Understanding The Bible
God's Love Letter to Mankind
By Dr. Glen Clifton 1.
“For God so
loved the world,
that He gave his only begotten son,
that whosoever believes in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.”
This verse sums up
the whole contents of the Bible. After all, the Bible is simply God’s love
story, the story of the love of a Holy God to a sinful world. Whole volumes have
been written and dedicated to the exposition of this one sentence.
The love of God is the grandest story ever told to the listening ear. Millions of little children throughout the world sing that theme to the skies when they sing:
“Jesus loves me,
this I know,
For the Bible tells me so….”
John 3:16 reveals a subject before which the eloquence of this preacher, the tongues of angels, the brush of an artist, the pen of a writer, the harmony of earth’s music, are utterly powerless to describe ... For the love of God is beyond the power of human effort to describe. The song writer described it this way:
“Could we with
ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And ever man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor would the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
I cannot hope but
touch the fringe of this great subject, but I would put this text, John 3:16, to
my lips, and sound it over and over again, until every person hearing this
message is able to repeat the matchless scripture of: “For God so loved the
world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should
not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If there is any scripture that Satan would like to blot out of the Bible, it is John 3:16. If there is any text that has made the foundation pillars of Hell tremble, it is John 3:16. If there is any text that has lightened up the pathway to Heaven for multitudes of men, it is John 3:16. If there is any scripture that deserves to be called, as Martin Luther called it, “The Little Bible,” it is John 3:16.
If I were called to the bedside of a dying man, who had but few minutes before his ear ceased to hear, I would repeat the words of this matchless refrain. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
I have preached John 3:16 across America ... from Mississippi to Ohio, from Texas to California, and many points in between. I have used many ways to convey God’s love toward sinners. TODAY, will you think with me of John 3:16 as "God's Love Letter to Mankind." A letter from Heaven to men on earth.
1. This Letter from God is a Love Letter
“For God so loved the world…”
This message from the skies is not an indictment, nor is it a subpoena to appear in court. It is not a summons to doom. John 3:16 is a love letter to you from the Divine Lover of your soul.
This letter concentrates on the story of redeeming love in one shining verse. It shows us that God sent His Son to cleanse us from our sins. The Bible tells us how He came, and how we treated Him. We spat in His face, we mocked Him, we reviled Him, we put a crown of thorns on His head, we drove cruel nails in His hands, spikes in His feet, and lifted Him up on a cross, thrust a spear in His side, and we crucified Him.
The Angel of Mercy must have turned pail at the sight, and the Angel of Justice must have pleaded with God for vengeance on the earth, but the love of God prevailed, and the sword of Judgment was held back, and you and I are in the land of the living ... outside the Hell we deserve to be in because: “God so loved the world ...”
This little Notice appeared some years ago in a Boston newspaper:
TO MY DARLING BOY WHO LEFT HOME MONDAY NIGHT
My darling boy: If you should see this, which I pray our Heavenly Father you may, please let your distressed mother know where you are.
The Notice was signed
with one word: “Mother.” That was all. No name. Nothing to let the world know.
Just the cry of a mother seeking her lost boy. Not a word about whose fault it
was. No blame. No reproach. Just the reaching out of a mothers love to bring
here wanderer back.
But, this love of a mother is only a faint reflection of the infinite love of God for an erring, sinful, wayward man. It’s no wonder that this story of love has melted the hardest of hearts and drawn sinful men to God.
After I finished preaching one Sunday in a little Northern California church, one man came forward weeping profusely. He fell on His knees before the congregation and called upon Jesus to save Him. He was a logger, a tree faller. He was tall, and hard, and strong, yet he quivered under the conviction of God. God gloriously saved him and gave him a new life. Part of his testimony later was, “I have been in all the bars and half the jails between here and San Francisco.” God totally and completely changed his life ... and He made him a preacher of the Gospel ... Hallelujah to the Lamb!
2. This Letter is Written in Crimson Ink
“God so loved the world” is a message of Love
“that He gave His only begotten Son,” tells us this letter was written in Crimson ink.
There are those who preach about the beautiful life of Jesus, and their whole message is that He was a wonderful example and a great teacher, and He was, but, remember, the Bible declares that men are justified by faith in the shed blood of Christ.
