Go to any big sporting event and you’re almost certain to see a sign that reads, “JOHN 3:16”:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
This verse is extremely popular, and for good reason. It is one of the core verses that explains salvation. However, this verse does not explain everything by itself. The surrounding verses explain a lot about John 3:16. Let’s take a look.
Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
Wait a minute – what does that mean, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert…” When did Moses lift up a serpent in the desert, and what does that have to do with anything about God giving his only Son for our salvation? Let’s take a look: we can find the answer in the book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Bible, in chapter 21:
Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert…” Imagine being one of the Israelites about to die, but just before closing your eyes for the last time, you look at the serpent and the pain begins to fade away and the healing begins to take place. How grateful you must be! What a miracle! The Lord has healed you through this man Moses!
“…so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” One of the effects of sin is spiritual death. Sin sentences us to Hell, because Heaven is for the “poor in spirit” and “pure of heart” (See Matthew 5). Yet we need to remember, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” How can we gain eternal life?
LOOK TO THE CROSS AND SEE THE SON OF MAN LIFTED UP!
The serpent saved the people of Israel from physical death, and Jesus saves his disciples from spiritual death. There’s no question why Jesus was crucified on a hill: people could see him from far away – nothing could hinder their vision of the cross. People couldn’t help but see the Son of God dying so that they might live forever in Heaven. Have you lost hope for yourself and feel as though your life has no meaning? Look to the cross! Do you struggle with this great sin or that? Look to the cross! Do you wonder whether God even loves you? Look to the cross!
But wait, there’s still more to understand!
You see, back in the time of Moses, the people of Israel numbered well over a million people, which means they covered a huge amount of territory. Surely, not everyone could have known to look at the serpent in the desert. Those who were healed had to go out to the edges of their territory and point people in the direction of the serpent. They had to tell people about the Lord’s gift of healing, so that all of the Israelites could be healed!
Today, there are millions of people who do not know the great love of God. Those who have been healed – or better said, those being healed – have to go out into the world and tell people all about John 3:16. Holding up a sign at a big game is a great start, but that can’t be the entire mission. We must go out and ask people whether they know about God’s immense love for each and every person. We must go out and invite people to begin a real relationship with Jesus Christ. We must go out and point people in the direction of the Cross of Jesus Christ!
One who has been healed wants others to be healed, especially if the dying are brothers and sisters. How will you point others to the Cross?
What does a child do when another child knocks him down? He collapses on the floor, cries, and refuses to get up. In some cases, he may retaliate against his offender.
What does a Christian do after he gets tempted to sin and then falls into that sin (anger, impatience, lust, pride…) ? He collapses on the floor, cries, and refuses to get up. In some cases, he may retaliate against the devil, who tricked him into this sin. At least, that is what a ‘childish’ Christian does.
You see, just as we ‘grow up’ physically, mentally, emotionally, academically, career-wise, and otherwise, we are also supposed to ‘grow up’ spiritually. We should not react as a mature Christian the way we reacted as children. But so often that is the case. Our leader gives us such training in this chapter on what to do after we get knocked down.
In essence, after ‘another child’ knocks him down (or more accurately, after he trips over his own feet), a Christian could respond like this: He gets right up again, he dusts off his clothes, he forgives whatever needs forgiving, and he moves forward with a peace about him that leads one to wonder if anything even went wrong in the first place.
What to do after a fall:
admit your fault;
beg the mercy of God;
thank Him for stopping you from falling further;
regain peace of heart;
move forward in the confidence that it’s over.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. 1 Corinthians 13:11
Read the Spiritual Combat online here.
Read all of chapter 26 below.
To read previous posts on the Spiritual Combat, click here for the whole series.
Coming up next, chapter 27: on the plans of the devil for you.
all of chapter 26:
When you feel yourself wounded from having weakly, or it may be even willfully and deliberately, fallen into some sin, be not over-fearful or over-anxious, but turn instantly to God, saying:
“Behold, O Lord, what of myself I have done! And what, indeed, could be expected of me but falls?”
And then, after a short pause, humble yourself in your own eyes, mourn over the offense committed against your Lord; and without falling into discouragement, be full of indignation against your evil passions, especially that which has occasioned your fall. Then say:
“Nor even here, Lord, should I have stopped, if Your goodness had not withheld me.”
And here give thanks to Him, and love Him more than ever, wondering at the excess of His mercy, Who, when you had so deeply offended Him, stretched out His right hand to save you from another fall.
