The fourth element that deserves exploration in this verse is the divine promise that God makes. If you turn from your wickedness, you will live and not die. It is a promise that is as simple as it is glorious, turn from your wickedness, and live!
During the dark of night, when Nicodemus came to Jesus, Christ made one of the most illuminating declarations in mankind’s history, expressing the desire, the initiative, and the action of God to save the sinner that the wicked might not die, but be redeemed and live with Him in eternity.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
It is the most quoted verse in the whole of scripture, and it is also the center, the heart of the gospel. Today however, I want us to see the divine order of this verse, and everyone’s part in it.
First God loved, then He gave, that man might believe, not perish, and have life. So who’s supposed to believe? Jesus made it simple, whoever believes, whether they be a thief, a liar, a gossip, a murderer, if they believed they would not perish but have everlasting life. Whoever believes in the Son of God, and in the One who sent Him to die in our place, has eternal life.
Faith, believing in Jesus, is neither optional nor selective, because we know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If all have sinned, then all need to be saved, and if all need to be saved, then all must believe. When we believe in Jesus, repentance is inevitable, because He has given us a new life, and a new purpose, a new hope and a new identity. If we refuse Christ, one day we will be called to account, for the Holy Spirit has already come and convicted the world of sin.
John 16:8-9, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me.”
Repentance is no more optional than believing in Jesus is for everlasting life, and this is a truth few continue to teach because it requires self-denial, and transformation on our part. I’m still having a difficult time with the notion that repentance has become a controversial doctrine within the house of God, because without repentance, without the turning away from the things of this world, and toward the love of God, we will never grow, or mature, or know the fullness of He who lives.
As Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus in Athens he made a declaration that much of today’s church chooses to dismiss or ignore because it speaks of the paramount need for repentance.
Acts 17:30-31, “Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
So what is it that God commands all men everywhere to do? Does He command them to raise a hand at a crusade, does He command them to say a prayer and come up to the altar? No, God commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness.
Some need to repent of their sins, others of their hypocrisy, and others still for the form of godliness they possess which bear no fruit worthy of repentance.
I’m still amazed that after all this time I still have to defend repentance, I still have to defend holiness, I still have to defend the work, power, and ministry of the Holy Spirit, because every few months another wolf rears its head dismissing these things, and I start getting the e-mails, ‘what about what so and so said?’. All that matters is what Jesus said, all that matters is what the Word of God says, and until we stop questioning the basics, until we stop questioning the elementary principles of our faith, we will not go on to perfection, and we will not ascend to the deeper and more profound knowledge of the things of God.
The fifth and last element that deserves exploration in this verse is the divine command that God gives. ‘Turn, turn from your evil ways!’
So what would make a loving God make such a demand of the sinner? If He is a loving God, why not just scoop us all up into His bosom, regardless of whether or not we turn from our evil ways. We’ve talked about this often enough, because the loving God we serve is also a just God.
There is a solemn and sovereign tonality to this command, as though the heart of God is breaking when He says, ‘I take no pleasure in your death oh wicked man, why do you want to die, turn, turn from your evil ways and live.’
There is but one way that we will live, and that is if we turn from our evil ways. There is but one way that we will live, and that is if we believe in the Son of God, Christ Jesus, the bearer of our sins and grief. There has never been another way, there is no other way, and there will never be another way. On His life, God made an oath, that if we turn from our evil way, He will give us life, because His pleasure is the saving of a soul, and not the death of the wicked.
Whenever the road gets rocky, whenever the climb is steep, whenever the hardships weigh you down, just remember the words of Christ, and take courage, ‘because I live, you will live also!’
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.