If you go back to the Old Testament and read the blueprints of the tabernacle, you’ll see that God laid it out for Moses to place inside the Holy Place a Holy of Holies measuring 10 cubits x 10 cubits x 10 cubits. That’s 15 feet x 15 feet x 15 feet. It was a perfect cube. When you come to Solomon’s temple, Solomon built the Holy of Holies 30 feet x 30 feet x 30 feet. It was a perfect cube. When you come to Revelation 21, John sees the New Jerusalem coming down. He sees it as a city 1500 miles x 1500 miles x 1500 miles--a perfect cube. In that cube of the Holy of Holies, in the tabernacle, in the temple, and eventually the New Jerusalem, that perfect cube will constantly remind us of the breadth of God’s love, the length of God’s love, the depth of God’s love, and the height of God’s love.
The interesting thing is that in the Old Testament, when you come to the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and in the temple, there is no light. That seven-tined gold menorah sits in the Holy Place on the other side of the veil, and the only piece of furniture in the Holy of Holies is the Arc of the Covenant covered with the Mercy Seat. There is no light. In fact, the only light that ever comes into the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle or the temple itself is when the Shekinah glory of God comes down and manifests itself. You’re going to have that in the New Jerusalem. In Revelation 21, John writes that there is no need for a sun or a moon because the glory of God is its light and the lamp is the Lamb. It is going to dispel the darkness. The glory of God dispels the darkness that man lives in.
In John 3:16, Nicodemus comes by night. That darkness speaks not only of the time of day, but it speaks of the darkness of his spirit. Jesus has already shown him that the darkness of legalism has hidden from him the truth of God’s Word. It also has hidden from him the truth of God’s salvation. Now Jesus is ready to dispel the darkness of Nicodemus with the light of God’s love. Look at John 3:16. I could take 30 minutes and talk in superlatives about this verse, but it really would not get at the heart of what’s going on. I want you to see how Jesus Christ, with this man, at night, in the darkness, in the shadows, begins to dispel this darkness in his life with the light of God’s love. I’ve shared with you everything up to this point, and now I’m going to show you four things that deal with the love of God. First of all is the breadth of God’s love. Listen to what Jesus says in John 33:16. “For...”
Stop right there. You know me. I love to just get in one verse and stay there. What is that conjunction there for? “For...” It goes back to verse 15 where Jesus said, “...so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”
For! Or, because! That eternal life comes because of the breadth of God’s love, because God so loved the world. That’s the breadth of His love right there! You look at that little word “love.” You’ve heard it, you’ve used it, you’ve spoken of it, and you’ve listened to preachers preach about it. You know the Greek word, agape. It’s that highest form of love in the Greek language, the most expressive language ever used or spoken by man. That Greek language is the highest form of love that’s used in that expressive language. I’ve read before that there are more than 30 different words for ‘love’ in the Greek, different words that describe the various different types of love, but agape is the highest form. In fact, the writers of the New Testament through the Holy Spirit reach down into this incredible language, lift this word up, and use it to express the kind of love that God has for mankind, that Jesus Christ has for mankind. It’s the kind of love that says I don’t care about who you are or how pretty you are or how popular you are. I choose to love you. That’s the kind of love it is. I choose to love you. It is a choice that I make. We love Him because He first loved us. He chose to love us. It’s the kind of love that says I love you and care more about you than I do about Myself. That’s why Jesus Christ would go to a cross. Because God looked at us and said, I love you so much, I am willing to die for you. It’s the kind of love that you and I really cannot grasp. The only way you can come close to it is the way you love your children or the way you love your grandkids. That’s as close as you can get, and it’s still not exactly what that love is. Jesus looks at us and says, if you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children... Now here I am, an imperfect, fallen sinner, and yet I love my children enough to do all kinds of things for them, to never harm them or hurt them. I love them to that point, yet, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
Archeologists uncovered a tombstone out of the first Christian century. A little boy had died and the mother had inscribed on his tombstone, “O How I Loved Him!” That’s the closest thing we can get to it. He comes and says that God so loved. Now, look at the object of His love. It is the world. What does He mean when He says the world? What’s He talking about when He uses that word, world? Is He talking about the earth, the universe, the galaxy? What’s He referring to? Well, I don’t think so. In fact, let me show you something. John writes the Gospel of John, I think, late in his life. Then he writes the epistles of John, and then he writes the book of Revelation.
