It is not a habit, but when we are at home and with no commitments in the early evening, our television fare often begins with two programs which we enjoy watching.
One is called “Jeopardy” and the other is called “Wheel of Fortune”. Those two programs seem to be very popular simply because they call upon people who have mastered facts and the English language. I have often wondered why neither of those shows has a question or a puzzle that centers around the topic of “Five Words That Changed the World”.
If you or I were to go out on the street with a microphone and a camera and ask people on the street to go on the record with their guesses as to what five words would change the world, I am convinced they would come up with a great variety in their responses.
I have not done that (yet!), but I am convinced those responses might be everything from “Hey Dad, it’s a boy!” (or girl!) to “Congratulations! You’ve won the lottery!”
But those five words may not always bring good news. If visiting your doctor, the message might be, as a friend of mine recovering from esophageal cancer heard just the other day, “No problem! Everything looks fine!” With those five words, the weight of the heaviest burden for what might have been or could have been was lifted tremendously.
There was a wonderful time of celebration and relaxation rather than a time of worry and doubt.
But on the other hand, those five words might come out like this, “I’m sorry, you’ve contracted coronavirus!” (or another serious disease). Those words indeed may turn our world upside down in a moment’s time.
The fact is that there are five words that can and should change every one of our lives from now on and forever, no matter what our circumstances may be. Those five words are simply, “… God so loved the world …”
Those ARE indeed five words which have changed the world we live in. Whether we accept the basic premise of God or not, those five words are something we cannot doubt. Sometimes people pretend not to believe in God, until something bad happens to them. Then they are very emphatic about believing in Him, simply because they want to blame Him for their malady.
There are others who claim to believe in God as long as things are going well, but when things take a turn for the worse, they then question and doubt and fear for themselves, saying, “Why, God? Why me?”
But the five most grace-filled, most life-changing, most loving words in all of life are these: “God so loved the world.” They acknowledge God as God – there indeed IS Somebody bigger than you and me. He is the Creator, the Sovereign Lord of the universe, and all things are under His control.
These words also acknowledge “the world.” That’s you and me. That is US just the way we are, in all of our glory! These words tell us that God knows us through and through. He knows our ups and downs, our ins and outs. He knows “when we’ve been naughty or nice.”
He is well aware of everything about us – and loves us just the same.
These words acknowledge His love — His self-sacrificing, humiliating, and humbling love.
The Scriptures talk about this love is a very powerful way: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) and even more so about what that meant for Christ, in Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus Himself talked about that kind of love when He challenged His closest friends on the face of the earth, the twelve who spent the last 3 years of His earthly life and ministry with Him 24/7, to “… love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
These words also acknowledge the price that was paid. “God SO loved the world” points to the fact that the price was not cheap. It cost Jesus his life. Jesus died on the cross so that all of your sins can be forgiven.
He challenges you to accept that price as payment in full for your sins and to receive the forgiveness He so abundantly offers. Understand the offer is a free one, but the price was not without tremendously high cost.
The story is told of the fact that the prisons in the Canadian province of Quebec enforce a ban on smoking. With no cigarettes, the inmates have resorted to creative solutions.
In place of tobacco, some use a mixture of tea leaves and residue from the nicotine gum provided to help smokers kick the addiction.
The concoction is rolled up in a page from the Bible. The Bible is used because those pages reportedly burn slower than normal paper.
An inmate named Robert told reporters, “I smoked Matthew. I smoked Mark. I smoked Luke. When I got to John, I read about how God loves me. Now I don’t smoke, because now I am a Christian.”
“God so loved the world.” Five words that changed the world, even more than “No problem! Everything looks fine!” or “Congratulations, you’ve won the lottery!”
Those five words changed Robert’s world. And they will change your world too if you take them to heart.
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.