Have you heard things that seemed too good to be true? Someone special who said to us for the first time, “Hey, I love you.” Or someone said to us, “We want you on our team.” It could have been an invitation to join a sporting team. Or it could have been a work situation. We were thrilled to be recognised in this way. Life became different from that moment.
John in 1 Jn 5:9-13, tells us about a truth that is almost too good to believe. It is the truth that God has given to us “eternal life.” It sounds an interesting term because it is used more than 40 times in the New Testament, but what does it mean?
1). “ETERNAL LIFE” . WHAT IS IT?
What does the word “eternal” mean? Does it mean living for ever and ever, so that we never die? In one of the Greek myths, the Goddess of the dawn, Eos (Aurora), fell in love with Tithonus a mortal youth. She was given a wish. Her wish was that Tithonus would never ever die. But she forgot to ask that he not get any older. As time went on, he aged and became more and more decrepit. Life turned sour for their relationship. Eventually she locked him up before turning him into a grasshopper. The word “eternal” in the Bible doesn’t mean going on living for ever and ever like Tithonus in Greek mythology. Rather in the Bible it refers to a new quality of life, a whole new dimension of life which God gives us in Christ. We get some glimpses of this new quality of life in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 36:25 and following, God promised His people that in the new covenant He would establish with them in the Age to come, He would give His people a new heart, and a new spirit. He would take away the hearts of stone among the people, and give them sensitive hearts of flesh, able to love Him and serve Him. He would put His Spirit in them to motivate and empower them to obey His laws and to do His will. They would be changed by the presence and power of God’s Spirit within them.
Jesus in John 14:23, spoke of what would happen after He had risen from the dead. He promised that He and the Father would take up their abode with the believers, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” That is, He and the Father would come and live with those who put their trust in Him, or in the words of The Lexham Bible, “will take up residence with him”. A.T.Robertson’s ‘Word Pictures in the New Testament’ puts it thus, “If the Holy Spirit ‘abides’ (menei, Joh_14:17) in you, that heart becomes a temple (naos) of the Holy Spirit (1Co_3:16.), and so a fit dwelling place for the Father and the Son, a glorious and uplifting reality.”
Paul wrote of this new life in 2 Cor 5:17) “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” A new creation is that which only God can do, for He alone can create. The special Greek word used for “new” is “kainos” (which can mean brand-new) and not “neos” which means just a recent brushed-up version of the old. Paul is stating that when someone becomes a Christian, they are being made radically new, even though they may not know the full implications of the change God has begun in their lives.
When the Bible is talking about “eternal life”, it means the life of God within those who are open to receive it. They are seen as being sharers of God’s own nature. Peter wrote in 2Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
We as humans can live lives that are full of meaning and purpose, lives that are victorious over sin and evil, as we are filled with the life of God Himself as a present reality.
2). HOW DO WE GET ETERNAL LIFE?
The Bible says we can’t earn it or do anything to deserve it. Paul wrote in Eph 2:8,9, “For it is by grace that you are saved through faith. And this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” We’re not born into it, nor can we work for it. It is a gift of God’s grace and mercy.
How do we obtain this gift? By receiving it where God has placed it. And it is to be found only in one place, and that is in the person of Jesus Christ Himself. That’s the message from our reading in 1 Jn 5:11, “For God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” No wonder He could promise in His teaching that if people put their trust in Him, and came into a living relationship with Him, they would have eternal life. It’s theirs in Him.
There are many ways of describing what happens when people come to God. Some people express it in the way they have experienced it, often in terms they later found were in the Bible. For example some say that they came from darkness into the light of God. Others that they came from death into life. Others that they came from bondage to freedom. Yet others say that they once were lost but now are found. Perhaps the simplest way of expressing commitment, is in the picture given in 1 Jn 5:11-12. God offers us eternal life in Christ, and we have the choice whether to receive the gift in Him, or to reject the gift. That’s how many of us can describe our conversion, by saying that once we didn’t “have” Christ in our lives. But there came a time when we asked Him in, and we were changed by His presence in us.
