“Condemned no More”

John 3:17

March 2st and 22nd, 2009


          John 3:16 has been called the gospel in a nutshell.  While this may be the case, John 3:17, well not as familiar, is the gospel in a nutshell applied to my present day life.   “For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).  I was driving to Iuka this week hungry for a snack and something to drink.  I drove through Centralia thinking that just before I got to Interstate 57 I would get something to eat.  Little did I know that sometime before this business had been burned, and while I didn’t see it I can imagine that the property at least for the time being is “condemned” ie. No trespassing.   John 3:16 assumes that our world is condemned and everyone in it needs love.  It needs to be cleaned up from its burned up state.  The question then becomes is this a proper look at the world?

          Some forty years ago the astronauts on an early moon flight took a picture of the earth.  They said it was striking how much this beautiful planet stood out in the midst of such darkness.  At least from this distance it didn’t  look like a place, where one would put the sign “condemned”.   Yet, once one looks little deeper and all is not as it should be.    In the early part of this century Woodrow Wilson said that WW1 was the war to end all wars.   According to a 2005 United Nations report  there were 8 major conflicts (a major conflict is defined as 1000 or more deaths a year), and 24 lesser conflicts in nations and among nations around the world.  Whether justified or not, war is a signal that something is not right in this world.   Just pick up any paper and you see quickly that the news is often not good.   Wednesdays Sentinel discusses Natasha Richardson, an accomplished actress, succumbing to a head injury after a fall.   We have an Austrian Incest Trial.  An addiction risk for a recently produced drug.  Higher taxes on the front, three killed in Afghanistan.  Now I know the adage “if it bleeds it leads”, yet there is a lot of bad news around us.  The very fact that the more violent and the more salacious means more will read, says that    something is not right.   Yet, we don’t need to go that far, look at our own lives and families.  As great as God has blessed us, things are not as they should be.  Oh on the surface things seems may seem fine, but too often the reality of sickness, immorality, addictions, and the like are far more prominent among those we love than we care to admit or even see.    I remember talking to my pastor growing up, and asking him what was most surprising to him in the ministry, and without hesitation the “reality of sin” in the congregation’s life.   I too have seen that if one is around long enough, few families go unscathed.   Not just in what is done to others, but in terms of this fallen world affecting their lives in a negative way.   This isn’t merely a pessimistic view of life, a sort of the glass is half empty approach.  Rather it shows the reality that this condemned world needs love.  Romans 5:16 says “Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act results in justification and life for all.”

          This world needs love, and God shows this love in an actions sort of way.  God’s love is not merely a state of being or feeling , but it leads to something, the sending of his son.         Notice how it says “God so loved the world, and not God so loved his children, his believers, or God so loved the Christians.   Out of the six billion plus people now in the world, each are loved by God like no other.  He loves the atheist, the Muslim, the spiritualist, the Mormon, the wicked and perverse.  He loves them all.    He desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.  Now sadly, we know all aren’t saved, because Jesus isn’t part of their life, but that has nothing to do with Jesus “lack of love for them”. 

          Jesus doesn’t give his love to this condemned world because he saw potential in humanity.   Our Ephesians passage today is so helpful.  It says we were “dead” in our trespasses and sins.”(Ephesians 2:1)   The dead simply do not have the ability to revive themselves, but an outside force, the riches of God’s grace”, made us alive even when we were dead in trespasses.   This Ephesians Reading goes further by saying he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places.    A few years back there was a movie titled Pleasantville, where things were black and white, but changed once these two teenagers came to town.  This is what happens when Jesus and the reality of his death to life mercy spreads to this condemned world.  Things go from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from sin to righteousness, from guilt to forgiveness, from shame to joy, from condemned to new and improved.   Jesus didn’t look for good intentions or potential, but simply those who would repent and believe in him alone.   Yet, even this is not our own doing, Ephesians 2:9 says “And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.       Shortly after the terrible crash of Air Florida’s Flight 90 In Washington D.C. in January 1982, Time magazine printed an essay entitled, “The Man in the Water”.  The unnamed man in the water was a survivor clinging to the tail section of the plane in the Potomac River.  Every time the rescue helicopter lowered a lifeline, he passed it to another passenger.  When the helicopter had rescued all the others and finally came back to get him it was too late.  He had gone under the icy waters.  Jesus came down into our condemned world, and went under “if you will” on the cross, so that we might be saved.  Yet, it gets even better in the next verse.

          “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him “Whoever believes in him is not condemned…..   Notice how the phrase is, you have eternal life.     You can’t be more  sure of something than if it has already happened.    Sometimes our past, our moral failures rear their ugly head, and we falsely think they define and condemn us.   To those struggling with the condemnation real sin brings remember the story of the woman caught in adultery  She comes to Jesus, and he starts scribbling in the sand and says that he who is without sin cast the first stone.   Then after everyone had walked away he said “Does no one condemn you?  No one sir,” she said.  Then neither do I condemn you”       Others are condemned by a religion dominated by legalism and laws.   These folks see the standards our Lord sets   as real and good, but they also falsely believe that with a little more will power, and a little more effort these can be kept to the satisfaction of God.  .   These folks live in condemnation by the good moral standards our Lord has for us, forgetting or at least not seeing that Jesus both died for our sins and he lived the perfect life we cannot live ourselves.   In Galatians 2  says “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”   There is no condemnation for the believer in Christ, period.  Christ has taken care of it all.  This is not made up; this is not empty feel good talk.  Rather, this is the reality of our standing before the almighty and merciful God.   Condemned, no more!!!  Amen