John 3:16 book

Bryan
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John 3:16 book

Post by Bryan » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:14 am

Matt,
Though I like your idea of keeping the book concise, I hope you won't compromise "function" for "form" too much. If someone won't read a book because it's 60-80 pages, I doubt they'll be enticed by 55 pages.
Just be careful what content gets cut to save pages. But, given what we've had the chance to read already, I'm sure it will turn out great!!

BTW, I'm very intrigued by the idea of the short stories; I wouldn't mind the chance to see a draft or two! ;)

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darinhouston
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by darinhouston » Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:49 am

mattrose wrote: have a couple responses to your thoughts here

a. I see the book as being pretty evangelistic. My main audience is people on the fringes of Christianity or outside of it completely (though I think the book has value for seasoned Christians as well). But, basically, the 'information' in this chapter is intended for an audience that hasn't actually heard or thought about it before. So I agree that it's not 'original' but I wanted to be pretty unoriginal here.
I certainly understand. From my (perhaps unique) perspective, the Trinity and these issues that are supportable but not definitively so and challenging to a non-believer can get in the way of the key message of Jn316 and the gospel message in general. His divinity, deity, Godness, or whatever isn't central to the Gospel. His Lordship and His sacrifice and His and the Father's love is -- that's the point of my recommendation -- to stick to the point and reach the most possible -- people can form their own conclusions about the Trinity after the have accepted Jesus for His Lordship and sacrifice. I do not believe a full Christology is essential to salvation, though a proper view of His Lordship is. Showing a seeker that they can let go of that difficult issue and accept the gospel message can be liberating and perhaps lead more to Christ.

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Bud
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by Bud » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:37 pm

Hi Matt,

You wrote,

"a. I see the book as being pretty evangelistic. My main audience is people on the fringes of Christianity or outside of it completely (though I think the book has value for seasoned Christians as well)."

I like your vision for this book, and the idea for keeping it short (concise).

I like your idea so much that I can see you doing a series of such books. I'm not experienced with publishers but I was thinking they might be more typically in favor of a series of booklets.

Your choice of, John 3:16, being familiar with those "on the fringes" led me to think of suggesting several topics that are also familiar I think with the above folks.

The topics I thought of that might fit are:
Born Again
The Golden Rule
The Lord's Prayer
Psalm 23
The Last Days

Just a thought Matt,
Grace to you!
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard [it,] and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. (NASB) :)

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steve
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by steve » Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:08 pm

And you could guest host for me on "The Narrow Path" from time to time, as a promotion for your series!

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mattrose
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:48 pm

Bryan.... the form vs. function tension is one I try to balance as best as possible, but I am sure I fall off the tightrope from time to time. In general, I think most published books are needlessly long. I have a theory that if you read the first and last chapter of most books, you'll have read what the author actually needed to say.

Darin.... I think it would serve me well to go back through this 'SON' chapter with a mind to make the language a bit less... precise. I am a strong trinitarian (more so than I've ever been), but am open to different trinitarian models. I think trinitarianism is pretty important to this verse in that a unitarian God, in my opinion, could not be essentially loving. It is because is a relationship that God is loving.

Bud.... Thanks for the suggestions. For the 3 that I have in mind, I like this style too. But I may have different audiences in mind for each book. This one is more evangelistic, but the next 2 I have hopes of writing are more in-house debates amongst Christians. I want to write a pop-level version of my thesis paper on the 3 views of hell. But before that I want to write a book on Jesus and violence / Christians and war. The series that I taught on that subject is something I'd really like to share.

Steve.... We'll see if that offer stands after I freeze on-air during Houghton Camp :)

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mattrose
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:50 pm

Chapter 5 BELIEVES

We’ve considered the words GOD, LOVED, WORLD, and SON. God is real and relational… lovingly active. His love is not fickle or frail, but sacrificial in nature. The world is defeated, guilty, broken, lost, and disconnected. God the Father sent the Son into this world. He dealt with all that ailed us. He returned to the Father, leaving a way paved behind him. But until we believe, none of that matters for us.