3). WHAT PREVENTS US FROM HAVING ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST?
i). There are those who say it’s all too simplistic and simple. They may think that surely there must be a lot of things they can do and should do, to receive the gift of eternal life. It was hard for the people of Jesus’ day to understand that the way of acceptance with God, is through receiving a gift, rather than struggling to earn the privilege. Paul warns his readers not to get away from the simplicity that is in Christ. He said that a veil lies over the minds of those who haven’t come to Christ, so that they don’t see. But when a person turns to the Lord in faith, it’s as though the veil is taken away and they can see the truth that Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah and that He is life.
Paul wrote that the message of the cross about a crucified Messiah, Jesus’ death, was a stumbling block to the Jews, and absolute nonsense to the non-Jews, the Gentiles. It’s only when Christ is received into a person’s life that spiritual understanding comes. ( The story is told of a minister with a doctorate in theology, suddenly stopping in the middle of the sermon he was preaching, as he suddenly understood the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. Someone yelled out in the congregation, “Halleluiah, the preacher’s been converted.” He was, as he understood the gospel for the first time and was born again in the middle of his own sermon as he stood in the pulpit.
ii. There may be others who feel unworthy. None of us will ever be worthy enough to receive eternal life. But the important thing is not what we feel about ourselves, but what Christ thinks about us. He chose willingly to come to this earth and to die for us to take away our sins and to enable us to be forgiven and receive new life. As Paul wrote, it was “while we were yet sinners that Christ came and died for us.” Rom 5:8.
iii. There are those who don’t expect to meet with a living Jesus. Jesus once rebuked the Jews of his day who knew the word of God in the Scriptures, but didn’t receive Him. He said, (Jn 5:39,40), “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life, and they do bear witness to Me … But you refuse to come to me that you might have life.” The Scriptures pointed away from themselves to Christ as the One in Whom people should trust for forgiveness and salvation, but they rejected Him.
Well how can one get in contact with Jesus to be able to receive Him into one’s life, and thus receive forgiveness, eternal life and all the blessings which are ours in Him? God has given us many word pictures in the Bible. The one that helped me when I chose to stop running away from God at the age of 23 is a word picture God gave to individuals in the church in Loadicea in Revelation 3. The picture God gave was of the risen Christ standing at the door of human lives and asking to be admitted, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” As we open the door of our lives to Jesus, He enters in. We now “have” the Son. As He enters our lives He brings with Him all the benefits of His life, death and resurrection.
I remember being excited by reading a comment by the theologian Jim Packer many years ago. It went something like this, “It is the living Christ Himself, the perfect Saviour for sinners, Who carries in Himself, all the virtue of His finished work on the cross.” It means that when we receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord, we receive in Him, all the benefits of His work on the cross. He receive in Him forgiveness for our sins, eternal life and all the blessings He wants to pour out on us as we become willing to receive them. That’s why I preach Jesus as a person to be received rather than just forgiveness and healing, for all the promises of God to us, find their “Amen” in Him as a person. In receiving Him, we become open to receive what God has given us in Him.
4). WILL HE COME INTO MY LIFE?
Listen to what John promised to those who asked Christ into their lives in 1 Jn 5:13, “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” It is “have”, not “might have”. It is eternal life now, and not “pie in the sky when you die by and by.” It is eternal life, God’s life in you NOW. It is a life in which Christ can fill you with His presence, and can pour His grace into every area of need that you have. Death for the believer means entering more fully into the life we possess now in Him.
What will you do with Jesus? Leave Him standing at the door knocking and asking to come in? Or will you invite Him into your life? It’s not difficult to do. It can be as simple as praying, “Dear Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner, and that I need You as my Saviour. I thank You that You bore my sin on the cross. I thank You that You offer forgiveness for my sins in Yourself. I thank You for knocking at the door of my life over these years. I now choose to ask You into my life. Come in today. Come in to stay. Lord, I believe Your promises. I believe that as I asked You in, that You did come in. Please enter into every area of my life, to bring Your cleansing and healing. Fill me with Your Spirit, and flood me with Your love and Your presence. By faith I give thanks for all that You are going to do in my life, now and in the days ahead. AMEN!
Blog No.074. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Monday 21st May 2012