It's probably one of the few bible verses that everyone in America has heard or at least seen on a sign held up at a football game: "For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) And this is the season that we celebrate that incredible gift. As followers of Jesus, we celebrate this incredible act of mercy in which our Heavenly Father sent his perfect and holy Son to take the full weight of the judgment of sin and the consequences of death upon himself. It's not that God doesn't love his Son, it's just that he loves us way too much to give us up without a fight.
When we feel lost or hurt or rejected...when the darkness of this fallen world seems to be overwhelming, we often look to another well-known scripture verse in Jeremiah for comfort: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) It reminds us that God hasn't left us to go it alone. He has a vision in mind of how he wants to bless each of us abundantly and if we just hang onto that hope, we will see God's plan unfold. He has a purpose for our lives planned out from the beginning. He tells us that in Ephesians 2:10—"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
God really loves each and every one of us and sent his Son to us as a human baby to live with us, be one of us, to teach us about living a holy and righteous life and to die for us so that we would have an opportunity at new life in relationship with him, if we want it. He won't force it on us.
Isn't that a wonderful message? And it's all true but something's still not quite right. I've been doing a lot of reading for this theology class I've been taking and stumbled across the most amazing and simple statement that makes everything you just read seem kind of flat. In an article entitled Beyond Loving the World adapted from Christ Is All! by David Bryant, he writes, "God loves His Son and has a wonderful plan for Him... and He loves you enough to give you a place in it." He based the first part of this revelation on John 3:35—"The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands."
All of a sudden, the focus shifted from me and us to Jesus! And isn't that where it should be anyway? When we look at our faith and our lives through the lens of "God love you and has a wonderful plan for your life" it's all about us and allows us to continue in our limited self-centered worldview but when we see who we are through the lens of Bryant's statement, we have no delusions about who is the center of the universe and how we figure into it. Bryant's statement doesn't diminish the grace and blessing God has in store for us. It just puts it into the focus of God's eternal reality. All of a sudden, the enormity of his grace just expanded beyond even my imagination. It actually enhances our understanding of the blessing God freely gives us in the person of Jesus...a babe born to a virgin and wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger greeted by angel songs and shepherds and you and me.