We flew to from Chennai, India to Bangkok, Thailand, and then took another flight from there to Nakhon Phanom. As providence would have it, we arrived in time to take part in a combined worship service of the newly organized conference of churches, of which our church is a part. Missionary John Middlewood had asked me a few weeks ago to prepare a short talk, and I had sent it to him to write up a translation, so he read from the translation after each sentence or two. This was not the first time I preached with an interpreter, but I think it might be the first time that we both had manuscripts.
Here is what I said:
“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NET).
Brother John asked me to share with you a few weeks ago, and I was eager to do so. But when I began preparing for this short talk, I wondered what I could say in just a few short minutes that would be significant. We only have a short time in this life. We should not waste it.
I finally decided to talk about the gospel message, and to use a very familiar scripture: John 3:16. I know you have all heard the words before. I don’t want to teach you something that is new. I would rather encourage you by focusing on the things we all know are true.
First, I want to remind you that God loves the world he created. He has never stopped loving us. Just as a father never stops loving his child, God never stops loving us. The Lord has blessed me with three children, and now four grandchildren. The older I get, the more I take delight in my children and grandchildren. I cannot imagine anything that would keep me from loving them. If anything, my love for them grows the more I get to know them.
God is the same way. Even though sin has changed this planet, God still loves it, and has a plan for it. He wants to renew and transform this world. He wants human beings to inherit that renewed earth. He wants to keep knowing and loving people for eternity in that renewed earth. But sin had to be dealt with before the renewal could take place.
That is why God lovingly gave his only Son. Jesus is the only person qualified to take care of our sin problem. The ancient Greeks used a fish as a symbol for Jesus. Their word for fish is pronounced ichthus, and it spells out an acrostic that stands for the words “Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Savior.” Many Christians today still use this symbol to remind them of Jesus. He alone could rescue our planet and its people.
But saving the world required that Jesus go to the cross, and die as our substitute. The wages of sin is death, so Jesus willingly allowed himself to die, even though he had not sinned. The Bible teaches that Jesus made peace by the blood of his cross. His death bought us another chance to live. Jesus was raised from the dead, never to die again.
Jesus offers us eternal life. One day he will come again, and all people will stand before him as judge. He will determine who lives forever, and who will perish forever. All he asks is that we believe in him. If we choose to reject him, he will be forced to reject us. If we dare to believe in him today, he will accept us into his eternal kingdom tomorrow.
Some Christians have been called to go to the ends of the earth to share this gospel message of eternal life. Others are called to go home and share this good news to their families and friends. All of us have been challenged by Jesus to make disciples for him wherever we are, and wherever we go.
LORD Jesus, thank you for showing your love to us by dying on the cross to save us from eternal death. Thank you for the promise of eternal, resurrection life. Remind us to take advantage of the time you give us for sharing the gospel. Forgive us for all the time we have wasted in other pursuits. Show us new and effective ways that we can share your gospel to our neighbors who do not yet know you.
 Colossians 1:20.