I remember when I got my first crush. I was a very shy kid, not having nearly enough courage to actually talk to the young girl. Instead, I tried to create a way to get to spend time with her. I befriended her little brother. As time went on, I spent more and more time with her brother and thus her. The plan had worked!

Except for one thing… ever the coward, I still never talked to the girl! The plan had been successful… the way had been cleared. There was nothing preventing me from connecting with her except myself. I even think she liked me back! But opportunity after opportunity passed me by. Epic fail.

We’ve already talked about our problem and God’s plan. The problem is clear. The plan is in place. What’s left is our willingness to let the plan succeed... to walk the beautifully paved path. That’s what the word ‘believes’ is all about. Unfortunately, not everyone recognizes the meaning of the word ‘believes’ in this passage. Too often it is misunderstood or misinterpreted resulting in a mess of doctrinal confusion. So let’s first clear up some debris.

#1 It does NOT mean head knowledge

We are to believe IN Jesus, not THAT Jesus. Christianity is more a way of life and less and set of beliefs. It has more to do with having a warm heart than a cold set of doctrines.

I’m from Western New York State, within an hour of Niagara Falls. As I write this, Niagara Falls has spent some time in the news as of late. A tightrope walker made it from the United States to Canada. His walk was shown on a major television network and was viewed by many, due to its entertainment value.

But even more entertaining, at least to me, are the stories of Charles Blondin, a 19th century man who also wowed the crowds along the Niagara River. The Great Blondin is said to have gone across the gorge in a variety of amusing ways: blindfolded, on stilts, with a wheelbarrow, with breakfast in hand (which he proceeded to cook half-way across!).

Once, Blondin is said to have asked the awe-inspired crowd if they believed he could carry a man across the gorge. Convinced by his previous performances, they all conveyed their confidence. Then he asked for a volunteer. The sound of silence was deafening.

It’s one thing to say you believe. It’s another to actually believe. Actually believing takes action.

Even the demons believe in God, but what good does it do them? Many people claim to believe in God, but there’s little to no actual evidence to support their claim. In John 3:16, ‘believes’ is not merely mental.

#2 It does NOT mean a 1 time decision

The word in John 3:16 is ‘believes.’ It is a present tense term. The idea conveyed by the original Greek is that we are to go on believing. This verse is not primarily about someone believing at a particular moment (for instance, when they say the sinner’s prayer). It is about ongoing believing in Jesus.

One of my major concerns with the church in America is how infatuated we are with getting people to ‘pray the prayer.’ It’s not so much the emphasis on a crisis of conversion that I am worried about, but the fact that discipleship is often not emphasized (or is even de-emphasized). Too many people have been led in the sinner’s prayer only to be left alone to continue in their sinful lifestyles. In a sense, they are actually worse off because now they’re sinners who think they’re saved.

We’re not saved by a prayer, we’re saved by a person. That person is Jesus Christ and that salvation involves a right relationship to Him. The Gospel is not the availability of Jesus to save you at any moment you so choose. The Gospel is the fact that Jesus Christ is savior AND Lord whether you choose to recognize it or not.

If someone prays a prayer to have Jesus save them, but does not go on to submit to Jesus as Lord, are they really saved? Are we allowed to divide Jesus in half, take the Savior part, but throw the LORD part away?

The people who will inherit eternal life are those who go on believing in Jesus Christ.


#3 It does NOT mean a blind leap of faith


There’s a lot one could say about this point, but let me get right to it. In our culture, faith and reason are treated as opposites. Faith is thought of as believing something despite a lack of evidence (or even against the evidence) and reason is thought of as believing something because of the evidence.

If this were the correct way of looking at things, I would surely abandon my Christianity without pause! What good would it do me to believe in a God I was just imagining? What value would there be in trying to base my life around something that was contradicted by everything around and in my life?

In reality (and this was recognized throughout most of history), faith and reason are not enemies, but friends. Christians have reasons for believing in Jesus. We are called to be believing in Jesus, a historical character. Jesus walked the earth at a real time (1st century) and place (the Middle East). He did real miracles (even non-Christian historians remarked about them) and died on a real cross (his enemies gladly verified this). He really rose from the dead and appeared to many (we have eye-witness accounts of those appearances).

