The choice is yours
– Greg Laurie
The story of Nicodemus we looked at last week brings us to a reassuring, yet often overlooked passage: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17).
Jesus came to this world not to come down on people, but to reach out to people.
While religion tells us what we must to do reach up to heaven, God reached down from heaven by sending his Son, Jesus. We are not reaching out to God, trying to earn his approval. Rather, it is God reaching out to us. That is the message of the Gospel. It is the message that, through Christ – who lived a perfect life, who died on the cross in our place, and who shed his blood for us – we have the gift of eternal life.
But what does it mean to believe? So many people say they believe. But what do they believe? The Bible says, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder" (James 2:19). To believe does not simply mean intellectually accepting something to be true. To believe means to adhere to, commit to, have faith in, rely upon, trust in. It comes back to the issue of being born again. To be a believer means not only embracing Christ and Christ alone for salvation, but also turning from your sin and starting life again. Repentance is a part of belief, like two sides of a coin.
I fear for those who say they believe but have never repented. There is a lot of confusion regarding the definition of the terms "Christian" and "born again." But how can someone claim to be a Christian and not believe that the Bible is the Word of God? How can someone claim to be born again and believe that Jesus is anything other than the Messiah? How can someone claim to be a real follower of Jesus and yet reject what the Bible clearly teaches? Answer: They can’t.
How about you? Do you know that you have eternal life? Do you have the assurance of salvation? The choice is yours as to what you will do with this wonderful gift of God. You can gladly accept it or reject it. When someone offers you a gift, you either take it or reject it. You can’t say, "I’m neutral on this. I can’t decide." Some people may say that they have no choice in the matter, that God does the choosing and not us. They believe that you are either predestined to heaven or to hell. Some well-meaning Christians tend perhaps to overstress the sovereignty of God, and for all practical purposes, do away with the personal choice of humanity in the matter. On the other hand, some others might tend to dismiss the sovereignty of God and instead emphasize the free will of humanity.
I don’t subscribe to either point of view wholeheartedly. I do believe in the sovereignty of God and predestination. However, I reject the idea of irresistible grace and limited atonement, because I believe the grace of God is resistible, though not easily. I also believe that Jesus Christ died for the whole world, not just the "elect." Otherwise, why would the Bible say, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (Psalm 95:7–8)? This, along with other countless passages, implies that the heart can be hardened and grace can be resisted. As evangelist D.L. Moody once said, "Lord, save the elect, and then elect some more!"
Christ did not die only for the elect, but for the world: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" (John 3:16, emphasis mine). And, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, emphasis mine).
On the one hand, there is free will. We must personally choose whether we will put our trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation. But on the other hand, it’s an undeniable fact that Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16).
So how do I reconcile these two approaches? I don’t. And thankfully, I don’t have to. You don’t have to reconcile friends. I simply follow the Scriptural emphasis, recognizing that God’s sovereignty and humanity’s responsibility are taught side by side in the same Bible.
Jesus will receive and reveal himself to any person who will come to him honestly and heart to heart, just as he did with Nicodemus. So don’t give up on the unbeliever you have been praying for. And don’t give up on yourself. Jesus said, "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37).
Jesus will receive and reveal himself to any person who will come to him honestly and heart to heart.