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For close to half the chapter, Jesus contrasts these two choices and their 180-degree-opposite consequences. More than anything, Jesus’ desire is for Nicodemus (and for you!) to believe.

We have a guest writer this week. Her name is Heidi Smid. She sends out a devotional about once a week, but only when the Lord gives her something to share. I’ve been on her mailing list for some time now and she always has a current word from the Lord that either encourages me or challenges me – sometimes both.

I read Heidi’s devotion shortly after I wrote my last post about less being more and the difficulty I have making choices when I have too many options.

Heidi put this simply enough for me, and I’m grateful the Lord has only given us two choices.

Two Choices

‘Whoever believes in Him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe stands condemned already
because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world,
but men loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil.’ — John 3:18-19

I often chuckle (or sigh, depending on my mood) as I walk the cereal aisle of the grocery store. To me, it stands as a beacon to American values. At last count, our local Wal-Mart had a mind-numbing 200 cereal varieties to choose from! It’s not enough to choose between a flake cereal with granola bunches or cinnamon; we want our choice of with or without almonds, a reduced sugar version, and one that adds dried fruit. With our spending, our relationships, our careers, it’s the American way: we want multiple choice and the more choice, the better.

Jesus offers a choice far more fundamental and consequential than what type of cereal to buy for my growing sons this week. And instead of appealing to our American desire for multiple choices (which can be overwhelming and confusing), He makes it simple and straightforward. There are only two choices, and they make all the difference in the world.

Our Bible study group recently worked our way through John 3, home to the familiar John 3:16 passage about God’s love for us in sending Jesus, that whoever will believe in Him will not perish but receive eternal life. Jesus converses with Nicodemus, who is puzzled by the teacher’s words. For close to half the chapter, Jesus contrasts these two choices and their 180-degree-opposite consequences. More than anything, Jesus’ desire is for Nicodemus (and for you!) to believe.

Believing in the name of Jesus as Savior
• born again of the Spirit • heavenly • has eternal life • salvation • loves truth • seeks light

Not believing in the name of Jesus
• born only of flesh • earthly • will perish • condemnation • fears exposure • hides in darkness

The choices are clear. On the one hand, we can choose: belief in Jesus, which is rebirth, light, spiritual life, truth, love. On the other hand, we can choose unbelief in Jesus, which leaves us spiritually dead, in darkness, with an earthbound mindset and fear of self-exposure, and hatred toward God. When we are born into physical life, we already live inside this darker option: we are only flesh, and not yet of the spirit; we are bent toward satisfying our self-focused desires as we disregard God’s call on our lives. But if we are born again into the spiritual life that Jesus offers, we live as transformed creatures, in the light of knowing Him, understanding spiritual truth — all because we accept Jesus as God’s gift to our dying world, to bring salvation from sin and destruction and to usher us into God’s kingdom.

We don’t tend to see our life choices that starkly, do we? After all, we reason, just because we haven’t chosen faith in Jesus, that doesn’t make us evil (does it?). We do good things; we love our family; we are kind to our neighbors.

So surely there’s a door number 3 (or 4 or 5), for those nice people who haven’t chosen Jesus?

Jesus’ teaching is plain, here and throughout the gospels. Turning away from God, living in darkness, doing evil isn’t about crime or cruelty. What Jesus defines as evil is this: not believing in the Son of God, who gave up His life to rescue us from sin and make us His own.

These are hard words, particularly for our multiple-choice American ears. You may think they sound intolerant or overly simplistic. But when we consider that all of us have been made by God and for God, and we have chosen our own way of life and turned away from Him by nature, we begin to understand. Instead of rejecting us for rejecting Him, God holds out a gift of great grace: Jesus, whose life He gave so that we could know Him and be saved.

If we refuse this priceless and personal gift, refusing what Jesus has plainly said (here in John 3 and elsewhere) we are choosing the only other option: darkness, unbelief, slavery to earthly desires and, ultimately, death and separation from God.

Read John 3. Listen to Jesus’ call to believe; choose Him and come into the light and truth of a life-saving friendship with Him.

— Heidi Smid

For the payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 6:23

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Phyllis Sather
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  • Servant
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:30 AM

    I love this analogy, which should surely resound with all Americans. Praying it will! May today be the day of salvation for many!

  • Phyllis
    Posted May 2, 2009 at 3:35 PM

    Jennie left this comment:
    Thanks for sharing this post with me. It really hits the nail right on the head, doesn’t it? God bless you,

    Yes, Jennie, that is exactly what I felt when I read it. Phyllis

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