Granted, people living today don’t see Jesus walking the earth like he did in the early 1st century, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t evidence that he did just that. There is more evidence for Jesus than for most any other major historical figure. If we insist on absolute proof, we wouldn’t be able to believe anything at all. But if we look at the evidence, we see plenty of reasons to believe in Jesus.

Now that we’ve cleared up the debris (what ‘believes’ does NOT mean), we’re ready to ask a far more important question. It’s the favorite question of my 2 year old daughter… WHY? Why does God want us to believe? Why is it important to God that we presently and continually go on believing? Why did God design salvation to include this component? I offer 3 reasons why believing makes sense.

#1 Believing is Accessible

First, believing is accessible. Suppose God made the human component of salvation skin color. Would that be fair? How about gender? Such criteria would exclude huge portions of humanity from salvation. Believing is something that we may all do with the help of God… and God is the sort of God that loves to help all of us!

People often get confused about the nature of Christianity. They come to the conclusion that it is an exclusive religion and they consider this a point against faith in Christ. Unfortunately, people have often gotten this impression from Christians themselves who make it sound as if they are more special than their non-Christian peers. Jesus was smart to pick them for salvation!

In reality, Christianity is an inclusive faith. Everyone is invited! It is only exclusive in the simple sense that the only way to the Father is through Jesus. But that’s not exclusive in a negative way since God’s desire is that all will be included in ultimate salvation. And since believing is the required response to God’s grace, no one is necessarily excluded.

#2 Believing is Normal

Second, believing is normal. We do ‘faith’ every day whether we realize it or not. Don’t tell them (it may make them mad), but even those people who pit reason against faith utilize faith every day. We have no choice but to live by faith in our daily lives.

Anytime we get behind the wheel we express faith. We believe that the car was built well and won’t spontaneously explode in the street. We believe our mechanic knew what he was doing when he installed our brakes. We believe the roads won’t turn into sinkholes as we drive over them. We believe the other drivers won’t swerve at us just before passing by in the opposite direction (I could go on).

If we didn’t believe these things we wouldn’t go out driving. We’d stay home (though, that just transfers us to a whole new set of things to believe in). We obviously do believe we’ll make it home safely when we leave our driveways or we wouldn’t leave at all.

All of this despite the fact that we can’t be absolutely certain all of our beliefs are true. We simply have good reasons to believe them to be true and that’s enough. We consider driving to be worth the risk.

Christianity is not so different from this. We have good reasons to believe it is true. We can’t absolutely prove it, but we consider living it out to be worth the risk. We haven’t made it home quite yet, so we don’t speak with absolute certainty. We believe. I actually think that I have better reasons to believe in Jesus than to believe I’ll make it home from work.

#3 Believing is Better

Third, believing is better. Sorry about that last page. I didn’t mean to scare you. Noting everything that could go wrong on the road was simply a way of saying that we live by faith every day. Actually, if we think a little bit more about the nature of believing, we’ll realize that it’s better that God set the world up in this way.

To make this point, let’s switch to a marriage illustration. I married my wife Katie on the very last day of 2008. In the wedding ceremony, we made promises to each other. We promised to love each other through thick and thin… no matter what. As I write this, we’ve been doing just that for almost 4 years now.

Of course, we haven’t always agreed with each other. But I still prefer the real Katie to a robot version of her that would always agree with me about everything. Why? The reason is obvious. Freedom and spontaneity… risk and response-ability… are pivotal to a real relationship. Our promises would mean nothing if it turned out that she had no choice but to keep them. If you’re going to have a genuine and loving relationship with your spouse, both of you need to freely choose that relationship.

When we’re thinking clearly, we would have it no other way. Having a free and faith-full relationship is way better than having a pre-programmed robot, even though the former includes more risk than the latter.

Believing in someone is actually better than absolute certainty about them if the cost of that certainty is the possibility of real relationship.