The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission (forgiveness) of sin.”
God has also said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Exodus 12:13
That is why, not
once, in the New Testament, where it speaks of salvation from sin, does it
ever mention the earthly life of Christ, but always his death.
PETER wrote: “We are redeemed ... .with the precious blood of Christ.” I Peter 1:19
JOHN wrote: “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:7
PAUL said, we are “justified by his blood.” Romans 5:9
THE REDEEMED OF HEAVEN SINGS: “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood.” Revelation 5:9
and JESUS, HIMSELF said, “This is My blood which is shed for the remission (forgiveness) of sin.” Matthew 26:28.
What a death it was! No human mind can comprehend the depths of the ocean of agony that flowed over God’s sinless Son as He hung on the cross ... for us all. No mere man could have borne this infinite load. My sins without yours were enough to have killed Him, and yours without mine.
The victim of Calvary
was a Divine Victim, capable of having “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Isaiah 53:6 Think about that dear friend, incarnate Deity bearing your
sins and mine. Jesus suffered as no mere man could suffer when He took our place
on the cross.
But with all that I can say, or write, or even think about the cross, I feel helpless to do it justice. How utterly inadequate are the strongest and most melting words, the most tender words, to describe with any ability, the suffering of God in Christ.
3. This Letter Contains a Momentous Offer
”Whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
In the plainest of terms God makes this tremendous statement concerning His Son.
Now a letter may or may not be important. Some letters we receive are not important enough to even read and we just toss them in the trash. Others, however, may be a matter of life or death. Such a letter was sent to a man named George Wilson, who, in Philadelphia, in 1830 was sentenced to hang for murder. Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, sent Wilson a letter containing a pardon which meant life and liberty. This letter was a matter of life for a doomed man.
God’s letter in John
3:16 is the most important letter you will ever receive. It is a matter of
Life or Death ... for Eternity! Your everlasting, unending future, for glory
or shame, is determined by your response to this letter.
Think about it for a moment. “Should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Two alternatives are here ... and only two. They are everlasting Life and everlasting Death.
Oh, that place "Eternity." Where will you spend it? Face it dear unsaved friend. When time rolls into eternity ... where will you be?
4. This Letter Has
an Address on it
"whosoever believes in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.”
Certainly, the important part of the letter is the name on the envelope. To whom is this Divine message addressed? To whom is the offer of everlasting life made?
Praise God, there is no uncertainty or confusion connected with God’s momentous offer. A Divine God addressed it to “Whosoever Believes.” The word "Whosoever" is as wide as the universe. For when the Lord said "Whosoever," he included me.
While in Baylor University, I first preached this message in 1957 in a little Central Texas church where I was pastor. I was a 19 years old, married with one little daughter. Another teen-ager was saved in that service. I baptized her in the creek behind the church.
I preached John 3:16 in a Revival in a School house in Mentor on the Lake in Ohio. The teacher in charge of locking up the building was saved, as well as a high school boy who happened in because he saw the lights on. There are no accidents with God.
In East Texas, a big, bad, bearded, biker that I had witnessed to in his home came forward broken and crying aloud, accepting God’s Love and was saved. Sitting beside him was a sweet little 10 year old girl giving her life to Jesus. A hardened, calloused, old sinner and a young girl recognizing her sinfulness both came to Jesus that Sunday on hearing John 3:16. This confirmed the scripture: “... through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, for there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:22,23
In Long Beach, CA, a
young man, just out of Huntsville Prison in Texas, came forward in our church.
He later became a High School Sunday School teacher. He got his education and is
now a Doctor in California. I preached this message, through an interpreter, in
Tijuana, Mexico and seven Mexicans accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord. One of the
happiest days of my life. I have seen lives changed in Rescue Missions
from San Pedro, CA to New Orleans, LA where I lived. Hippies, bums, alcoholics,
druggies, criminals, ALL coming to the Love of God in Christ with John 3:16.
