And with the power of his love, he set him free. This man was a contemporary of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Bible does not tell us whether this man knew about Jesus during this time, the point is however, that Jesus in bodily form did exist in this man’s time but it was not until he had an encounter with Jesus that his life, his family and his region were forever changed. Whether he was aware of the existence of the Messiah or not, simply having knowledge of his existence would have done this man little good. Instead, he needed an encounter.
Know today beloved, that no matter where you are, where you find yourself, what you are facing or going through, there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. God is always loving you, always aware, always there, longing and waiting to permeate your life with the healing and transforming power of his love. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in the book of Romans chapter 8, “38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The love God has for you and me is everlasting, enduring forever. It will never cease. We can resist it, or we can reject it, but we cannot change it.
In an age of media and ever-advancing technology, in a generation where we have more information about God’s love (through TV, books, CDs, DVDs and yes, blogs) than at any other point in history, we are more broken, more hurting, more desperate, more depressed and more in need of real answers to real problems. Yes, we know more about God and about his word. We are more informed about the sacrifice of Jesus and about his ability to change our lives. But the potential for God to transform our lives by the power of his love does not come from information alone. If we are ever to be truly made whole, we must have an encounter.