Eternal life – John 17:3

In John 17:3, as Jesus prays, he says,

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

What Christ is saying is that the eternal life that we receive by faith in him is more or less defined by the new relationship that we have with the Father and the Son.  We know God and his Son Jesus Christ, and that in in itself somehow is eternal life. This life needs to be understood as both a quantity and a quality of life.

First of all, eternal life can be described everlasting or never-ending or using some other such term that means it will just keep on going and will not stop.  I emphasize this point first because I sometimes hear Christians focus on eternal life as a quality of life as opposed to a quantity of life.  I understand why.  It is possible to misunderstand eternal life as being much like the life we have now, complete with its troubles and our imperfections, just without end.  That is surely not what Jesus means.  But if we say it is a quality of life rather than a quantity, then we are not doing justice to the term eternal, for which Jesus could have substituted some other term unrelated to time (most excellent or super wonderful?) Why confuse us by calling it “eternal” if he didn’t mean for time to be involved at all? 

So this seems to be a false dichotomy.  It is not an either/or situation; it is a both/and.  God is eternal; that is one of his attributes, but we are not, since we are created beings.  He can, however, give us life everlasting if he wishes, and he does if the Bible is to be believed.  This life is acquired by an intimate connection with him, facilitated by the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and gives us new life in Christ.            

Second, we must speak of this new life as qualitatively different from the mere earthly life we were born with.  We have come to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, his Son, the One sent here for our salvation.  Prior to this we did not know God at all.  We may have known of him, in a fact-knowing kind of way.  We may have believed that there was a God in a less personal way. This is often true of people who later come to know God personally.  They come to believe in God in the abstract on the way to a personal faith.  It was certainly true in my case.  But to know God personally and to know him as our Father is a very different thing indeed. 

If we really know God and his Son Jesus Christ, we can no longer live as if that does not matter. We need to bask in the warmth of their fellowship. We need to learn from their wisdom and rejoice in their love. Life can never be the same. Eternal life is ours and this life lived in the very presence and power of God will never end.

Christ’s peace – John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Have you ever found yourself watching a TV series and intentionally stepping back to gain perspective or restore your emotional balance? I do it all the time. What I mean is something like this. Here you are, watching a show and it’s Season 1 of 7. The story has taken a number of exciting turns and the tension is high. It looks for all practical purposes as if the main character has so way out. Surely he or she is going to die. But wait. It is, you remind yourself, Season 1 of 7. It cannot end that badly or there would not be seven seasons. There must be a way out, a fortuitous turn in the story. This is what we face in the world as followers of Christ.

In the world we will have tribulation. That’s a promise. We also know that Christ has overcome the world. His peace is ours. Come what may, our eternity with Jesus is secure. Hold onto him and regardless what happens it has to end well. Not even death can separate us from the love of Christ. By all accounts, death will be more of an entrance into ultimate, intimate fellowship with him.

Take heart, Christian believer. Your Savior, personal Sacrifice and Substitute has overcome the world. As a result in him we may have peace.

Nothing? – John 15:5

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

At first glance this seems like an exaggeration. Surely we can do something, no? It might not be any good, or as good or worthwhile as it should be, but we aren’t that helpless, are we?

First, I would say that it i entirely possible that Jesus means it to be an exaggeration. He obviously wants us to abide in him. And he wants to abide in us. He wants our relationship to be intimate and life-giving. He wants our lives to bear much fruit as a result. So he is quite possibly not speaking in absolute terms. Possibly.

On the other hand, if we consider that our very life is in God’s hands, this statement takes on a more absolute coloring. We might well be encouraged to abide in Christ, because without him we truly can do nothing at all. If he so decided, our life might end this minute.

I’m reminded of the prophet Daniel’s words to Belshazzar in Daniel 5:23,

And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

How shall we abide in Christ? Let’s start with cultivating a conscious experience of fellowship, frequent times of meditation on God’s word, and an attitude of humble trust in his all-good, all-loving Lordship. A moment of thanksgiving for his salvation is always appropriate. There will no doubt be a way to express outward obedience today. Keep an eye out for it – a good work that might not come naturally, but will clearly express the love of Christ.

Apart from him we can do nothing. Yet with him we can do all things.

We are not orphans – John 14:18

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

The more we allow ourselves to think about this remarkable truth, the more utterly amazed we should be.  Christ was once with his disciples, as was the Holy Spirit.  Now, by means of the Holy Spirit’s presence, they both dwell within all disciples as part of our new life in Christ. 

“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:24). 

Or, if you prefer it with more pronouns,

“Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us (NKJV).” 

Either way, God is with us and in us, and he has no plans to leave.

He will not leave us as orphans; nor will he leave us at all.  We can count on his comforting, empowering presence right up until that day when we see him face to face.  That day is not so far away. 

“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.  The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:11-12). 

The time is short, and as Jesus has said,

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).