Eternal life is not a what, it is a Who


The ultimate claim of Christianity is the immortality of it’s adherents. I think that many of our well-meaning friends over emphasize that if you come into a relationship with Christ you can have a better life now, at the expense of the message of the resurrection life of Jesus.

If you follow those faithful followers of Jesus after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the hope of shared resurrection was a constant theme in their preaching. Man’s greatest enemy had been decisively defeated. There was clear proof. Jesus’ closest associates had seen him, eaten meals with him, and had seen him ascend into the clouds. And, on one occasion over 500 people saw him very much alive at one time. And then there’s Paul the Apostle, perhaps Jesus’s greatest spokesman, who didn’t fit the mold of the others, but also saw Jesus face to face long after his resurrection.

The Gospel of John gives the account of Jesus’ conversation with the Jewish leader Nicodemus. What Jesus offered one of the most holy men in Israel was simply “eternal life”. He said it in no uncertain terms. The choices were, trust in me and live forever, or don’t trust me ….you are already condemned.

Then there’s the narrative of Jesus showing up later than expected after the sickness and death of his friend Lazarus. John 11 tells about Jesus’ words to the sister of the dead man saying “I am the resurrection and the life” and that “everyone who lives and believes in me, even though he dies yet will he live” and then asks “Do you believe this?”

Wow! “I am the resurrection and the life“! The implications of this, if true, are staggering. Well, it is true. You see, what God offers through the gospel about Jesus is Jesus himself. Eternal life is not just one of several benefits afforded like forgiveness, peace, community, hope, etc. Eternal life is a PERSON! I have said this to people in classes and small groups and they don’t seem to grasp the weight of it. It is true anyway.

The opening words of 1st John are very straight forward and hard to miss if read carefully and thoughtfully.

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
1st John 1:1-4

John’s testimony is that Jesus is himself eternal life! He has always been “the life” or “eternal life” and he was “made manifest” (the incarnation) and he is now proclaiming “the eternal life, which was with the Father (before Jesus’ human birth) and was “made manifest“. When you are looking at Jesus you are staring eternal life in the face. So when a sinner repents and puts his trust in Christ what God gives him is not a “something” but rather a “somebody”, namely the man Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the 5th chapter of 1st John it is confirmed and I think even more clear.

10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1st John 5:10-12

The record is crystal clear. Jesus is eternal life. People who are living life dictated by the appetites and desires of their bodies and are swimming along with the culture toward certain destruction do not need religion. They don’t need a life coach or new resolve or even better morals. What they desperately need is Jesus who is eternal life and our blessed hope. What the good news offers is a person, A man who lived a life pleasing to the Father that you and I could never live, A man who willingly died being punished for our common sins, as a substitute for us, so we would never have to face the wrath of God.

In short, the good news is very good news! There is a way out! Jesus loves you, He died for you, and if you will put your whole trust in Him, He will give you himself with all that he is. He will come to be your constant companion and friend by the Holy Spirit, and as a promise that you never need worry if you will finally be with him forever when this earthly life is done. Sins gone, eternal life now, a free gift to you by the God who loves you. What a deal!

The Bible describes those who are not Christians as spiritually “dead”. A dead man needs only one thing, life! Here it is, His name is Jesus, trust Him now.

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Thespians or Christians?


The earliest actors would portray different people by switching masks. Since Thespis in the 6th century B.C. people have donned masks or a persona, and pretended to be someone they are really not. Thus, actors today are called thespians, a reference to the man, and later the city named for him.

It appears to me that what many, if not most, of our churches do is make “/Thespians” instead of “Christians”. People are allowed to enter the church community by whatever rite or ritual particular to that group and then at once they are told to do this and don’t do that and in general how to act like a Christian. Some are very quick learners and catch on quickly. Others are not so successful and require more work to get their parts right and too often when the performance isn’t up to par they are simply ignored until they just go away.

For most, once a week, and for others two or three times a week they come with the others to play their parts and then go back home to the reality of destructive behaviors like prescription drugs, too much drinking, etc., etc., trying desperately to fill the void that should contain a jest for life, love, joy, and peace.

Why do we do it? Well, because we have been told that is how it is done. Daddy and momma and grandpa and grandma did it this way so that is the way it should be done. Really?

Jesus encountered the same situation. The most religious folks in town, by community standards, were only actors, they were impostors. They used their masks well saying long public prayers with flowery words meant to be heard and appreciated only by them and the human listeners. They were quick to remind their neighbors of how religious they were, how pious, how carefully they complied with every church rule. Jesus described these religious actors as white washed tombs. They appeared good on the outside but inside they were corrupt and full of decay.