After one of the coaches of the Oakland Raiders, who was a member of our church
in Pleasanton, CA, sang the special music ... I preached on John 3:16. Several
High School football players and some of their parents accepted Jesus as Savior
and Lord. An alcoholic and gambler-aholic was gloriously saved in a Lovelock,
Nevada Revival when I preached John 3:16. His family was changed. His alcohol
and a gambling addiction was changed into furniture for the house, and needed
things for his children.
Yes dear friends, John 3:16 is a personal letter, “Whosoever" is God’s infallible way of telling you, that you personally, are intended for this message.
5. This Letter Requires and Answer
“whosoever believes ...”
Sometimes when an important piece of mail is delivered to our door, the messenger waits to see if there is a reply. Today, as God's Messenger, that is what I ask of you now. I have delivered to you, although imperfectly, God’s letter. I have tried to describe and interpret God’s love for you. I have set before you the marvelous offer God makes to you. I have proven from God’s Word and from His own handwriting that the offer is made personally to you ... and now I ask;
"What is your answer?"
" What is your reply to God?"
"Will you receive God’s offer of eternal life?"
"Will you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?"
You know, there is more to the story of George Wilson's pardon (from number 3 above). When the jailer presented the pardon, it was rejected by Wilson. The Sheriff had to know whether George Wilson must hang or not, so the matter went to the Supreme Court. No law had ever been made in a case like this. Chief Justice Marshall gave the following ruling:
“A Pardon is a paper, the value of which depends on its acceptance by the person implicated. It is hardly to be supposed that one under sentence of death would refuse to accept a pardon, but if it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must hang!”
Dear friend, What
will you do with this pardon God offers you? George Wilson refused his; will you
refuse or receive yours?
All it cost President Jackson to grant that pardon was the stroke of the pen, but God's pardon for sinners was signed with His own precious blood. Why would God do this? To convince you of His love, to melt your hardened sinful heart. God Himself, in the person of His Son, suffered for us on the cross.
One day, years ago, God showed me the meaning of John 3:16 ... that God the Father, suffered with God the Son, to make it possible for me to be saved from my sin. Redemption was paid for on the cross, but, it was not mine until I asked for it (Romans 10:13) and received it.
Yes, the pardon offered to you was written with a Divine hand. There is a second JOHN 3:16. In First JOHN 3:16 it says,
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down his life for us.”
Are you ready then, to answer God's Love Letter to You? He asks you by the tears of Jesus in Gethsemane, with the blood of Jesus on Calvary, to turn from (repent) your sins, and turn to Him.
There is nothing in His heart for any of us sinners but LOVE.
Right now while your heart is open, while you conscience is awakened, now, while the Spirit is telling you to come, tell Him you will come to His call. Say from your heart ...
“Just as I am,
without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God I come, I come.”
Would you pray:
“O God, as I sing, convict MY heart and life of sin.
Show me your pure love to me in Jesus.
Help me to repent of my sin and turn my life over to the Lord Jesus.
In Jesus name, Amen”
The Bible says, “That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus,
and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved ...
For with the heart man believes unto righteousness;
and with your mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10
And verse 13 continues, “For whoever calls upon the name of the lord shall be saved.”
“Now is the accepted time, Behold now, today is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians 6:2
Romans 3:23 states: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(This message, or variations similar to it have been preached across the U.S.A. by Dr. Clifton over 50 times since 1957, with many souls coming to Christ, to God be the glory! Whoever reads it may use it in any way ... Preachers, change it in any way you want, as I can’t remember where I got all the ideas ... but PREACH IT! Teachers, use it as a devotional or lesson. And it is my prayer that God will give you precious souls for our Lord Jesus Christ. Glen Clifton, August 13, 2006)
Copyright 2006, Dr. Glen
Used by permission
3:16, God's Love Letter to Humanity"
by Dr. Glen E. Clifton
1. Dr. Clifton preached this sermon at King's Baptist church in Vero Beach, Florida in Preached at King's Baptist Church in Vero Beach, FL, August 13, 2006 where he as been serving as Interim Preacher for about 6 months. Dr. Clifton and his wife Dee, have been retired to Florida for 4 years. He has been kept busy preaching up and down the Treasure coast since he moved here. He can be contacted for speaking engagements at (772) 336-3992.
Clifton, Dr. Glen E., Brief Biography