What would you say? You never know when it's coming and it happened to me on vacation of all places. I was on an adventure with my father-in-law. He loved trying new things. So we were rafting down a river and camping and we were on these large raft floats with the capacity of 30 people or so for four days camping out beside the river. Late in the trip, we were camping when a teenager walked over to sit beside me. I didn't know him much. I had spoken to him in passing. And he said, "I saw you were wearing a church T-shirt. Can I ask you a question?" I said, "Sure." He said, "3:16. What's that about?" Kind of took me aback. 3:16. What in the world? What? Then all of a sudden it dawned on me. He was asking about John 3:16. He must have heard of that somewhere. As we talked, I learned that his family of eight didn't worship together or go church at all. He'd been a few times with friends and was interested in what that was about. If somebody asked you that, what would you say? I mean, John 3:16, today's reading, it's an easy place to start. The majority of folks of all shapes and flavors already know this one verse. It's remarkable that way. One simple verse says it all. All you need, really, the four most important concepts in the world. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but should have everlasting life. John 3:16 begins with love. A God who exists in love and for love, whose every action originates from love. A God who is love. A God who is wildly in love with you. A God who loves you and there's nothing you can do about it.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Love leads to giving. A God who loves you so much that he gives you his son, his only begotten. Now that's commitment. Begotten, not made. The same substance as the father. God's love gives. And that's a reminder that love that doesn't give isn't love. It's merely infatuation. God gives his son to show you the way. To offer himself to you. And it's a giving that asks for a response, just as when you give somebody an expensive gift, you'd like folks to accept it and receive it. To welcome the gift. When you give your beloved a ring, you hope she'll accept it enthusiastically. God, in the same way, asks you to respond. To accept the gift by trusting in the one he sent to save you. In Jesus, his son. To receive him, as your savior. To trust that he's your link, your pathway, to God. To trust him, that's what faith really means. To trust, to respond to the invitation, to believe, to trust the only begotten son. Love, gives, believe. And in return, God offers eternity. Abundant life now and eternal life, then. Knowledge that death isn't the end. It's merely the beginning. There's more to this world and this life than meets the eye: a peace, a hope, a joy. But the world doesn't know. God offers it to you. It's so simple, so pure, so true. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but should have eternal life. Love, give, believe, eternity. Those four words the world needs to hear. I got to share it with a teenager on a whitewater rafting expedition as he prepared to graduate and leave home. We shared a holy moment together. Perhaps you might share with a neighbor who's going through a divorce in trying to keep life in the road, or maybe with a young man who's heading to prison for the next 20 years of his life, or a young couple who was wed yesterday with their future fully ahead of them.
Folks at every stage and turning point of life need to hear that basic, simple message, and believe it or not, you're the one to share it. John 3:16. Love, give, believe, eternity. It's not just some story. It's also your story. Love, give, believe, eternity. It changes your life. It certainly changed mine. With those words, I discovered that God had something different in mind for my life and his name is Jesus. He offers eternity as a hope and a promise. He offers life the way it's supposed to be now, life with meaning, passion, purpose. A life with peace not otherwise known in the world. A life with a deep abiding joy that doesn't fear even in the face of death. It's not just God's story or John 3:16. It can be your story and I hope it already is. Today, just know that there are people in your life who need to hear the simple, good news, not from me but from you. Who is Jesus and what difference has he made in your life? Only you can answer that. And then God will do the rest.