The Problem of John 3:16

The heart of our Father is love towards His children. God establishes and displays his great, radical love for us through the wonderful cross of Jesus Christ. If you come from any church background, you have been exposed to John 3:16 a multitude of times. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

However, there is a problem with John 3:16. The problem is that we are too familiar with John 3:16. When we hear the earth-shattering truth of the Father’s heart in John 3:16, it should just impale our hearts. We should be so overwhelmed with the love of our Daddy.
Unfortunately, very few followers of Christ live every day in the tremendous affection that God has for them.

God desires us to know him as Abba Father

The apostle Paul informs us, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14–16).
One of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to testify to the liberating truth that we have been adopted as sons and daughters by God. The Holy Spirit brings on-going revelation to us that God is indeed our “Abba! Father!”

Learning to live in the affection of God

God longs to take us on a journey of living not out of religious obligation or performance, but rather to learn to live in his affection for us. Unfortunately, as Wayne Jacobson said, “Incredibly few believers live each day as if the God of the universe has great affection for them.”
Although there is no formula or 5-easy steps to living in the Father’s affection, here are some principles I have discovered from my journey of living loved by God:

1. Pray for a deeper revelation of the Father’s love for you.
Paul in writing to the believers in Ephesus shares how he always prayed for them, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, . . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14–19).

Notice Paul was not praying this for people who did not yet know God, but rather for those who had already chosen to follow Jesus. The Father, through the Holy Spirit, wants to saturate the minds of his children with the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ. Paul longs for us to understand how much the Father loves us.

I want to encourage you to pray this prayer for your life also. Don’t just pray it once or twice but keep praying it – even for years. Ask God to help you comprehend, through the Holy Spirit, that which you are incapable of grasping in your own perception – the multi-dimensional love the Father has for you.

RELATED: How Do You See God: The Heart of God (Part 3 of 4)

2. Ask the Father to flood your heart with His love.
Paul makes a powerful statement in Romans 5:5 when he says, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

We are not only to have a deep revelation of God’s affection for us in our minds, but God also wants us to experience his radical love for us in our hearts. The famous 18th-century American evangelist Charles Finney described an encounter he had with God by stating, “The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way. No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love.”

The Father wants to captivate our hearts with his love.

3. Put off the lies and put on the truth.
When we allow our mind to entertain and believe a distorted view of God, it robs us from enjoying the freedom, joy, and blessing of life with God in his Kingdom. Therefore, we must diligently “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). That is, whenever we discover we are thinking upon false views of God, we must immediately take those untrue thoughts captive to the truth of Jesus.
Jesus declared, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). God’s truth liberates us. God’s truth allows us to walk in freedom.

However, the opposite is also true: if the truth sets us free, then believing lies keep us in bondage.

Therefore, we must quickly put off the lies of who God is and all false views of God’s heart towards us. If we allow those lies to roam within our minds, we enable the enemy to place us in bondage. Instead, we must put on the truth of who God is (that he is our Father) and the truth of what his heart is towards his children.

4. We must believe God loves us.
The beloved disciple John writes, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us” (1 John 4:16). It is not enough to only have a mental assent of God’s radical love for us. We must also believe that God loves us.

Let me ask you to honestly answer this vital question: Do you believe your Father completely loves you?

Conclusion

It is my sincerest hope and prayer that you will know, experience, and believe that your Father’s love for you is loyal, passionate, unwavering, never-ending, and radical. As a fellow traveler, I enjoy nothing more than helping guide people into the Father’s affection. If I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.

Craig Conaway is a trainer, coach, spiritual director, and writer. His passion is to help equip people to be courageous followers of Jesus who impact their spheres of influence for the glory of God. Craig has over 20 years of pastoral experience including directing an in-depth discipleship training school. He recently completed his book, Identity: Being Who God Says You AreCraig resides in Norman, OK with his wife and three kids, and is pursuing his Master’s of Leadership.