Go with me to I John 2. John is writing this. All three of these fit, really, together. It’s amazing how they fit together. I John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
When John writes back here the words of our Lord and says, “For God so loved...”…and the object of His love is the world, I don’t think He’s talking about the terra firma or the galaxy or the universe. He’s talking about the human race. He’s talking about us! God so loved humans, man and woman, the entire human race. Not a section of the human race, but the entire human race. God so loved humans, in their rebellion, in their sin, in their apathy, and in their indifference toward Him. God so loved man even when man is rejecting Him. That’s the breadth of His love!
You know, people love to ask this question: Would God have saved Adolf Hitler? Could Adolf Hitler have been saved? Well, sure he could have! Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, or any other folks you want to dredge up out of history, because the Bible says, “For God so loved the world...”
You know, I can’t imagine anything that any one of my children would do that would cause me to stop loving them, and I am an imperfect parent! How much more a loving, heavenly, sovereign God loves the people that He created! As backward, as wayward, as rebellious, as sinful as we are! In fact, Paul writes about this in Romans 5:8 when he says God demonstrated His love toward us! Verse 8 says, “In that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us...”
He demonstrated it--His love for us. That’s the breadth of the love of God.
Let me show you the second thing. The second thing is the length of His love. Now watch this in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world...”
Here’s the length that he gave. He gave! Somebody said, and I think rightly so, that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. I want to tell you something, folks, and this is just the testimony of my life. I love God, and I want to give every time I can give! I don’t get caught up in the controversy of whether tithing is taught in the New Testament. I want to do more under the grace of Jesus Christ than the law expects out of me because I love Him! I want to give!
I don’t know if you’ve ever read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. He talks about the five love languages in a marriage. There are five different things he talks about and one of those happens to be gifts. That happens to be part of my love language. Debbie’s love language is acts of service. Acts of service! It just hit me! It’s acts of service. That’s her love language. So tonight, you know, if I wanted just to express my love to her, I’d just go home, break the door, and repair it. She loves that! If half the house would fall away and I got a hammer and went back out and put it back together, she’d just be thrilled! Pull the vacuum cleaner out and she’s as happy as she can be with me vacuuming because that’s her love language. Gifts happen to be mine. I love to give gifts. That’s the way I express. Everybody expresses their love in one of those five ways. God expressed His love in giving. He loved us so much that He gave. Well, what did He give? He gave. Monogene is the Greek word. It means His only begotten Son.
Let me tell you something about that little word monogenes. You won’t catch this in English. That’s why you’ve got to dig around in the etymology of the word and study it a little bit. The word means not just His one and only Son, but it means His one-of-a-kind Son. That’s what He’s saying. He gave His one-and-only, one-of-a-kind Son. That’s what He gave! There was nothing else to give beyond that. He gave it all when He gave His Son, His only begotten, one-of-a-kind. There is nobody like Jesus Christ! There is no one like Jesus Christ! Deepak Chopra can write his books about the third Christ, and because I assume one day that thing is going to make money, he’s going to write about the fourth Christ. Let me tell you something. There’s not a second or third or fourth or fifth Christ. There’s only one Jesus Christ! Only one! There is none other like Him. Buddha can’t come close. Krishna can’t come close. Allah can’t come close. There’s only one Jesus! One Jesus. And God gave Him. God gave Him!
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten. That’s an interesting word. I could almost take you back to 325 when Constantine called together the church fathers. Two hundred twenty of them came to a place called Nicea. It’s called the Council of Nicea. He called them together because there was a bishop by the name of Arius who was saying that begotten meant that God had created Jesus. I don’t want you to ever think or understand that! God did not create Jesus Christ! He is the begotten of the Father, and begotten does not mean God-created. Now, I take time with this, because it is so important. I want to tell you something. Millions of people around the world have read Dan Brown’s book and they think they understand the Council of Nicea. Dan Brown hasn’t got a clue! They did not vote and decide to make Jesus God at that council. They recognized that Jesus was Homoousios. Homo-same. Oousios-substance. He’s the same substance as the Father, which means if God the Father is eternal, Jesus Christ is eternal. God the Father is divine, so Jesus Christ is divine. God the Father is Lord, so Jesus Christ is Lord. God the Father is omnipotent, so Jesus Christ is omnipotent. God the Father is omniscient, so Jesus Christ is omniscient. Anything you can say about the Father is true of the Son. I and the Father are One! Same substance! So Jesus Christ comes because the Father gives everything He’s got to give.
