What is Eternal Life?

July 9, 2017

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“And this is eternal life…”

John 17:1-5

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Good morning everyone.

 

In just 3 weeks, during August, we are doing an “All in.”  All in means everyone is going to do it.  In 3 weeks we are going to do a series of messages called, “Making Change” and all of our Go Groups will be taking the material we learn on Sunday morning and taking it to a whole ‘nutha level.  So we want you to be involved ‘cause we want to do this all together.  If you are not involved in a Go Group this is a great time to do it.  You only have to commit to this month.  If you are not part of one all you have to do is use the connection card on your flyer, write your name and contact info on it, say you are interested in a Go Group, and drop it off in the offering box.  Then we will be in touch with you.  Here is a little promotional video about what we will be looking at together.

 

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Let me say, if you are here for the first time you came at a great time.  Today we are going to look at a new series of messages we are calling Supertext.   We are going to be teaching on 4 of the most powerful scriptures in the Bible.  You need to know the Bible is the architectural blueprint for our church.  There are peaks and valleys in the Bible and this month we are going to look at some of the peaks.  Today we are going to look at the beginning of a prayer Jesus said just before he died on the cross.

 

In this prayer Jesus says two words that get abused a lot.  The problem is we have reduced these two vital words Jesus said into a proposition, into a thought, or a place in the future.  When Jesus said these words he didn’t mean if you just believe a set of truths, nor was he talking about a ticket to heaven.  Although those are a part of what he was thinking.  We often equate it with mere immortality.

 

Jesus used these words in John 3:16 to Nicodemus, “This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”   Throughout scripture we see many shades of meaning about eternal life. We are told in Romans 6:22 grace brings righteousness and eternal life through Jesus Christ.  We are told it is a gift. (Romans 6:23).  We are told that if we please the Holy Spirit we will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:8).  We receive it (1 Tim. 1:16.)  We are commanded to take hold of it (1 TM 6:12).  Our hope is in eternal life (Titus 3:7).  It is a promise of God. (1 John 2:25.)  it is something God gives us (1 John 5:11).  But, what is eternal life?

 

Growing up in church I heard some people equate eternal life with heaven.  Eternal life is not heaven.  It is something in heaven, but it is not heaven.  Heaven is a place.  Eternal life is not a place.   Some say eternal life is your salvation, your ticket to heaven.  You could make that argument, that puts so much restraint on the concept of eternal life and therefore debilitates your faith.

 

What is eternal life?  The Good News is Jesus defined eternal life specifically and accurately.  It’s not something you wait for on earth to get in in heaven.  It’s something you have right now.  Eternal life is not a proposition to be believed, it is something you live.

 

In the Gospel of John, chapter 17, Jesus defines eternal life.  When he says it, he is literally on the last day of ministry.  On the day before his death Jesus celebrates the Passover meal with his twelve disciples.  In that meal, he gives a long discourse about the purpose of his ministry and the future.  He reveals the traitor in their midst.  He washes the disciple’s feet to demonstrate what leadership looks like.  When he gets to the end of his speech and meal he closes with a prayer.

 

It’s in the beginning of that prayer Jesus defines eternal life.  Look at John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come.  Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you.  For you have given him authority over everyone.  He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.  And this is eternal life- to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.  I brought you glory to earth by completing the work you gave me to do.  Now, Father, bring me the glory we shared before the world began.”  John 17:1-5

 

How is God going to give Jesus glory?  By giving Jesus the authority to give eternal life to everyone.    Jesus brings glory to God by dying on the cross, shedding his blood, be being obedient to God’s plan for his life.

 

In the middle of talking about this glory Jesus defines eternal life- he says it is to know God and the one he sent, Jesus.  Eternal life is to know God and his Son Jesus Christ.   That’s the definition.

 

If eternal life is to know God then what did Jesus mean when he said to “know” God?  The Greek word for “know” is ginoskosin.  It’s basic meaning is “come to know” or “come to an understanding.”  In this context “know” means come to know the things of God or thoughts, behaviors, teachings, that proceed from God and/or Jesus.  To the disciples hearing Jesus’ it would mean a unique knowledge that God is the true God and the god’s or Rome and Greece are false.  It means more than seeing Jesus as a servant, or a good man who spread love and good teachings about life.  It means you come to a singular knowledge that Jesus is divine, the Son of God, the sinless Savior through whom God redeemed the world.  It has a level of acknowledgement, or a movement of your will to align with Jesus.  To know Jesus means you are capable of recognizing his deity and role of his relationship in your life.   You have insight into the will of God because you have this knowledge.

