by Patrick Hawthorne
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
From an early age, John 3:16 captured my heart as the infallible proof that God so dearly loved me that He, through our Lord Jesus Christ, was willing to pay sins debt on my behalf. Better yet, not only was this promise of eternal life for me alone, but was for all the, “Whosoever’s” of the world. It was the staple of my belief system, a cord that bound me to the fact that God was not willing that any should perish but that all could have eternal life. This verse kept me focused; it kept me grounded. Yet, over time the cord began to loosen… its hold weakening.
What happened? The more I focused my attention on the prophetic word, in light of the world’s current condition, the more I allowed the irrationality of the world to skew my thinking. Bit by bit, John 3:16 became (to me) a verse that applied only to those whose sins were of a nature that did not violate my sense of reasonableness. Surely, according to my progressive thinking, this verse could not apply to the heartless killer or terrorist. Nor could it apply to child molesters, rapist, or calloused thugs in general.
No longer was I viewing the world through the eyes of a loving Father, but was viewing the world through the spots and blemishes of mankind. My thoughts had turned so negative against the faults of this world that I elected to walk away from studying Bible prophecy for almost twenty years.
One day, however, that all changed; I had a supernatural encounter with God’s grace. It all began when I heard a sermon on Titus 2:11-12. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age.” For the better part of a year, the Holy Spirit taught me the message of God’s grace. Rather quickly, He began to melt the bitterness that had encased my heart for so many years.
Grace is a teacher. As such, grace does not expect sudden perfection, but empowers us so that we may walk slow and steady towards a life of holiness. Furthermore, grace empowers us to begin seeing things from a new perspective, i.e., God’s perspective. That is exactly what happened with me.
If God could teach me, a once hopeless sinner, to work towards a life free of ungodliness and worldly lusts, who was I to question whether or not He could not teach someone else? Likewise, if He could turn the stony heart of a ruthless religious killer by the name of Saul to the fleshy and loving heart of the great Apostle Paul, who was I to think that any of the modern day terrorist are beyond His reach? I can’t, and neither should you.
If this post speaks to you, please accept the following advice. Before beginning any Bible study, invite the Holy Spirit to show you the Word through the eyes of our Father. Ask for His help to keep you firmly rooted and grounded in accordance with His Word. If you do, you will once again see the, “Whosoever’s” of mankind. Be blessed.
Note: This is a revisit of an earlier post. Now that I’m immersing myself in Bible prophecy, it is more important than ever that I heed my own advice.