Believing in John 3:16

So the plan is in place. A messed-up world has been loved by God. In Jesus, our heavenly father has gracefully made a way for us to be re-connected to Him. Our part is simply to believe in Jesus.

Believing is not about agreeing with your head that Jesus is the way, it is about agreeing with your feet. Believing is about following Jesus wherever he leads you.

Believing is not about praying a prayer and then getting back to life as usual. It’s not just a way to avoid going to hell when you die. Praying the prayer to become a Christian is just the beginning.

Believing is not the opposite of thinking reasonably. There are reasons to believe in the Christian faith. Believing is going beyond mere intellectual thought toward the realm of relationship.

Because God is so gracious, we have opportunity to believe in Jesus and be re-connected to the very source of life. John 3:16 says that any and all who believe and go on believing in Jesus Christ will not perish. They have eternal life. The relationship will not die out. It will only grow.

If you’re not yet a Christian, what is preventing you from believing in Jesus Christ right now? It’s just a matter of starting a relationship. God’s plan is in place. The way has been paved. The only hurdle left is you. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by. To do so would be to remain cut off from your only hope.

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Bud
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by Bud » Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:38 pm

Way to go Matt, that chapter left me hopeful for its readers :)
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard [it,] and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. (NASB) :)

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darinhouston
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by darinhouston » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:46 pm

mattrose wrote:Darin.... I think it would serve me well to go back through this 'SON' chapter with a mind to make the language a bit less... precise. I am a strong trinitarian (more so than I've ever been), but am open to different trinitarian models. I think trinitarianism is pretty important to this verse in that a unitarian God, in my opinion, could not be essentially loving. It is because is a relationship that God is loving.
Looking forward to reading this chapter but (hopefully not departing too much from this thread) could a binitarian God be essentially loving?

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mattrose
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:57 pm

darinhouston wrote:could a binitarian God be essentially loving?
I don't see why not

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mattrose
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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Tue Dec 11, 2012 5:45 pm

Chapter 6 PERISH

Who wants to ponder the word perish?

In the first half of John 3:16, there is a negative component (World) surrounded by positive ones (God, Loved, Gave, Son). In the second half of John 3:16 we find the same thing. There is a negative word (Perish) surrounded by positives ones (Believes, Eternal, Life).

Without the word ‘World,’ the first half of John 3:16 would leave us with a lot of questions. Who did God love? Why did the Father have to send the Son? Likewise, without the word “Perish,’ we’d be left scratching our heads, wondering what happens to those who don’t believe.

The word perish is intended, here, to help us understand the fate of those who reject believing in Jesus Christ. It is a contrasting fate. It is in contrast to ‘Eternal Life,’ which we will consider next.

I suggest that, at face value, this contrast tells us that such people will not live eternally, while those that do believe will live eternally. I also suggest that we should take this contrast at face value.

Since that is not the traditional Christian position, perhaps the burden of proof lies with me. Below we will examine the biblical case for what I will call the ‘Eventual Extinction’ view of the fate of the wicked. I think this view fits best with what we’ve learned so far.

The Fate of the Wicked

There are essentially 3 main views held by Christians regarding the fate of the wicked:

View #1 The wicked face everlasting misery
View #2 The wicked face eventual restoration
View #3 The wicked face eventual extinction

Defenders of view #1 usually insist that the word ‘perish’ in John 3:16 means to be ruined rather than to become extinct, but they don’t provide much evidence for why it should be understood this way in this passage. It seems to me that their insistence has more to do with the fact that they’ve already concluded that view #1 is correct and less to do with what the verse actually says.

Defenders of view #2 generally emphasize the word ‘loved’ in John 3:16 and allow that emphasis to force a reinterpretation of the plain meaning of perish. For them, the thing that perishes is the wickedness, but the individuals themselves survive and are restored to God. Eventually everyone will believe and receive eternal life. Clearly, this understanding of ‘perish’ is brought in because of a previous commitment, not because it just jumps off the page.

What if the only verse we had in the Bible was John 3:16. If that were the case, what do you think Christians would believe about the fate of the wicked? I think it would be view #3. That being said, John 3:16 is not the only verse in the Bible. We must ask the question of whether or not this view has support throughout the Scriptures. I aim to show that it does.

