Sermon: Jesus Brings Light and Division to the World John 3:16-21

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 Jesus Brings Light and Division to the World

John 3:16-21

Primary Truth Taught- When Jesus came into the world He revealed two types of people, those who hate the Light and those who love the Light.

Introduction

Last time we covered John 3:16. I want to remind everyone the significance of this verse. It’s not the most known verse for no reason. John 3:16 tells us that the motivating factor for God to send His only Son into the world was first His love for the world. We saw the motivating factor, namely, God’s love. We also saw how He showed His love, by sending His Son into the world. Then we saw the result of His Son coming into the world, many will believe. This act of love is God’s greatest gift to humanity. Jesus is God’s gift to a lost world.

Human Need Met

Our response to Jesus’ light shows where our hearts truly are. When given the light of Christ do we run to Him or run away from Him? Our need today is to see that the world lies in darkness and condemnation apart from coming to the Light, namely, Jesus Christ.

John 3:16–21 (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

  1. Our Darkest Hour

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:16 also tells us that believing in the Son of God (trusting, committing ourselves to Him) takes us from the group of the perishing and places us into another group, The ones who have eternal life.

It’s important to make this abundantly clear. The entire world of humans is currently in the state of perishing.

The president will often give his State of the Union address where he assesses the current condition of the country. What John does in these verses is he gives us the state of mankind. The world is perishing. Notice the language…of perishing. The world that Jesus came into was already in the state of perishing. He doesn’t come to a neutral world and then based on whether or not they choose Jesus determines if they perish or not, no, the world is already perishing.

So, when God grants the sinner New Birth and then belief, He has taken the person from the group already perishing and places them into the group whom He has given eternal life to.

We often speak in terms of being saved. When we speak of the Gospel to others we might ask them are they saved? It is very important that we realize what we are saved from.

According to John 3:16, our greatest need is to be saved from perishing. This, no doubt, reaches back to what Jesus said to Nicodemus about the serpent in the wilderness from Numbers 21. All those bitten perished unless they looked to the serpent on the pole. This imagery goes back even further to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned because of the temptation of the serpent they and all humans from that point forward have been placed into the perishing category. The wages of sin is death or we could say perishing.

Genesis 2:15–17 (ESV)

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

One commentator writes,

To perish, therefore, is to suffer death, just as Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and barred from the Tree of Life. [1]  

We must see that this perishing is really twofold. First, Adam and Eve would eventually experience death. They would perish. Second, they immediately experienced spiritual death. Because of our first parents’ sin we too have been placed in the perishing category. We die physically and we are dead spiritually.

What happens should we ultimately perish as John 3:16 tells us?

Perish does not mean that we will cease to exist rather it means that we will undergo intense suffering and punishment by God.

Revelation 20:10 (ESV)

10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Revelation 20:15 (ESV)

15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The Apostle Paul tells us that those who perish in their sins …

2 Thessalonians 1:7–9 (ESV)

and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

 

Those who die in their sin do not cease to exist but eternal punishment will come to them. Eternal because their sin is against an eternal God who demands all sin to be paid justly.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

These two verse serve as a shift from Perish/Eternal Life to Condemned/Not Condemned. Do you see that John tells us that belief or we could say faith in Jesus Christ moves us from perishing to eternal living and then in verse 18 belief or faith takes us from being condemned to not being condemned.

Again we see the dynamic here. God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world, why? Verse 18 tells us that the world was condemned already. For those who do not believe condemnation continues and will find its consummation at the last day.

We see this on down a few verses in…
John 3:36 (ESV)

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John first clarifies belief as obedience to the Son and then also tells us that those who do not believe, God’s wrath remains on him. Again, the idea of wrath already being present then belief removes it and unbelief keeps everything the way it is.

  1. Judgment Made Visible

John 3:19–20 (ESV)

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

Verse 17 told us that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world. Jesus’ job when He came into the world was not to condemn or pass judgment by dividing the world into categories. He didn’t come to say you’re guilty I am assigning you to hell and you’re not guilty come with Me to heaven.

I say that because this verse very clearly elaborates that there is a judgment.

John 9:39 (ESV)

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

I think what our Lord is saying here is that while He didn’t come to necessarily pass judgment but that by the fact that He came created a type of judgment. Everyone on the planet is already condemned and in darkness. When Jesus, the Light of the World, comes now there is a visible division and a visible judgment. By the fact that Light comes those who love darkness flee.