I want you to think about that for just a moment because the phrase, “He gave His only begotten Son,” relates to verse 14. God gave His Son for what? To come and have a summit? To come and have a debate? To come and have a conversation? God gave His one and only, one-of-a-kind Son for what? It goes back to verse 14. It’s what Jesus said there. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
Do you understand what Jesus is saying? This is where folks like Dan Brown just get off into never-never land. They have no clue about this. You’ve got lost people writing about Spiritual things that they have no clue about. So they will come and say, well, the church had to get together and do something, so they had to vote and make Jesus God, and they came up with all this stuff. Do you understand Jesus Christ was talking about this before His death? He was saying He understood where he came from! He knew where He came from and knew where He was going. He knew that He was going to be crucified. He knew that He would be raised again. So, He comes and says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness...”
“…That God gave His only begotten Son.” Do you know what He’s saying here? Who drove the crucifixion? You say, well, the Romans drove the nails in His hands. Yeah. The Jews drove the Romans. Yeah. But God drove the situation.
Let me show you something. Look at Acts 2. Right in the middle of Peter’s sermon, I want you to listen to what he says in Acts 2:22-23. “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourself know – this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
Who was behind it all? God the Father gave it all! I racked my brain this afternoon thinking, “How can I explain this?” Going back over this, looking over this, poring over this, praying over this, but how do you explain this? Warren Buffet is the richest man in the world. I don’t know what he’s worth. Let’s say fifty billion. Who knows? Say fifty billion bucks. I don’t know if he has any children. I don’t have a clue. Let’s say he has a son or grandson. Just say he has a son and the son was kidnapped and the price was fifty billion dollars. Warren Buffet goes and liquidates everything tomorrow morning. He liquidates everything he’s got--every home, every car, every stock he’s got, all of his businesses, and all of his enterprises. He liquidates everything he’s got down to the shirt off his back. He hands them fifty billion dollars in cash and says that’s it. I have no more. I’ve emptied everything I’ve got. That doesn’t even begin to touch what God emptied out of heaven’s treasure so that you and I could be saved. He gave it, and when He gave it, He didn’t give 10 percent. He gave all of it! He gave His only begotten Son! That’s the length of His love.
Watch this because I want you to see the depth of His love. We come to that next phrase. “...that whoever...”
Do you see that?
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was so sufficient that whoever—whoever believes on Him shall not perish. That’s the sufficiency of the death of Christ. Whoever! That’s twice now Jesus has said this. He said it in verse 15. “...so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”
In verse 16 “…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish.”
He says it to the positive one way, and then He says it to the negative the next way, before He flips it back to the positive. The whoever is anybody, folks! The whoever is anyone who will come and put their faith and trust in Him. Whoever--look at this--believes. In the Gospel of John, the word, ‘believe,’ is always a verb and never used in the nominal case. It’s always a verb. It’s always action. This is what Jesus is saying. Whoever can come and believe, put their trust, and put their faith in what the Son of Man has done for him on the cross. What that means is simply this: I come before God and I agree with God. I can’t save myself. I agree with God. I’m lost. I’m helpless. Apart from Jesus Christ, there is nothing I can do, and I come and agree with God. God, I’m a sinner. I’m lost. I can’t save myself. I am helpless. Apart from you there is nothing I can do! So I come to Him and say, God, I place my trust in You. I believe Your Word about my life. I believe Your Word about Your life. I believe that You are the Son of God who came to die on a cross so that my sins can be forgiven and I can receive the free gift of eternal life. That’s what He’s saying.
That’s the problem with mankind. That’s the whole issue. Man doesn’t want to admit that. You’ve got this rabbi, this theolog, this teacher, this ruler of the Jews in the darkness and shadows, and Jesus says, in John 3:19, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come...”
Do you know, Nicodemus? You’re out here in the darkness. You don’t want anybody to see you. You want to remain anonymous. You want to stay in the shadows. You want to stay in the darkness. Why? Because there’s too much pride for you to step forward and say, you are right! Legalism has blinded me to Scripture. It’s blinded me to salvation. You’re right! I’m a sinner and I can’t save myself. That’s why none of the other Pharisees came to him. That’s why none of the other Sadducees, none of the Sanhedrin came to him. They would rather live in the darkness of pride and say I will not admit I’m wrong! I will not admit that I am a sinner. I will not be embarrassed in front of mankind. Jesus says, if that’s so, there’s no hope for you.
