3:16 ”For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
– John 3:16-21
Today we come to one of the most familiar and well-loved passages in all of Scripture. John 3:16 is a summary of what God’s saving plan in Jesus is all about. Centered in God’s love for the world and for all who have ever lived, God was willing to send His only Son to live among us, to die on a cross for our sin, and to, thereby, open the way, through our faith in Him, for us to become right with God and find ourselves eternally in the Kingdom.
Martin Luther called it “the Gospel in miniature.” He said it was as concise a statement of what the Bible is about as you will ever find. If you understand what this verse is saying, if you dig into what it means and why it matters for your life, you will not only understand what is behind the entire biblical story, but you will also have a solid foundation upon which to build your life.
There are many ways to talk about the Gospel. We call it the “Good News.” We refer to it as the life of Christ, what Jesus accomplished for us while He was here. Do you know what the Bible says about the Gospel? The Bible says the Gospel is “the righteousness of God.” It says the Good News is that the righteousness that belongs to God is given to us in Jesus Christ.
In seminary, they spoke of it as the doctrine of imputation. To impute means “to attribute” or to “ascribe to someone else”, something that was not originally theirs. That is what happens for us in Jesus. In the cross, we become what Christ is, and on the cross, He became what we are. His righteousness is attributed to us, and our sin is attributed, ascribed, given to Him.
That is what this summary verse tells us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” Jesus became our sacrifice. Jesus paid our penalty. He took upon Himself our sin. The Gospel is that in Him, in Jesus, we are forgiven. In Him, in Christ, we are made to be right and righteous in the sight of God.
It is the Gospel in miniature. (“For God so loved the world”). It is a summary of what the entire biblical story is all about (“that He gave His only Son”).
And so, why did God give His Son? What was it that caused the Father, out of love, to send Jesus to the cross? It was our sin. It was the fallen nature of our lives. The Bible talks about our transgressions, our trespasses, our iniquities and our rebellion. Most literally, to sin means “to miss the mark.”
To miss the mark is a term taken from archery. When an archer is aiming at a target, the goal is to hit it straight on, in the exact place where you aim. When we sin, the Bible says, we miss the mark. We do not end up hitting the target we are intended to hit.
As we find ourselves only a few days away from the celebration of our Lord’s birth, we need to be asking ourselves that question. You know your life. You know how far and how often you have missed the mark.
In the world, everyone is trying to do it for themselves. They are trying to work their way up to God. Better than my neighbor, grading on a curve, the family plan, my grandma was a Christian…you know how it works. We think we can do it, but we cannot. It is not possible.
The Gospel comes to us in our sin and tells us that God has come to us. And He has come to us in His Son. He comes to us and He is with us in Jesus. And not only has He come to us and is He with us, but He has done everything needed to pay the price. The Bible says, “Jesus paid it all for us upon the tree. He forgave all of our trespasses…nailing them to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
As we make our final preparations for Christmas, let us not forget why Jesus had to be born and how eternally grateful we must be. Amen.”
Prayer: Lord God, thank You for sending Your Son to our world, to be born among us, to die on a cross, and to make us right with You. Help us to trust our lives to the Gospel-work You have accomplished for us in Jesus. Amen.
Advent Action: Read the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel account and, while reading, give thanks to God for the saving plan He worked out for us in Jesus.
Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. Daniel Selbo
Watch a video recording of the devotional daily: facebook.com/thenalc
Genesis 1:1 (Listen)
The Creation of the World
1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Revelation 12:1–10 (Listen)
The Woman and the Dragon
12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
Satan Thrown Down to Earth
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
John 3:16–21 (Listen)
For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Psalm 24 (Listen)
The King of Glory
A Psalm of David.
24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle!
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah
Psalm 150 (Listen)
Let Everything Praise the Lord
150:1 Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 25 (Listen)
Teach Me Your Paths
25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
Psalm 110 (Listen)
Sit at My Right Hand
A Psalm of David.
110:1 The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
2 The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4 The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.