Lastly, say, with great confidence in His infinite compassion:
“Forgive me, Lord, for Your own sake; suffer me not to depart from You, nor to be separated from You, nor evermore to offend You.”
And this done, do not sit down to consider whether God has pardoned you or not; for this is nothing else but pride, restlessness of mind, loss of time, and, under color of various fair pretexts, a delusion of the devil. But, committing yourself unreservedly to the merciful hands of God, pursue your exercise as if you had not fallen.
And if you should fall wounded many times in the day, repeat what I have taught you with no less faith the second, the third, and even the last time than the first; and despising yourself, and hating the sin more and more strive to lead henceforth a life of greater watchfulness.
This exercise is very displeasing to the devil, both because he sees it to be most acceptable to God and also because he is enraged to see himself overcome by one over whom he had been at first victorious. And therefore he seeks by many artful wiles to make us relinquish it; and, through our carelessness and lack of vigilance, he is but too often successful.
The harder therefore, this exercise may seem to you, the greater violence must you do to yourself, renewing it repeatedly even after a single fall.
And if after any fall you feel uneasy, distrustful, and confused in mind, the first thing to be done is to recover your peace and quietness of mind, and with it your confidence in God. Armed with these, turn again to the Lord; for your uneasiness on account of your sin arises not from the consideration of the offense against God, but of the injury to yourself.
To recover this peace, discard entirely from your mind the thought of your fall, and set yourself to meditate on the unspeakable goodness of God; how He is beyond measure ready and willing to forgive every sin, how grievous so-ever; calling the sinner by manifold ways and means to come to Him, that He may unite him to Himself in this life by His grace in order to his sanctification, and in the life to come by His glory for his eternal beatification.
And having quieted your mind by these and the like reflections, turn your thoughts once more to your fall, according to the instructions given you above.
Again, at the time of sacramental confession, to which I exhort you to have recourse frequently, call to mind all your falls, and with renewed sorrow and indignation at the offense against God, and renewed purpose never again to offend Him, disclose them with all sincerity to your spiritual father.
I read about the lives of the greatest saints – Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio, Augustine of Hippo, Mother Teresa, Maximilian Kolbe, Ignatius of Loyola, Thérèse of Lisieux, etc. – and see what great virtue they attained during their lives on Earth. Then I look at my own life and see my lack of virtue. I see my own laziness, pride, bad habits, poor character, lack of integrity, etc.
I’ll NEVER be able to get to the level of heroic virtue attained by the saints. I’ll NEVER be a saint. I’ll ALWAYS be stuck in this pool of sin, NEVER able to crawl out. The darkness will ALWAYS rule my life and I’ll NEVER be able to truly live in the light.
Child of God — STOP!! Realize your dignity!
These absolute words are the words of Satan, who wants you to think heroic virtue is impossible to attain. He wants you to think you will never be holy. Because it is in these very thoughts that virtue becomes impossible to attain and holiness never approached. DO NOT LET HIM WIN! Holiness is possible! Heroic virtue is something we can all attain!
Claim yourself as a child of God in the Name of Jesus Christ, who has already won the victory! Anytime you find yourself hearing these thoughts, simply exclaim:
“I claim myself as a child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ! In the Name of Jesus Christ, I command you, Satan, to leave me at once! Jesus, come to my aid and win the victory for me! Redeem my life.”
Let the victory of Christ on the Cross be your victory everyday of your life. Flee temptations to sin and cling to the Cross; there – and only there – you will find freedom from Satan.
A number of images from Sacred Scripture come together in this very serious piece of poetic worship by Misty Edwards.
The adulterous woman (John 8:1-11) forms the substance of the prayer. Misty uses this familiar Biblical account to place each of us into the same situation as the harlot, that is: we have all sinned, and deserve the judgment of God.
Some of the other Biblical themes in this drama: the harlot is a reoccurring symbol of Old Testament and also of Revelation.
The cup of wrath is seen as our suitable punishment, since we have violated the laws of God. He is holy, and we have sinned.
In miraculous and redemptive fashion, the Lamb of God comes on the scene and takes what is ours and makes it His own. We see here a beautiful, gripping, and salvific allusion to the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Perfect, Holy One of God takes what is our due, here described as “the cup” of wrath, the cup that was mine, the cup that I deserved.
WHAT A GIFT!!!
Look what He has done for us!!! Would we not return praise and thanksgiving to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!!!