 

The Apostle John, reiterates Jesus’ prayer as a teaching in his letter to Christians.  He writes, “We now also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true- even in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life.”  1 John 5:20

 

Knowing Jesus as eternal life has three features to it and its usage in the New Testament.

First, eternal life is chronological.  Meaning there is a time element to it.  Specifically, there is no end to eternal life.  Jude notes, “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude 1:21 Eternal life lasts forever because Jesus lasts forever.  Even though there is no end to eternal life it/he is present now!  Jesus is breaking through into your life.  You don’t wait for eternal life!  You don’t wait for it.  You have it in Christ.  Another related word to chronos or time is Kairos.  Karios is when our eternal God breaks through your circumstances and gathers your life into his hands.  Eternal life breaks forth into our life now because of divine knowledge of Jesus exists now.

 

Secondly, eternal life is relational.  It is knowing Jesus Christ.  The Christians had a New Testament phrase to describe this special relationship.  They would say we are “in Christ.”  The Bible says, “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 6:11, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”  2 CR 5:17. “You are all Sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” GL 3:26 “You, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

 

You see this relationship modeled In Jesus prayer here in John 17.  Jesus talks about how he has been obedient to God’s plan and then at the end, just like a good friend, “Hey, remember to put me back where I was before we started this whole thing.”  Eternal life is knowing God, and the one he sent, every day, day after day.

 

Thirdly, eternal life has a prophetic element.  It has a prophetic tone.  It looks to the future.  It looks to the day when Jesus returns and we are united with our Father in heaven.    We’re not in heaven yet.  We are still on earth.  The Bible says, “The God of all grace, who called you into his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”  1 Peter 5:14.

 

Eternal life calls on you to keep making progress with your faith.  The Bible notes, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”  Galatians 6:8  One does not sow a seed without expectations of growth into a plant.  As we grow in Christ we are ever called to keep growing in our knowledge and understanding of him.

 

As I noted before, eternal life is so much more than a place, or some propositional truth.  It is a knowledge of Jesus that impacts every part of our lives.

 

So what does it look like for you, and I, to have eternal life.  How do we take hold of it?  How do we receive it in our day to day life?

 

Distilling eternal life down to one statement is hard, and it will never cover its implications completely.  But here is my attempt to take what the Bible teaches about “eternal life” and summarize it into one sentence: Eternal life is a lasting relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Eternal life is a dynamic, supernatural relationship with your heavenly Father.

 

To make this more real to me it was easy to see “eternal life” in terms of my relationship as a father to my children.  There is a chronological part to it.  As long as they live I’m their father.  Nothing can change that fact.  Being a father is also relational.  My kids know the real me. They know how I am when I smash a hammer on my thumb or when I am silly and saying stupid puns.  I live day to day with them.  It’s also prophetic with them.  As a father, I’m always concerned they go to the next stage of life successfully.  When they were in diapers I couldn’t wait for them to get out.  Then it was taking their own bath without my help.  In school, I was concerned about their grades.  I hollered at them to be on time as school because I wanted them to be on time at work as adults. To where today I’m concerned they start out their adult lives right, as good people.  I’m also looking forward to grandchildren down the road.  I always want my children to grow.  My heavenly Father is no different.

 

Jesus gave two word pictures to show us what it looks like to have eternal life.  First he said, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”  John 15:5-8.

 

Does a branch ever take a day off from being connected to the vine?  Of course not.  It wants to stay alive.  Another part of this picture is it’s natural.  The life just flows.  A branch and vine just go together.  Knowing Jesus is a natural presence that becomes part of your expected day.  Jesus just isn’t about giving you life when you are down, or you need a pick me up.  Jesus is your life today, now, ever present in this moment, just as a branch is to a vine.  This means, you live with the presence of Jesus in each moment.  His promise is to never leave you.

 

Then a second picture Jesus used to describe eternal life, know him, is that of a shepherd of sheep.  In John 10 Jesus said of himself, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father.”  John 10:14-15. (NLT)  Then again, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else.”  John 10:27-29

 

Notice Jesus says his sheep, meaning us Jesus followers, know Jesus and Jesus knows us.  It is relational. Jesus then goes onto describe how you get to know each other, listen.  Jesus knows you.  Sheep know their shepherd’s voice over all others and they trust him implicitly to take them to green pastures.  Because we know Jesus we know we can trust Jesus and we follow his commands.  This is what eternal life looks like.  This is how it breaks into your life.

 

What is eternal life?  Eternal life is a lasting relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  This is relationship is now.  We live in eternal life when we acknowledge and integrate Jesus into our daily life.  We live in eternal life when we listen to Jesus voice, trust him as a sheep to a shepherd, and follow his commands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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