Christ and his followers came offering a better way. Love God and love your neighbor. And, Jesus for 3 1/2 years showed people how to live, and how to love. It was Jesus on his knees washing the feet of his followers, including the one who would soon betray him into the hands of those who would execute him. Why would he wash Judas’ feet you ask? Because that is the way you love people, by serving them, doing what is best for them.

But you say, “I can’t love people like that”. I understand. God does too. I can’t help you to love like that. He can, and He will.

God’s greatest expression of love was Jesus dying on a Roman cross, outside the city, on the wrong side of the tracks, as a common criminal who deserved the death penalty. What crime had he committed? None. He died for your crimes, and mine, and for those of every man. He took upon him all of our moral and ethical failures, all of our assignments for good left undone, our harsh words and evil thoughts….(All of this is called sin and it is against God)

Jesus hung there abandoned by his friends and even by his heavenly Father for a time, in your place, paying the penalty due for your sins and for mine. He was taken down from the cross and laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. Three days later, just as he had predicted, he rose from the dead and after 40 days with his friends he ascended back to heaven and to the Father.

Here is the good news. You are no longer condemned! You are no longer facing the penalty for the bad things you have done! Jesus paid your debt to God off in full! What should your response be? Just take Him at His word. Believe that Jesus died for you, that he was buried and was raised from the dead and love him back.

He promises not only a new start for those who choose to believe on him but a new heart. He will supernaturally give you the ability to love even the unlovable, even your enemies! He will come in the person of the Holy Spirit to live with you and in you to empower you to say no to things you know you should avoid and to do what you know to be right.

God says to each of us, “Do a U-Turn!”. Give up on your way of living and follow his way. Say it! He wants us to say to others we are now following him. Make it public! In the waters of baptism we reenact Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. Before witness we are saying I am identifying with Jesus and his true followers, I am dying to my old self and way of life and I am rising to follow only Him from this day forward. Start loving and living the new Life!

Love God with everything you are and love your neighbors the best you possibly can. The way you love God or anyone is to do things that you know will please them and stop doing anything that does not please them. Just become a lover!

You might ask “Is is that easy?” It is that easy…but, a word of warning. There will be some people who will not like you very much if you start living a life of love. Unbelievable but true. You might even have close friends or even family who will say you have gone nuts and they will avoid you. And, I promise you this too. Those actors at the church in town might not like you either. If you refuse to play the games, or put on the mask, and just love God and love people you might not be liked by the very people you would think should appreciate you.

What exactly does God require to be a disciple of Jesus? Everything. Yes, everything. God loved you enough to die for you now love him back with everything you have.

You might protest, “But I thought there were those long lists of does and don’ts, or can’s and can’ts. What about those?” Love takes care of all that. If you will choose to love God with your whole person, inside and out, those things will just become as natural as breathing.

Don’t become an actor, hiding behind a mask. Say YES to Jesus’ offer and follow Him. I pray that you will.

Oh, if you are one of the pretenders, drop the role and follow Jesus. Stop pretending and start living the abundant life of Jesus.

for Jesus,

Royce

 

OUT OF THIS WORLD PEACE


“If I just didn’t have all these trials and tribulations in my life I could have peace.”

I have either thought or said something very much like this have you? I mean, how do you have peace of mind when things aren’t going well? Around some breakfast table a conversation goes like this.

Dad says,“They have told me at work we might have a lay off, or we will all have to take a reduced salary if we keep our jobs.” And mom says, “The dentist bill came for Jill’s braces it was $800.00! And the transmission in my car is doing funny stuff, the mortgage company called again…and…what on earth are we gonna do?”

Is it even remotely possible to have troubles like this and peace at the same time. Many people this week will leave a doctor’s office after having heard the words, “You have 3 to 6 months with treatment..”. What about that person? The answer is an emphatic YES! God’s brand of peace doesn’t depend one tiny bit on circumstances. People, places, and things are in a different category altogether.

You and I, as faith followers of Jesus, can have his peace right in the middle of the darkest night of our difficulty and the face of every disappointment people, places, and things send our way.

In the Bible in John 16 Jesus had been telling his followers that they should expect hatred from the world they will minister in. He then spoke to them about the Comforter who would come to walk along side them to comfort and guide. And he spoke of the time when their sorrow would be turned to joy at His return. Then at the end of this teaching He said these simple words.

“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.” (John 16:33)

A simple, but powerful promise for those who are in Christ. Take a look at what He promised.