John 1:4–10 (ESV)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

John 8:12 (ESV)

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 9:5 (ESV)

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus has told us that there are believers and unbelievers who make up all in the world. Now He’s showing us what an unbeliever looks like and what an unbeliever does when presented with the truth of the light of Jesus.

What do unbelievers do when presented with the Light? They run away. Why do they run away? people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil

The last thing a thief wants to see is a police officer. The last thing a sinner wants to see or be told is that they need Jesus.

By the fact that they flee they are in a sense passing judgment on them.

When Jesus came to the world as the Light of the world all who were lost fled away. Jesus is showing the inner workings of our soul. He’s showing us what lost people do when presented with the Light.

This is Jesus masterfully showing condemnation and judgment, He’s not passing judgment but presenting a situation in which people condemn themselves.

In a courtroom setting there is evidence presented and the jury declares whether the person is innocent or guilty. Here, Jesus needs no evidence because the condemned/guilty person flees from the light that in itself proves their guilt.

The absolute truest condemnation is when God in infinite love sent the Light but people loved darkness rather than Light.

If you’ve ever spoken at all about Jesus to others, you’ve probably experienced this division. You can talk about anything under the sun, practically and things will go ok but bring up Jesus and there is division.

I was called to the bedside of an elderly lady once and began speaking with her and the conversation was pleasant. We spoke about her home and children. Where she grew up and about her life and all was going well. As soon as I told her that I was a pastor and wanted to talk to her about Jesus she literally began to shake in some sort of anxiety or panic attack. I was surprised when immediately she demanded that I leave. She couldn’t flee because she was bound to the bed but she demanded that I leave. Jesus naturally creates division.

I want us to see the clear dynamic at work here…

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

Sin or evil works present…everyone who does wicked things

These people do not want their sin exposed… lest his works should be exposed

Because of they want to hide their sin they… and people love the darkness

Because they want to hide their sin they… hate the light

Because they want to hide their sin they… do not come to the light[2]

If all this is true, which it is, then why is so much sin flaunted in our day. Why are those transgenders heralded as brave and built up? Why are they coming out in droves rather than hiding in the darkness so that their sin remain hidden? The answer is because the world is in darkness so people can affirm other’s sins while they all remain in darkness. Bring the Light (Jesus Christ) into the picture and they all run from the Light. They run in different ways. Some flee, others become vicious and angry, others are violent, and still others try to pretend there is no light. When the Light is shown, division occurs.

Jesus says that is the judgment…

  1. Grace Made Visible

John 3:21 (ESV)

21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

We then see verse 21. Notice that the people that this verse pictures are those who are in the darkness like everyone else and then the Light comes. These people do not run away and go deeper into darkness to keep their sin hidden. But something else takes place. They too are exposed by the Light.

This verse is somewhat difficult on the surface.

Notice the contrast between verse 20…20 For everyone who does wicked things

And verse 21… does what is true.

When we read these verses with the whole in mind, we see that what Jesus is telling us is that the wicked run from the Light, the wicked being those God has left in their sin, those who do not look to Jesus and believe. Those doing what is true are those God has quickened or given the New Birth and they see the Light and rather than running from Jesus they run to Him. These are the ones who look to Jesus by faith believing in Him.

We know that all this is God’s work… so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Finally, we have something clearly seen. The Light of Christ has exposed God’s work within the heart of the believer. When this happens they run to Christ in faith and belief.

Once our eyes are opened and we see Christ, as God desires us to we begin to see everything in the Light of Jesus Christ. We look back into the darkness and we don’t love it anymore but we loathe it. We hate darkness and love Light! Do you see the eternal switch? The passage says we used to love darkness and hate the Light but now because our works have been carried out in God, we hate what we used to love and love what we used to hate.

When God kindles that small spark of Light within our hearts and brings it to full blaze then we are made alive and we run to Jesus.

The Apostle John in his first letter tells us this…

1 John 1:5–7 (ESV)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Here is the bottom line for us. We must always live in the Light of Christ, walking with Him in fellowship, obeying His commands, and renewing our minds with His Word.

One commentator compares this to a plant that is always stretching its branches toward the light for more and more nutrients. Are you stretching and reaching toward the Light of Christ. Are you seeking more of Him?

This is the dynamic that brings God all the glory…

Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

So the only difference between those who run away and those who run to is… his works have been carried out in God.

that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Children’s Homework

Declaration of Grace

In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

 

[1] Richard D. Phillips, John Vol 1 181

[2] Sermon by John Piper on this text

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