June 1, 1987 Issue
Greg DeGough

'Tis Life, whereof our nerves are scant,

0, life, not death, for which we pant;

More life, and fuller, that I want.

--Alfred Tennyson

The words of Tennyson from "The Two Voices express the desire of every human mind. Life, abundant and full, is what we crave. And that is because we were created to live. Jesus told us that the one who comes to steal, destroy and bring death (Satan) is an intruder, a thief, an undesirable element in the world. We heartily agree! One who does not seek mans welfare, but his destruction, is no friend of ours. Christ said of himself, however, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) Gods desire is that no one should perish. (II Pet 3:9) He would have all men realize life to its fullest. In this, Gods desire and mans desire run parallel. And yet, despite this apparent agreement between God and man, Jesus plainly teaches that "small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matt 7:14) Why, if mans greatest desire is life, will he miss the gate that leads to it?

The Bible teaches us that the reason many will miss life is because of a fundamental misunderstanding about what life consists of. We noticed in our last article that God patiently tutored the Israelites to bring them back to the truth about life from a level of understanding to which they had been lowered by their sinfulness and sensuality. In the sermon on the mount Jesus battled this same misunderstanding when he taught the people, " not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" (Matt 6:25) But still, the same struggle goes on today between truth and deception. Satan is still deceiving many by convincing them that life is mere existence, or living for temporary things such as possessions or power, and even some Christians have fallen into the trap. Surely they realize that the One whom they "follow" has denied this concept of life. Instead, he teaches that "the man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25) Living life for what this world has to offer is not living, it is merely existing. And the result of such an existence is not eternal life, it is death. Those who suffer Gods condemnation will exist forever, but in no way can their existence be called life. (Matt.25; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:19-31; II Thess 1:9; Rev 14:11; 20:10) This is because life, as Jesus speaks of it, is found in the quality of ones living.

As men, we sometimes make this same distinction. When we consider existence solely, we conclude that a person either does or does not exist. When we consider life, however, we say things such as, "That man really knows how to live." In saying this we do not mean that a man knows how to breathe. We mean, "He knows how to make the most of life." Some would say this of the lifestyle of a man with great wealth or social standing, and this would seem to contradict what we have been saying about the lack of value in these standards of living. However, these same people would never say that such a man of wealth and power "knows how to live" if they see his behavior as despicable. This is because we know, deep inside, that life consists not of what we have, but of how we live morally and spiritually. And when we allow ourselves to be honest about life and what it consists of, we see another disturbing reality. We do not have life in ourselves, but death, for we have failed to live life by its true standard which is Gods word.

So, when Jesus came into the world he did not find men full of life, instead, he found them dead in their transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1; Col 2:13); offering the parts of their bodies "in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness" (Rom 6:19). And even though they were still existing, they were living for pleasure and so were dead while they lived (I Tim 5:6). They were dead because "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 3:23). Gods law had brought them the knowledge of what is "holy, righteous and good", but they were sold as "slaves to sin" so that very often they would want to do good and end up doing the evil they did not want. Their cry was, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:7-24)

"I have come that they may have life..."Thus the Savior stated his purpose for coming to earth. So he "gave himself a ransom for all men" (I Tim 2:6); dying on the cross in order to be "an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I John 4:10). By his sacrifice he "obtained eternal redemption" for us. (Heb 9:12) This redemption is "the forgiveness of sins" which is freely extended to man "so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Eph 1:7; Rom 5:21) When a mans sins are forgiven by God, through Christ, he is counted righteous and that righteousness brings the hope of eternal life. But it is not merely the DEATH of Christ that brings the hope to life is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us... because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." (Rom 8:34; Acts 2:24) When Christ was raised from the dead he conclusively displayed his power of eternal life.

So, then, "the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23) Since there has been no other acceptable sacrifice offered for the sins of man, Jesus can say "I am the way-and hope of eternal life if he will believe in Christ; acknowledge that belief; repent of his sinfulness; and be immersed in water for the purpose of having his sins forgiven. (I Tim 1:15,16, Rom 10:9,10; Acts 2:38; Rom 5:17) In view of these facts we must say without hesitation that the Lord Jesus is our life, for without his sacrifice we would still be dead in sin.

Tragically, this is where the concept of life (especially eternal life) ends for many who have named the name of Christ. They act as though they will be able to live a self-willed, superficial life which is devoted to temporary things and then flash some sort of "Christian" I.D. card that will allow them to gain entrance to an eternal life where the only substantial difference from their life on earth will be a never-ending existence. But, as we have noticed, eternal life is not mere eternal existence. It is an existence that has such a quality in it that it can truly be called "life".

John tells us in a very powerful, yet simple, way that some of the quality of eternal life can abide in us now, while we are still earth bound. Indeed, if it does not abide in us now we are existing in death! He says, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." (I John 3:14,15) So, from this perspective, eternal life is not some mystical, future state that is unrelated to our present existence. John teaches very clearly that eternal life is also seen in qualities which can abide in true believers now, and which can be seen by them as confident proof of life abiding in them. He says that you may KNOW that you have eternal life." (I John 5:13) This knowledge is not a subjective confidence (such as that held by Calvinists) based on the false premise that God will unconditionally give eternal life to all those who profess faith in Christ. Rather, it is an objective knowledge based on the fact that "...God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (I John 5:11,12) How were these Christians to know if they were "in his Son" where eternal life is found? In I John 2:5b,6 John explains, "This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." If they walked as Jesus did they had life, for they were "in him". This shows us very clearly that Jesus did not come to earth merely to die so that we could have eternal life. He also came to show us how to live such a life that we might "keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25)

"Life", then, is the manner of living of Jesus Christ. He is the embodiment of what God has always proclaimed to man as the way of true life. His apostle plainly declared it. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched -this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testified to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us...In him was life, and that life was the light of men... Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent... We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands." (I John 1:1,2, John 1:4; 17:3; I John 2:3) The only type of life that can be kept eternally is one that is lived in imitation of Christ Jesus. He is our life! (Col 3:4; John 8:12; 10:27,28) So, if we have eternal life abiding in us it will be evident in the way we live! Paul said it like this in Gal 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Because this kind of godly life is governed by eternal standards of living it will carry over into eternity. Paul said to Timothy, "...physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (I Tim 4:8)

In view of the preceding thoughts we must conclude that those who claim to desire eternal life will have no hope of receiving it if they are unwilling to let their daily living be governed by the eternal standards established by Jesus Christ. This is simply because there has been no other provision made for realizing eternal life. Even assuming they would not welcome it, for it will be an eternity of living by the values of God and Christ; the same values that these people found so repugnant while they were living on earth.

So, just as God showed Israel that they had no life without him, he shows us today that without receiving the sacrifice of his Son and imitating the example he left of the type of life that can be kept eternally, we have no life. Let us practice true Christianity so well that when we are asked the question, "Do you have eternal life?", we may answer an unequivocal "YES!" For, "...we are in him who is true - even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." The Lord is our life!

Other Related OPA Article Links:

The Lord is Your Life Part I - 5/1/87
Eternal Life
Christian Living

Greg DeGough         1987         OPA Main Page       

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