  1. In” the world you will have tribulation. About this there is no debate. Christians and non-Christians alike share in all sorts of difficulties as long as we are on this planet alive. No person, no matter how good, how kind, how generous, is immune to problems. The sooner we accept this fact of life the better we will function.
  2. In” Jesus you may have peace. There is no lasting peace outside of Jesus. Outside of Him circumstances rule the day and you are at the mercy of the fickle hand of fate. When people, places and things are good, you are good. And when they are not, you are not. However, when you are “in Jesus” circumstances and the adverse effects of people, places, and things can’t touch you in a peace stealing way. Why?
  3. Jesus has overcome the world! Satan is described in the Bible as the “god” of this world. Our war as Christians is against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. But, Jesus has overcome all of that! Remember when Jesus gave the great commission to his disciples? He began by saying “I have all power in heaven and in earth, therefore go…” There is no safer place to be than in the earth and “in” Jesus. Being in Him is the place of calm and peace.

Jesus said this two chapters earlier in John 14. As in the 16th chapter, after teaching about the coming of the Holy Spirit and describing the Spirit’s ministry he said these words.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Real, divine peace is a grace gift from Jesus to those who are His faith followers. It is not dependent on anything but His sure promise.

Next time, when things seem to be falling apart, when a loved one is dying, when business has failed, when people at church are fighting, find a solitary place and read these wonderful promises and by simple faith make them yours. Just take God at His word. To simple? Yes simple, but not to simple.

God gives you and I the right to say to a world that seems to be imploding, “Do what you will, I have chosen peace!” Jesus has overcome the world!

Agape’

Royce

Choose your weapon!


For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

In an age when most churches are focused on sin management Paul’s ancient declaration seems like an idea we can’t begin to comprehend. Some how I have trouble trying to imagine Paul facilitating an anger management group. Is it just me or have we (churches) adopted the same methods of dealing with moral failure as the world?

A few decades ago secular humanists with PHD’s decided that they had discovered an answer for some of the moral failings of mankind, it was “disease”. With that designation for certain moral flaws, personal responsibility and accountability went out the window.

Now, many years later, even more sins have been declared “normal” or are considered a “sickness” or “disease” and the treatment is to “manage” the moral failing (sin). The idea is that with enough  purposeful care, and with the help of others, sin can be managed so that it isn’t as much of a problem.

Churches have bought in 100%. But is it biblical?

The Bible says to the one who is stealing, stop stealing and go to work. (Ephesians 4:29)

To the liar, the Bible says, don’t lie. (Colossians 3:9) Put away falsehood and tell the truth. (Ephesians 4:25)

To the sexually immoral the Bible says don’t do it (1 Thessalonians 4:3), flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18), and don’t associate with those who are involved in it. (1 Corinthians 5:9). Reserve sexual expression for your husband or wife only. (1 Corinthians 7:1-3)

To the drunkard the Bible says don’t get drunk. (Ephesians 5:18)

Of course the Bible addresses many other sins with the same kind of common sense solutions. Just say No! It isn’t that easy is it?

We have tried ridding our people of moral short falls by employing the same methodologies as people who don’t know God, and with little success. Isn’t it about time to try it God’s way?

There is a real war raging, a war between good and evil, between God and his people and the god of this world and his own. We must use the tools afforded by the grace of God. We must stop treating symptoms and cure the cause. We are giving all our attention to the branches when the problem is the root is rotten.

Choose different weapons

In the atonement of Jesus given by God’s amazing grace we have all we need to live lives that please God. (Titus 2:11-13)

The “weapons” we must use to fight the downward pull of sin are not discovered in the class room but are standard equipment for the child of God by the Spirit’s power.

Christ has (past tense) reconciled us to God with His body as a sacrifice. That same power that saved us from the curse of the law and from sure death, is the same power that will present us in the end a pure, holy people.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Only the atonement of Jesus, only by the blood of his cross, will sin finally be defeated in a real, concrete way in your life and mine. We must be gospel focused, purposefully saying yes to God and no to everything that opposes His will for our lives.

God’s strength, now ours

The good news is that we don’t have to attempt this in the power of our own strength but in His strength. Paul said it this way.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

It is Christ alone who can give us mastery over sin. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is the power that grace affords to root out every sin and every moral flaw in the lives of his people.

Gospel centered, grace driven, and Spirit empowered living is the way of freedom and knowing the peace of God and the fellowship of the Spirit. If I trust myself and my own resourcefulness I am doomed to repeat and repeat again and again those same sins and live a life of virtual defeat. If I lean heavily upon the everlasting arms and refuse to consider anything but His mighty power demonstrated by his shed blood and victorious resurrection I can live a life a victory.

We must admit our sin is really that, sin. We must be quick to repent, and boldly stand on God’s promise of victory using the weapons of grace alone.

Agape’

Royce