Rev. Mark Johnson
May 16, 2021

Scripture: John 3:16-17 (The Message Bible)

Secondary Source: Soul Reset Junius B. Dotson Upper Room Books Nashville 2019

Main Point: “God didn’t come to condemn us but to save us. God didn’t come to shame us into relationship. God didn’t send Jesus to condemn us and make us run and hide. No, Jesus came to free us from shame and fear and sin and darkness.” (Soul Rest Sermon Starters Week 6)

Trouble in the Text

United Methodists are called to preach “plain truth for plain people.” In other words, tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ in easy to understand terms that are applicable to daily life. John 3:16 is “plain truth for plain people,” and maybe that is why it has become such a popular verse.

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – a short, concise, comforting, and empowering summary of the Gospel. Above all, this is a verse that offers freedom.
    Sometimes the “plain truth for plain people,” although seemingly easy to comprehend on the surface, can get complicated and offer deeper truth.
  • For example: What does Jesus mean by “eternal life”? What is the freedom that Jesus is offering us today?

Trouble in Life

  • According to Windy DiSalvo, guilt is a useful emotion and shame is a useless emotion. Guilt can help us recognize wrongs, make amends, and change our behavior in the future. On the other hand, shame is the feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with us.
  • Useful or not, both guilt and shame can get lodged within our hearts. There are instances we carry with us that are difficult to set free. We find that both guilt and shame can manifest themselves in unexpected and sometimes dangerous ways.
  • Likewise, we might have had hurtful actions or demeaning words slung at us – and these eventually add up, informing a less than stellar perception of ourselves. We start to believe we are broken, damaged, unlovable, ugly, fat, stupid – pick your adjective which describes whatever is causing us shame deep inside.

Grace in the Text

  1. John 3:16 comes amidst a larger conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. Nicodemus is a religious leader but is still struggling to understand what Jesus is saying.
  2. Nicodemus is trying to understand the mysterious workings of God from a human standpoint. As much as theologians try, there are certain things about God we will never be able to understand.
  3. Jesus is past, present, and future. But how could that be? No one can be three places at once. However, we know that God transcends time and grace can transform all aspects of our lives.
  4. Eternal life = whole life. Not just life after death, but past, present, and future. God sent His only Son so that we might have abundant and full life from beginning to end.

Grace in Life

  1. The Good News is that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
  2. No matter what happens in our lives, God loves, forgives, and transforms in grace.
  3. No matter whomever, wherever, and whenever we are, we were created in the image of God and remain a beloved child, knitted while in our mother’s womb and watched over in perpetual care.

Reflective Work

In the spirit of “plain truth for plain people,” here are three “easy” questions with more in depth and transformative answers:

  • What freedom is Jesus offering you today?
  • How can you live more fully into that freedom?
  • How will you share that experience with others?

Call to Action

  • For United Methodists, Confession is an important spiritual practice. But unlike the Catholic Church, we don’t believe Confession is a Sacrament. This means you are able to take whatever is burdening you directly to God. Experience the freedom of Jesus Christ by speaking these things into the world.
  • Although not a Sacrament, it might help to talk through certain things with a non-anxious and non-judgmental presence. Your pastors are people called, educated, and trained to help talk through life’s heaviest subjects. Please reach out whenever you need to talk – we are here, we love you, and we want you to experience the abundant and free life of Jesus Christ.

The Broadway Bells under the direction of Jan Williamson

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