I have not yet found a reality show that I couldn’t absolutely despise, [except for “Buying Alaska,” that one is kind of cool]. You name it; I hate it: The Bachelor [never watch]; the Bachelorette [dittos]; The Kardashians [are you kidding me? Hot tip: Do follow @KimKierkegaard on Twitter, brilliant satire]. I much prefer the reality written in the Scriptures because it’s…you know…actually real, as opposed to “scripted reality of spoiled babies.” Indeed, it has a raw edge to it—as we shall soon see—that make those fake reality shows look like they were done in black and white film.
In John 3.16-18, Jesus works out a full picture of salvation. The New American Commentary outlines it as: 1. The agency of salvation; 2. The purpose of salvation; and 3. a reality statement concerning salvation [Yep. This would be a true reality show].
What is God’s agency of salvation? His one of a kind son: ““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, ESV). Only translates an interesting Greek word that means “one of a kind” or “one and only” or even “unique.” The agency that God used to give the world eternal life was the sacrifice [the lifting up] of his only son. Why did God do this? He loved us, which when you think about it is—as the guy in the movie The Princess Bride keeps saying over and over—inconceivable. We are rebels. We hate God. We love evil. God loved us. Yep, this all makes perfect sense to me. Inconceivable!
What is God’s purpose in sending his one-of-a-kind son? “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.” (John 3:17, ESV) He sent his son so that the world might be saved through him. Nope, sorry. This rules out being saved by Buddha, or Hinduism, or good works, or hard effort, or cash money, or anything else but Jesus. His claims were exclusive; or as he himself will put it later in this very gospel: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV). Good luck finding wiggle room there. You can disagree with Jesus here, but you can find no room to change this statement into “Jesus and…” or “Jesus or..,” it is No one comes to the Father except through me.
In verse 17 comes the reality statement: “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.” (John 3:18, ESV). This is one exclusive [and dare I say: intolerant] statement. Here’s the thing, Jesus says right here that if you do not believe in him that you are condemned already! As in, now, today, at the present. Indeed, in the Greek the word already is emphasized so that we do not miss the point. Eternal condemnation for those who do not believe in Jesus, who will not accept that he can save them has already begun. As the New American Commentary puts it: “The idea here then is not one of a possible projected condemnation for the unbeliever but the necessity of escaping an already existing condemnation.” How’s that for a reality television series?
The cool thing about this is that already begun condemnation can be stopped. Who else do you think Jesus is talking to in this passage if not you? You do not believe in me? [says Jesus]. Your condemnation has already begun. Look at what he says in a couple of chapters: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24, ESV). Get it? Right now you are experiencing a living death. Believe in Jesus and you will live even if you [physically] die. That is his promise.
You do have to make a choice.