Part 15: John 3:17 – 21
The journey of faith
Emphasis in this chapter has traditionally fallen on the beginning of the Christian life. Being ‘born again’ has concentrated attention on how we start. But the next few verses after the famous 3: 16 turn the emphasis onto the continuing life and the end of it. Here they are: “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
Our Christian life is a journey – as indeed is every sort of life.
I like to think of the end of it as that part of a journey that is arriving in a foreign country or returning back home to one’s own country. At the airport there are two major hurdles to overcome. The first is going through passport control; the second is going through the baggage check area to make sure that we have only good and permissible things in our cases.
The first of these is a good analogy to being born again. Jesus said “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again from above”. We want to enter the country that is our destination. We must have a valid passport. Paul says we are “citizens of heaven” (Phil 3: 20). We have dual citizenship! We have two passports. We are citizens of our earthly country and we are citizens of heaven. What a privilege!
But we must have the right luggage too. Our first and most important luggage is believing in Jesus. Three times the word ‘believe’ appears in verse 18. Positively – we must believe. Negatively – if we do not believe we are condemned to perish as verse 16 has said. What exactly perishing consists of we are not told and it is not really possible to work out the details from the rest of the New Testament. Perishing, hell, fire and other uncomfortable things are all mentioned – many of them by Jesus himself. It is certainly not that “being with Christ” that Paul says is “better by far” (Phil 1: 23). It is like being a stateless person, rejected from the country we want to enter and condemned to travel endlessly round the world, not finding anywhere prepared to take us in. Not a nice experience.
Our luggage needs to be light – not light in weight but glowing with light, radiant with light, bursting out through every crack in our case. Our deeds must be good. We must want to come into the light; not afraid that our deeds, which will be exposed at this grand final checkpoint, will be anything to be ashamed of. We must live in the truth – in the light of God and his Christ, so it may be seen plainly who we are and that we have walked in the light of God through the journey of life since we gained our passport for the kingdom of God..
My apologies if you have never travelled that far and flown into the airport of a foreign country; never needed a passport and never had the unwelcome experience of going through baggage control. I hope you still get the vision of how this illustrates our journey as Christians and encourages you to make sure you have your second passport with you and have packed your bags very carefully as you have lived the journey of the Christian life.