I want to say this as lovingly as I can possibly say it, as pastorally as I can possibly say it. If you die without believing in Jesus Christ, you will go to hell. That’s not popular. That doesn’t fill up churches. That doesn’t endear me to people’s hearts. But that is the truth of God’s Word! Jesus says that whoever believes in Him shall not perish. That means death! Not physical death. It’s what Revelation... Now who writes Revelation? The same guy that’s writing this! In Revelation, he talks about the second death, the spiritual death. He says, Nicodemus, you’ve come out here under the cover of darkness. You’re standing in the shadows, you’re talking to me, and I’m now shedding on you, showing you the Light of the love of God the Father. Don’t turn away and go back into the darkness!
May 13, 1939. It was an ugly, ugly moment in American history. Nine hundred thirty-seven Jews boarded the SS St. Louis in Hamburg, Germany. You have to know what’s going on in Germany at this time. Just a few months before, on November 9-10, 1938, SS troops, the Gestapo, and the Hitler youth went through Germany and Austria in what is known as kristallnacht (crystal night) or the night of shattered glass. They shattered the glass in Jewish synagogues all over Germany and Austria. They shattered the glass of the storefront windows owned by Jews and set many of them on fire. In those two nights, they rounded up 25,000-30,000 Jews and put them in concentration camps. By May of 1939, Jews were looking for anywhere they could go to get out of Nazi Germany and Austria. So, 937 Jews got on the SS St. Louis and headed for Havana because Havana, at that time, was not a communist country, and they agreed to allow these Jews to emigrate. The Jews get to Havana, but Cuba will not let them come in. They sit there in the port of Havana and decide they’re going to come to the United States. They come up the Atlantic coast to Miami and they sit there. The Jews--I’ve seen pictures of them looking out of the portals of the ship--are looking at America. They see the land of freedom. They see the land of liberty. They can see the lights of Miami, but the United States turns them away because we were coming out of a depression and we wouldn’t take any immigrants. We can barely take care of our own people, they said, so we won’t let you in. The ship goes back to Europe. There are estimates that 90% of those Jews on the SS St. Louis that had been within eyeshot of Miami, Florida died in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. They were that close!
Nicodemus, you’re that close to truth! You’re that close to salvation! Don’t turn and go back out into the darkness.
There’s somebody here tonight and you’re listening to me. I want to tell you something. Don’t walk out of this place without having settled the issue of your eternity and giving your life to Jesus Christ! That’s the depth of His love! He will not turn you away. I don’t care what you’ve done! It makes no difference who you are! Whosoever will! If you come to Jesus Christ, He’ll accept you. Maybe your wife won’t accept you. Maybe your husband won’t accept you. Maybe parents won’t accept you. Maybe your children, teenagers, young people, or people that your children married won’t accept you. Maybe some denominations won’t accept you. Maybe some churches have not accepted you, but I want to tell you something. If you come to Jesus, He will never turn you away. That’s the depth of His love!
Now look at the height of His love. It’s that last phrase, but it’s a conjunction. It ties this together. He won’t turn you away. You will not perish. Listen, it’s not enough not to perish! He gives you eternal life on top of it! You know, that’s the great word here in this text. He gives you eternal life.
Go to Revelation 21 with me. John is talking about heaven. Let me tell you something, folks. You need to read this chapter carefully if you want to get a grasp of what eternity and your future is, because there’s a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. When we die and move into eternity, we’re not only just going to get a heaven. We’re going to get a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. He describes that new Jerusalem, as I shared with you at the beginning, as 1500 miles x 1500 miles x 1500 miles. Nobody has ever seen a city like that! It’s a walled city. Nobody has ever seen a land mass like that. Just stop and think about it. That’s the distance from the Appalachian Mountains to the coast of California. A city that large! A city! It’s the distance from Canada to Mexico. It’s 40 times larger than England. It’s 10 times larger than France. It’s larger than the nation of India.
I want you to listen to something. Max Lucado writes and says, “Supposing God stacks floors in His metropolis as an architect would in a building, the city would have over 600,000 stories, ample space for billions of people to come and go.”
That’s mind-boggling. Let me tell you something. They come and go! Listen to Revelation 21:25. “In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed.”
Do you know why? Why do you close gates on a city? You close them to keep the enemy out. There will be no enemy! There will be nobody to threaten you! There will be nobody to harm you! There will be no need to shut a gate because you will never know fear again! Not only that, but listen to Revelation 21:27. “...and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it...”