Old Testament Support


Some claim that the Old Testament says little to nothing about Hell. That is technically true, as the word hell doesn’t occur in the Old Testament (at least in most translations). That being said, the fate of the wicked is discussed quite regularly on the pages of the Old Testament.

In Genesis, God announced that the result of sin was certain death (no warning of everlasting misery). In the flood, everyone perished (and that meant they died). The citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The curse for disobedience, as described in Deuteronomy, was eventual extinction. The wicked would have their names blotted out, seemingly suggesting that they would cease to exist.

A key passage is the end of Isaiah 66. Some think it speaks of everlasting misery because it mentions undying worms and unquenchable fire. But if you read closely, you find that the wicked people exist as dead bodies, not miserable men and women. Over and over through the mouths of the prophets God says the wicked will be ‘as if they had never been,’ ‘consumed,’ ‘ashes.’ They will ‘pass away’ and come to a ‘sudden end.’

In the Psalms and Proverbs these themes continue. Psalm 37, alone, says that the wicked will ‘wither,’ ‘die away,’ ‘be cut off,’ ‘be no more,’ ‘not be found,’ ‘perish,’ ‘vanish,’ ‘be destroyed,’ and futureless. Elsewhere, it says the wicked will ‘melt,’ and be blotted out of the book of life (wouldn’t that indicate they are no longer living?)

New Testament Support


It seems to me that the Old Testament has plenty to say about the fate of the wicked. Their fate isn’t good. It sounds like they will cease to be among the living. When we turn to the New Testament, we find a lot of similar language to what we have already seen.

In the Gospels and Acts we are told that the wicked will be burnt up like chaff. Jesus says we should fear God who is able to ‘destroy both body and soul in hell.’ In the 4th Gospel we run into the word perish. In Acts they are said to be ‘completely cut off.’

How about Paul’s writings? Paul famously says that the wages of sin is death. He describes the destiny of the wicked as destruction. He also states that God alone is immortal. In other words, if we want to share in God’s immortality, we better be rightly connected to the source of immortality.

The rest of the New Testament continues in like manner. The author of Hebrews describes Hell as a raging fire that will consume the wicked. James says there are sins that give birth to death. 2 Peter says that the wicked will perish like the beasts and describes the Day of Judgment as a day of destruction. Revelation states that the fate of the wicked is a second death.

So is there biblical evidence that points to the extinction view? Clearly the answer to that question is yes. Perhaps a better question is whether or not there is biblical evidence used to support the other 2 views. Surely this is a subject worthy of further study.

Counter Evidence

Truth be told, there are some passages in the Bible that would seem, at least initially, to support view #1 and view #2 over and against view #3. This book is not intended as a debate about the nature of Hell, but I will summarize my personal findings.

In my experience, there are only a handful of passages that view #1 and view #2 use as primary support of their claims. I have examined these passages in some of my other writings. Revelation 14:11 (seemingly in support of view #1) is the only one that doesn’t readily lend itself to a better interpretation, in my opinion. But even if I’m left with this one passage that seems to support view #1, is that enough to outweigh the many passages I referred to throughout the Bible that seem to best support the extinction view? Should I really build my doctrine of Hell primarily from a couple lines from the most symbolic book of the Bible? As for view #3, it seems to me we can remain hopeful that the wicked will repent post-death and be restored, but given the relational nature of salvation, we can hardly guarantee it.

If God alone is immortal (as the Bible says), then we are left with two choices: Either God actively keeps the wicked alive forever to be tormented or, cut-off from the source of life, they eventually cease to experience life. Which alternative sounds more like the God we’ve been talking about in this book?

Does John 3:16 paint the picture of an angry vindictive God or a loving sacrificing God? Does it describe the world as a bunch of immortal souls or a bunch of frail creatures needing to get plugged back in to the source of life? Does it say ‘that whoever believes will not experience eternal misery, but eternal life?’ Or does it make it sound like believing is a matter of life or death?

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