When we hear the words “eternal life” many images and ideas come to mind. For most, it conjures a moment in time when one prayed a payer to go to heaven, that is what is generally believed because that is the idea that is most often taught in churches all across the world. They say “if you are unsure of your destination when you die, simply pray this prayer and you can go to heaven.” Simply pray the sinners prayer, or invite Jesus into your heart, are all common Christian lingo, for what amounts to basically nothing more than spiritual fire-insurance.
It’s no surprise then that people see God as distant and impersonal – just a being up in heaven, with no real interest in their day-to-day lives. They don’t know Him, because honestly, they have never been introduced! The finished work of Christ has been reduced to a cold, emotionless contract.
The scriptures however paint a very different view of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus for you; as well as eternal life. In truth they are much more than the way in which they have been presented. And this is what we will be studying today.
There is a lot of talk about a relationship with God in today’s Christian communities. It’s the cool thing to latch onto right now. It’s the trending idea. However very few truly understand all of what this relationship with God entails, and what it means for them. If you’ve been coming here for any length of time, you know that we have studied this before, that when Jesus came to redeem you, He didn’t simply come to take you up to Heaven after you die on the earth, He came to restore you back to Himself, and to regenerate your spirit which was dead in trespasses and sins and to give you new life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-6). Today, His spirit is in you, if you have received Him, and you are actually one with Him, as Jesus Himself declared in John 17:21, and is also repeated in 1st Corinthians 6:17. You are closer to God than you can even possibly imagine.
The eternal life of God, the abundant life of Christ that He came to give is speaking of exactly this – your unity with Jesus, your oneness with Him, your relationship; and everything else, every other blessing, stems from this relationship. It is more than reading your Bible as a ritual or task. It’s more than upholding Christian traditions and behavior, it’s more than simply “going to church” on a specific day or days… this is not a question of performance or mere behavior modification. But it is about a transformation of your identity. A transformation which happens by the Spirit of God, as you behold the glory of Christ and realize your new nature in Him and who you are and where you stand.
You see, many of us are living with an identity crisis. We have sold our spiritual identity with God in Christ, way shorter than the scriptures actually teach. Many people see themselves as dirty, unloved, unremembered, weak, powerless, hopeless and helpless – and that is not the abundant life that Christ paid to give us. Take a look at John 10:10:
“The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
There is a contrast here… the thief is contrasted with Jesus. The thief, is the one who steals, kills and destroys. Attributes that most people assign to God. When we lose a loved one and we try to comfort someone by telling them that God wanted to take them home; or we cry out to God in bitterness asking Him why He took Aunt Sally, or Uncle Jeff away from us so soon. Read your Bible and know who God is! The thief is the killer! The Thief is the one who steals, and kills and destroys. Jesus says that in contrast to the thief, Jesus actually came to give life! The problem is that we have built-up so much false-doctrine and so much man-made theology to protect our hurt feelings and our confusion and our own reasoning, that we have sacrificed the truth on the alter of our own experience, and only the truth can make us free.
Jesus says that He has come to give us life, and life more abundantly. That’s not just a barely get-by life. That is exceedingly abundantly, much more than is necessary life. That is life that does not fall short. Life that does not wear out, even life eternal.
Out of the mouth of Jesus Himself, this was the reason He came – and again, this happens through the relationship. Turn over to John 17:1-3:
“These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you:
As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him.
And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”
You see, the gift of Christ, the eternal life which He came to give, is much more than we generally make it out to be. It is much more than mere fire insurance. It is the relationship with Him, the very oneness with His Spirit, and the very fullness of what that means. The word “know” here, is to know in a personal and intimidate way. Not mere head-knowledge of Bible facts and trivia about God, but an active relationship. This is what Jesus calls “life eternal” – a far cry from what we typically think of it to be.
See, the message of the cross, the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is not “change your ways or be damned”, it’s “God loved you and sacrificed for you, even while you were damned… so that you wouldn’t remain damned, but that you could live again.”
That’s the good news of Christ. You were dead, and doomed on a path to everlasting destruction, but Christ came, and took your sin upon Himself, fully suffering in your place so that you would live again. He performed the ultimate resurrection – the revitalizing of your spirit by His Spirit. Now you live by His life. You don’t live for Jesus, as many try to do; no instead you live through Jesus. He breathed His Spirit back into you to make you alive again. You were dead at one point, and He resurrected you, and now you live through Him.
He could’ve had His Spirit dwell anywhere. He could’ve had a new temple constructed out of brick, stone and wood – but instead He chose to make you His dwelling place. God who could live anywhere, chose to live in you – and He paid the full price to make it happen!
You see, the Gospel message is not a message that exposes your sin, or your unworthiness, the Gospel message exposes your value by showing you how very much you are loved and valued by God… even in the very height of your unworthiness! It does not reveal your sin, it removes your sin because that is exactly what Jesus Christ did on the cross!
I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years who have failed to own their true identity in Christ. They still see themselves as sinners, when they were created to be sons. And they are constantly seeing themselves at their current performance level instead of seeing themselves in the light of Jesus’ perfect performance for them!
They are trying to clean what has already been cleaned… and putting aside the fact that they have no ability to clean themselves up by their own strength, the Biblical reality is that Jesus has already cleaned us perfectly. If you were not already perfectly clean and sin completely removed, then He wouldn’t live inside of you. God cannot dwell with corruption (Psalm 5:4). So the very fact that His Spirit in indwelling you today is a testimony to the completed work of Jesus Christ and to how very clean and holy that God Himself has made you. It isn’t about your behaviors or your performance… it never was. You understand that you were never a sinner because you sinned, no you sinned because you were a sinner.
Today in Christ, you are not a sinner anymore, the old has passed away, it’s time to behold and see that all things are new. (2nd Corinthians 5:17)
He has done the work, you have received His Life, now live in it. This is the gift of Jesus Christ for you. Eternal Life, a relationship with Jesus.