The Cross Says God Loves YOU

Bible Book: John  3 : 16
Subject: God's Love; Salvation; Cross; Nicodemus; Serpent of a Pole

The Cross Says God Loves You

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

John 3:16

A number of years ago the eclectic songwriter and singer Tom Waites, and his wife Brennen, wrote a song entitled, “Georgia Lee.” The song repeats numerous times the following words:

“Why wasn’t God watching,

Why wasn’t God listening,

Why wasn’t God there for Georgia Lee?”

The song is about a young girl named Georgia Lee Moses, an African American teen who lived in California. Her body was found just off highway 101 outside San Francisco in a grove of trees.

Another line in the song is, “Cold was the night and hard was the ground,” speaking of where they found the dead girl. That line was borrowed from an old blues song by Blind Willie Johnson. Ironically, Johnson used those words in a song about Jesus, speaking of the hard ground where Jesus was laid when born and the hard ground where he was buried after He was crucified. Either way, the point is that this world is filled with hard places and many people question why God allows such occurrences in our lives. That is the theme Tom Waites was addressing in his song as well.

Listen to some of the words from the song and you can see why some people thought the lyrics were not acceptable:

“Cold was the night and hard was the ground
They found her in a small grove of trees
And lonesome was the place where Georgia was found
She’s too young to be out on the street
Why wasn’t God watching?
Why wasn’t God listening?
Why wasn’t God there for Georgia Lee?
Ida said she couldn’t keep Georgia from dropping out of school
I was doing the best that I could
Oh, but she just kept running away from this world
These children are so hard to raise good
Why wasn’t God watching?
Why wasn’t God listening?
Why wasn’t God there for Georgia Lee?”

Now, that is not the entire song, but you get the point. Why wasn’t God looking after a young girl whose mother was doing the best she could to raise her? Under such circumstances, how can I know that God loves me? When life slaps us in the face, even when we feel like Ida, the mother of Georgia Lee Moses, and we are doing the best that we know how, can I believe that God loves me?

Now let’s understand something right from the start. God gave Georgia Lee Moses a mother to love her, pray for her and guide her, but Georgia Lee wasn’t listening. She kept running away! The sorrows of this world began because the first couple in the Garden or Eden were not listening. They, too, ran away from God’s instructions, love and directions for them.

Let me share with you today how you can know that God loves you, even in the trials and troubles, sorrows and sufferings, pains and problems, burdens and bereavements of this world.

We start with John 3:16.

I. The Declaration of God’s Love

“God so loved the world … “

The “world” in our text today speaks of the lost, rebellious mass of human beings in existence at even given time on earth. Always remember this when reading the scripture – a Text without Context is a Pretext. We must know the context in which John 3:16 was spoken by our Lord.

The context for our passage comes from an encounter Jesus had with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin and he came one night in Jerusalem to have a conversation with our Lord. In that conversation Jesus introduced Nicodemus to the fact and truth that a person cannot have eternal life without being born again. Whether in jest or in a serious confusion, Nicodemus asked how a man might go back to his mother’s womb and be born again. Jesus went on to explain to Nicodemus that salvation is a work of the Spirit of God and not something one can do for himself or herself.

In sharing with Nicodemus the way of salvation, Jesus referred to an Old Testament incident in which Moses lifted up a brass serpent on a pole, and the rebellious people who had been bitten by poisonous snakes could avoid death by simply looking to the provision God was providing, and looking while believing that God would save them. Jesus went on the say that He would be that serpent – Jesus was to be lifted up and draw men to Himself that they might be saved from the snakebite of sin. In this way, mankind has a chance to be born again.

Then Jesus said the words in our text today – John 3:16. Jesus was revealing to Nicodemus that salvation is not spelled L-A-W but it is rather spelled L-O-V-E. God’s love is the only path to salvation and love is epitomized in Jesus. In fact, no person can come to God except through Jesus Christ – John 14:6

The statement by Jesus must have shocked Nicodemus, who thought of God as hating the “world” – hating sinners. He might have asked Jesus, “Do you mean that the Father loves that drunk down there sleeping on the street, and that prostitute down there walking the street and that thief over there running that false business in the street?” Jesus’ answer to those questions would have been a simple, “YES!” How do I know? Look at the cross on which Jesus died for the entire world - for all who would repent and believe in Him as Lord and Savior.

In essence Jesus loves all the Georgia Lees of this world – the runaways – the castaways. He came here to be a cast off by the religious world of His day that He might bring us to God. That is the point of the passage before us. It all comes down to this message from God, “I LOVE YOU.”

But, there is more to God’s love than a mere declaration. Saying I love you doesn’t necessarily mean anything in this world. Look next at …

II. The Devotion of God’s Love

“that He gave His only begotten Son…”

Real love gives, sacrifices, and adores to the point of giving one’s life when necessary. Note how Jesus shared this with Nicodemus in John 3.

Again, we come back to the serpent on the pole incident from Old Testament. Nicodemus knew that story well and could likely have quoted every word of it from the Old Testament scriptures. He recalled how the people cursed God because they hated the food God was supplying them in the Wilderness. In fact, the Hebrew people begged to go back to Egypt – to slavery. Now, note something important here. Their attitude meant that they despised God’s blessings and His deliverance. They made light of the blood of the lamb that had brought them out of bondage. So, God allowed fiery snakes to enter the camp and the snakes bit the people. As a result of those bites a fiery venom was released inside the bodies of those rebellious people. The people begged for help, for they knew they were dying. Moses cried to God on their behalf, and God told Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole and when anyone looked at it by faith, they would be healed. Some looked upon the bronze serpent, believing that God would heal them. Others refused to look, thinking the whole thing sounded outrageous. Those who refused to trust God provision died but those who looked by faith, believing God's promise, lived and were fully healed.