No snake is ever going to sneak in the way he got in the Garden of Eden. We’ll be free of Satan forever! Can you stop and think of all the things of which Satan has robbed you? Satan has robbed some of you of family. He’s robbed some of you of marriage. He’s robbed some of you of a dream. He’s robbed some of you of a vision. He’s robbed some of you of a relationship. He’s robbed some of you of years. He’s robbed some of you of joy. He’s robbed some of you of happiness. He’s robbed some of you of satisfaction. He’s robbed some of you of peace. Just think of all the things of which Satan has robbed us. We never, ever, in that city foursquare, ever have to worry of Satan again! I’ll never be tempted to sin against my Lord. I’ll never be seduced to walk away from my Jesus. I’ll never have my flesh pull on me to lure me into something that I know creates guilt and conflict and confusion in my life. Man, just think of that! No more boredom. No more tediousness. No more wasted days. No more wasted life. None of that! Can you just imagine what that’s going to be like? If we believe in Him, we will not perish, and that’s enough in itself! But, He gives us this great eternal life in this new heaven and this new earth and in that New Jerusalem.
You know, you’re good people. I had a family come through the reception line today who said, “We’re visiting here and we’ve never been in a church this friendly. We’ve had more people speak to us. We’ve had more people ask us if they could help us get somewhere, if they could direct us or assist us.”
They went on and on and on, and I thought, that’s the church! That’s just the church here! People look at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville and think it’s too big! I couldn’t dare get in there! There’s so many folks and it’s so big and this and that and the other. You know, I think of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville as a country church on steroids. It’s a friendly church. It’s a warm congregation. That’s why pastors love to come here. They can hear all these speakers somewhere else, but they come here because they’re mesmerized with how sweet the fellowship is! That’s to be guarded! That’s not to be taken for granted. That’s to be worked at every time we gather. You’ve been so sweet and so good to us and our family.
When Debbie’s dog was killed during the Pastors’ Conference, many of you sent notes and cards and emails. Several of you sent emails and I’m also asked this question from time to time. Will dogs be in heaven? Well, Disney says all dogs go to heaven, so in Florida that’s the gospel, right? I thought about this. We were talking about it the other night and Dave made the comment to me. Well, Dr. Lindsay said that, if it makes you happy, it’s going to be there. Whatever makes you happy, and I’m not going to argue with that because Dr. Lindsay Jr. said it. So, whatever makes you happy, whatever it is, will be there.
What is heaven going to be like? I don’t know that we can describe it. John tried to and he gives us this amazing picture, but let me tell you something. It is human language in an attempt to describe what Paul says is not lawful to even talk about. What is heaven? I’ll give you my best shot. What’s it going to take to make you happy, to make every moment satisfying, to make every moment fulfilling, to make every moment thrilling, and to make every moment exciting? What’s it going to take in heaven to do that?
I have a study. I’ve done this my entire ministry. I’ve had a study in the home. I have a study upstairs. One reason why we built the house we built was because it gave me a large enough study that I could house the library. I have about 8,000 volumes in my library. I’ve got most of them down here, but about 3,000 there at the house. I get up in the morning at 5:00 or 5:30 am. That’s just my time. It’s not that I’m holy. That’s just when I get up, when I wake up. That’s my most productive time. I don’t have to shower and put on clothes and come down to the office. I can just throw on a T-shirt, walk up to my study, and sit down. So I walked up to the study this past week thinking about this, just with this on my mind. I sat down and, you know, it’s been cold in Florida. This has been the coldest winter on record. It was cold this week and Miss Debbie will not turn a heater up above 67 in the house. So, I’m sitting there in the study working and it’s cold! I’m just chilly.
The sun comes up and it gets to be about 10:00 am. I’ve got shutters just on one window. I’ve got my computer here, my desk here, and the window is here, so I reach over and pull one of the shutters open. The sun, well, it’s just absolutely beautiful. Is it not just great to wake up in Florida? Amen? Amen! And smell that Maxwell House coffee! Good night in the morning! What a city! There’s not a cloud in the sky and that sun is just coming through that window. I turn around. About 10:00 am or 10:30 am that sun is just streaming, just pouring in, so I flip around, put my feet up on the windowsill, and just lean back in that chair. I rock back. That sun is just pouring in and I’m just warmed by the sun. I mean, I’m just warm all over. I don’t have any socks or shoes on. And you say, that may be why you’re cold! Well, I mean my little feet get warm and my face gets warm. I’m just rocked back in that chair with the sun pouring in. I drift out into that little twilight. You know where it is? It gets good. Some of you all are there right now. I’m in the twilight. No vampires there in the twilight. I’m in heaven’s twilight. I’m just pulled back right there. The sun is streaming in and it just hits me in the midst of being half awake and half asleep, warmed by the glow of the sun. I think to myself, I will need nothing in heaven besides Jesus, because for eternity I will bask in the glow of His glory.
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