Muhammed Ali used to say he was the “greatest of all time!” and in terms of boxing, maybe. But there’s another “greatest” that comes to mind at Easter, and it’s the greatest verse in the Bible, John 3:16, because it has five “greatests” in it. Here they are:
1. The Greatest Being: For God…
All of science believes to some extent the opening section of the Bible…In the beginning was nothing, then BANG…something.
Christianity: In the beginning there was an ultimate being. Who created everything.
Atheism: In the beginning there was nothing. Nothing exploded. And became something. Makes perfect sense.
The Hubble Space Telescope is that giant Nasa telescope that beams back incredible pictures of the universe. George Will writes, “Soon the ACLU or the People for the American Way, or some similar faction of litigious secularism will file suit against NASA, charging that the Hubble Space Telescope unconstitutionally gives comfort to the religiously inclined. Science is augmenting, not subverting, the sense of awe that undergirds religious yearnings.”
Isaiah looked into the heavens some 2700 years ago and recognized the stars were made by (Isaiah 40:26), “His great incomparable power.”
Everything begins and ends with the Greatest Being, who used:
2. The Greatest Power: God so loved…
If you say “of course God loved David!” that just shows you’ve grown up in a Christian culture. For most of history and even now in most of the world, a loving God was NOT a common belief:
- The Greek and Roman gods didn’t love mankind.
- 33 million Hindu deities and none of their descriptions speak of the Christian God’s love that is innate, unique, grace-based and self-sacrificial.
- What about Allah? The Muslim God? Well – one of his 99 names “el-Waddud” – means “loving.” He is called that twice in the Quran. But…Allah’s love is qualified – he loves the pure, those who do good deeds, he does not love sinners, he does not love the unjust, and the Quran clearly states…he does not love the non-Muslim.
The Christian God – loves sinners. Romans 5:8 says God loves us and died for us…WHILE we were sinners, unbelievers, and enemies of Him.
Love is the greatest power. It is God’s power, through Christ, to make the dead – alive, the lost – found, the sinner – holy, the filthy – pure, the guilty – innocent.
The Greatest Being, God, exhibited the Greatest Power, Love:
3. To the Greatest Degree: …the World….
“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight – Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
God loves the Charismatics, but also Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics. God loves the conservatives – but also the liberals and the communists. God loves preachers – and the murderers, gamblers, bartenders, prostitutes and the addicts and on and on and on.
God loves ALL – ALL colors, ALL individuals, ALL social groups, ALL…God so loved…the world.
Which includes you. Jeremiah 31:3 God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
The greatest being with the greatest power to the greatest degree, gave:
4. The Greatest Gift: …that He gave His only Son…
I would be happy to risk everything to save someone from death. But if two were at risk and one was my daughter, I’m going for my daughter first.
Every. Single. Time.
God looks at the same equation and makes a different choice. He gave His Son…for you. And it’s not some crazy forced killing against the Son’s will. The Son willingly gave of Himself for you. He lived out John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” He gave the greatest gift. His life. He took the penalty for our sin.
Why? To deliver:
5. The Greatest Promise: … that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
What do you do when your life is completely shot? Like the guy who has shattered his family? The woman who has killed every relationship? The job down the tubes? The financial crisis that makes life look like the bottom of a pit? What then?
What about the regrets. The “what ifs?” What if I hadn’t done that? What if I hadn’t hurt the ones I loved? What if I’d been a decent parent? What if I hadn’t been so selfish? What if I hadn’t failed in so many ways?
God gives you five “greats.” Here they are:
- The Greatest Being God with
- the greatest power – loved,
- to the greatest degree – the entire world,
- so He gave the greatest gift – His Son,
- The greatest promise you can ever get on this earth:
That if you put your faith in Jesus, who died and then rose on the third day, that in spite of all the epic fails in your life, His death washed all of that way so that you can be part of His family, and live with Him forever and ever and ever in the greatest place prepared for you: heaven.
That’s the greatest promise of all time.
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