The serpent in the Old Testament was a precursor to the One who would come to this world and be lifted up on a cross for all to be saved from the snakebite of sin.

Now, note in John 3:16 that Jesus used the word “Son” when speaking of Himself. God gave His only begotten Son. Jesus said that the Son of Man – the Son of God – would be lifted up on a pole (a cross) for the salvation of the lost world. He used the word SON.

How great is God’s love for us? So great that He gave His one and only Son to redeem those who believe in Him. So Jesus was telling Nicodemus that God’s salvation is a gift and not something one can earn. You can’t buy it. You can’t work for it. You can’t be born into a notable family and obtain it. All have sinned and the only way to be healed of the sin-disease is to accept God’s antidote – God’s provision -God’s SON.

D.A. Carson, in his book “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God,” points out that most people in a survey revealed that they like to view Jesus as a Friend instead of as King. Carson wonders how much greater the gap would be if people had a choice of seeing Him as a Friend or as the ultimate Judge.

Now listen carefully, if you look carefully at the cross on which Jesus died for your sins, you can’t say that God doesn’t love. The Cross says God loves you to DEATH – to the death of His own Son. God didn’t just declare His love – He proved it. He did not merely declare His love, rather He DEMONSTRATED His love at the cross. Real love gives and God gave the best heaven had for you.

In fact, God said that WHOSOEVER believes – You can put your name there – will be saved. Jesus pointed out to Nicodemus that it was not the Pharisees that were to obtain salvation but any and all people who placed their faith in Him. I put my name there and repeat it from time to time as a reminder of the wonderful love of God for me. “For God so loved the Mike Minnix that He gave His only begotten Son, that if Mike Minnix believes on Him, Mike Minnix shall not perish but that Mike Minnix shall have everlasting life.” Now, it can’t get any better than that. No matter how difficult life can become, I have proof that God loves me.

Read Romans 5:6-8, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

There is the word – “demonstrates His own love toward us…” The Lord doesn’t just say, “I love you,” he demonstrated it.

Now, look with me at a third thought…

III. The Demand of God’s Love

“…believes in Him…”

The words "believes in Him" shows what God’s love requires. Real love always has demands. In marriage for example, both parties must pledge love and faithfulness. Real love is never one-sided. God has shown His love for us, but His love does contain demands.

You must believe in HIM – a relationship with Jesus is personal. Maybe you have seen a great crusade service on television, or been at a service where dozens, hundreds or even thousands are coming to pledge faith in Jesus. Listen carefully, people don’t get saved in bunches – you get saved one at a time. Sure, hundreds can be saved and come to Christ at any moment, but the Lord still is at work saving each one personally. The Lord saved me because I personally trusted Him. Whether I come to Him alone or with others, I must believe that God loves ME! Jesus died for ME. Jesus gave Himself up on the cross to save ME.

There is a sad song sung by Bonnie Raitt about losing love and the word’s repeated in the song are, “I can’t make you love me if you won’t.” That is true of Christ. He will not make you love Him. To believe on Jesus is to respond to His love first given to you by saying, "Jesus, I love you, too. You gave your Yourself for me - I'm am giving my life to you."

Look at John 1:11-12, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (that means ‘power, authority, or right’) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name…”

When Jayne and I married, we didn’t kiss and go separate ways – we went home together. It was a life commitment. Here we are, now 58 years later still together. That is what it means to come to Christ. In essence our love must be reciprocal – as He totally loves me, I must totally love Him. To believe means that I return His love through faith, commitment and faithfulness.

Now, let me mention one last thing …

IV. The Dividend of God’s Love

“…shall not perish…”

The greatest enemy in this world is death. In Christ, who rose from the dead, the great enemy was defeated. Jesus died and rose to give us EVERLASTING LIFE.

I hope Georgia Lee Moses had faith in Christ, for I know that if she did her life did not end off highway 101 outside San Francisco, California. You see, Jesus grants us eternal life – everlasting life. Yes, we have a great life now in Jesus, but this life will end. We will die. Where will you be then? It all depends on what you do about God’s gift.


As a Christian, today is a great day to recommit yourself to God from the heart. Looking back at the cross, we can and ought to say, "Jesus, I love you for first loving me."

Some number of you here today have never trusted Jesus as your Savior. For one reason or another you have rejected His love, doubted His love or simply neglected His love. Today is the day for you to turn in faith and love to trust Him as Lord and Savior. Repent of you sin, activate faith and receive Him into your life. He really does love YOU.

I doubt they do this anymore, but young girls in love used to take a daisy and pull one petal from it at a time, repeating these words:

“He loves me (one petal removed)

He loves me not (a second petal removed)

He loves me (a third petal removed)

He loves me not (a fourth petal removed)”

That was repeated till the last petal appeared. The girl always wanted the series to end with, “He loves me.” Interestingly, the type of daisy used for this process was often one that had exactly thirteen petals. Thus, even if she did this over and over with several daisies, she would have ended everytime with the words, “He loves me.” That is the way it is with God when we know His Son – it always ends with, “He loves me!"

The cross says that God loves you. Will you return that love by giving your heart to Him? When we see that Jesus took our sins at the cross, and we by faith repent of our sin and turn in faith to receive Him as Lord and Savior, we learn what it means to say, "God loves me and God loves you."